Showing posts with label argue. Show all posts
Showing posts with label argue. Show all posts

Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Lottery And The Fine Tuning Argument

To be clear, we are not certain the physical constants of the universe can vary and if they can, by how much. It is the assumption of those who use the fine tuning argument for God that they can vary by a great degree. Let’s assume they're right and, for the sake of argument, nail it down to five constants. The following compares winning the universal lottery to winning the actual lottery.

To win a State lottery, one needs to match five specific numbers.
For humans to live in this universe, it needs five physical constants to have specific values.

If I alone play the only draw of the lottery ever allowed and I guess the five numbers at random, the odds of me winning the lottery are 1 in 100,000.
If the only universe to ever exist forms randomly , the odds of that universe having the variables that support human life are 1 in 100,000.
Can either scenario happen by chance? Yes, but I’ll grant that it’s enough of a long-shot to be suspicious that the lotto was fixed or the universe was designed.

Now, imagine 100,000 people play the lottery. There’s about a 64% chance someone will win.
Imagine 100,000 universes form either concurrently or sequentially. There’s about a 64% chance that one of these universes have constants that support human life.
This illustrates how a sufficiently large multiverse should remove any suspicion of a cheater nor a designer.

Now, imagine a lottery in which each player plays different numbers so every combination is covered when 100,000 play. When the number is drawn, someone is ensured a win while everyone else loses.
Imagine a universe in which every combination of constants can support some manner of intelligent life. Human’s might not exist, but whatever is here in our place could likewise make a fine tuning argument for their God.
It would not be a valid argument because, whatever the constants, someone is here to claim that no one could be here otherwise. This illustrates the anthropic principle at work.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Insights into an Apologetic Mind

They See Concepts As Transcendent

Over and over again I see believers talk about concepts as if they exist outside of the mind that conceptualizes them. Morals, meaning, purpose, values, emotions, and the like are most often understood by the secular as constructs created as part of the function of the brain. Without sufficiently intelligent creatures to come up with this stuff, they don’t exist.

I think, to the theist, the concepts are still conceptualized by a mind, but not our minds. They come from the same mind they believe created everything--God’s. For this reason they are understood to be eternal and unchanging because that’s how they see their deity. Concepts that are eternal and unchanging exist whether or not humans or any temporary mind exists and can rightly be seen as being more real than even the universe itself.

I thought believers talk about concepts as if they exist outside of the mind that conceptualizes them, but now I think I was mistaken. I wasn’t considering the mind I don’t believe in. I'm not saying that it's rational or justified, it's just where they are coming from.

They Like Telling Others How They Feel And What They Believe

Christians continue to equate disbelief in God with hate for God. Why do they only confuse these terms in regards to God? They never tell someone who hates ISIS that they don't believe in ISIS. They never tell me I hate Superman because I consider him fictional.

They Like Pretending To Have It Both Ways

Most apologists say God has free will yet does no wrong then say if God made a world without evil he would have to have made us without free will. Using their own reasoning about God, their claim about his inability to make a free, all-good humanity is untrue.

A Christian apologist told me that physical constants and the uniformity of natural laws are evidence for God. A Christian apologist told me that the "constants" varying and natural laws losing their uniformity, what they call miracles, are evidence for God. Imagine if an atheist presented them a similarly structured argument: if x, then God doesn't exist; if not x, then God doesn't exist. How many do you think would accept such an argument?

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Gap In Every Argument

Many arguments for god(s) take something the apologist intellectually doesn't understand and compensates with an assumption that reinforces the belief they've been taught is true. Sometimes they disregard or deny the available information because it doesn't jive with their indoctrination (committing the fallacy of personal incredulity) and sometimes there is no information available in which case they are filling a gap in knowledge with their divine explanation of choice (called the god of the gaps.)

Example time.

Those who use the cosmological argument: "I don't know if the universe has an ultimate origin or what that might be, so let's assume there is and it's God."

