Dr. Kenneth Howell's Challenge to Atheists

One thing I appreciate when I travel to speak somewhere are the friendships I acquire. I'll tell you this right now that if I had to choose what to believe based on the warm reception I felt at the debate with Dinesh I would become a Catholic. They were all respectful and kind towards me. Kindness does wonders I think. One such friendship I gained was with Kenneth J. Howell, the Director, St. John’s Institute of Catholic Thought, who put the debate together. Among other books he is the author of God's Two Books: Copernican Cosmology and Biblical Interpretation in Early Modern Science. He also has an interesting story since he used to be a Protestant. Here's his challenge and our initial discussion below:
Dr. Howell:
I have a question I want pose to atheists to see how they would answer it. Those answering it will probably have to have some experience in philosophical reasoning (particularly philosophy of science).

Challenge: Knowledgeable atheists claim that the existence of God does not have any evidential basis. Sometimes this comes in a strong form, “There is no evidence that God exists,” or sometimes in a milder form, “The evidence for God’s existence is deficit.” The atheist’s challenge to the theist might be formulated, “Show me the evidence for God’s existence without assuming the correctness of your religion or theology.”

This raises the issue of how we human beings know the existence of any unobservable entity given that we do agree on the observable data. For the purpose of this exercise, I must ask all parties not to distinguish between theoretical entities in science like electrons which may be observable in principle and metaphysical entities like human personality which may never be observed, even in principle.

The theist might challenge the atheist as follows:

Show that electrons (or any other unobservable entity in science) exist without assuming the correctness of atomic theory.

I presume that the atheist would want to differentiate between these two cases, showing in effect that the evidence for God’s existence is deficit while the evidence for electrons (or any other unobservable in science) is well-founded. At a more general philosophical level, then, this tack assumes our ability to distinguish the postulation of unobservables that are well-founded from those that are not-well-founded. Such a tack requires answering the following questions:

Is it rational to believe in unobservables only in tandem with the theory in which those unobservables are postulated? That is, can I be justified in believing in electrons without atomic theory?

By what criteria in general do we know when an unobservable is justified?

Are unobservables in scientific theories theory-dependent or theory-independent? Or does it depend on the theory in question?
John:
Hi Kenneth,

Postulating the God hypothesis as a theory to explain the phenomena of existence is an entirely legitimate way to proceed. So I grant you this. And I grant you that it is rational to conclude God is the best explanation of the evidence. The criteria question is multifaceted and not easily specified. Not being as familiar with science as you are, I can only respond to the God hypothesis. Is that the best explanation of the evidence? There is Ockham’s razor, you know. Gregory Dawes in his book Theism and Explanation is heralded as one of the best atheist books of the last decade. I have an e-copy of it and am reading it now. I suggest you look into this book as I am doing for what looks like the answer to your challenge.

And what kind of evidence are we talking about? There is negative evidence based upon the God of the gaps, i.e., the unexplainable mysteries. When it comes to this kind of evidence I admit with Robert Lamar that this is an entirely legitimate way to proceed.

But the question becomes what method do you propose that is better than methodological naturalism to close these gaps? Barbara Forrest argues that “the relationship between methodological and philosophical naturalism, while not one of logical entailment, is the only reasonable metaphysical conclusion given (1) the demonstrated success of methodological naturalism, combined with (2) the massive amount of knowledge gained by it, (3) the lack of a method or epistemology for knowing the supernatural, and (4) the subsequent lack of evidence for the supernatural. The above factors together provide solid grounding for philosophical naturalism, while supernaturalism remains little more than a logical possibility."

Given that we accept and defend that which we prefer to be true we should not leap with faith beyond what the evidence calls us to accept. If the evidence leads us to think the God hypothesis has a 55% chance of being correct then we cannot leap with faith beyond that evidence to claim we know God exists. We can only claim what the evidence actually leads us to think, and therefore at best I should only give 55% of my life over to the God hypothesis, not 100% (granting this percentage).

When it comes to positive evidence, that is, evidence that God exists, there just doesn’t seem to be much at all. There is personal experience, but then religious experiences are claimed by almost every religious person and they disagree with each other about which god they experienced, so although it is considered by believers to be powerful personal evidence it really isn’t anything other than anecdotal evidence. What you have left then is historical evidence, which is really weak as evidence, as philosophers of history have repeatedly shown us. Almost anything can be rationally denied in history even if it happened.
Kenneth:
You didn't address the justification for believing in electrons in your message, what you did say was thought provoking. Let me give this stuff some thought.

Perhaps you can give me a quick answer to this:

Is it common among AAFs to believe that only one explanation is necessary? i.e. that if we explain the mechanisms of the natural world, as in science, we don't need anymore explanations, or better, explanatory levels?

