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 last of a three-part reply.

"X exists" is a positive position. "X does not exist" is a negative position. Substitute anything you want for "X" -- the concept does not change.
(R) The statement that X exists is the statement that X exists, nothing more. You can call it the positive position, or the advocate position, or the purple-and-orange position, but it doesn't change anything.
(MB) Do you understand what the words "positive" and "negative" mean? If you did, there would be no arguments here. Do you understand that statements of existence require some evidence in support in order to have any validity? Do you understand that this applies without regard to whatever it might be for which existence is being claimed?

The positions are also not equal. There are a finite number of things that exist. There are an infinite number of things that do not exist. Therefore, if only from a probabilistic standpoint, it is reasonable to assume that any given "X" does not exist unless it is demonstrated otherwise.
(R) A finite number of things which exist? O.K. smart guy, name'em.
(MB) Surely, you jest. Do you understand the difference between "finite" and "infinite"? Do you understand that the universe is finite in size and extent? Do you understand that it is impossible to have an infinite number of things in any finite space? Why are you even arguing the point except to evade directly addressing it?

(R) Even if this statement were true, the finite number would be so immense as to make any difference in probabilities so small as to be zero. The positions are exactly equal.
(MB) I guess you don't understand the concept of "infinite" (or "finite", for that matter). There is no finite number (no matter how immense) that even begins to approach infinity. Your argument is mathematically invalid. That makes your conclusion meaningless.

Now, substitute "God" for "Harvey" and you will come up with the same answers.
(R) No, you won't, because Harvey is fictional by definition and a belief in him cannot be justified. God is not fictional.
(MB) According to your previous arguments, any belief for which there is no support is justifiable so long as it can't be proven wrong. Also, you have previously stated that fiction can contain non-fictional elements. Can you prove that Harvey is not a non-fictional element that has been included into a fictional story? If not, then, by your own arguments, you must accept the proposed existences of Harvey and God as being equal.

The only evidence for Harvey is in a film. The only evidence for God is in a book.
(R) The Bible is not a single book, it is a collection of 66 books, written by different authors over a period of more than ten centuries. Many other volumes have been written on the subject as well.
(MB) The Bible is a compendium of the laws, beliefs, stories, and histories of the Jews. The history can be confirmed by independent evidence. Subsequent books that just echo what's written in the Bible do not provide any such verification of its contents. Without the Bible, the other books will not be written. A parallel could be drawn with Star Trek. Without Gene Roddenberry's original vision, none of the subsequent follow-up products would have been produced.

(R) I have read that over 50,000 books have been written about the American Civil War. How many hundreds of thousands do you think have been written on the subject of religion? They weren't presented as fictional, either.
(MB) So, something becomes valid based solely on the number of books that are written about it? I guess that means that the starship Enterprise exists, eh? Also, a book doesn't have to be presented as fiction in order to be rather dubious in nature. The philosophical works of L. Ron Hubbard are a prime example.

(R) Saying that the only basis for a belief in God is in the Bible is like arguing that the only basis of physics is in "Principia."
(MB) In a way, they are similar. Both are compilations of the ideas of their respective disciplines along with added contributions of the authors. The difference is that physics still exists in its modern form without Principia to support it, while the God theory does not exist in its modern form without the Bible to support it.

Films can be documentaries of real events and characters or can be entirely fictional -- as can books. Neither a film nor a book can be used as proof of its own validity -- to do so would be circular reasoning.
(R) Exactly. Which is why I never use the Bible in an attempt to prove God's existence.
(MB) That is why you have quoted Bible verses in previous arguments?

(R) You seem determined to use it to try and prove He doesn't exist, however.
(MB) Since there is nothing else with which to support the existence of God, one must turn to the book in which he was invented -- the Bible. Since the Bible also contains the basis upon which Judaism and Christianity are formed, it is necessary to examine its contents. Since those same religions also claim that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, one could reasonably expect it to provide support for his existence.

Such proof would have to come from an outside, disconnected source. No such authenticating source exists for either of the characters in question which are depicted in the film or in the book. Without this, it is reasonable to conclude that each could possibly be defined as fictional with respect to those particular characters.
(R) Harvey is fictional because the writer who invented him classified his work as fictional. You're not trying to say it was a documentary, are you?
(MB) Not at all. I'm just trying to see if you really believe your own arguments. Just because the work in which Harvey appears is classified as fiction does not mean all elements contained within the work are also fictional. You have made this point yourself. Do you stand by it?
    How does one judge which elements of a story are fictional or non-fictional? You need independent evidence! Without such evidence, any given elements contained within the story are suspect. They aren't considered non-fictional simply because nobody can prove them wrong.