Those who use the fine tuning argument: "I don't know if the constants that apply to our universe could be different nor how different nor do I know if there are other universes or variables, but let's assume they can differ wildly and our universe is unique because God designed it that way."

Those who use the argument from design: "I don't know how the diversity of complex organisms could have came to be as they are now, so let's say it's God."

Those who use the moral argument: "I don't know why I feel so strongly about certain things being right and other things being wrong, so God must have made me aware of those moral values."

In the case of the cosmological and fine tuning arguments, humanity hasn't nailed down the mechanics of the origin of the universe nor why the universe has the constants it does. We have theories that cover part of the answer and hypotheses that speculate the rest, but there is enough that we don't know that I consider these arguments, in part, god of the gaps arguments.

The argument from design and the moral argument are different. Since the Theory of Evolution, the only way to find the argument from design convincing is by sticking your head in the proverbial sand to avoid the evidence. Saying they are personally incredulous of evolution doesn't an argument make. The moral argument is more nuanced and, depending on definitions, suffers the same fate of the argument from design. There is enough selective pressure to be altruistic, especially within one's own gene-mates (which some call their family), that that feeling to be good is also covered with evolutionary theory.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Debates & Misdemeanors

When I started Deity Shmeity my intension was to use it as a record of my exchanges with theists. Long time readers know that never really happened. My first attempt to publish a debate resulted in so much editing that I concluded my time was better spent taking the topic discussed and simply writing an article informed by the theistic objections. Why so much editing, you might ask? Well, debates, especially those on-line, have a way of branching off into new topics before the previous are resolved. Like the Hydra of mythology and Marvel comics, chopping off one head of a crappy argument just results in two more crappy arguments taking it’s place--all without an acknowledgment that the first head lies resting at my feet. More so, debates get personal. I don’t just mean they get all ad-hominemy, although that certainly happens, but also that elements from both my and the theist’s lives are brought up which I feel are either too intimate to post or too irrelevant to make public. Top that off with having to censor out the peanut gallery or else post pages of nonsense in an effort to be a balanced completionist! No, I quickly learned my lesson. The debates are for me, the posts are for you.

That said, the fact that all my posts are informed by at least one theist’s objections is true to this day. My workflow usually goes like this: I post an idea on Twitter or Google+ and let my surprisingly high number of theistic (usually Christian) followers attempt to take it apart. If they fail outright, I post it addressing some of their objections. If they somewhat succeed, I revise the idea to make it tighter, more objection-proof, and clearer. My argument is then also, I like to think, closer to being true--even if it comes down less on the side of “God is obviously bullshit” than I originally intended.

It’s a valuable process to me and one I encourage fellow atheists to take up. Thinking critically about gods and religions will likely give you all kinds of ideas. Most will have been already thought up by someone else, but coming to them organically speaks volumes of their power. Some will be logically true and serve as ironclad takedowns of indoctrinated superstitions. And others will be flawed, inconsistent or fallacious--in which case entering them into the intellectual area for battle and being open to the possibility of being wrong and losing an argument will make you better. It will make you more right in the future, and that’s all that should really matter.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Shaming Process

I’ve been observing and taking part in on-line arguments regarding the existence of God for three years now. These interactions should be evaluated primarily by the value of their content, but I’ve also noticed a trend in their civility. Atheists, on average, are more douchy than theists. I don’t like admitting that the stereotype of the angry atheist is more often fulfilled than not, but I can’t deny it...and neither can I condemn it.

Unlike most theists, atheists don’t have an obligation to a doctrine of charity. We can be mean without being hypocritical, but should we?