As a multiplanar thinker, I have deep suspicions about reductive explanatory tendencies. Are reductive explanations necessary or common part in an AAF worldview?
John:
Reductive explanations? An interesting thought. You might want to give me more examples of what you mean in terms of physics. On one level a mechanistic explanation works but behind that is a supernatural one, you'd claim. That's the question, isn't it? And I grant this might be the case but I have no way of knowing that it is, you see. As I argued, once we allow supernatural explanations into our equations then any supernatural explanation will do.

Professor Matt McCormick has some relevant thoughts on this here.

62 comments:

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Interesting dialogue. Howell's argument is one reason why I call myself an agnostic not an atheist. I do not believe in the Christian God (so I am an atheist in that sense)but I don't think anyone can prove conclusively that some type of supernatural entity does not exist. The problem is that we don't know exactly what we are talking about when we speak of the supernatural. We can imagine it, just as we can imagine a unicorn but we don't have anything to build on besides our imagination.

There could be some type of god that is totally beyond our ability to comprehend. That would actually fit better with the concept of a deity.

John W. Loftus said...

Ken, you might want to consider that an atheist is not just someone who is certain there is no God. An atheist is someone who thinks such an entity is improbable.

Steven Carr said...

So what is this god hypothesis supposed to explain?

And how does it do so?

And what evidence would falsify the hypothesis of a loving god?

An earthquake in Haiti?

Steven Carr said...

CATHOLIC HOWELL
This raises the issue of how we human beings know the existence of any unobservable entity given that we do agree on the observable data.

CARR
This is going to be fun.

Here is a Catholic who agrees that all the observable data shows that the bread and wine before Transubstantiation is exactly the same observable data after Transubstantiation.

And he is challenging atheists to tell us what the best explanation of observable data is....

Well, let us start with Mass.

If ALL the observable data shows that the bread and wine is totally unchanged, what justification do Catholics have for claiming that an unobserved change has taken place?

Other than that the Church has declared that an unobservable change has taken place and that it is the duty of Mr. Howell to believe this.

I really do hope that Mr. Howell is going to use the same rules about his dogmas that he claims that other people should use about their beliefs.....

Steven said...

Dr. Howell's question is an interesting one. In my opinion, in science, we often make predictions about the existence of some entity based on theory, but we don't consider the prediction confirmed until we can confirm it independently of the theory. Experiments in particle physics are performed in this way, trying to test predictions of the theory independently of the theory or at least by using parts of the theory that have been well established.

In the specific case of the electron, I think it is possible to have more or less direct evidence of the existence of electrons without atomic theory (think bubble chamber experiments). Of course, you would need to know some physics to really even think of trying a bubble chamber experiment, but the experiment itself, and the way the results that are obtained from such experiments are not dependent on atomic theory. You don't need to know anything at all about atomic theory to be able to observe electrons and other subatomic particles moving through a bubble chamber.

A more interesting case along these lines is dark matter. Dark matter was basically posited to exist as a means to explain observations of galactic rotation curves. In other words, dark matter was used to make the observations fit with gravitational theory. So this was an assumption (or more accurately, a prediction) and it was not done without some controversy within the scientific community. Alternative ways of dealing with the problem were proposed, typically these required modifications to gravitational theory. These modified gravities never really took hold within the community since they tended to cause more problems than they solved. At this point, the ideas are almost dead (although there are still a few adherents to this idea). The reason that modified theories of gravity have now mostly been rejected is that we think we have now more or less observed dark matter "directly" in the sense that we have found several instances where the dark matter has been physically separated from the visible matter (google bullet cluster for an example of this). We still don't know what dark matter is, but I think we have now confirmed its existence and that it is something real rather than a strange quirk in the way gravity works.

So, to sum up. In science, we often do predict the existence of things based on theoretical requirements. However, these predictions are treated as opportunities to test theory that made the prediction rather than as a means for assuming the existence of something unobservable. All the progress that has been made in particle physics over the last 50 years is based on this paradigm.

Robert Oerter said...

I think it would not be too hard to come up with a series of experiments that lead to the (reasonable) conclusion that quanta with a specific charge, mass, and spin exist in nature, corresponding to what we call an electron. These could basically follow the historical experiments that established the electron's existence: Millikan's oil drop experiment, the cathode ray tube, the e/m experiment, Compton scattering, etc. The scientist would then challenge the opponent to produce an explanation of this series of experiments that is different from standard atomic theory. If the opponent were successful in this, we would then move on to additional processes that are currently explained in terms of electrons, and check if the alternative explanation is as successful for those observations. This, after all, is the way science works all the time.

I wonder what Howell would say is an analogous "series of observations" that lead to the reasonable conclusion that the Christian god exists. I think I could come up with alternative explanations of most of them.

Tyro said...

