CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Townhall.com has an interesting article by Frank Pastore entitled Why Atheism Fails: The Four Big Bangs where he examines four areas where atheists must exercise a great amount of faith in naturalism because evidence is lacking. Pastore, a radio host on Los Angeles Christian station KKLA, asserts that atheists have no answers about origins in four fundamental areas:

1) What is the origin of the universe? Why is there something rather than nothing? How do you get matter and energy from nothingness? How do you get a rock out of nothing?

2) What is the origin of life? How do you get life from non-life? How do you go from a rock to a tree?

3) What is the origin of mind? How does a living thing become a self-conscious being? How do you go from a tree, to an animal, to a human?

4) What is the origin of good and evil? How does an amoral being become morally aware?

Atheists respond to all these types of questions with essentially the same style answer. "We know God doesn’t exist. Therefore, since we’re here, though, it had to have happened this way. Thus, like the universe itself, life, mind, and morality all 'just popped' into existence out of nothingness."

Later he adds some thoughts on the ways that skeptics argue about such things. He notes that skeptics take the following approach:

But, above all, avoid being cornered and forced to answer the questions of origins. Throw out lots of words that people can’t understand. Talk over them. Blind them with science. Talk about the details of the leaves on the trees but don’t allow them to bring it back to "Why the forest at all?" Assert the fact/value distinction. Claim that only science deals with knowledge. Drop in some postmodern gobbledygook. Distract them with how science deals with the "what, where, how and when" and not the "who and the why." Especially avoid people who have had training in the philosophy of science – they’re dangerous because they see through us and know who we are – they don’t see the shimmering lab coats that everyone else sees. They don’t see any clothes at all.

Since the pre-Socratics, atheists have been intellectual parasites living off the host of Western Civilization. Able to construct so very little of their own that is either true, good, or beautiful, they live on the borrowed capital of their believing intellectual parents. Atheists have been asserting the same basic mechanistic worldview, and with roughly the same success, for centuries. They sell books and win converts from time to time, sure, especially among those gullible enough to buy the "just popped" thesis. Don’t be gullible.

Now, I won't go so far as to say that the skeptics don't have answers. They have answers, but are they good answers? I don't think so. Or, at least, it is clear that the answers that are proposed to these four fundamental areas are metaphysical and not scientific.

For example, start with question 1: "What is the origin of the universe?" The Big Bang? Sure, I accept that. It fits quite nicely with the idea of a creator. However, I see the Big Bang as the mechanism and not the ultimate cause of the creation of the universe. What is the skeptics' cause for the Big Bang? Well, Stephen Hawking has a theory about dimensions curling in on themselves. Others believe in some sort of cosmic pool bubbling out universes and we just happened to be in this one. I am sure there are many, many more. But what all these theories of origins for the universe have in common is that they are ultimately guesses. Granted, they are intelligent, informed guesses. These people have reason to believe what they are asserting based upon theoretical physics. But from there, they make their leap of faith -- a leap that their theories are correct. They have no way of testing their theories. They cannot use the scientific method to determine if they are right. They need to have faith.

Naturalism is a philosophical foundation through which one can come to an understanding the world as certainly as theism is a philosophical foundation through which one can come to an understanding the world. Both have their basis of knowledge. (It should be noted that Christianity provides two avenues of knowledge: science and special revelation. Christians accept the idea that science can tell us a great deal about the world since the physical world is real in Christian thought. Naturalism, however, rejects the idea of special revelation and is therefore limited to one avenue of knowledge.) Both require acceptance of things that cannot be seen. Both have a grand metaphysical story. The question will ultimately be which is the more believable.

Do skeptics believe that? Do they think that their grand metaphysical story is somehow more proven than the Christian grand metaphysical story? If they do, they are fooling themselves.

40 comments:

1) What is the origin of the God? Why does he exist ather than nothing? How do you get God from nothingness?

2) What is the origin of God's life? How do you get the life of God from non-life?

3) What is the origin of God's mind? How does a non-thing become a self-conscious being?

4) What is the origin of good and evil for God? How does he decide what is good? Is he free to do so, or is it imposed upon him? Can we even say God is good unless there is a standard above God to assess this?

You see, whether the buck stops with human beings in this universe or with an eternal three in one God, the problems are pretty much the same.

Funny, I've said much the same thing myself on multiple occasions over the years, John. I must not be being objectively critical enough... {g}

JRP

John,

Either you never understood Christian theology or you are being intentionally ignorant. You tell me, what is the Christian answer to your questions 1 through 3?

BK, you assume I don't know the answers because I reject them?

1) What is the origin of the God?

God is a necessary being, a spiritual being, and as such he exists in every possible world.

2) What is the origin of God's life?

God is himself is the origin of life.

3) What is the origin of God's mind?

God's mind never had a beginning since he's eternal.

I could go on in a detailed description, but it wouldn't change the fact that wherever the buck stops we have pretty much the same problems, and you should know this. For both of us something exists as a "brute fact." You cannot deny this. Since this is the case, agnosticism is the default intellectual position. When leaving the default position one must have reasons for struggling up the ladder to a full blown Christianity, past pantheism, deism, Judaism and Islam (since you believe more things than they do like a triune God, incarnation, atonement and resurrection). Me? It's just easier to move in the direction agnosticism already pushes me toward, atheism.

John,

No, I said that either you don't know the answers or you were being deceptive. Since you show that you have the ability to answer the question, it appears that you are being deceptive. Why are you asking me these questions when you already know what the Christian answer is to the questions? Posturing, perhaps?

Second, we agree that something exists as a brute fact. However, our universe is largely believed by scientists (secular and Christian) to have come into existence ex nihilo, the answers that the Christian provide for God (who is timeless, eternal and uncreated) do not apply to the universe. In other words, your "brute fact" of existence needs some explaining that God, being eternal and uncreated, does not need.

So, I am satisfied that the Christian answers to the questions that you posed are both intellectually satisfying and consistent. You, however, as an athiest have no answers to the questions that are either intellectually satisfying or consistent. Sure, you can disagree, but your disagreement doesn't mean that the answers aren't correct.

Call this an ad hominem if you'd like to, but it's not at all.

No, I said that either you don't know the answers or you were being deceptive. Since you show that you have the ability to answer the question, it appears that you are being deceptive.

At what level do you think? The word "appears" stands out above. Do you think I am deceptive or not? You left yourself wiggle room, so decide. Am I or am I not being deceptive? Are their any rational grounds for someone to think I am deceptive? Do I have to write a large body of text to show you I understand what you do and reject it?

Why are you asking me these questions when you already know what the Christian answer is to the questions? Posturing, perhaps?

Again, why do you suggest something base as an explanation of my views. First, I "appear" deceptive, secondly I am "posturing," whatever that might mean. No there cannot be the thought of third alternatives here. It's all black and white. Posturing, eh? Is that you?

I was responding to the post, silly. I was offering the equivalent set of problems for the Christian. I wasn't attempting to do anything more than that. The way you treat me tells me you have nothing to learn from me, you don't want me here to ask any questions, because you are not being charitable with me. The principle of intellectual charity doesn't apply to debunkers like me, eh?

the answers that the Christian provide for God (who is timeless, eternal and uncreated) do not apply to the universe. In other words, your "brute fact" of existence needs some explaining that God, being eternal and uncreated, does not need.

Now this is indeed an odd argument. You claim the upper hand by definition, but that's all you're doing. You define God in such a way that the definition solves problems that the alternative theory doesn't.

But your definition has a different set of problems. How is it possible for a being to eternally exist as three persons without a body, apart from time (and yet create time), whether this being can properly be called a "person," whether this being can think (thinking involves weighing alternatives), make choices, take risks, or even freely choose who he is and what is values are. there are additional problems, but you get the point.

So let's begin by asking what it means for this "brute fact" of yours to exist, while you can ask me how it's possible to have the "brute fact" of this universe. You say the universe needs an explanation. I say your explanation has insurmountable problems on its own terms.

Now what?

Note: the discussion (such as it is) has continued while I was composing this reply. But fortuitously, I may be in a position to answer John’s question to Bill, and in a way that he won’t be inclined to completely reject.


While I'm sympathetic to some rebuttals to ontology criticisms of naturalism and/or atheism by many Christians (which is why I said I've said much the same thing myself over the years), I think there are some category errors being made in your comparative counterquestions, John. _Not_ altogether; but in some cases.

In order to help illustrate agreements and disagreements, I will occasionaly replace God/the universe with ‘the Independent Fact’, the ultimate ground of all reality, over against proposals of infinite regression and multiple-limited-Ifs such as in God/Nature cosmological dualism. (Typically in the modern West, most naturalists, supernaturalists, atheists and theists, in whatever combination, accept a belief of one IF. I don’t mean that the other topics shouldn’t be debated, but for technical reasons including them here as options would complexify matters further than I care to discuss right now. Omitting them from immediate consideration shouldn’t be a problem for either my allies or the vast majority of my opponents. Besides, you agree that we both agree that “something exists as a ‘brute fact.’”)


