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 fifth 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.

Wouldn't you also conclude that the conflicting beliefs in the existence/non-existence of the Loch Ness monster are not equal and that belief in its existence is the positive position upon which rests the burden of proof?
(R) I do not have enough knowledge or interest in this mystery to say which side is most valid.
(MB) Does that matter? The basic question of which side is the positive position and which side bears the burden of proof remains the same, doesn't it?

(R) However, the fact that one side cannot prove its case does not mean the other side is automatically right.
(MB) Exactly! Yet, you persist in claiming that you are "right" because I can not prove that God does not exist. I'm sure that you wouldn't accept such a stance by a believer in the Loch Ness monster. Surely, you're not going to claim that the less a positive position of the existence of something can be supported, the less support is required to justify a claim that the position is "right", are you?

Then, God can not be said to exist in reality any more than absolute morality can be said to exist in reality.
(R) I can almost agree with this. God doesn't have a separate existence in physical reality and absolute morality exists in and of God.
(MB) So, without God, there is no morality? You might want to read my essay on that subject, too...

However, my beliefs are not insupportable since there is a mountain of observational, experimental, and logical evidence for them.
(R) Incorrect on all counts. The observational and experimental evidence is completely neutral, and the rules of logic can be used equally well to construct a view of the universe either with or without God. Your beliefs have no more support than mine.
(MB) You see things, but choose not to understand them. That is the true shame of preferring religion to reality.
    The evidence is not neutral. It all points to a reality that does not require any supernatural intervention. To dispute that will require you to show only one thing in the universe that requires such intervention. Merely saying "[Insert deity's name(s) here] did it" is a hollow and meaningless statement without some sort of evidence or examples in support. If no such evidence or examples are offered, there is absolutely no support for the belief.
    Showing that just one thing in the universe arises as a result of the natural and predictable laws of science is enough to lend support to my beliefs. Since it is demonstrable that nearly innumerable things arise in that way, this provides tremendous support for my beliefs.
    Since my beliefs have tremendous support and yours have absolutely none (to this point), and since your beliefs espouse a positive position and, therefore, must be supported in order to be taken seriously, there is only one logical conclusion as to which set of beliefs is superior. Emotional appeals and "what if you're wrong" scenarios are interesting but play no part in the final conclusion.

(R) You have presented arguments claiming to prove your beliefs are more logical and valid than mine. These arguments do not meet the criteria of conclusive evidence (physical evidence or eye-witness testimony) which have been established, and have been successfully refuted in all instances.
(MB) I think that an impartial debate jury would decide otherwise. First, where have you refuted (successfully or otherwise) my assertion that there is nothing in the universe which did not come about through natural processes and did not require any sort of supernatural intervention? The jury would note that you have challenged me with several questions about the physical nature of various phenomena, that you have received answers to all questions, and have not challenged them (much less refuted them). The jury would also note that you have so far failed to provide even one example of anything in the universe that must have required supernatural intervention in order to exist despite repeated calls for such an example. They would further note that the strongest support yet offered for your beliefs is the meaningless "God could have done it" explanation.
    As to the other questions that the jury would consider:

(R) They have consisted of: an insistence that the burden of proof lies with me (it does not)...
(MB) The jury would note that you have yet to explain why the statement "God exists" is not a positive position and, therefore, escapes bearing the burden of proof. Instead, you have chosen to justify it solely by saying that it can't be disproven. That argument doesn't work to support any other positive claim of the existence of any given phenomena. Why should the jury accept it in this case?

(R) ...various examples comparing a belief in God to other types of beliefs (each of which has been show to be inapplicable)...
(MB) There has been no such inapplicability shown. The jury would note that what has been shown is a misunderstanding of those other beliefs. Also, there has been an avoidance of the question of why a belief in God is superior to a belief in any other deity and/or religion or to a belief in no deity or religion at all. Before any particular religion can be shown to be equal to or superior to science, it must first be shown to be equal to or superior to any competing religious belief. They can't all be "right".