My answer used to be a resounding “no.” Now, while I maintain the personal choice of “playing nice,” I can’t slight others for getting their hands dirty. Reason is only one way to affect hearts and minds, shame is another.  Bullying can work to deter others from adopting the subject of the abuse--which should be the erroneous belief and not the believer. I try to change minds, but I’ve seen that some people simply cannot see where their arguments fail. People like William Lane Craig profit off selling fallacious arguments to the sheep (their word, not mine) so indoctrinated that they will accept anything that vaguely resembles a justification for the belief in magic they so want to maintain. The vast majority of those I debate aren’t sources of the problem. They are just the parrots for those who propagate misinformation and champion uncritical thought. Even though most his work is simply a tactful rewording of long refuted philosophy, Craig isn’t a parrot. He actually comes up with this shit--making him one of two things (channeling comedian Adam Carolla here) stupid or a liar. Either way, he earns the shaming some choose to give, and, by proxy, the parrots do too.

I wish someone embarrassed me about my ridiculous beliefs when I was a Christian. In retrospect, that would have been a great service.

All I ask is that the belief, or at least the link to the belief, is what is shamed. Calling someone an idiot for believing in a talking snake is warranted. Calling someone inherently an idiot is not.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Grundy Disagrees #4

My latest disagreement spawned from a Two Catholic Men and a Blog post on the so-called "availability" of God and/or the Holy Spirit. I pointed out that the knowledge of the God's word is not universally available, rather it is asymmetrically available. Some people are born into areas where Catholicism hasn't spread or at least isn't mainstream, some people die before hearing about Jesus, and others are so indoctrinated into competing religions that a near insurmountable boundary is present. Basically, if the Catholic God exists, it is unfair for his word to come so easily to some and not at all to others. Further more, this God is unjust to judge symmetrically given the circumstance he put in place.

Joe, one of the two guys, disagreed.

Here are excerpts of the exchange:

Joe: We must do our part and God will provide the rest. We who are indwelt are called to bring God's love to the whole world. It is OUR fault if some do not hear of God when they are accessible to believers.

You put the fault on God who "makes it so much harder." Again, it is not God who does this. We who imagine and teach the competing worldview are to blame.

God is not a genie in the sky who is expected to wave a hand and fix our troubles. Part of our salvation comes from working to solve just these issues.

Lastly, God judges how God will. He has revealed to believers how he will judge, but God can always save who he will without consulting anyone. Maybe many will be saved in spite of their ignorance. We don't know.

You may say, "perhaps it is better for them to remain ignorant." Maybe. Maybe not. We do know God is just and fair. The question is then, "why bet on ignorance when sure knowledge is available?"

Me: You seem to be trying the justify the lack of availability from the perspective of the believer, but from the perspective of those who don't know about Jesus or have been conditioned to believe otherwise, it's surely not their fault they are in the situation they are in. That's what I'm saying, and it makes God, if he exists, neither just nor fair.

Joe: God does not reveal to us the ultimate fate of non-believer. He only reveals to us our responsibility towards them. Whatever their fate, we as believers are held responsible for our own actions (or non-action) towards them. 

As God is both just AND fair, the fact that someone is the situation they are in when it is not their fault would certainly work in their favor. You are certainly correct in pointing out that circumstances reduce an individual's culpability. 

The Catholic Church has NEVER said that anyone is in Hell. Not even Judas. We hope that Hell is empty. 

Do you see the difference?

Me: I see the difference in regards to hell, but denying some heaven while giving others that reward when asymmetrical circumstances make it so much harder for some to be aware and to believe is the definition of unfair. So, I'll ask you the same question I asked Ben: Do non-Christians go to heaven? Can they?

If the answer is no, God is unfair. If you don't know, then the fairness of God is also unknown and I don't think availability is the best topic to blog about.

Joe: Would you be considered unfair to give a gift to someone but not to another? I would think you would say no.

In the same way, human life is given as gift. If you were in the position of God to create matter from nothing and then bring a non-living being to life, say a clay figure, (see my Clay Man post) you would be perfectly in your rights to do whatever you wish with that Clay figure. You can take away its life without moral impact. It's YOUR stuff. You gave it life and can take it away again.

This is a very hard teaching to accept (as clay men). If you do not accept it, then we have different ideas as to what's "fair" and I'd beware of people who ask you for money since you'd be unfair or unjust not to give money to each and every person who asks.