Howell is wrong-footed right out of the gate. Our knowledge of electrons is very deep and not just some sort of "assumption" (as he says). Unlike his God, we know the properties of electrons like rest mass and charge to eight decimal places. We regularily generate, manipulate and detect them in all sorts of environments. Remember those old computer monitors you used to use, cathode ray tubes? The images on the screen was formed by a device which emitted a stream of electrons which caused the screen to flouresce, giving us the pretty colours, all made possible by our understanding and manipulation of electrons.

As for the ridiculous claim that atomic theory was an "assumption", that is demonstrated beyond doubt. If there was any need to have this underpin a discussion of electrons, it would be easy to first support this theory and then move on to electrons. Yeah, that's right, "theory". It doesn't mean what you think it means. Science: learn about it.

Tyro said...

Compared to this, what do we know of God? Bubkus. The comparison between electrons & God is a good one but to anyone that's bothered to learn about the past 150 years of science it is devastating to God. That he would dare introduce such a flawed comparison says more about his understanding of science than about God.

Okay, rant over. It really bugs me to see such levels of ignorance, ignorant even of his own ignorance. Grr...

Tom said...

Well, does Howell believe in the existence of flying bullets? You can't see them fly, but you can load bullets into the gun, you can trigger them reliably, you can hear them fly, and you can see when and where they hit. Pretty much anybody can fire a gun, and whether the bullets fly and where only depends on how you aim and how hard you push the trigger, not on your mood or beliefs. All that is pretty much true for electrons as well. Predictable properties of electrons are why pretty much everything around you works the way it is designed to,

It's not true for the Christian God. There is no predictable cause-and-effect relationship involving God. Furthermore, Christianity doesn't postulate just any god, it postulates an omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent, immanent, personal God; all of those attributes should result in observable consequences, but we don't observe those consequences. Hence, the Christian God does not exist in the form Christianity postulates him to exist.

The only Christian God that would be compatible with observation would be an impotent God who doesn't care about human suffering or what is happening in the world. In different words, deism is compatible with observation, but that's because deism basically is physically equivalent to atheism.

Glock21 said...

Begging the question and so can you!

That's all his initial argument sums up to. He wants to be able to use the hypothesis that a god exists as an imperfect but satisfying argument that such god exists.

He then attempts to lure an atheist into justifying begging the question of the existence of electrons instead of relying on the "assumption" of other known evidence, dismissed as theory in spite of the scientific confirmation. Why should we? Just to make you feel better about using a logical fallacy?

This all comes off as deliberate obfuscation of the scientific development surrounding electrons and atomic theory, the experiments that many of us have repeated in personally in the laboratory, and attempting to seize on the public's general ignorance of the details and attempting to create an argument within their personal mystery. If it's not deliberate then perhaps Dr. Howell is similarly afflicted and is personally mystified at how the Super Bowl was beamed before his very eyes into his living room.

Perhaps if I had remained satisfied with god-did-it explanations of how things work I'd never have had the motivation to check it out for myself. Perhaps I'd be comfortable with the mystery and never worked with atomic theory or electrons in my studies. But to argue that somehow it could be logical to beg the question that electrons or atoms exist by using their theory of existence as the only proof? That just doesn't fly in the real world.

As far as his confusion goes about single explanations, that's just poppycock. Imagine the history of scientific discovery without the endless competing theories! Imagine if since Darwin nobody challenged it or came up with more advanced competing theories to help expand upon it! Competing theories may be unwelcome to the other guy's ego, but in the history of science it is one of the driving forces of innovation.

To assume that skeptics and scientists have no need for alternative views is the rallying cry of every kook and pseudo-scientist who ever got snippy because the other guys dismissed his theory for lack of evidence. If that guy comes back with reproduceable testing and evidence, he can change the world!

As usual, this god argument is the typical dressing up a logical fallacy, buried under diversions and obfuscation in hopes nobody will peel back the polish and find the turd.

Glock21 said...

To Dr. Pulliam. I imagine you're not agnostic about Apollo, even if one were to argue that the earlier understanding of him was just wrong and he's actually the driving force behind gravitons or some such thing.

If we argue he is impossible to comprehend, impossible to prove, impossible to interact with, but yet we need him for some explanatory issue that would dull Occam's Razor to a nub, what's the point? We might not be able to prove a negative, but that's no reason to assume the absurd is likely without a single shred of proof whatsoever.

The acrobatics in dressing up logical fallacies to "prove" it is more of indication of the sheer desperation of those who have no evidence. If they provide some actual evidence some day, I might become agnostic. There's certainly nothing wrong with that. But until then I'll be just as a-unicorns as I am a-theist.

Cole said...

"An atheist is someone who thinks such an entity is improbable."

