Night Owl Mk. II

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Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

This is the first of a seven-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.

I can make such a statement because I know what the word "proselytizer" means. All proselytizers are believers, but not all believers are proselytizers. The determining factor is whether or not an individual attempts to convert others to his religion.
(R) Your statement was that religious proselytizers claim to know God's plan, his attitude towards mankind, and his judgments. You can indeed make this statement, but if you do, you are in error (unless, of course, you put the word "some" in front of "religious proselytizers") because not all religious proselytizers make these claims.
(MB) That changes nothing and really does nothing more than evade the point. How does one proselytize his religion without attempting to do what I have stated? It certainly can't be done without promoting the benefits and/or core beliefs of that religion. Any attempt to convince another person as to *why* he should believe in a certain deity must include one or more of the things I mentioned.

If you must, but that still doesn't make all forms of narrow-mindedness equal. Only religious fanatics make such total commitments of mind and body. When's the last time you heard about a bodybuilder car-bombing a rival gym?
(R) There are numerous Marxist terrorist groups, as well as many other non-religious groups, which use violence to promote their causes. When you say only religious fanatics make such a total commitment of mind and body, you are once again in error.
(MB) No, I'm not. Marxism is an economic and political system, not a belief system that tries to encompass the whole of the universe or focus on a deity as being responsible for everything. As such, Marxism is little different from democracy, feudalism, or barbarism. It is not an all-encompassing lifestyle and neither demands nor receives a total commitment of mind and body.
    On the other hand, everything in the religious fanatic's life derives from his religious beliefs. Anything else is secondary. They are totally committed in both mind and body, do nothing that isn't based upon their beliefs, and consider any such action to be justified. They are beyond reason and rationality. They consider their interpretation of "God's Law" to be above anything in the laws of their society or country. All who disagree with them are summarily dismissed as being "wrong" without any attempt to debate the question. When they use violence, they consider themselves to be acting as the agent of God.

(R) My statement was, "Our intellect and viewpoint is tiny compared to the vastness (i.e enormity and complexity) of the universe, and to expect to (perfectly) understand anything, let alone everything, is completely unreasonable. We can only attempt to understand, and hope to come close to the mark. This is true of human psychology and nuclear physics and everything in between." This is a valid statement. (I have added the words in parenthesis to qualify my statement in light of our subsequent discussion.)
(MB) This clarified statement is the basic credo of those who attempt to justify explaining everything by saying "God did it". They reason that since we can't hope to understand everything (or anything) that we should just abdicate our intellects and default everything to some supernatural cause. That makes things easier for them to cope with and frees them from the effort of actually pursuing real answers. It also relieves them from having to answer "I don't know" when asked a tough question. Somehow they equate "I don't know" with "We never will be able to know". Even if that was true, why a bogus supernatural explanation would be preferable is a mystery.

My point is that we can certainly understand bits and pieces of it. Once we understand enough of those bits and pieces, we have enough reliable information to be able to make excellent predictions about the rest of it.
(R) We can only make excellent predictions when we first have excellent understanding. For example, because our understanding of human psychology is imperfect, it is often difficult to accurately predict human behavior.
(MB) True, but human behavior is not deterministic, nor does it follow any laws of science. It is essentially random. Even if we gain perfect understanding of the physical workings of the brain, we will still never be able to predict human behavior in all cases.
    The universe, however, is a much different case. It follows the strict laws of science. Its mechanics can be known and much about its future can be predicted with great accuracy. We can do this because we do possess an excellent understanding of its fundamental properties.
    Too many who argue against science try to make the illogical claim that imperfect knowledge somehow equates to no knowledge. They use this to claim that we must then accept a supernatural explanation for the universe. How they can do this when the supernatural explanation involves far less actual knowledge than what they denigrate science for is beyond me.

This is where our state of knowledge is today. Because of Heisenberg indeterminacy, all knowledge is statistical. But, when we state that we are more than 99.9% sure of something, it will take some pretty damning evidence before any idea which falls into the remaining minuscule percentage can be acceptable. That minuscule percentage is where supernatural explanations of the universe reside.
(R) "Magical" explanations may reside outside science, but God does not. There is nothing in the universe which cannot be understood in relation to God. The fact that we understand how the physical universe works does not mean God does not exist, it just gives us knowledge of how God might cause such phenomena.
(MB) Which is about as close to meaningless as any claim can get. Without any sort of independent evidence that supports the notion that there actually exists a being such as God, it means absolutely nothing to say "he did it". One could just as easily make the same claim on behalf of any other being and say something equally meaningless. When science says that something happens due to natural processes and then describes those very processes, we now have something with real meaning. The description may be right or it may be wrong, but at least it can be tested and verified.