If God gives life (and eternal life) as gift, it's not mysterious, but it IS up to him. If he wants to explain some of his rationale to us so we can have a chance of obtaining it, even THAT is gift. We are fortunate to listen to it!

Me: I don't accept that teaching and neither do you. Take a child who wouldn't be alive without you. According to this teaching, it is perfectly acceptable for you and your mate to abort the fetus, after all, it's YOUR stuff. I know you don't feel this way because I see you are pro-life. Further, once the kid is born anything from incestual pedophilia to murder one is fine when committed by the parent, right?

Wrong. You and I are both right in not accepting this teaching.

It goes on. Check the comments or weigh in yourself here.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Top Ten Ways to Tell That You’re Winning a Debate with an Apologist

10. The apologist projects qualities that apply to them onto you in hopes that it will equate all parties involved. They figure that they can’t lose the argument they are in fact losing because every one is relying on, say, faith. This ultimately ends the argument in a tie...if it were true, which it’s not.

9. Questions are worded as double or triple negatives in hopes that you agree to something that could easily be misread to mean the opposite. If you discover that you’ve made an error and correct it, the apologist labels you an inconsistent flip-flopper for the rest of your debate and/or life.

8. The apologist ignores common meanings of words and applies definitions that only other apologists accept as valid. They do this without telling you what their unorthodox definitions are until pressured. This method allows them to think atheists don’t know what we are talking about because, well, we don’t know what we are talking about. It's a breach of common vernacular in favor of coded, theological jargon.

7. The Gish Gallop tactic is used in which the apologist throws out as many different lines of argument or crack-pot studies as possible. This is an admission that they are unable to rationally discuss any one topic. It’s especially apparent after you ask them to contain the conversation to a particular set of ideas and they refuse.

6. The apologist, fully aware that you don’t believe in their holy book, quotes passages from their holy book.

5. When arguing in a public forum, the apologist responds to other people’s points but ignores yours. Chances are, this is because your points are the most difficult to address and therefore those with the least flaws to exploit.

4. The apologist plays dumb about the topic of debate when you explain how it might help your argument then suddenly becomes an expert when the same topic can possibly help their argument.

3. Instead of hashing out their own ideas and beliefs, they send links in the hopes that freshly Googled internet content can do the debating for them. (Protip: if an apologist hits you with a particularly well-worded argument, search a couple sentences in Google using quotation marks. I’ve found theists copy and pasting other people’s barely relevant arguments as their own. Talk about debating by syndication.)

2. The apologist gets defensive, flustered or angry. When ad hominems start flying from someone who normally preaches “turn the other cheek” you know that you’ve struck upon something unsettling to the apologist. Cognitive dissonance can be very frustrating.

1. You’re debating from a position founded on reality against someone who relies on assumptions of magic, the supernatural, and the divine.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Offering from the Opposition Round-up

The following will exist as a landing page for those interested in my exchange with Dr. Luke Conway, The Apologetic Professor.

How it began:

My post addressing atheism to his predominantly Christian audience.

Dr. Conway's post about apologetics to my predominantly atheist audience.

My four part rebuttal of his post:
  • Part I in which I address the call to seek God.
  • Part II in which I address the notion of religious instincts.
  • Part III in which I address the claim that atheists must have no foundation for morality.
  • Part IV in which I address the notion that religion is an intellectual pursuit.
Dr. Conway's responses to my post:
Bonus Material
I will update this post if and when more content is relevant.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Last Word

If you are a regular visitor to this blog, it’s a pretty safe assumption that you have an interest in at least one of the two most polarizing topics of conversation--religion or politics. Really, the only way to heat up a conversation faster is with sincere “yo’ mamma” jokes. I try to keep the dialogue civil and keep up the appearances of a meeting of open minds...but let’s not kid ourselves. Arguments are battles. It’s perfectly natural for us to want to win. It’s a desire that, at times, even clouds our judgement.