Even Richard Dawkins thinks our existence is improbable. Yet, here we are! Regardless, probability judgements are in the eye of the beholder when it comes to assessing the arguments for and against God's existence. Different people will assign different probabilities to the evidence. Even if it is more likely than not that God doesn't exist this isn't sufficient to believe She doesn't. If I'm about to flip a coin and all I know that it is probably going to come up heads, clearly this isn't sufficient for me to believe that will come up heads. I can think it's rather likely that it will. I can't believe it.

Paul Wright said...

Dr Howell alludes to the debates within the philosophy of science between empiricism and realism. If you want to find out about these, I'd recommend Prof Jeffrey L. Kasser's lecture series. With that under my belt, but with no other claims to philosophical qualifications, I'd say:

Electrons are not directly observable. What positions could you take on their existence? On a spectrum of belief, you could go as far as the logical positivists did, and say that electron talk is literally meaningless until it is turned into observable predictions for experiments. You could decide, with the instrumentalists, that electron talk shouldn't be read as claiming the existence of electrons, but rather as a prediction of the results of certain experiments. You could take a middle position, that electron talk is meaningful and does claim that electrons exist, but that you can never get sufficient evidence to licence belief that electrons really do exist, so you must remain agnostic about that. You could be a scientific realist about electrons: the usefulness of electrons in our theories lends a lot of weight to the idea that they really exist.

So Dr Howell seems to ask, assuming you're a realist about electrons (which I'm not sure all scientists would say they were: some of them lean more towards instrumentalism, if you actually ask them), why would you then criticise a Christian for being a realist about God?

I'm not sure why this should be a problem for an athiest scientific realist. Atheist criticism of God-belief is not merely based on the fact that God is unobservable. Realists don't just assume that any unobservable entity which explains some observation is real. The other commenters (who seem to be realists) have pointed out differences between the evidence for God and the evidence for electrons.

There's a question of what the criteria we're using are and whether atheist realists apply them even-handedly. If we can't state some criteria other than "I know it when I (don't) see it", it's hard for us to argue we are applying them even handedly. I'd say that theories about electrons have a predictive accuracy and a falsifiability. The claimed properties for electrons, the burdensome details, are also individually backed by evidence (I'm thinking of things like charge, mass, and so on).

Contrast that with, say, Christian theism: many Christians cannot tell you what would falsify their belief (and some, like Craig, claim that nothing should). Christians happily retrodict a bunch of surprising things, like the occurrence of apparently gratitious evils, by adding extra claims to their theory, but those extra claims (which we rationally should regard as burdensome, rather than lending credence, remember) aren't evidenced by much. These seem sufficient to differentiate the Christian God from electrons.

Glock21 said...

Cole said... appeal to authority and equivocated what it means for something to be unlikely yet provable and unlikely yet unprovable... as if unlikely things shouldn't have a higher standard of proof regardless.

If you have proof of something, no matter how improbable, there's obviously a vast ocean of difference than assigning 50/50 chances to every absurd idea on the planet without evidence, even if it may be impossible to prove a negative.

This is especially true if you're going to radically alter your life, indoctrinate your children, defend the actions of those who do, etc etc etc... it doesn't just have to be suicide bombings and crusading wars. It could be a lady throwing away some 10% tithing she can't afford on her SS check.

You're correct that there is no good way to quantify the odds of an improbable thing without any proof whatsoever. But as even the Christians believe that the thousands of gods other than there's turned out to be a bad bet, you'd think they'd want a bit more proof for their own before they assumed their horse has the best odds. They aren't betting disposable income, they're potentially wasting the only life they have on frivolous nonsense.

I wouldn't make that bet. I can be a nice person and donate to charities without fearing eternal damnation. Pascal's Wager makes a trip to Vegas sound like a wise investment.

Jim said...

The difference has been mentioned several times here, but in summary:

Dr. Howell needs to give atheists a set of predictions based on his "theory of God."

Then we can test the predictions, check the results and repeat.

It's been tried countless times over the millenia and consistently fails.

Theories about electrons produce consistently accurate results.

'Nuff said.

Tyro said...

Out of curiosity, is there any reason why Howell has chosen the electron? Does he seriously believe the evidence for electrons is weak, is it just something which can only be detected with instruments? Does he even know that five years ago researchers in UC Santa Barbara detected single electrons with instruments?

Could this "test" have been done with DNA or stars in other galaxies?

J said...

"Show that electrons (or any other unobservable entity in science) exist without assuming the correctness of atomic theory.

I presume that the atheist would want to differentiate between these two cases, showing in effect that the evidence for God’s existence is deficit while the evidence for electrons (or any other unobservable in science) is well-founded."

Having been raised as a Catholic, I have to say, "I can't believe I didn't leave earlier."

First the existence of the electron was posited before the model of the atom.

Second, Pray for a lighting strike...I'll wait.

Now, flip a light switch, I don't have to wait the light is on.