(R) The supernatural and physical facets of the universe do not exist separately, as some mutually exclusive percentage of a whole. They exist in tandem.
(MB) No, they don't. The physical facets correspond to reality. The supernatural ones correspond to ignorance. If the supernatural has no explanation in science, then it rests outside of science. To claim simply that "God did it" says absolutely nothing without some sort of evidence to support the claim. One could just as easily say "The Great Green Arkleseizure did it" and make just as much sense. Such claims do not advance our knowledge and are not necessary in any case. Better to apply Occam's razor and cut out the unnecessary dead wood.

"Color" has no meaning here since the particles are smaller than any wavelength of visible light. All atoms consist of a central nucleus around which orbit the electrons at distances that mean that most of an atom is empty space. As to the last request, I'll need you to define what you mean by a "circumstance" and give me a sample or three that you would like to know about.
(R) Visible to whom? What about ultraviolet light which might be seen by other creatures? Does the electron have a regular orbit, from which it never deviates? Or does it move around randomly? If so, what keeps it from colliding with the nucleus. If a hydrogen atom is drawn into your lungs in a molecule of water, where will it be tomorrow? Next week? A year from now?
(MB) I'm not sure where you are going with this. It's beginning to sound like an endless series of "Why?" questions from a small child in response to any given answers -- whether or not those answers are understood. But, let me continue to provide answers in any case...
    "Color" is a specific property of a certain subset of wavelengths within the total bandwidth of the electromagnetic spectrum that interacts with the human eye. By definition, anything which falls outside of this range has no "color". "Infrared" is a generic term describing wavelengths beyond that range at the red end of the spectrum while "ultraviolet" is a similar term to describe the range of values beyond the blue end.
    Electrons can only orbit a nucleus in one of a few specific orbits determined by the energy of that electron. Since energy is a quantized value, it can only be increased or decreased in specific increments. When an electron gains or loses quantums of energy, it moves to orbits which are correspondingly nearer or further from the nucleus. The location of the nucleus itself does not correspond to any of the possible orbits, so the electron cannot collide with it.
    As to the location of the hydrogen atom (in what appears to be a rather contrived question), it is impossible to say. There are simply too many possible interactions that it could experience over any given period of time. Your lungs, however, could not and would not separate the hydrogen atom from the water molecule. To do so would require an input of energy to break the atomic bonds between the hydrogen and oxygen atoms and your lungs simply don't function that way. Even if they did, it's highly likely that they would suffer severe damage due to the energy released from the breaking of those same bonds.
    If I might ask, where is this series of questions going?

(R) If both protons and neutrons are made of three quarks, why is the neutron slightly heavier and without charge? What makes the space so highly curved, and why is it 10-dimensional. If matter is made of space, what is space made of? Is matter actually made of nothing?
(MB) There are six different kinds of quarks (called "up", "down", "bottom", "top", "strange", and "charmed"). Each possesses a different mass and electrical charge. While protons and neutrons are each made of three quarks, their component quarks are different. That's why they have different masses and charges.
    If you understand general relativity, you know that space curves in the presence of matter and that matter and energy are equivalent. The higher the concentration of matter, the more highly that space curves. If the concentration is high enough, space curves in on itself and you have what is called a "black hole". This does not require a great deal of matter. It only requires that the matter is concentrated in an appropriately small volume. Since, according to superstring theory, a string is infinitesimally small and must contain some amount of energy (and, therefore, some amount of matter), the concentration is high enough that the string actually consists of the aforementioned small point of highly-curved space. This curvature would collapse all dimensions other than the three spatial and one time dimension with which we are so familiar (and the mathematics of the theory demonstrates the existence of the other dimensions).
    All matter and energy are theorized to be the results of various vibrational properties of strings -- which themselves are theorized to be the results of quantum fluctuations in the otherwise perfectly-balanced energy state that is often incorrectly referred to as "nothing". There could never have been a state of true "nothing". Otherwise, we would not be here to discuss the question. This also means that, if there truly is a God, he was created by the universe and not the other way around.