Simply being aware of this aspect of the human conditon can offset it, but only to a point. To get me the rest of the way to fairly assessing my opponents’ points, I’ve started ending debates with an admission of sorts. If I’ve learned anything new, I let them know. Not only that, I let them know in the order that they would want to hear it. For example, if they actually offered an argument that makes me think the possibility of a deity is just a little more likely then before, I’ll point that out. If they corrected a flaw in an argument I use, I’ll admit to it and assure them I will no longer use the faulty argument. If they bring to light a novel way of looking at things, even if this way doesn't change my mind about anything, I will still offer whatever praise I can for originality. And if all I can commend is my opponent’s friendly disposition, then I will do so.

Examples of general phrases to end a positive exchange with another human being:
Thanks for the conversation, you are a congenial voice for your worldview. I hope to chat with you again.
I feel better about Christianity/Islam/Hinduism/Magic: The Gathering now than I did prior to our talk.
Gosh, you're swell.
You get the picture. Truth be told, I get to use these closers more often than not. Many religions pride themselves on brotherhood and non-confrontational missionary work and it shows. Your results may very, especially if you tend to engage trolls.

Still, they can't all be winners. Some people are too passionate about their faith to have a calm conversation with someone who isn't seeing things as they do. Others are going through a type of cognitive dissonance which makes them so uncomfortable they attempt to make it stop by sabotaging the debate. In poker, we call this going on tilt. A player gets mad about a bad beat and starts to play sloppy--this can quickly end a game by, most often, the tilted player losing all his money, or the tilted player gets lucky with their erratic behavior and hits big--taking the other player out of the game. The "tilted" debater can force the same two outcomes by either descending into irrational name calling or prompting a similar reaction from you. My advice? Don't return crazy with crazy. Diffuse the argument with a simple closer and move on. Atheists have a bad enough wrap as it is without more of us throwing around f-bomb laced ad hominems.

Examples of general phrases to end a negative exchange with another human being:
I understand your frustration. I'll think about what you've offered, please consider thinking about what I've offered. (this works even if you have no intention of thinking about their argument further.)
At least we can agree that one of us is right. (I like ending this with a winking emoticon.)
God bless. (Sure, you don't believe in God, but they do. This may or may not be said mockingly depending on your nature, and may or may not be taken as mocking depending on theirs.)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Grundy Disagrees #3

I've been disagreeing all over the Internet, so I figure it's time to post a couple more.

I argue against the Fine Tuning Argument to find the debate branched into a subject I've never heard of before--a Boltzmann Brain universe. The blogger claims it is a problem for positing a multiverse as an avenue for the anthropic principle to make sense of our life-friendly fundamental constants. I actually consider the apparent fine tuning of the universe the best evidence for a designed universe, but mostly because all the other arguments are just so bad. The blogger then turned the debate to a version of the cosmological argument, which anyone can tell from my recent posts, I consider intellectually bankrupt at his point. I said...
The cosmological argument is constantly subject to new forms in an effort to adjust for legitimate criticism, but ultimately they all rest on the same assumptions–that the universe needs a cause and that the cause must be God. If you define God as simply the thing that causes the universe, then I freely admit that God could exist, but most define God as an agent possessing will/intellect/personality/and the like, which is an assumption unwarranted by the Leibnizian cosmological argument or any other form. I find the fine tuning argument superior because it implies the cause (God) had an active role in deciding the nature of the effect (the universe.) This choice is enough to show agency, at least for me.
Ironically, while this disagreement continued, I debated with the atheist author of Somewhat Abnormal for the Fine Tuning Argument (kinda.) He tried turning the argument on it's head to make it an argument for atheism, which just didn't hold up. He basically admitted as much. I said to a commenter:
There is a fine tuning argument for life within our universe and a fine tuning argument for life within any possible universe. You seem to be referring to the argument that life on earth is fine tuned. This appears true in that life as we know it could only exist under parameters very similar to earth’s--we aren’t too close or too far away from a star that isn’t too hot or too cold; we have the right atmosphere; we have Jupiter to catch or redirect asteroids and comets away from us; ect. However, there are so many stars and planets in our universe that the odds of other earth-like situations existing somewhere in the universe is high. The original poster is taking into account the anthropic principle which makes the fine tuning argument for life within our universe a very weak one. 
I disagree that the anthropic principal can be applied to the fine tuning argument for life within any possible universe because we don’t have the required information to make this judgement. We know that there are a shitload of stars and planets, we only know that there is one universe. There could be more, but we can’t assume that. The fine tuning argument for naturalism as stated here just doesn’t work. It’s true an omnipotent being could maintain life where life shouldn’t exist, but this is beside the point.
Then the conversation turned to poker and probability, both of which I love.