1.1.) What is the origin of the IF? Admittedly, a nonsense question; unless an appeal is being made to a prevalent belief that something which is otherwise being proposed to be the IF did come into existence. No one among theists (except maybe the Mormons in a way) is proposing that God came into existence from non-existence; and it should be admitted that many professional naturalists aren’t proposing any such thing about Nature either.

(I tend to find that atheists and agnostics are proposing nowadays that our system of Nature came into existence from something else more fundamentally real than it is, whether substantially different or not. But that’s not the same thing as coming into existence from nothing; and these proponents certainly aren’t proposing this more fundamental system came into existence from non-existence at all. Nor are the atheists remotely claiming theism by doing so.)

Consequently, then, the first part of Pastore’s first question would admittedly only be a problem to a certain class of naturalist who (I would also argue) shouldn’t be worried about the question.

1.2.) Why does the IF exist rather than nothing? This is a question about positive vs. privative aseity. Either the IF is actively self-generating (in which case its own self-existant action is its reason for existence and for the existence of everything else assuming anything else exists--which is positive aseity); or else it exists statically, in which case the answer is that there is no answer for why it exists (which is privative aseity).

To say the least, tracing out the options and implications here in relation to the theism/atheism question (regardless of the naturalism/supernaturalism question) is not just something to be whiffed off the cuff. Consequently, Pastore's asking of this question in a fashion begging an answer of intractability, is admittedly gauche (shall we say). {g}

1.3.) How does matter and energy come from nothingness? Not really a problem for the strict naturalist, because the strict naturalist isn’t proposing that Nature came from nothing. (And even atheistic or agnostic supernaturalists are claiming Nature came from _something_ while not claiming the Supernature came from nothing.) So, meh on this question, too.

1.4.) Same as 1.1 and 1.3 above. Same meh.

So the first question as a whole can be legitimately considered to be not a problem either for atheism or for naturalism (keeping in mind the distinct category claims.)

Nor would they be a problem either for theism or for supernaturalism, in principle.

Consequently, I agree that when you present a theistic (and generally Christian) answer to 1., you are correct to note that in principle there is no more problem one way than the other.


2.1.) What is the origin of life? Obviously, insofar as theism goes, the answer is ‘life doesn’t have an origin; life is _the_ Origin’ or ‘the Origin is eternally alive’ or something of that sort. Given that we _agree_ question 1 poses a non-problem for theism, this is consistent enough. (The answer can be subdivided down into positive and privative aseity option claims, at least historically speaking, but I’ll leave those aside as irrelevant for the current discussion.)

However!--the atheist is _not_ in a position to answer that life is (in some relevant and meaningful way) intrinsic to the ground of all reality. An atheist really does have to answer the question without coherent self-reference back to the IF’s own self-existence. The answer may be reasonably deferred, but the kind of answer absolutely cannot be the same as it is for the theist.

Consequently then, when you try to substitute God into the question, John, you aren’t (unlike with the principles of question 1) offering an equivalent problem. You’re making a category error. Life isn’t what has to be explained from non-life, under theism; but it _is_ what has to be explained under atheism.

An answer with more equivalence in force (perhaps) would have been, ‘What is God’s origin of Nature? How do you get the non-life of Nature from the life of God?’ _That_ is a question the theist has to answer, if the theist is a supernaturalist. (If the theist is a naturalist the question could be put a little differently, with more or less accepted force: if Nature is God, why does Nature behave as though it is unliving non-sentient mechanism?)

2.2.) How do you get life from non-life? Discussed above already.

2.3.) How do you go from a rock to a tree? The same principle, put more directly in practice.

Note that I am not saying atheists don’t have intriguing answers to this. I’m just saying, it’s an atheistic category problem, at bottom; not a theistic category problem. A theistic category problem would be put in a very different way.


3.1.) What is the origin of mind? Again, for the theist, this is not a problem, given (as we agree) question 1 is not really a problem. However, it _is_ a problem for the atheist, because it runs against system characteristic expectations.

Consequently, it is a category error to put God into the same question and expect this to be accepted as an equivalent problem. It isn’t. No theist (one popular exception excepted, to be discussed in a minute!) is claiming that God’s sentience did come from nothing. But atheists _are_ claiming that _our_ sentience comes from, and is still foundationally based in, and is continually upkept by, mere non-sentient reactions and counterreactions. This is an atheistic problem.

This can be illustrated again by noticing that you didn’t try putting God into question 3.3. More on that in a minute.

3.2.) How does a living thing become a self-conscious being? Your tu quoque attempt puts this as, “How does a non-thing become a self-conscious being?” But, these are not parallel questions--this is still an atheistic question!

A theistic question would have been, ‘How does God become a self-conscious being?’ Which would be quickly seen to be a non-problem. Or, switching elements around, an (ostenibly) theistic question might have been, ‘How does a living thing become God?’ Which leads us to 3.3.

3.3.) How do you go from a tree, to an animal, to a human? Insofar as this is a question about developing sentience, it is manifestly a question atheists must seriously deal with _as_ atheists. For most theists, the question would be a non-sequitor. (Very reasonably, you didn’t even attempt a parallel there.)

In the most well-known exception, that of the Mormons (or at least of a substantial proportion of Mormons), they _would_ (in principle) be faced with the question, “How do you go from a tree, to an animal, to a God?” This is why they are routinely critted as not really being philosophical theists. To the extent that a Mormon accepts the (purportedly revealed) proposition, “As man is, so God was”, the Mormon is talking about a deity which exists dependently in some overarching system--a system presumably not-God itself, ultimately, or else they ought to be talking about _that_ God in their metaphysical theology. (After which they would probably say I was using my reason too much and should just pray over the Book of Mormon instead. But that’s another debate. {g})


4.1.) What is the origin of good and evil? Insofar as the atheist is proposing an amoral fundamental reality, and insofar as the atheist accepts the real quality of good and evil (without reducing it ultiamtely to something only amoral), this is a problem and a key one. It is not the same problem a theist has, insofar as the theist affirms the goodness of God; it would be a category error to try to claim otherwise.

But!--neither admittedly is it pointless to put God into the question and restate it in theistic terms. Theists _do_ have a problem that needs reconciliation in the claim, if they’re going to be coherent about their proposition over against atheism.

Even if theists reply that, insofar as God is agreed (for argument’s sake) to be the IF, it is merely a non sequitor to ask “What is the origin of good and evil for God?”, nevertheless I agree the other questions remain quite pertinent. Theists are obligated to attempt answers to your other three questions (at least if we’re being professional theists), and the attempts to do so can be very problematic.

4.2.) How does an amoral being become morally aware? You didn’t try to parallel this, and it’s probably just as well, since few if any theists are even claiming that God was once amoral but became morally aware. (Again possibly excepting some Mormons, who insofar as the question applies to them are very debateably not theists of the sort that could oppose atheism anyway.) It’s very obviously a pertinent and problematic question for atheists, though.


Consequently, then, I can’t agree altogether with your attempted conclusion--the problems as given are _not_ pretty much the same across the board for theists and atheists alike.

But I can agree that the first question shouldn’t be considered much of a problem for atheists and/or naturalists compared to theists and/or supernaturalists (except insofar as a given naturalist has surrendered to the notion that Nature did begin existing from nothing--which I argue she is _not_ obligated to do.)

And I can agree that although the problems are _different_ between atheists and theists for group 4, the problems are still real for both and tough to chew through.

(To which I can add myself that with the proper rephrasing, question 2.2 would be just as relevant a problem to a theist as to an atheist, though not in the form you yourself attempted.)


That being said:

{{The principle of intellectual charity doesn't apply to debunkers like me, eh?}}

Bill is probably remembering how you started your comments in the recent discussion (earlier this week, or late last week) with the claim that any Christian remaining a Christian is _only_ remaining a Christian due to (what amounts to) knee-jerk reaction to his environment. Whatever else may be said about that claim, it doesn’t look anything like an application of the principle of _intellectual charity_ to Bill or to any other Christian here (or elsewhere, ever.)

If it _is_ intellectual charity to Bill, it would behoove you to explain how you are being charitable to his intellectual capabilities that way; since he (and I and others) are taking you to be insulting him by doing so.

Now, affirming that _you_ are _not_ Socratic Cole Slaw (to put it colorfully), does seem to me to be intellectual charity to you--but you were insulted when I did that, so I’m not really sure what that leaves me to offer... {shrug} I suppose, unless I’m given a better alternative, I will continue affirming (as I have constantly been doing) that you should at least in principle be taken seriously in your intellectual claims, instead of being treated as though you are only reacting to whatever your environmental stimuli happens to be; and I’ll try to avoid putting that statement in colorful terms hereafter.