(R) ...and the statement of several logical maxims (which have been shown to be invalid).
(MB) Simple dispute without specific rebuttal is not sufficient. So far, the strongest argument in rebuttal has been "No, it doesn't".
    The jury would also note that you have asked numerous specific questions about scientific knowledge of various phenomena. Normally, in these debates, these questions are the preface to a claim that "Science doesn't know how it works. Therefore, God must have done it". Unfortunately, I have answered all of your questions so that tactic could not be introduced. Yet, despite this, the jury would notice a continued refusal to acknowledge that there is any support for my position.
    Taking all of the aforementioned things into account, how do you think the jury would decide?

What other positive positions do you hold simply because nobody can prove that they aren't so? Would you call this "knowledge"?
(R) "All men are created equal." This is a belief which can neither be proved or disproved, but I passionately hold it to be true. The bulk of physical evidence indicates that this statement is not true, that men are not equal physically, mentally, or emotionally. But philosophically, it is true. It can't be proven true or false. But it is vital basic premise on which to establish a just system of government.
(MB) You have answered this one yourself. Questions of pure philosophy, morality and politics are different from questions of the reality of the universe. The universe could not have been created by philosophy. Three quarks make a proton no matter which side of the political aisle you occupy. "All men are created equal" is a statement of philosophy and does not describe anything in physical reality. In fact, it can't even be said to be philosophically true. It is for Americans, of course, but how about for any society that still promotes the old feudal system of varying degrees of nobility? The President of the United States is still essentially equal to you and I, but try to tell a King that he is the equal of his subjects. So, statements like this are not equivalent to statements that claim the existence of some given phenomena and do not increase basic knowledge.
    Therefore, I must ask again -- what other positive positions do you hold simply because nobody can prove they aren't so?

(R) The alternative is not pretty. Ever hear of Social Darwinism? It is a political philosophy originating in the mid-19th century, which holds that the rules of evolution (i.e. natural selection and survival of the fittest) apply to societies and nations as well as to individuals, and that certain nations are peculiarly suited to world leadership. Sounds pretty reasonable, doesn't it? Unfortunately, this philosophy was the direct ancestor of the racial theories which led the Nazis to promulgate the Holocaust.
(MB) Any reasonable idea can be corrupted by the predispositions inherent in strong beliefs. Such was the case with the Nazis. In an attempt to recover from the twin devastations and humiliations of the defeat in World War I and the economic disaster in the 1920's, Hitler forged a strong national identity in Germany at the expense of his scapegoats, the Jews. His ideas were the survivors (i.e., they were the "fittest") until Germany was defeated again and they were replaced by what we now call "Western" ideas. That makes "us" the "fittest" -- at least until we should be defeated and replaced in the future.
    Are we the "best suited" to lead the world? Maybe. Maybe not. We just happen to be at the top of the superpower food chain right now.
    BTW, the societal ills that might fall under the term "social Darwinism" have often been used by Creationists in an attempt to discredit Darwin's real theories. This is obvious nonsense.

"Free speech" doesn't mean that everything said has equal validity. All opinions must be heard in order to be certain that all possibilities have been examined prior to choosing a "winner". All opinions must also be subjected to the same standards. Any belief that refuses this cannot be taken seriously.
(R) Free speech means everyone has the right to express their opinion, as long as by doing so they do not infringe on the rights of others. This applies to UFO geeks, just as it does to you and me.
(MB) Correct. But, that doesn't mean that they are "right" and that UFOs exist simply because non-existence can't be proven. To be taken seriously, the UFO geeks (or anybody else who espouses a positive position) must support their claim with evidence. Opinions don't become valid just because somebody voices them.

That example is incomplete since it depends on a limited definition of "life". For example, there may be forms of life that do not require water and/or oxygen and which could survive nicely on the Moon.
(R) I change my statement to, "Life as we know it on Earth exists on the moon."
(MB) OK, so what has changed? "Life as we know it on Earth" exists on Earth simply because it is amenable to conditions on Earth. If those conditions don't exist elsewhere, those life forms also will not exist elsewhere. That doesn't mean that life of any kind is impossible anywhere other than the Earth or that Earth-like conditions can't be found anywhere else.