Bonus quicky: I debated the Kalam over here and then again here where he posted an explanation to a straw man version of my originally stated problems with the Kalam.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Unequal Authority

The argument from authority is one of the most commonly used debate tactics for the simple reason that the debater, any debater, can’t know everything about all the topics a debate will inevitably spill into. Contrary to what many theists believe, omniscience doesn’t exist, so an appeal to experts is both useful and long as they are in fact honest experts. Unfortunately, the argument from authority is also one of the most common fallacious debate tactics. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the difference.

An easy way of upping the authoritative worth of your given authority is by using consensus of unbiased individuals. A scientific consensus is among the strongest because the consensus centers around experimentation and evidence. You’d be right to ask if there is evidence available, then why is an authority even needed? If I needed to refer to basic principles of physics in my argument, I could easily demonstrate that the equations we learned in school that govern motion actually work. I don’t need to take my teacher’s word for it, I can run basic momentum/acceleration/gravity/whatever experiments myself and observe that the results match what is expected. Authority is only needed when the experimentation goes beyond what I can carry out. I could go gain a higher education and rent time on super computers or particle accelerator to run results that would convince me of such-and-such scientific principle, but I am either unwilling to do this or simply don’t have the resources. In this case, taking the word of a scientific consensus is an acceptable substitute. It is acceptable because the findings and results are repeated by other scientists who have a vested interest in accuracy. If something incorrect as accepted, then everything built on that something will also be incorrect. Things are peer-reviewed and double-blinded to eliminate biases. Competition breeds better science, a concept the often science illiterate free-market capitalists should appreciate, but I digress.

Let’s compare science to history. The evidence in this case are records which have a varying degree of authenticity. Video records are by far the best, followed by audio and the more easily ‘shopped photographic records. These both are only available in the modern age--which can often be backed up with other modern records, even living witnesses on occasion. Moving back in time we only have written records. Before the printing press, these records are subject to deterioration or else revised editions which could have been altered purposefully or incidentally. Remember the childhood game of telephone? Like that. Further back still, these written records are controlled only by the elite minority educated enough to read and write. It’s understood that the further back the records the less reliable they are. The historian with a focus on whatever time period in question surely knows more than I, but I will always remain more skeptical of him or her than a scientist reporting results. For all these reasons it becomes rarer and rarer that historians come to a consensus the older the age in question.

Appealing to a consensus among theologians is more problematic. Whereas science relies on gathering evidence without biases and history relies on interpretations of possibly biased records, theology (in most cases) relies on interpretations of possibly biased records with the intention to justify a bias. Catholics, for example, appeal to the authority of the Church, a group with a vested interest in maintaining their relevancy. Of course there is a consensus among Bishops that the Eucharist is the literal body of Christ, but this is as meaningless to anyone outside the church as a consensus among high schoolers that they shouldn’t have homework on Fridays. Or as I analogize to Catholics, who are often Republicans due to their pro-life stance, a consensus among non tax payers that taxes should be raised isn’t exactly an unbiased consensus.