The existence of the particle called an electron has been proven empirically (oh by the way, the light switch thing is half spoof, in gas chambers you can actually see them) over and over and over again.

If a supernatural entity ever desired to be known, it could evidence itself in as small of a package as an electron (or positron or neutrino) and we would all be believers, yet to date...no evidence.

Does your god not want to be found or does it not exist.


Now, I have one question for you.

Why posit a god in the first place?
And your answer can't contain "there is an X I can't explain, ergo god."

Richard H said...

Ok. Perform the Millikan Oil Drop Experiment. It works, independent of the idea that matter comes in quantised atoms.

"Electrons exist" is really a way of saying, "electrical charge comes in discretely quantised units."

To test, we only need to find an area where the quantized/non-quantized distinction is expected to become apparent.

I also take issue with the definition of 'observable'. In science, all well-defined entities have some physical implication. So, asking about non-observable entities is meaningless.

If I proposed an entity without a physical implication, a physicist would consider it to be not-even-wrong, and entirely beneath debate.

The same thing would apply to chains of argument or interrelated theories. At some level, the physics community would say, "You are proposing that we expand our understanding of the universe by adding a bundle of theories. Taken as a whole, do your bundles make any testable predictions?"

If I can propose a test that's beyond our current capacities, the answer will be, "That's interesting, but it's impossible to decide either way with any justifiable certainty."

If I can't propose a test, then "My model is true" is not meaningfully different than "my model is false." Both phrases describe exactly the same universe.

Richard H said...

The argument "I can't convince you of X, unless you accept Y" always seems dishonest.

If they wish to say, "I can choose to believe in circular logic," then why not just be open about this from the beginning?

Certainly, they can. I can't make them do otherwise. (See also: Achilles and the Tortoise).

If the logic isn't circular, then the objection seems lazy.

John and I might debate about the question, "Does Tom the Yeti like pizza more than Thai food?" (I maintain that Tom, like me, clearly prefers Thai food).

My arguments would certainly fall flat for someone who denies yetis in general.

But, if my logic isn't circular, I can present the reasoning that led me to believe in yetis.

Then I can show why I believe there's a specific yeti named Tom.

Then I have my foundation for arguing that Tom likes Thai food.

Chuck O'Connor said...

I think Howell's question has been answered. I wonder if he will admit enough humility he was smug and mistaken to propose such a fallacy.

Breckmin said...

"We can imagine it, just as we can imagine a unicorn "

A unicorn, however, is quite different from an Infinite Creator Who ends infinite regression with LOGICAL uncaused cause of all things.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Breckmin stick to dungeons and dragons you simpleton.

Richard H said...

@Breckmin

How does the first cause argument prove God?

We could assert, "The first cause argument proves that there must be a god, a goddess, something unknown, or some combination of these."

But, if we wish to link, "the thing which made the things with no known maker" to a singular-male-intelligent-super being it seems like we need another argument.

Cole said...

Brekmin,

Richard H. is correct. The argument only leads to a First Cause of some sort. We need a cumulative case before us and then we need to look at the arguments on the other side to weigh the probabilities. I think it's reasonable to believe in a God taking into consideration also my experience of a good God. But it's definitely not the god of the bible who blesses people for bashing infants brains in against rocks or requires blood in order to forgive someone. This is clearly insane. My God doesn't require blood in order to forgive. I just ask for forgiveness and She forgives.

Jonathan said...

@ Cole

Are you in any different camp than Brekmin? You don't even adhere yourself to any specific religion. So, your position is worse than Brekmin's. You essentially have created God to fit your image.

God is a she?

Okay.

Cole said...

Jonathan,

I don't believe God is a He or She. I just refer to Him as such. My God has both a feminine and masculine side. Neither do I think I have created God in my image. Rather, I believe we were created by the Divine. While the evidence doesn't prove this it seems to kind of point in this direction a little. My God is superior to the Christian god for the reasons already given.

Glock21 said...

Cole... there's an inherent danger in feeling guilty about some action and turning to a feeling you may have to ask forgiveness, as if there were some all-powerful super-duper goddess with an internet connection to your emotional mental constructs.

First off, since you can't prove you've been forgiven by anything, any convincing of yourself that your actions are forgiven is specious at best.

Second off, perhaps you should feel guilty for whatever you did. Empathy can be a real pain in the butt when it conflicts with our inherent self-interest. Getting forgiveness from an imaginary friend in lieu of seeking it from those you hurt is next to worthless.

If it was merely a matter of letting yourself down, the psychological benefits of forgiving yourself are lost so that you can make some make-believe mega-mommy happy.

What's the point? Other than giving some shrinks some fun with Freudian self-delusion to play with, of course.

Breckmin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cole said...