In point of fact, there are numerous species of bacteria here on Earth that might just survive on the Moon.
(R) O.K. so put'em in a contained, moon-like environment and see if they survive. If they don't, you have eliminated that possibility, which in conjunction with previous demonstrations that the conditions to support life as we know it on Earth are not present on the moon, eliminates the possibility of life as we know it on the moon.
(MB) We could do as you ask (in fact, it has already been done with the discovery of the bacterial kingdom known as Archaea), but that would only prove that such life *could* exist on the Moon -- not that it actually *does* exist. That proof would require actually finding it somewhere on the Moon.

The existence of any conceivable life forms on the Moon could easily be proven, but could never be disproven.
(R) We have this "could easily be proven" fallacy again. It is simply untrue. A thousand years ago, mankind had no way to "easily prove" the planet Pluto existed, but it certainly did. And we also, once again, have the "could never be disproven" fallacy, which has just been demonstrated to be invalid, by the example demonstrating the existence of life as we know it on the moon can be disproved.
(MB) Again, you are imposing the condition "life as we know it" and are totally misunderstanding the term "proof". As I have stated previously, it is possible for such life to exist on the Moon. It is also possible for previously unknown forms of life to exist on the Moon. The only way to disprove the positive position that "life exists on the Moon" would be to examine every molecule of the entirety of the Moon in all possible ways and still find no life forms of any kind. For all practical purposes, this is impossible. Therefore, the positive position can never be disproven. However, it can easily be proven by finding just one such living thing on the Moon. It could also be strongly supported by presenting evidence that shows that life of some kind could exist on the Moon. Doing either of those things would lend credibility to the claim. Inability or unwillingness to do either would raise serious and reasonable doubts.

Once again, the burden of proof rests with the positive position that any such life form does exist. Disproof is impossible because the supporters of the positive position can always invent another scenario under which their position might conceivably be true.
(R) It is just as impossible to completely prove something exists as it is to completely prove it does not. Those who believe it does not can always claim any testimony or physical evidence which supports its existence to be tainted or faked.
(MB) Nonsense. To prove, for example, that life exists on the Moon requires only that a sample be found. To dispute the proof would require compelling evidence against the proof. In other words, the dissenters would now be holding the positive position "this evidence is fake". Now, the burden of proof is on them to support their positive position and demonstrate how or why they believe the evidence to be fake.
    As another example, there are still those who claim that the Moon landings were faked despite all evidence to the contrary. To date, they have not supported their claims with anything credible. Are we to take their claims with equal seriousness simply because they have a strong belief in them?

(R) The burden of proof is inherent to neither side of a question. Your saying it is, because you think it should be, means nothing.
(MB) What I "think should be" makes no difference. There is a basic fundamental of logic and reason involved here. Some refer to it as the principle "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs". To say that something is so is an extraordinary claim unless and until one produces evidence to support that claim.
    Copernicus' heliocentric cosmology was an extraordinary claim when it was first made. But, the weight of evidence showed it to be superior to the prevailing Ptolemaic Earth-centered cosmology. In other words, it was a positive claim that shouldered the burden of proof and won its case. The existence of black holes was also an extraordinary claim that had to shoulder the burden of proof until the observational and mathematical evidence came down on its side.
    The claim that "God exists" -- along with all of the qualities ascribed to such a deity -- is certainly extraordinary. Like any other extraordinary claim, it must also shoulder the burden of proof if it is to be acceptable. There is absolutely nothing about this claim that relieves it from adhering to the same fundamentals of logic and reason as any other positive claim. This is especially true considering the nature of this particular claim.

(R) In any argument, each position stands or falls on its own merits, and whichever has the weight of conclusive evidence on its side is the one held to be true.
(MB) Exactly correct. So, where is the conclusive evidence (or, in fact, any evidence at all) for the positive claim "God exists"? If there is none, then there is no reason whatsoever to support it as being truthful.

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