A motto of the freethinker is to "always question authority." It's a good motto. How do your trusted authorities hold up?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Argument Against Any Cosmological Argument

I’m convinced that the cosmological argument is the most convincing argument for God among the least skeptical people. This is speculation on my part, but it is informed speculation. Let’s look at the argument.
  1. Everything that exists has a cause of its existence.
  2. The universe exists.
  3. The universe has a cause of its existence.
  4. If the universe has a cause of its existence, then that cause is God.
  5. God exists.
This form of the argument is laughable. The conclusion of (5) makes God subject to (1) which begs the question who or what created God? It doesn’t answer the question of First Cause thereby making it pointless. Many theists realize this and have tweaked the argument to avoid criticism...or tried to.

Kalam cosmological argument
  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
This argument takes into account the Big Bang Theory, giving weight to premise (2). (I must say that it bothers me that many theists only find the science that could support their beliefs compelling while finding the rest somehow erroneous) I could argue that (1) is an assumption, but based on experience, it seems correct. William Lane Craig throws in his two cents with a sub argument.

Argument based on the impossibility of an actual infinite:
  1. An actual infinite cannot exist.
  2. An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
  3. Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.
I imagine WLC is attempting to make the argument stronger in regards to God as First Cause, but claiming that an infinite can not exist makes God, who relies on infinities in a variety of ways, nonexistent. If God cannot exist infinitely into the past, he is not eternal and subject to the necessity of a cause according to this vary argument.

Then we have...
Thomistic cosmological argument
  1. What we observe in this universe is contingent (i.e. dependent, or conditional)
  2. A sequence of causally related contingent things cannot be infinite
  3. The sequence of causally dependent contingent things must be finite
Leibnizian cosmological argument
  1. Every existing thing has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
  2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God
  3. The universe is an existing thing.
  4. Therefore the explanation of the universe is God.
Which can be tied together to be...
  1. Every finite and contingent being has a cause.
  2. A causal loop cannot exist.
  3. A causal chain cannot be of infinite length.
  4. Therefore, a First Cause (or something that is not an effect) must exist.
If your cosmological argument of choice isn’t here, I’m not surprised. The apologist presents whichever form has help up the best under criticism, which speaks more to the quality of religious debates in their past than the quality of the argument. Ultimately they all rest on the same assumptions–that the universe needs a cause and that the cause must be God. If you define God as simply the thing that causes the universe, then I freely admit that God could exist, but most define God as an agent possessing will/intellect/personality/and the like, which is a definition unwarranted by every cosmological argument.

The arguments also suffer from a fundamental misunderstanding of the universe. The Big Bang Theory, which lends weight to the claim that the universe even had a beginning, involves space and time’s origin as well. Ask a layperson to describe the Big Bang and you’ll likely hear about an explosion in space from which all matter and energy came forth to eventually form stars, planets, etc. I would guess this misconception draws the ignorant to the First Cause arguments. The scientific consensus is that space/time exploded outward with the matter and energy that eventually formed the universe. Scientists determined this, in part, from observations of celestial bodies drifting apart, marking the predicted expansion of space. The repercussions of this accurate understanding of the Big Bang Theory means that time began at the moment of the effect (the Big Bang) leaving no time for the cause. This leaves the apologist with the task of weighing which counter-intuitive statement is more logical--that every effect must be preceded by a cause or that anything can precede the arrow of time. It’s quite the chronological conundrum...that somehow doesn’t bother theists that much.

I’m not sure “logical” is the operable word here. At the first moment of the Big Bang, and therefore time, everything that would become the universe was a singularity, or something close to it. At this size it was subject to the strangeness that is quantum mechanics. While scientists don’t yet have clear explanations for everything we observe at the quantum level, we have repeated and repeatable results that inform particle/wave duality, the uncertainty principle, super positioning and all kinds of other phenomenon that most everyone would say seems impossible if they don't see it with their own eyes and instruments. Some of these phenomenon even open possibilities that may violate causality and the arrow of time. I look forward to having my mind further blown as humanity hashes this all out.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Pre-Debate Questionnaire

I’ve logged in more debate hours than I care to mention here on the Internet, and what I’ve learn most is that theists are all unique little snowflakes. There are so many stories and scriptures available to adopt and then to adapt to fit one's own level of credulity, I can't assume anything about what any believer believes. This ignorance leads to debates going off the rails from general confusion and unavoidable straw men arguments.  If I don't know my opponents position, how can I possibly accurately represent it? So, from now on, I'll be using this short questionnaire to get the debate off on the right, if not awkward, foot.