JRP

John,

You are right that I don’t think that I can learn from you. I have read your arguments (to the extent that you have posted them here) and I don’t find them convincing. In fact, I often see you doing things like you did here: posing questions to which you know that Christians have answers but which you treat as somehow unanswerable for the purposes of trying to win an argument by rhetoric alone. Your manner is abrasive most of the time and I do find it difficult to extend you charity. It’s true that "The principle of intellectual charity doesn't apply to debunkers like me, eh?", but only because you added "like me." I have had many long, courteous discussions with atheists, but you make it very difficult due to your manner.

With respect to your specific question about "appearing" to be deceptive: I can't know your mind. Only you know what your intent was in posing those questions. To me, it appears you were trying to be deceptive. If you say you weren't, then I ask once again why you bothered to post questions that you already knew the Christian answers for. You say here that, "I was offering the equivalent set of problems for the Christian", but since you already know that Christians have answers to these questions, what’s the point?

The idea that I am defining the answer is typical of you. I am not making up the definition of God as eternal and uncreated. That has been how God has revealed himself. It is also what reason has lead many wise philosophers and theologians to conclude (see, e.g., the ontological and arguments from motion and cause). What you want to do is act as though we have no knowledge about God other than whatever we make up. That’s simply your stunted understanding.

All of the questions that you ask about God have been answered. Once again, you either don’t know what the Christian answers to those questions are or you are ignoring them for rhetorical purposes as a way of being deceptive. To me, that’s a dishonest way of arguing.

So, how about actually dealing with the questions that were raised in the original article? I’ll take just one: What is the generally accepted secular explanation for “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Is there one? I don’t know of any. That’s the real point.

"What is the origin of the universe?"

Of course I think God is the origin of everything, but multiverse theories may eventually be supported by evidence and if they end up being testable it wont affect my belief in God. If multiverse theories are supportable, Christians should support science in its endeavor to do so, as long as scientists dont misuse their findings to spin science in any philosophical direction.

"Why is there something rather than nothing?"

Secularists arent very good at answering this one. If they are big enough to admit it the answer is "there is no reason to live or to die or to exist".


"What is the origin of life? How do you get life from non-life?"

If and when science explains the origin of life, it wont affect my rationale for belief in God. I hope if and when it happens it wont affect any other Christian's as well. Science shouldnt give up on researching the topic just because they dont have a good explanation right now.

"What is the origin of mind? How does a living thing become a self-conscious being?"

Secular theories of mind are poor at explaining consciousness, at least in my reading. Take any neurology class (I have!) at any major university and theyll tell you consciousness is still a great mystery to scientists. However we shouldnt hope that science doesnt progress in its study of this phenomenon.

"What is the origin of good and evil?"

If only more secularists were like John in that they would admit there is no objective foundation for morals in particular secular worldviews. Now John needs to work on not relying on the problem of evil so much since he elsewhere admits to not having any objective standard outside of Christianity by which to judge it.

I guess I can sympathize with secular explanations to a certain extent. But the questions in general that have not been fully accounted for (yet) or cant be accounted for by secular theories arent the basis for my belief in God. I dont think there is a worldview that has all the concrete answers. I try to not hold it against secularists too much. Christianity has grey areas as well where different viewpoints offer different explanations within the church itself.

-Cam

I am not abrasive. Do you consider someone who argues abrasive? Yes you could learn something from me, silly, everyone can learn something from someone, didn't you know?.

Here's one example (not only how to read text inside a book at Amazon, but what you read):

You asked: “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Is there one? I don’t know of any. That’s the real point.

Go here and do a search "inside the book" for the name "Rundle," click on page 132 and read.

Now tell me honestly if you learned something. If so adopt a humbler approach and we'll get along just fine. I bristle in the presence of arrogant people like you, so it make me appear abrasive, but it's a response to you.

Jason, I read what you wrote, Thanks for your time. I have about twelve discussions going on right now on the web, plus my own blog and a life. I hope you understand.

BK? Did you learn anything?

Jason, one last thing. You said: If it _is_ intellectual charity to Bill, it would behoove you to explain how you are being charitable to his intellectual capabilities that way; since he (and I and others) are taking you to be insulting him by doing so.

I was making an argument about how religious people gain their beliefs. BK asserted he was the exception to the rule. Rather than dealing head on with my argument he offered antecdotal evidence to the contrary. Antecdotal evidence doesn't show anything. Still, since he injected his own personal testimony to the contrary I felt free to challenge him on this. Don't place yourself inside an argument and then cry "foul" if I challenge that argument.

I'm still waiting to hear from him what influences led him to accept Christianity, if he chooses to honestly do so, since that was his main argument against mine.

Like I said, take a more humble approach and respectful appraoch to me and we'll do just fine.

I'm much tougher to deal with than you think.

And Jason, the link I provided was for you too. Enjoy.

Let's see, in response to Jason you write: "I'm much tougher to deal with than you think." Couple that with your statement to me: "I bristle in the presence of arrogant people like you, so it make me appear abrasive, but it's a response to you." Funny, it appears that you are the one being arrogant, and not in a post to me. I'll leave other people to decide if you are abrasive, but I certainly know that I consider you to be very abrasive.

Oh, and thanks for the lesson on how to read inside a book at Amazon. Did I learn something? Yes, I learned that if you haven't made an eligible purchase with Amazon, you can't use that "inside the book" feature. Gosh, maybe you can teach me something after all.

Now that we've finished that exercise, let me ask again: What is the generally accepted secular explanation for "Why is there something rather than nothing?" Is there one?

This comment has been removed by the author.

Very funny. Buy a book on amazon.com sometime so you can do that. You can start with Victor J. Stenger's The God Failed Hypothesis, and look at pp. 132-135, like I had directed you.

He offers an explanation for why there is something rather than nothing. He argues that nothing is fundamentally "unstable," but I'm not going to type in the details since you can see what he says in a library. In any case you can no longer say you know of no answer, and at the same time learn something from me.

You initially said to me: Either you never understood Christian theology or you are being intentionally ignorant.

I responded politely. You responded negatively again defending your initial accusation, even though I had shown why there are other more reasonable options.

As far as being abrasive goes, I argue on behalf of a position just like do you. We disagree. But there is no reason to jump to baser explanations for why we visit and write on different blogs. I just like to discuss these things with people who are willing to discuss them with me. There is a mutual learning process like when iron sharpens iron.

Cheers.

John,

Like you directed me? Give me a break. I view your efforts to suddenly be sweet as honey as a self-serving attempt to make yourself look better after you have, in many posts across this blog, acted very abrasively. You cannot take comments out of their overall tone. So, when you say "I responded politely. You responded negatively again defending your initial accusation, even though I had shown why there are other more reasonable options," you have to keep in mind (as I have) that your post where you made the initial comments was simply typical of what I view to be a dishonest way of arguing.

Here's the bottom line: No matter what you think, in my view you come across arrogant and abrasive. You say that you are reacting to me because I come across the same way. In fact, I only become short with people (like you) when they are first abrasive to me. So, who was first? It doesn't matter, in my opinion. Apparently, we pull out the worst in each other.

So, I suggest that we simply end these conversations with us agreeing that not only do we disagree, but our mutual personalities make this "iron sharpening iron" thing impossible because we simply rub each other the wrong way.

Oh, and for the record, pointing to the fact that one person in one book has a secular theory as to why there is something rather than nothing does not respond to my question that I have asked twice.

As evidence that I am not abrasive, but that I simply argue my case, anyone can visit my blog. Just click on my name.

Evidence. That's what I'm looking for. Evidence. That's what I need. You simply assume that because my Blog has a catchy name to attract attention that I am abrasive. I challenge you to find one single time I was abrasive with someone who wanted to have a serious discussion who did not first malign me or treat me with disrespect for no reason. [by first here, I mean at some time previous, even though not in that particular discussion].

You will not find it....ever. The only thing you might find me saying from time to time is that someone is "ignorant," because in my opinion the problem was ignorance, plain and simple. Even informed Christians will agree with my assessment that the person was ignorant most of the time.

I'll be back from time to time. We'll see who the abrasive person is when I do.

I see I have to walk on eggs to have a serious discussion here. Okay. I'll do better.

WHY IS THERE SOMETHING RATHER THEN NOTHING? By Victor Stenger.