I think trying to prove I'm forgiven would be silly. No, it's rather like this. When I do something wrong I feel God is displeased. I then ask for His forgiveness. There's no danger in this. It's healthy to feel some guilt after you do something wrong. What is unhealthy are the practices in the bible of god sacrificing his son in order to forgive. "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." I find that to be bizzare. My God doesn't require blood in order to forgive. It's unecessary.

Breckmin said...

"How does the first cause argument prove God?"

Important question to understand with respect to Christianity.
Proof requires honesty on the part of the person examining "evidence."

"First cause" does NOT prove the God of Abraham..that is a different argument. But it DOES start you toward foundational assumptions of agnostic theism.

"We could assert, "The first cause argument proves that there must be a god, a goddess, something unknown, or some combination of these."

But "do you even assert this?" Logic will dictate what would be necessary for the Creator based on looking carefully at the universe from infinitely small to infinitely "large." From the complexity of wave-particle duality to the algorithmic programming of the two part control mechanism in gene regulation of the Lac operon. IF lactose is present, and IF glucose is absent THEN synthesize beta-galactosidase and permease.

There are various indicators as to what level of Intelligence we can expect to see from this Creator. If you look at the order of mathematics, for example, you will see that it is infinite. Looking at imperfections, however, (especailly when you can see that this is a temporary creation with the observation of entropy)is EVASIVE to this already identified infinite complexity we can observe throughout the creation (both with mathematics and infinite inner space as well as other things not mentioned).


"But, if we wish to link, "the thing which made the things with no known maker" to a singular-male-intelligent-super being it seems like we need another argument."

I remember a debate once with a person over the FSM. By the end of the conversation this person asserted "that's ridiculous, I assert that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the Infinite Personal Existence beyond the limitations of time and space...etc. The fact
that the FSM was exposed for needing matter to exist and therefore could not have created all matter was more than apparent. Right now you are asserting "being" instead of Infinite Conscious Existence or Infinite Personal Existence (both defame our Holy Creator and God of Abraham).

God is NOT a "male" that He should need biological anatomy to make Him somehow "male." We refer to our Heavenly Father as a "Father" because we are His children and the Father/child relationship in families MODELS this relationship.

Clearly, it is a separate argument to conclude that the Uncaused Cause of all things IS the God of Abraham...but there is still an argument...and it is logical.

Question everything..but when you question - pray for protection from error from your Heavenly Father.

To not do this is illogical and an ignorance of your infinitely small existence and logical humility.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Breck

I read your shit and conclude you need CST (Convulsive Shock Therapy). You can believe what you want but it doesn't mean it is useful to any but your mental illness.

Glock21 said...

Breck... and yet with all that you've done nothing to show how first cause can prove a god of any sort (it doesn't by the way). It's no wonder you chose to do mental acrobatics than actually address the question. Dancing around it is apparently all you can do. Now that is revealing. Good luck with your hyper-sensitive genocidal deity sales pitch. I'll pass, thanks.

Glock21 said...

Cole said... "When I do something wrong I feel God is displeased. I then ask for His forgiveness. There's no danger in this."

Your "feeling" about invisible mega-mommy being displeased may be entirely indistinguishable from what any other human being on Earth feels when some screw up on their part has them down.

No danger in personifying an emotion as some make-believe mega-mommy instead of honestly dealing with your own mistakes and the negative emotions they cause? Perhaps. But if this was an issue other than religion, which conveniently gets a pass, I'd wager some shrinks would strongly disagree with your coping skills and avoidance of reality.

Breckmin said...

"My God doesn't require blood in order to forgive."

I'm saddened that you never learned that the LIFE is in the blood and it is the GIVING of a Life (God's Life as a Man)that demonstrates His Self-Sacrificing Love unto us.

The blood of lambs and goats will not save anyone. It was the GIVING of His Perfect Innocent Life that demonstrated that He Alone was Rightful King, Savior and God.

He Who would be King would SERVE the GREATEST. Jesus Christ served every born-again Christian whom He receives into heaven... by giving His LIFE (not just His Blood) for His friends.

Question everything. Question why born-again Christians WORSHIP in peace and freely and JOYFULLY and NOT just with fear and reverence.

Question (why) worship songs that praise Jesus Christ all throughout the world. Question why the soteriological structure of born-again Christianity is NOT works related like all other salvation premises...but is based solely on God's work of grace in the hearts of men to spiritually regenerate them.

Question why other gods are NOT God's of GRACE who forgive sin the way in which Jesus does.

Cole said...

Glock,

Your wrong. My shrink agrees with me. There's no problem with me having a God that forgives me when I mess up. I also forgive myself when I mess up. Most shrinks see the value in having a Higher Power or God. They don't consider it to be unhealthy. In fact I would just say that I'm functioning properly. "The way I was designed to function by God - rationaly"

Glock21 said...

ie: "Question everything!

Just don't ask me to prove anything!"

...

Glock21 said...