Pre-debate Theist Questionnaire
  1. What specific religion best represents you?
    Churches have split over dogma differences so often that the label of “Christian” doesn’t tell me enough. To know what you believe, I want to know with which faith you most identify.
  2. What doctrine(s) of your religion do you not subscribe to, if any?
    To know you as an individual, I recognize that every belief of your adopted religion may not apply. If so, I want to know where you deviate from your faith.
  3. Do you accept the Theory of Evolution?
    This comes up surprisingly often no matter which argument for God we discuss. Give me a heads up in advance if it’s even worth bringing up this aspect of science.
  4. Do you believe in hell and/or the devil?
    I should be able to surmise this from questions 1 & 2, but if the answers are vague or something is forgotten, this answer will prove useful.
  5. Do you see your holy book as entirely literal, entirely allegory, or some of both? If both, how do you determine the interpretation?
  6. How would you describe your level of belief toward the God in question?
    Strong Theist: I do not question the existence of God, I KNOW he exists.
    De-facto Theist: I cannot know for certain but I strongly believe in God and I live my life on the assumption that he is there.
    Weak Theist: I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.
I don't have a Pre-debate Atheist Questionnaire, seeing how we have less specifics to our atheism, but we should be able to answer the inverse of question six.

How would you describe your level of skepticism toward the God in question?

Weak Atheist: I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.
De-facto Atheist: I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable and I live my life under the assumption that he is not there.
Strong Atheist: I am 100% sure that there is no God.

(I don't include pure agnostics because I don't see any reason why they would engage in a debate without a position to argue.)

The “God in question,” from above, is an important distinction from just “God” for the atheist. I would tackle an argument for a vaguely defined creator very differently than I would for claims that Yahweh specifically is real. In fact, my assessment of personal belief would also vary. I’m a de-facto atheist in regards to Vishnu, but agnostic towards a god defined only as an agent existing outside our universe.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


I’ve been playing the strangest game. It’s not “fun” in the traditional sense. In fact, it's quite frustrating, especially at the end, which I’ll get into later. I’ve clocked in enough play time that every new game results in the interactive equivalet of a re-run. Funny thing is, it didn’t take much play time to realize I was in for this kind of monotony. There’s a term for what this game is lacking--replay value. I’ve basically been playing a remedial Street Fighter. There is a button to jab, kick, block...and that’s it. There’s no cool button combinations, no hadouken, I just grind until the anticlimatic end. There’s no knockout, just an end. Game over, roll credits...I lose. Inexplicably, the game says I lose--even though the game’s difficulty is stuck on easy, my score progressive rises, and my opponent never lands a punch.

This is how I feel debating theists. It’s always the same debunked arguments and empty rhetoric, easily blocked and parried. I can not concieve of any flaw in my logic, yet I’m told it is faulty. I see myself as the clear winner, and yet I lost to apologetic eyes. I ask (often) why I seek out this conflict. Is injecting a little rational medicine into apologetic sites and forums my version of missionary work? Yes, I believe we’ll all be atheists one day, but I’m tired of waiting. I want to be the catalyst...but the meds don’t take. Their brains reject it. So why bother?

An afterward for atheists reading this post: I know, I know, I’m planting a seed in their brain that may one day grow into a sanity tree. Or maybe someone more "on the fence" in regards to religion is watching my seemingly fruitless debate and sides with me. I can dig it. It’s still fucking frustrating.

An afterward for theists reading this post: I know I’m not making any points here--for those, check my other posts. The analogy presented doesn’t represent these debates, just my subjective feelings about them. Basically, I’m venting. I’m sure you get frustrated too. Just...consider that you could be wrong. Please? For me? After you’re done considering, we can debate again another day.