If the laws of physics follow naturally from empty space-time, then where did that empty space-time come from? Why is there something rather then nothing? This question is often the last recourse of the theist who seeks to argue for the existence of God from physics and cosmology an finds all his other arguments fail. Philosopher Bede Rundle calls it. “philosophy’s central, and most perplexing question.” His simple (but book-length) answer: “There has to be something.”(28)

Clearly many conceptual problems are associated with this question. How do we define “nothing”? What are its properties? If it has properties, doesn’t that make it something? The theist claims that God is the answer. But, then, why is there God rather then nothing? Assuming we can define “nothing,” why should nothing be a more plausible scientific reason based on our best current knowledge of physics and cosmology that something is more then nothing!
In chapter 2 we say how nature is capable of building complex structures by process of self-organization, how simplicity begets complexity. Consider the example of the snowflake, the beautiful six-pointed pattern of ice crystals that result from the direct freezing of water vapor in the atmosphere. Our experience tells us that a snowflake is very ephemeral, melting quickly into drops of water that exhibit far less structure. But that is only because we live in a relatively high-temperature environment, where heat reduces the fragile arrangement of crystals to a simpler liquid. Energy is required to break the symmetry of a snowflake.

In an environment where the ambient temperature is well below the melting point of ice, as it is in most of the universe far from the highly localized effects of stellar heating, any water vapor would readily crystallize into complex, asymmetric structures. Snowflakes would be eternal, or at least would remain intact until cosmic rays tore them apart.
This example illustrates that many simple systems of particles are unstable, that is, have limited lifetimes as they undergo spontaneous phase transitions to more complex structures of lower energy. Since “nothing” is as simple as it gets, we cannot expect it to be very stable. I would likely undergo a spontaneous phase transition to something more complicated, like a universe containing matter. The transition of nothing-to-something is a natural one, not requiring any agent. As Nobel laureate physicist Frank Wilczek has put it, “The answer to the ancient question ‘Why is there something instead of nothing?’ would be that ‘nothing’ is unstable.” (29)

In the nonboundary scenario for the natural origin of the universe I mentioned earlier, the probability for there being something rather then nothing actually can be calculated; it is over 60 percent. (30)

In short, the natural state of affairs is something rather then nothing. An empty universe requires supernatural intervention—not a full one. Only by the constant agent outside the universe, such as God, could a state of nothingness be maintained. The fact that we have something is just what we would expect if there is no God.


STENGER’S SOURCES

28) Bede Rundle, Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2004)

29) Frank Wilczek, “The Cosmic Asymmetry between Matter and Antimatter, ”Scientific American 243, no. 6 (1980): 82-90.

30) Stenger, The Comprehensible Cosmos, supplement H.

Sorry about the "then" rather than the "than" in the title. I found this written out by someone who got it wrong.

I'm not saying this answers the problem. But it is intriguing, correct?

"This question is often the last recourse of the theist who seeks to argue for the existence of God from physics and cosmology an finds all his other arguments fail"?!? Wow, I can't imagine where this guy is coming from. Obviously, he's not looking at this from an objective point of view.

Personally, I don't find "nothing" to be hard to define. It would be the absense of "something", i.e., anything.

"There has to be something"? No, there doesn't. However, if there is something, then some things may be necessary, but that's an entire other debate.

"The answer to the ancient question 'Why is there something instead of nothing?' would be that 'nothing' is unstable"? But nothing is the absense of something. Nothing is not unstable because there is nothing there to become unstable. There is no comparison between the instability of a snowflake and the instability of nothing because a snowflake is made of "something" that can become unstable, but there is not any "something" in "nothing" to become unstable.

Personally, I think that is an interesting thought, but I don't find it the least bit convincing or compelling. Maybe someone else does. Regardless, I have almost no doubt that it is not the generally accepted secular explanation which is what I am asking for.

Personally, I don't find "nothing" to be hard to define. It would be the absense of "something", i.e., anything.

Stenger, Hawkings and Tyron define it as totally equalizing positive and negative energy which thus cancels each other out. Thus, the beginning of the known universe was due to a quantum fluctuation from within the inherent instability of this "nothing."

I know you'll disagree with their definition of "nothing." Does it come down to how we define a word? I know such a concept of nothing is strange, since positive and negative energy equalizing themselves out are not exactly nothing in the pure sense. But this is what science does. it looks for answers based on a method you yourself adopt: methodological naturalism. It's the method that defines us as modern people. Assume a natural cause for every event. The controversy is over when someone should give up trying to explain something naturally. I guess it's a good thing scientists didn't give up and punt to mystery before the discoveries of so many things down through the centuries.

Personally, I think that is an interesting thought, but I don't find it the least bit convincing or compelling.

I agree and I understand.

Regardless, I have almost no doubt that it is not the generally accepted secular explanation which is what I am asking for.

As I think I just explained, these are similar accounts, not different accounts of the origin of the universe. Besides, even if this is a different account, maybe it might eventually become the generally accepted secular explanation. We'll let scientists battle this one out.

John,

Thank you for the reference. I’ve read variants of the ‘nothing is unstable’ argument before, and find it to be more of a category error than “intriguing”.

Since I began my comment by agreeing that neither the atheist nor the naturalist need be under some burden of answering “why is there something instead of nothing?” (unless they bring the burden upon themselves by accepting that something actually did come from nothing, which I argued they need not do), I am not entirely sure why you made this reference for my sake as well--you did notice me saying this near the beginning at some length, right?

I think my own defense of an atheistic/naturalistic ontological answer has the advantage of not having to appeal to a supposed ‘nothingness’ which nevertheless has properties such as instability. It would be fairer and clearer to call something ‘something’ instead of ‘nothing’ when ‘something’ is obviously intended. That way people wouldn’t have to apologize for Stenger et al afterward with bizzare defenses such as “I know such a concept of nothing is strange... does it come down to how we define a word?” Uh, yeah, I guess it does, if it comes down to you appealing to a new and strange definition of ‘nothing’.

And, btw, positive and negative energy “totally equalizing” and “thus cancelling each other out” _would_ normally be considered ‘nothing’ in the ‘pure sense’, at least as a result. Maybe that’s why they _have to_ call it ‘nothing’. But then they still have to appeal to it as being ‘something’ in order to get that quantum ‘flux’ from, y’know, something. Specifically from something they can present as being non-sentient energy just naturally reacting and counterreacting along. If they didn’t have that--well, they’d have nothing, would they? {g}

Also, seeing entropy (and enthalpy?) replaced by cosmic ray activity as a deterioration explanation was kind of... novel. Stan Lee would approve anyway. {g}

{{The controversy is over when someone should give up trying to explain something naturally. I guess it's a good thing scientists didn't give up and punt to mystery}}

When a scientist posits a totally equalizing positive and negative energy _cancelling itself out_ as a ‘natural’ explanation for the existence of ‘nature’ (from nature comes nature, except that the nature was totally cancelled out), and then adds in a quantum _flux_ supposedly emenating from this perfectly total zero sum of cancellation--then I’d say the controversy is over: someone already gave up trying to explain something ‘naturally’. The natural explanation didn’t cut it, so they added something else that sounded ‘natural’, too. The someones in this case weren’t the theists. They were Stenger, Hawkings and Tyron. They punted to mystery by appealing to a nothing that isn't really nothing but which they insist on calling nothing anyway, leaving you to have to clean up afterward by presenting it as a 'strange concept of nothing'.

Not that that would be an argument against atheism, or even strictly speaking an argument against naturalism. Mainly it’s an argument that some theories need revising. {lopsided g} If I was an atheist and/or a naturalist, I wouldn’t consider it something to be panicking about. Yet anyway. Depends on how necessary it is, under naturalism and/or atheism, for those natural explanations to both exist _and_ not exist. Fwiw, I would come down on ‘existence’, period, and get away from it being “a strange concept of ‘nothing’”. If I _had_ to go that way anyway, I would conclude something was wrong with at least my naturalism, though not necessarily with my atheism.

(One might have supposed a critic preaching intrinsic agnosticism would have tagged _them_ on this himself instead of trying to defend them.)


{{I was making an argument about how religious people gain their beliefs.}}

So, I just misread you to be making an argument about why religious people _retain_ their beliefs?

That would certainly explain why, when challenged on that point (such as when BK claimed he made efforts to critically examine his own beliefs, thus to be _not_ merely reacting uncritically to his social environment), you seemed to be simply appealing back to how the religious person gained their belief in the first place (such as when you mocked him for claiming to be objective about his evaluation of his beliefs and replied with a challenge, which you’ve repeated again here, to explain how he got his beliefs in the first place). These are not the same sort of thing, which is why Bill thinks it is irrelevant to answer your question about how he came to believe in the first place.


Now, somehow we have gotten the impression that you have been arguing that the only reason Bill _still_ believes in Christianity is due to him merely continuing to react to his environmental stimuli. To which you had agreed that obviously people have to get past that or it would be a wash for all metaphysical beliefs. To which you seemed to be arguing that you had gotten past this, which is why you are an agnostic (though somehow that still seems to end in a wash for all metaphysical beliefs...) To which you seemed to be averring as well that, consequently, anyone who wasn’t an agnostic (trending toward atheism or otherwise) wasn’t yet thinking in any way other than merely reacting to his environment. Thus Bill isn’t yet doing this (nor me either, I would suppose as a corollary). Q.E.D.