The observational evidence was to have been provided by the Superconducting Supercollider. This massive particle accelerator was to have been built near Waco, TX, but Congress, in its infinite lack of wisdom, canceled funding for the project.
(R) This is a shame. I say that with complete sincerity.
(MB) Yes, it is truly a shame. Unfortunately, it reflects the general disregard for science education that seems to pervade the country.

However, if you want to have any hope of your belief in God being just as valid as any other belief, then it must be subject to the same standards of logic, analysis, and change as any other belief.
(R) My belief in God is just as valid as the belief there is no God. A belief is not the same as a fact. A fact is known to be true--it can be proven to be true. A belief is only considered to be true, as a matter of personal preference.
(MB) While this is true, it is not what is being practiced or promoted by believers. Certainly, believers do not support the notion that belief in God and non-belief (or belief in deities other than God) are co-equal positions. If they did, there would be no religious strife and no debates over the topic. They would not see any need to question or attack the theories of science. They would be willing to freely and easily discard or modify their beliefs in favor of something better. Because of this, it is not a mere "belief". God's existence is, for them, a fact.

(R) In some cases, a belief can be supported by physical evidence, and in such cases, a particular belief becomes more like a theory, i.e. more reasonable than other beliefs. But, a belief cannot be proven true--if it is, it becomes a fact. And in cases where there is no physical evidence, one way or the other, to support a belief, it becomes strictly a matter of preference.
(MB) That's true in the case where there truly is no evidence in support of either side. However, that is not the case here. Refusal to accept evidence or the conclusions drawn on the basis of that evidence does not mean that such evidence does not exist. Any belief or theory is supportable only in proportion to the amount of evidence on its side. If there are competing beliefs and the preponderance of evidence stacks up with one of them, the beliefs are no longer co-equal. While that still doesn't "prove" anything, it certainly does cast considerable doubt upon the belief which is devoid of support and boosts confidence in the supported belief. Personal preference is no substitute, nor is it an argument in favor of either side.

(R) This doesn't mean people don't think they have evidence which supports their beliefs. Nearly everyone who holds a belief does so because they think the evidence shows it to be the best belief. But that doesn't change the fact that if there is no conclusive evidence, one way or the other, in support of a belief, it is purely a personal choice.
(MB) So, where is the evidence -- conclusive or otherwise -- in support of the God theory? If one still chooses to hold the belief without any such evidence, it may be called "personal preference" but it certainly can't be called logical or rational.

(R) I do not give creation science any weight whatsoever, nor do very many other Christians. It does not qualify as true science or true religion.
(MB) Quite true. Unfortunately, whether you are aware of it or not, you have been using many of their own arguments in the defense of your own beliefs and in the questioning of mine. Since the Creationists are a very vocal lot, people who haven't studied the issue thoroughly can often be unwittingly taken in by certain bits and pieces of Creationist rhetoric and by their dubious debating tactics even if they don't agree with the whole of their position.
    For example, any time an argument is made:
1) which posits the Bible as inerrant, or...
2) which demands that absolute proof is required before science is acceptable, or...
3) which labels something in science as "only a theory", or...
4) which will not accept equally unsupported beliefs of competing religions as being co-equal to the God theory, or...
5) which refuses to submit the God theory to the same standards of evidence as it requires for science, or...
6) which attempts to support the God theory by running down science rather than by directly supporting itself, or...
7) which refuses even to acknowledge the existence of any and all evidence which might cast doubt on the God theory and/or support science, or...
8) which supports the God theory with nothing more substantive than "Well, how else could it have been done?", or...
9) which claims that any scientific explanation merely shows "how God did it", or...
10) which basically begins, develops, and concludes with "God did it, I believe it, that settles it"...what you have is an argument that promotes and supports the Creationist position.
    There is only one way to offer legitimate answers to questions about the nature of the universe. That way is to base those answers upon evidence. Anything else is a waste of time and effort and provides no real answers. Since the emotional appeal of alternative and supernatural explanations has absolutely no bearing on whether or not they have any basis in reality, why even bring them up?

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