Cole... as I said, religion gets a pass, no matter how insane the same arguments would be in a non-religious context.

Cole said...

Brekman,

There is no reason for the Creator to require blood from an innocent in order to forgive someone. This is bizzare. What kind of a god requires innocent blood to forgive? My God doesn't require the shedding of blood from an innocent in order to forgive. It's simple. I ask for forgiveness and my God forgives. He's not the type of Deity who blesses people for bashing the brains out of innocents.

Drop the barbaric god of the bible and learn what true freedom is.

Jim said...

What Breckmin can't prove, though, is that "nothingness" is the natural state of things without intervention (or cause).

"Somethingness" could just as well be the natural state of things at the substrate level of whatever this universe is built upon. There may very well be no such thing as "nothingness." Heck, even in this universe, there is no known or postulated place that isn't occupied by a quantum foam and field lines of all sorts.

Apologists need "nothingness" (ex nihilo) to make their word games work.

"I don't know" how our universe came into being is a much more reasonable position for the time being.

Breckmin will cling to his security blanket and word games, somehow convincing himself he's got the answer. In 20,000 years, when Jesus still hasn't returned, humanity will be beyond Christianity and on to something else.

Cole said...

Brekmin,

My properly functioning cognitive faculties (faculties that are functioning the way God designed them to function - rationaly) tell me that blessing someone for bashing the brains out of an infant against the rocks is insane. There is also no reason to require the blood of an innocent to forgive someone. It's bizzare.

Gandolf said...

Breckmin said..."A unicorn, however, is quite different from an Infinite Creator Who ends infinite regression with LOGICAL uncaused cause of all things."

Maybe not if it so happens, its a Infinite Unicorn !

What standard? do you use to prove your Infinite Creator is actually any better than a Infinte Unicorn?

Jonathan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan said...

@ Cole

There isn't any reason why you need to tell anyone you are seeing a psychiatrist it really doesn't help with the conversation. Besides it is bloody personal.

I'm sorry Cole but you have made up your God or your God is just a extension of your own personality.


Believers' Inferences About God's Beliefs Are Uniquely Egocentric
www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091130151321.htm


@Breckmin

Question why other gods are NOT God's of GRACE who forgive sin the way in which Jesus does.


Because Mr Breckmin your God gave us the problem that only he can cure with a sacrifice that no one wanted.

Cole said...

Jonathan,

I disagree. I think God created the universe. He's the Creator I'm the creature. He brought the universe into existence.

Jonathan said...

@Cole


Which God and religion do you practice?

Cole said...

Breckmin,

I haven't studied all the other gods in the world so I don't know about them being gods of grace. My God is a God of grace though.

Cole said...

Jonathan,

My God is:

All-knowing

All-powerful

Perfect

Full of Grace

Just

Self-sufficient

Eternal

Infinite in wisdom

Jonathan said...

Cole

You have made God in your image, congratulations.

You are a religion of one.

Cole said...

Jonathan,

God is not in my image. There are ways I'm like God and ways I'm not.

God is eternal I'm not

God is infinite in wisdom I'm not

God is self-sufficient I'm not

God is perfect I'm not

God is all-powerful I'm not

God's ways are the ways of infinite wisdom mine aren't

God knows everything I don't

I'm humbled in believing that there's a God and I'm not like Him in every way. There's a huge distance between me and God.

Glock21 said...

Funny how god always tends to agree with you. There's scientific studies on the matter now. Why you change your mind, wouldn't ya know it, so do your god(s)!

Welcome to the machine.

Jonathan said...

@Cole

You have given "God" specific properties that you deem worthy of a God. There is nothing specific about your God other than what people generally believe of a God.

You have created God in your interpretation of what a God should be like void of any prior religious practice.

Do you go to church?

Cole said...

I go to Alcholics Anonymous. I don't go to church anymore.

Jonathan said...

@Cole

Then I apologize for getting in your face about "your" God. You have issues that you need to work out, and you don't need to be bothered by my insistence that you need to explain yourself.

I hope you get well.


Jonathan

Rob R said...

At the risk of not reading 53 comments at this point, I would point out if it has not been discussed that the vast majority of the population does not believe in the existence of electrons on the basis of hard evidence. The vast majority of the population can't assess such evidence for themselves. We believe this story about electrons because we are taught it in school and because we are told (though certainly not 1st hand) that a few of the people who work in the narrative of atomic theory and the existence of electrons are the ones who produce TVs, microwaves and batteries. That is a far cry from recognizing hard evidence for electrons.

Rob R said...

seriously, just how much lab time has John Loftus logged? I'm sure I've had far more lab time than him and I would never suggest that I have hard evidence for the existence of electrons.

Tyro said...