This would fit together very well with your insistent statements elsewhere recently on this journal that someone believes a donkey talked _only because_ a book told them to believe it (and, tacitly, they are only thereby reacting to training to accept the book as true.)


If this was what you were doing, then it ought to be obvious enough why I would ask, “If [treating Bill this way] _is_ intellectual charity to Bill, it would behoove you to explain how you are being charitable to his intellectual capabilities that way.”

Rather than explain how treating Bill this way adheres to a principle of intellectual charity to your opponent, you have replied that you were “making an argument about how religious people _gain_ their beliefs.” I am not entirely sure this avoids the intellectual charity challenge. But in any case, your reply only works as a reply if by doing so you are tacitly denying that you have been engaging in claims about why Bill currently _retains_ his belief.

Is that what you are doing?--denying you were intending to describe why Bill retains his beliefs?

If so, you may have a lot of other comments to explain in the past couple of weeks concerning what you really meant to be saying to us instead.

If not, my request still stands, for you to explain how treating (i.e. dismissing) Bill's current beliefs in _that_ way counts as intellectual charity toward him on your part.

JRP

Jason, I get frustrated at the attempt to beat a dead horse. It's dead. I deny that I am abrasive. Look at my Blog. Too many times the Christian sites I visit believe Christianity is rationally superior such that anyone who doesn't believe has a hardened heart.

So when I make a comment Christians will begin by assuming I don't know what I'm talking about. They have even suggested I read CS Lewis' Mere Christianity, as if I haven't done so. Then they will quote Bible passages as if I have never read them (even though I have some background in the original languages and have read the Bible through more times than the person quoting the Bible is years old).

I have felt that while you and BK are not as blatant about this, I still sense it from you. I don't know your educational background, but I dare say I could be your professor in a philosophy program. Have you ever had an atheist professor? I'm one. And although I don't expect you to give me the same respect as such, I do know that after class you'd be coming up to me and asking me questions, the hardest questions you could think of. But you wouldn't be calling me cottage cheese. I have a wealth of information and I feel like I'm throwing it to the proverbial swine. The only reason you (but mostly others) treat me with disrespect is because I disagree with them. Wow. That's an intelligent way to handle disputes, isn't it? The equivalent knowledgable Christian professor is quoted by and praised by Christians simply because they agree with him.

-------------

As to the point:

Mark William Worthing claims, “For a true creation out of nothing there can be no scientific explanation. Any theory explaining how something has come from nothing must assume some preexisting laws or energy or quantum activity in order to have a credible theory. It could be claimed, naturally, that there was nothing and then suddenly there was, without apparent physical cause or ground, something. But this would be more a statement of philosophical or theological belief than a genuine scientific theory.”

Our choice is between an infinite regress of events, or an uncaused cause. Our choice is between the cosmos having no explanation for its existence, or a final explanation that needs no further explanation.

Concerning the origin of our universe, Sam Harris writes, “The truth is that no one knows how or why the universe came into being. It is not clear that we can even speak coherently about the creation of the universe, given that such an event can be conceived only with reference to time, and here we are talking about the birth of space-time itself. Any intellectually honest person will admit that he does not know why the universe exists.”

I don't know your educational background, but I dare say I could be your professor in a philosophy program. Have you ever had an atheist professor?

Answering for me: Yes, of course I have had an atheist professor. I've had several. In fact, I had an atheist professor in my epistemology course and my course on Jean Paul Sartre.

I will also agree that you could be my philosophy professor, but you aren't. Likewise, you should recognize that either Jason or I (having taught logic as well as a number of other classes at the college level) could be your philosophy professor, but (speaking just for me) I am not your professor either. Perhaps if you stopped assuming that I am your student and treat me an an equal we might get further.

And, just for the record, you earlier criticized me for defining away the problem of where God came from. Yet, to define "nothing" as "totally equalizing positive and negative energy" equally defines away the problem. It starts at a point that I am not willing to start. It assumes that such energy exists. When I (and most people) ask "why is there something rather than nothing>?", we are largely starting with the assumption that neither positive nor negative energy exists either because those would be "something". The idea that "nothing" was a state of equilibrium between positive and negative energy seems like a tidy fiction to try to explain how nothing can result in something.

BK said...Perhaps if you stopped assuming that I am your student and treat me an an equal we might get further.

Likewise.

As far as the rest of what you said goes, I revert to Sam Harris' comments.

I don't actually have a lot of answers. I'm what one would call an agnostic atheist. I am first an agnostic but when pushed I land in the atheist camp.

What I do feel strongly about is that a full blown Christianity is a delusion. But let's say I'm wrong about that. How sure are you of any historical happening, like JFK's murder, or whether O.J. is a murderer, or that a single fence in the middle of Gettysburg caused the defeat of the Confederate army?

Would you be willing to be so confident about such conclusions as you now are about the historical claims found in the Bible to be willing to die for said belief? History is a very poor medium if your God decided to communicate in history. If your God is omniscient then he should know better.

[Check all of the links out before you respond, please].

There is nothing wrong with how God revealed himself. Again, its impossible for God to choose a time to reveal himself to people and it not eventually become a historical event to be defended. Its people who wont listen to historical arguments or question the helpfulness of reason and logic when it comes to religious truth claims that are the problem.

-Cam

Cam, follow the links. God could easily reveal himself in every age. This is obvious. Obvious!

But nothing says people wouldnt deny their own experience with the divine. (This is obvious. Obvious!)

If God revealed himself to everyone during this age, I doubt everyone would just suddenly believe in God. Skeptics would attribute their own experiences to group delusions or group or individual hallucinations or suggestive environmental stimuli. Maybe they would fool themselves into believing they were on drugs. Perhaps too much alcohol.

(By the way, since John Loftus has not felt that God has been revealed in every age doesnt make it necessarily so. He represents his own tiny portion of experience amongst the pool of them, some modern experiences include the belief that revelation has happened in every age).

And Im sure you are only so skeptical of the history of Christian origins. Ancient history when it comes to other matters? Youre a lot more willing to believe it. What does it all come down to? Assumptions, belief. Or, again, perhaps its a want to not be a human in God's world.

-Cam

Cam said If God revealed himself to everyone during this age, I doubt everyone would just suddenly believe in God. Skeptics would attribute their own experiences to group delusions or group or individual hallucinations or suggestive environmental stimuli. Maybe they would fool themselves into believing they were on drugs. Perhaps too much alcohol.

Maybe so, but we don't even see God trying. But in fact I think more people (maybe millions, maybe billions) would believe and that's my point. BTW repentence means a "change of mind." Once someone believes his mind has been changed, and as a result obedience to God comes naturally (although flawed).

He represents his own tiny portion of experience amongst the pool of them,

That's all I have to go on, plus logic. How can I believe against this? Why should I believe against this?

And Im sure you are only so skeptical of the history of Christian origins. Ancient history when it comes to other matters? Youre a lot more willing to believe it.

I am skeptical of my own beliefs, so I am certainly skeptical (to some degree) about ancient history as a whole. Why shouldn't I be?

Assumptions, belief.

Exactly. You hit the nail on the head. But this admission does you no good, for you too have assumptions. While you won't agree with how I state this, I have an anti-superstitious set of skeptical assumptions. You don't.

I am working on a presentation I am to give at a Freethought Meeting on June 27th. They will video it. I will post a link to it. If you watch for it you will see my whole argument. I am giving an overview of my book. It is a robust defense of what I believe. I consider my case to be devestating to Christianity, the likes of which have never before been laid out in a single book.

I present sociological, philosophical, Biblical, scientific, historical and empirical reasons for my control beliefs, as I call them. These areas of thought are things that Christians themselves recognize and accept (with modifications). In these areas I find solid reasons for my control beliefs. Then I approach the evidences, both internal and external, for the claims of the Bible.

Norman L. Geisler is recommending my book to his students, even though he disagrees with my case, because he considers it an important argument.

In an era where atheist books are selling well I can't wait for it to be in the national bookstores, and it will. I've read most other general treatments of Christianity by skeptics and I rate them fair to poor. They are preaching to the choir.

Not so, mine.

Cheers.

John,

{{Too many times the Christian sites I visit believe Christianity is rationally superior such that anyone who doesn't believe has a hardened heart. }}

And yet, when someone comes along who from the first is _not_ treating you that way, but is explicitly committed to doing his best to take you seriously and grant you intellectual credit--you treat him as though he is doing this other thing instead.

Moreover, your own methodology necessarily involves treating Christians as though, in effect, _we_ can only have hardened hearts. You _started_ with that in the thread this discussion can be traced back to, a few weeks ago; and in effect you preached that line and have continued to preach it. (I mentioned this in the 14 page OP, too, where I joked about this being hypercalvinistic of you, perhaps due to your upbringing.)

You talk about how we might learn from one another, and how it’s a pity that I’m too hostile to you. But _I’m_ the one beginning with the presupposition, not to be whiffled away later, that _you ought to be taken with intellectual seriousness_ insofar as possible, _even in your agnostsicism_. Where, in your doctrine about the intellectual superiority of agnosticism, is there allowance in principle for taking Christians as Christians with intellectual seriousness?

Other Christians in the past few weeks have publicly noted that I am going very far in _not_ treating you as though you are only a blowhard (and I can report that in private some Christians have expressed amazement to me that I insist on treating you as being better than that.) You haven’t even noticed this, though. Apparently, you didn’t even notice earlier that I had _defended_ significant portions of your criticism in _this_ thread; it’s hard to explain otherwise how your reference to a contradictory naturalistic ontology explanation which I had already argued _in the naturalist’s favor_ that a naturalist _didn’t_ need to give, was supposed to be for my sake, too.

Ask Exapologist if I’m only kidding about this. He doesn’t get along very well with Bill and Chris (that’s Layman), but he gets along pretty well with me. Ask him what the reason is for that. He’s one of your DebunkX crew.


And my request wasn’t about whether you were abrasive. It was for you to explain how dismissing Bill’s current beliefs as being only uncritical reaction to his environment counts as intellectual charity toward him on your part. I have practically no interest in whether this counts as being ‘abrasive’ or not.


{{Then they will quote Bible passages as if I have never read them (even though I have some background in the original languages and have read the Bible through more times than the person quoting the Bible is years old).}}

Yes, I get treated the same way often enough myself. Even by sceptics sometimes! {s} But that wasn’t how I was treating you. Even Bill and Cam weren’t treating you _that_ way, including when someone came up with the talking ass and serpent thing from scripture. When Bill tried to explain that his willingness to accept the talking ass in principle was due to something other than merely reacting to his environmental training to accept the book uncritically as true, someone dismissed his attempt at claiming this out of hand without even trying to take him seriously on it. I’m pretty sure this someone wasn’t me. Maybe it was only Steven Carr. {shrug}

That leaves the question over, though, whether your doctrine of agnosticism’s intellectual superiority allows room to take someone seriously when they claim to be _not_ merely reacting uncritically to their environmental training. If not (and so far I have gathered it doesn’t)--then how is this showing intellectual charity to Bill from the outset (much less continuing to do so)?


{{Have you ever had an atheist professor?}}

Several. I even have atheist friends. I have willingly sacrificed my own heart, probably forever, so that a man I hardly know, whom most of my Christian friends would consider an atheist (and I expect he would agree) would be free to pursue a happiness that will be forever denied to me. And I did it because I believe it was and is the right thing to do, in love to him and to the one we both truly love. (I even had a dream about it last night for the first time in months, coincidentally. Or providentially maybe.)

You don’t know me, and I don’t expect you to know these things (or even to believe them). But you could know me better if you were more determined to pay serious attention to things I am saying, and have been saying for years (since we’ve crossed paths before on Victor’s DangIdea site, too.)

To give the most obvious possible example:

{{But you wouldn't be calling me cottage cheese.}}

I might however complain to the dean, that my atheist professor was unable to read and understand a single simple sentence. Which I have explained more than once before. I’ll try typing it in all caps this time: _I DIDN’T CALL YOU SOCRATIC COLE SLAW! I SPECIFICALLY SAID YOU WERE !!!!NOT!!!! SOCRATIC COLE SLAW!_

You are entirely welcome to go back and read that title again, because it hasn’t changed since I first put it up. It reads, “John Loftus is not Socratic Cole Slaw”. Being a philosophy professor, I would suppose you have a better opportunity than most other people to know about Socrates’ “cabbage” remark. It is an insult to say that someone _is_ a Socratic cabbage. It is a defense of the person, as a person, at a fundamental level, to say that someone is _not_ a Socratic cabbage (much less so a shredded Socratic cabbage.)

Even if you somehow didn’t know that, though, despite being a philosophy professor (and frankly I’m taking your word on that, because your competency so far is not something I would base that kind of conclusion on), you ought to be capable enough at reading the English language to understand the context involved in saying that someone _isn’t_ (for instance) cottage cheese.

Obviously you understand it well enough to agree that if I _had_ called you Socratic Cole Slaw (which I did not do until I was joking in some exasperation, about you missing so simple and obvious a meaning and then posting up a ‘reply’ which was not even remotely a ‘reply’ at all, even in its topical construction), _THEN_ I would be insulting you. Conversely (or maybe obversely?), if someone says you are _NOT_ Socratic Cole Slaw, then they are not only _not_ insulting you, they are actually being concerned to _defend you_, personally, in some significant fashion, and are making a point to say so in a colorful way.

You have no excuse at this late date not to have gotten this already, John. If you don’t believe me, go ask Exapologist whether it reads “John Loftus _is_ Socratic Cole Slaw” or whether it reads “John Loftus _is not_ Socratic Cole Slaw”. Then ask him whether I am intending to insult you by stating in bold type that you are _not_ a shredded Socratic cabbage.

I have said this to you again and again, and yet here you are complaining about being called cottage cheese (i.e. about being called Socratic cole slaw). You yourself shot this horse in the head for absolutely no good reason.


{{The only reason you (but mostly others) treat me with disrespect is because I disagree with them.}}

John--if I was the sort of person who did things for that kind of reason, I would probably _not_ be the sort of person who goes out of his way to _agree_ with you, wherever I can find to do so. Including sometimes when you criticise _them_. I did it in a substantial way already in this comment thread.

But you never even saw it.

{{I consider my case to be devestating to Christianity, the likes of which have never before been laid out in a single book.}}

I hope it’s better than your cottage cheese case. Not. {g}


Moving along to ontology for a while:

{{Our choice is between an infinite regress of events, or an uncaused cause.}}

Actually our options are a bit wider than that. I’ve been working up an expanded version of the defense I gave for ontological naturalism in my comment above, which I intend to post some time (possibly next week) on the main journal. It addresses the link between ontology and the aseity question, too.

Until then, our choices in brief are:

a.) infinite regress

b.) multiple limited-number IFs (such as in a God/Nature or God/Anti-God cosmological dualism)

c.) a single IF (with or without dependent but substantially different subsystems)


Naturalists and supernaturalists both go with c.

After that our choices are between:

d.) an uncaused cause (privative aseity)

e.) a self-causing cause (positive aseity)

Neither one of these are exclusive to atheism or theism, strictly speaking (much less to naturalism or supernaturalism), although I do find (d) tending to imply atheism and (e) tending to imply theism, fwiw. (That ought to be a helpful observation for my opponents, since most theists are, ironically, privative aseitists!)

Although there are respectable difficulties going either way, I prefer positive aseity as helping to positively cap explanatory grounds. Put another way, I could hardly reject infinite regression for having no final ground (among other reasons) and still accept a necessarily explanationless privative aseity!

In other words, there are two ways in which a final explanation could be said to need no further explanation. One way is for the final explanation to be itself explanationless. The other way is for the final explanation to be self-explaining. If I was starting from around this topic, I would go with the latter.


That being said, typically I find it more proper to draw conclusions about whether to accept theism/atheism first before considering whether privative or positive aseity should be accepted. Though I also do typically arrive at either naturalism or supernaturalism (without having decided between one or the other), over against infinite regression and multiple-limited IF propositions, before arriving at a decision point between theism and atheism. It could be done either way, but given a choice I prefer to defer the theism/atheism decision as long as possible, since that decision runs against so many of the people I am likely to be disputing with. (Put another way, in a synthetic metaphysical progression I prefer to keep as many opponents on board as possible for as long as possible.)


Anyway, I tend to agree with Worthing here (as far as he goes with it anyway); though I wish I could think that you brought in the quote because you noticed me agreeing with the gist of this earlier. Twice. Once at painful length...


Considering that philosophers are in a position to consider the existence of something ontologically (in dependent/independent relationships of different or identical substantial realities), without necessarily relying on literal time/space relationships (even if the language has to be occasionally brought in by analogy simply to discuss the topic in English), I think the situation of what we can figure out is better than Sam Harris makes it out to be--though I also agree he’s correct about scientific limits to the endeavor. Fwiw, though, I consider at least part of that paragraph to point toward a respectable ontological argument for naturalism.


{{What I do feel strongly about is that a full blown Christianity is a delusion.}}

Without meaning to criticise the particular position taken here: maybe the “feel strongly” part, is why you couldn’t read a crucially important ‘not’ in the middle of a sentence; or couldn’t notice when time after time someone has told you the ‘not’ was there.