Rob R

If we did have someone that conducted the experiments which created quantum dots and isolated single electrons or built electron guns capable of trickling out single electrons (or even replicated Miliken's early oil drop experiment), there will always be other experiments that we have not performed ourselves. Even within these experiments we must use technologies that we are not familiar with. I have a hard time accepting the argument that to accept any conclusion we must have performed all steps ourselves.

Science as a practice is successful because it has built-in incentives to root out fraud and self-deception, because it requires confirmation from independent parties. The system has proved extraordinarily successful so we are placing our trust in the system and there is ample evidence that the system does work, not merely in spite of our selfish tendencies but because of them (fame & fortune await for those who can expose fraud or overturn accepted theories).

To say that we don't have evidence because we haven't personally replicated the experiment seems like a bizarrely extreme position to take.

Do I have hard evidence for electrons as in the hardware sitting in the room with me? No, of course not. Do I have hard evidence as in peer-reviewed, replicated experiments, a century of theoretical and practical study, and thousands of concrete applications of the science, then yes, absolutely.

I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he is not asking for this.

Breckmin said...

me-"Question why other gods are NOT God's of GRACE who forgive sin the way in which Jesus does."


Jonathan "Because Mr Breckmin your God gave us the problem"

Love's right to exist trumps sin/disobedience's inevitable existence that needs to be punished or paid for. God doesn't GIVE us the problem. If you present this incorrectly it will not make sense. Unless you address the fact that God creates beings with the ability to love and all of the potential dangers that this brings that NEED to be dealt with in a temporary creation you will miss your own salvation from these dangers. (How you are actually a danger to yourself because of the choices you will make).


"that only he can cure with a sacrifice"

This is not some pagan sacrifice where an animal is killed and offered up unto another finite existence that is barbaric...

No. This is the Infinite Creator becoming a Man and "Giving Himself" in LOVE by PAYING FOR the sins of those Who would logically TRUST in Him. Trusting God is logical... Putting your faith in Him rather than in yourself is much more logical than putting your faith in "partial logic" which misses the real problem of evil.

"that no one wanted."

Born-again Christians not only want it with all of their hearts soul and minds...but they will praise Him and thank Him for His Love for all of eternity.

Rob R said...

I have a hard time accepting the argument that to accept any conclusion we must have performed all steps ourselves.

Very good then. I would never promote such a conclusion.

Science as a practice is successful because it has built-in incentives to root out fraud and self-deception, because it requires confirmation from independent parties.

Independent parties to which the vast majority of humanity does not belong.

To say that we don't have evidence because we haven't personally replicated the experiment seems like a bizarrely extreme position to take.

It sure is. hard evidence is such a subjective term is it not?

Do I have hard evidence as in peer-reviewed, replicated experiments, a century of theoretical and practical study, and thousands of concrete applications of the science, then yes

Good for you then. You belong to the very small minority of which the majority does not and cannot reasonably be expected to belong to since we need people to contribute and excel in other areas of life other than science. We must trust and granted we have reason to trust with all the benefits of gadgets and medicine. That's the way it should be as well.

Breckmin said...

"What standard? do you use to prove your Infinite Creator is actually any better than a Infinte Unicorn?"

If something is Infinite then it is NOT a unicorn. You only expose the reality that an Infinite Conscious Existence or an Infinite Personal Existence beyond the limitations of time and space (NOT somehow "outside of time" which is incorrect in the English)is clearly not to be compared to finite imaginary constructs.

nothing with limbs or parts can be compared to the Infinite Creator.

Breckmin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Breckmin said...

"What Breckmin can't prove, though, is that "nothingness" is the natural state of things without intervention (or cause)."

Why would I prove something that is illogical? "Nothing comes from nothing." And even "nothing" is still "something" in the English.

I would not propose creation ex nihilo as a proper nomenclature for God's creation of matter and energies.


"Somethingness" could just as well be the natural state of things at the substrate level of whatever this universe is built upon."

The Infinite Creator as the Uncaused Cause of all things would be the default. He sustains the universe which He created.



"There may very well be no such thing as "nothingness."

Even a universe where infinite free space surrounds quantum space would still be "something" surrounding space. FTR, I believe in the possibility an infinite equilibrium of some sort which I can not logically define.

"Heck, even in this universe, there is no known or postulated place that isn't occupied by a quantum foam and field lines of all sorts."

It is all theory and based on induction. There is no way to falsify what is trillions of light years away.

3 dimensional spatial existence is clearly infinite. Mathematics teaches us this as well as the concept of infinite relative inner space.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob,

Do you care to provide us an objective methodology that will lead to peer-reviewed information, falsifiable and repeatable that can be employed to examine supernaturalism?

I'd be glad to hear about it.

Until then, your smug insistence that not knowing specifics of electrons is equivalent to your Christianity is just plain stupid.

Now, what experiments are you willing to share with us where we might independently confirm your rhetorically derived wishful thinking and moral superiority?