And the word ‘delusion’ rather than ‘mistake’, is poorly chosen if you want to convince us that you actually follow the principle of intellectual charity toward your opponents that you (not wrongly) insist we ought to be showing you.

Also, some of us don’t start with the historical claims. Though if you were going to compare apples and apples, instead of apples and blades of grass, a claim of closer importance would be whether Joseph Smith found golden plates under a hill. Few people would be willing to die for a single fence in the middle of Gettysburg even if they and everyone else who ever lived in history were absolutely certain that it caused the defeat of the Confederate army. (And while the New Orleans district attorney might have been willing to risk his life and the life of his family to bring a JFK plot to trial, it was for a principle rather more important than the merely historical question of who shot the President.)


{{Check all of the links out before you respond, please.}}

You mean it wouldn’t be fair to you to write a ‘reply’ concerning something of yours we didn’t even read? (For whatever it’s worth, I have no intention of doing that, I assure you...)


{{God could easily reveal himself in every age. This is obvious. Obvious!}}

While I don’t dispute this claim (neither do I think ‘revelation’ in the sense of ‘giving facts’ is the main goal of God’s actions in the story related across the Bible), I also remember that you couldn’t even read a single word in the middle of a single sentence (in large type) which made all the difference in the meaning of the sentence. This doesn’t speak well of your perception abilities in the first place.

{{Norman L. Geisler is recommending my book to his students, even though he disagrees with my case, because he considers it an important argument.}}

There are other reasons he might be recommending your book to his students; but if he told you this, or said so elsewhere, great.


{{I've read most other general treatments of Christianity by skeptics and I rate them fair to poor. They are preaching to the choir.}}

As you apparently don’t recall from your own church experiences: congregations tend to be insulted when they’re told they’re under a delusion (not even making mistakes) and that whatever it is they believe they can’t possibly be thinking critically about it yet because they still believe it (moreover that they are only reacting unthinkingly to what someone trained them as children to believe a book said is true.)

When this is combined with the preacher introducing himself by saying that he considers his sermon to be “devestating” to what they believe, the likes of which devestation has never even been preached from a pulpit before, then I should warn you in advance (since you seem unaware of it) that they are likely to complain in language rather similar to what you complained to _me_ about, concerning those Christians who think their case is so unspeakably awesome that the only possible reason you don’t believe them is because you have a hardened heart.

After which, they’re likely to be even outright disrespectful of you, when you protest that you are not abrasive.

I mean, _I_ could self-publish an 800 page metaphysical treatise without even having gone into the historical case yet. Have I bragged to you recently that I consider it to be far more devestating to all non-Christian beliefs than any other book ever written by man?

If I haven’t yet gotten around to bragging like that to you, there’s a reason why not. (And not because I have a low opinion of my own work.)


JRP

John - please respond to Jasons response before mine. It would be very nice of you. I will wait for you to reply to him hopefully before you ever reply to me.

"Maybe so, but we don't even see God trying."

Correction: John Loftus after deciding he would never want to be a human on God's earth and history and logic are useless in inquiring into any religion, he thinks God isnt trying. The "we" you speak of I think might refer to your secular buddies. Might. If so, thats not exactly a representitive sample, eh?

"But in fact I think more people (maybe millions, maybe billions) would believe and that's my point."

Well billions of people already believe in some variation of expression of God. The methods he has chosen to reveal himself to this many people arent invalidated by the (perhaps) skewed skepticism of the few shown towards God. Besides, like you, there are many other people who would personally not like to believe in the Christian God. So even if the Christian God exists and his existence can be argued for through different mediums, anyone who doesnt want to believe in him has every right to deny it all no matter what argumentation, valid or invalid.

"That's all I have to go on, plus logic"

Well if this is all you personally have to go on I feel sorry for how you have limited yourself, especially considering your views of how logic isnt helpful in such matters anyways. That leaves you with your own personal experience...and that isnt much.

"I am skeptical of my own beliefs"

I have not been shown this in your posts. I asked you to admit that a few certain assertions you made were false after I provided counter examples and you declined to admit fault in your positions, and even restated the same positions on a newer thread here on this blog (Concerning birth circumstances are the reason why anyone holds to a religion. Again, what about every Christian who wasnt raised Christian, ancient and modern? And if you say its sociopolitical forces at work that are the cause of such conversions, what keeps conversions to atheism or naturalism or materialism any less restricted by sociopolitical forces?).

If anything you often come on here extremely confident, throwing "oh you didnt know"s at Christians here on this blog (in this regard I must agree with BK), and when someone criticizes your stance you repeat the same objections without taking any of their criticisms into account (much like you repeatedly using the argument of evil while rarely using any kind of internal critique over with the T-bloggers. I cant count how many posts they have had to put up in order to repeatedly address this issue with you. Youre a big fan of links. Perhaps you would like me to dig those up?).

"I have an anti-superstitious set of skeptical assumptions. You don't."

I used to hold those same assumptions. What made me change, John? You used to hold "superstitious" (Dont you mean supernaturalist? By throwing around superstitious youre already assuming the falsehood of such claims without the argument.) assumptions.

Instead of holding anti-supernaturalist assumptions everyone should hold to an evidentialist assumption, hold to Occams razor (not simplest explanation given a worldview, but given the evidence. No worldview can be proven because its an abstract. Limiting the potential possibilities of existence based on the worldviews of a section of humanity arbitrarily restricts genuine inquiry into any kind of legitimate phenomena lying outside of that sections beliefs).

-Cam

Jason, I saw that you started to beat a dead horse so I didn't read the rest of what you wrote, nor do I care at this point. I've made a simple request for evidence. Go to my blog and provide it. You failed to honor my request, so I now fail to honor you by reading what you wrote. Does that make me abrasive? Naw. There are some things I cannot tolerate. We all have those limits.

Cam, T-bloggers. I cant count how many posts they have had to put up in order to repeatedly address this issue with you. Youre a big fan of links. Perhaps you would like me to dig those up?).

T-Bloggers are people you want to compare with me? They are the most abrasive people on the web. I bristle at them, and yes, I revile them, and I argue against their tactics here, which, by the way, answers the charge that I'm abrasive.

Listen, you may not like me or my approach, but here it is. I think much of the differences between us is in how we "see" things--assumptions, presuppositions, and biases. It's not about the facts, data, or information. It really isn't, although it might be to a degree with people who are ignorant.

How we "see" things. Most Christians don't understand this. You do. But you fail to see what this entails. Let me explain. I share my vision of how I see things on a particular topic. Once I do so, I'm pretty much done. So I move on. I'm not saying the details are not important. They are. But it's the vision that is of the utmost importance.

Cheers.

One other thing. Only as I share my vision for how I see things on a multiple set of issues will it be possible for Christians to consider that vision. Multiple issues. As W.V.O. Quine has argued, we have a "web of beliefs." They all hang together. Those in the center are core beliefs, while those at the perimeter are expendable but dependent on the core. What I do is to try to dismantle the strands that start with the Christian God. The belief in a creator God is prior to this belief, as are the rules of logic. How I do this is by making a cumulative case. A person changes his or her belief system rapidly all at once or never at all, like dominoes falling. This can only happen as one "sees" each strand of her web of beliefs differently, epecially those at the core.

It's not about evidence much at all. Evidentialism is a complete and utter failure, and I think the lawyers here will understand what I mean. For in a trial there is agreed upon evidence (exhibit A, B, and so forth). But what is it evidence of? Both the prosecution and the defense team paints a picture that incorporates the evidence leading to different conclusions--their respective visions. The vision that seems most plausible will get the nod from the jury.

Evidence doesn't show much of anything. It's the vision that says it all. So evidentialism (or, the evidences) do little to convince people of anything. That might better explain what I do. It may not be effective, but it's better than nitpicking about the details, and a better use of my time.

John,

What part of what I wrote in the first portion was concerned with the charge that you are “abrasive” (for which you were asking evidence)?

To quote my summation of the first portion, “my request wasn’t about whether you were abrasive. It was for you to explain how dismissing Bill’s current beliefs as being only uncritical reaction to his environment counts as intellectual charity toward him on your part. I have practically no interest in whether this counts as being ‘abrasive’ or not.”

Not-incidentally, this is exactly the same request I had made at the end of the previous comment.

Or, are you asking for evidence of you dismissing Bill’s current beliefs as being only uncritical reaction to his environment? This could hardly be a dead horse, since you have totally avoided trying to ride it at all so far (one way or another), whenever I've brought up the topic.

I have referred back to a lot of apparent evidence in _this_ direction in the posts you say you have read, as well as the posts you say you have skipped. If those things don't mean this, you have had plentiful opportunities to say so.


I suspect however that what Cam wanted you to read, which you have now conveniently skipped over, was the following, which I will excerpt here.

.......[beginning excerpt]

{{Have you ever had an atheist professor?}}

Several. I even have atheist friends. I have willingly sacrificed my own heart, probably forever, so that a man I hardly know, whom most of my Christian friends would consider an atheist (and I expect he would agree) would be free to pursue a happiness that will be forever denied to me. And I did it because I believe it was and is the right thing to do, in love to him and to the one we both truly love. (I even had a dream about it last night for the first time in months, coincidentally. Or providentially maybe.)

You don’t know me, and I don’t expect you to know these things (or even to believe them). But you could know me better if you were more determined to pay serious attention to things I am saying, and have been saying for years (since we’ve crossed paths before on Victor’s DangIdea site, too.)

To give the most obvious possible example:

{{But you wouldn't be calling me cottage cheese.}}

I might however complain to the dean, that my atheist professor was unable to read and understand a single simple sentence. Which I have explained more than once before. I’ll try typing it in all caps this time: _I DIDN’T CALL YOU SOCRATIC COLE SLAW! I SPECIFICALLY SAID YOU WERE !!!!NOT!!!! SOCRATIC COLE SLAW!_

You are entirely welcome to go back and read that title again, because it hasn’t changed since I first put it up. It reads, “John Loftus is not Socratic Cole Slaw”. Being a philosophy professor, I would suppose you have a better opportunity than most other people to know about Socrates’ “cabbage” remark. It is an insult to say that someone _is_ a Socratic cabbage. It is a defense of the person, as a person, at a fundamental level, to say that someone is _not_ a Socratic cabbage (much less so a shredded Socratic cabbage.)

Even if you somehow didn’t know that, though, despite being a philosophy professor (and frankly I’m taking your word on that, because your competency so far is not something I would base that kind of conclusion on), you ought to be capable enough at reading the English language to understand the context involved in saying that someone _isn’t_ (for instance) cottage cheese.

Obviously you understand it well enough to agree that if I _had_ called you Socratic Cole Slaw (which I did not do until I was joking in some exasperation, about you missing so simple and obvious a meaning and then posting up a ‘reply’ which was not even remotely a ‘reply’ at all, even in its topical construction), _THEN_ I would be insulting you. Conversely (or maybe obversely?), if someone says you are _NOT_ Socratic Cole Slaw, then they are not only _not_ insulting you, they are actually being concerned to _defend you_, personally, in some significant fashion, and are making a point to say so in a colorful way.

You have no excuse at this late date not to have gotten this already, John. If you don’t believe me, go ask Exapologist whether it reads “John Loftus _is_ Socratic Cole Slaw” or whether it reads “John Loftus _is not_ Socratic Cole Slaw”. Then ask him whether I am intending to insult you by stating in bold type that you are _not_ a shredded Socratic cabbage.

I have said this to you again and again, and yet here you are complaining about being called cottage cheese (i.e. about being called Socratic cole slaw). You yourself shot this horse in the head for absolutely no good reason.

.......[end excerpt]

About 3-1/2 pages there John. Since you seem to be at least asking for evidence of being abrasive, I’ll append another excerpt. I’m not especially interested in the topic of abrasiveness, but it has its connections.

.......[beginning excerpt]

{{I've read most other general treatments of Christianity by skeptics and I rate them fair to poor. They are preaching to the choir.}}

As you apparently don’t recall from your own church experiences: congregations tend to be insulted when they’re told they’re under a delusion (not even making mistakes) and that whatever it is they believe they can’t possibly be thinking critically about it yet because they still believe it (moreover that they are only reacting unthinkingly to what someone trained them as children to believe a book said is true.)

When this is combined with the preacher introducing himself by saying that he considers his sermon to be “devestating” to what they believe, the likes of which devestation has never even been preached from a pulpit before, then I should warn you in advance (since you seem unaware of it) that they are likely to complain in language rather similar to what you complained to _me_ about, concerning those Christians who think their case is so unspeakably awesome that the only possible reason you don’t believe them is because you have a hardened heart.

After which, they’re likely to be even outright disrespectful of you, when you protest that you are not abrasive.

.......[end excerpt]

Slightly more than three pages shouldn’t exceed your capabilities much.

JRP

John -

"T-Bloggers are people you want to compare with me?"

I never compared you to the T-bloggers, I was stating how you were continuously being uncritical of your own stances even through repeated criticisms of them which you werent taking into account. I did not state anything concerning their character during arguments or a comparison to yours.

"It's not about the facts, data, or information. It really isn't, although it might be to a degree with people who are ignorant."

So there is no difference between thinking stars are fireflies in the sky or balls of luminous gas? Its all belief vs belief? Stating that making a case for something isnt about data and information, isnt about support, is dangerous. You are most likely an evolutionist (So am I, we agree on something! :)), but is being an evolutionist based on assumptions and beliefs solely or on a cumulative case? Evolution cannot be proven or disproven (as Ive said a million times concerning anything), but cumulative cases for anything philosophical, scientific, or historical can be made from evidence. I find the more restrictive worldviews like materialism or naturalism or atheism dangerous because they are taking the limited experiences and shared beliefs of a few to make it seem legitimate to arbitrarily define the parameters of the possible. If a cumulative case points to the supernatural it isnt faithful to the evidence for worldviews to desperately try and find some other alternative, despite what abuse the evidence would take from the alternatives (through omission, distortion, rejection, ect.).

The core of my beliefs as a Christian did not start that way. I became a Christian through witnessing the arguments in many different mediums from both sides. I didnt start with the belief in the Christian God. I didnt start as a supernaturalist.

"How I do this is by making a cumulative case"

I thought such things had nothing to do with facts, evidence, ect, no? I believe in evidence, and I believe certain cases are stronger than others in how they interact with the evidence in its entirety. I assume our senses can accurately describe our experiences because of pragmatic reasons. Can I prove this? No, but I havent been given any dire reason to reject it all personally yet. Every field of inquiry is based on our senses (perhaps not logic, the law of non-contradiction can come solely from thought alone, but much of the application of logic has its roots in our figuring out our own experiences).

"It's not about evidence much at all."

So youre entire cumulative case is a collection of sheer beliefs? Im not seeing why it should be so convincing to anyone if so. Do you think evidence exists, John?

Say a man is being tried for murder one in the killing of another man with a gun. Some of his clothes were found with the victims blood on them. The murder weapon was found in his apartment with the exact number of bullets missing as how many bullets killed the victim and the victims blood was found on the gun as well. The only finger prints found on the gun were the defendants, and the prints overlapped the blood on the gun. There is independent testimony from witnesses that said defendant was at the crime scene and no one else was witnessed to be there. There is motive because the defendant had recently been fired from his job by the victim. The evidence here dictates the decision, not the beliefs of the jurors. The defense lawyer has the duty to protect his defendant to his greatest extent and effort under the law, so he will try to cast doubt on the evidence, but I dont know of how anyone can say that the interpretation where he isnt the killer is on equal grounds with the interpretation that he is, especially concerning that there is no evidence for someone else being a more likely candidate. There is a lack of motive for any other potential suspect. By trying to make the case that this man isnt guilty, one has to make more complex scenarios, which arent Occam friendly, like proposing a different suspect which there isnt evidence for or any known motive beyond the defendants.

Going by evidence, though with an assumption that evidence exists and our senses adequately describe reality, can make certain cases more convincing than others, and evidentialism isnt as much of a failure as you would want us to believe. Life would be a mess of contrasting beliefs which have no support for any of them without evidence being some kind of guide.

Jason -

Youre right, John did skip that portion, and even some portions of my own response to him.

-Cam

Jason, with regard to evidence you really don't even try to understand me, so if I responded further I would get nothing but more straw man responses from you.

Cam, I guess you win by default, for that's what it must mean when I don't respond to everything someone writes, right?

Sheesh.

I expected better here.

I'll look elswhere.

John,

I hardly have to make straw man responses when you volunteer for the post by not being able to read a simple 'not' in a single seven word sentence.

And if I wasn't "really even trying to understand you", I wouldn't have agreed with various criticisms of yours concerning my own allies, would I?

JRP

Cam,

He conveniently skipped over his total (and rather suspiciously convenient) miss of that 'not' again, too, I notice. Talk about straw manning someone and not really trying to understand them...

I'm thinking maybe I should append that sentence to the top of any comment I ever make to anything he ever writes again, until he acknowledges that this is what I wrote: "John Loftus is !!!NOT!!! Socratic Cole Slaw."

JRP

Use of Content

The contents of this blog may be reproduced or forwarded via e-mail without change and in its entirety for non-commercial purposes without prior permission from the Christian CADRE provided that the copyright information is included. We would appreciate notification of the use of our content. Please e-mail us at christiancadre@yahoo.com.