Consider two real people -- one who believes in Harvey and one who believes in God. Each believes that his character exists and talks to him. Neither can prove that his character actually does exist. It can be argued that there is also no way to prove that his character does *not* exist.
(R) All you have to do, to show that Harvey doesn't really exist, is say, "Harvey is a figment of the imagination of a fictional character in a film." Can you do the same thing with God?
(MB) Yep. If I say that Man created God in his own image and likeness, can you prove me wrong? There is considerable evidence in the historical record to support such a statement. If Man created God, then God is, by definition, just as fictional as any other character which appears in any other story created by Man. Once again, you must admit that God and Harvey are equal.
    You can't just make statements such as the one you have suggested and have them provide any degree of proof for anything. That's why it is so important to have evidence to back up a claim.

You said you would have to question the mental health of the person who believes in Harvey. Why would you not do the same for the person who believes in God?
(R) A belief in God certainly doesn't mean someone is mentally ill. Four billion people can't all be crazy, eh?
(MB) Mass hysteria is a real psychological phenomenon. Once again, ideas do not gain validity solely on the basis of the number of people that believe them.

(R) I will say, though, I would be rather leery if someone claimed God actually spoke to them, out loud, in actual words.
(MB) Why? If God is real and is all-powerful, why couldn't he do that? The Bible relates several stories where God speaks to various different characters out loud in actual words. Therefore, if you believe in God, there is no reason to question or limit the methods that God might use.

If something has no physical manifestation, then it can not truly be said to exist. In that case, the question is resolved by default.
(R) No, all that can be said is they do not exist physically. This resolves nothing.
(MB) Give me an example of something that exists but has neither a physical manifestation nor derives from the actions or interactions of anything in physical reality. If you can't, then I am right.

What difference would that make? Just because you are a Buddhist doesn't mean that ghosts suddenly become a real thing.
(R) Just a feeble attempt at humor. Buddhists don't actually believe in God, at least not in the way that practitioners of other religions do. However, they do believe that human beings (in fact, all living things) have spirits. Your question was, does the existence of ghosts depend on the existence of God? A Buddhist who believed in ghosts would answer in the negative.
(MB) Buddhists believe that superior beings ("gods", if you will) exist, but that they are no longer a part of the realm that contains human beings. Without the initial efforts of the gods, the universe wouldn't exist, but their presence is no longer required for its continued existence and operation. Therefore, the answer to the question might well be two-fold. Ghosts wouldn't exist if they weren't created, but reincarnation is not dependent upon the gods.

Either ghosts exist or they don't. Individual beliefs can't and don't change that.
(R) Absolutely. But individuals choose to believe or not. As you say, this choice has no effect on the actual existence or non-existence. Ghosts, if there are any, don't cease to exist simply because you choose to believe there aren't any.
(MB) True. Nor do they exist only because somebody chooses to believe so. As with all other questions of existence, if we are to believe that ghosts exist, there must be some evidence to support them. The same would apply for the Christian version of ghosts, "souls".

However, if either God or ghosts truly exist, then they must be a natural phenomena. If so, there will be some evidence that could demonstrate their existence.
(R) Only things with a physical manifestations have physical evidence of their existence.
(MB) Explain how ghosts (or God) could exist and have any effect upon the physical universe or anything within it and still have no physical manifestation themselves.

"I don't buy it" neither refutes nor explains anything.
(R) You're absolutely right, that was superficial of me. Some times, when something is obvious to me, I forget it may not be obvious to everyone else and don't bother to give proper details. Sorry. Here's some clarification:
    There is a difference between stating the purpose for something, that is, giving the logical reasons for it, and making up excuses for it. The latter is called "rationalization." If someone writes a book in which he says the members of a certain race are physically, mentally, and morally inferior to other human beings, and are responsible for all the ills of mankind, he can rationalize his action in exactly the same way you do yours. That doesn't change the fact that the purpose of the book is to promote his point of view.
    Saying, "It's just my opinion and you don't have to read it," is mere rationalization. If you didn't want to promote your opinion, you wouldn't put an essay about it on the Internet.

(MB) All you're doing here is trying to redefine the meaning of the word "promote". Did you read my essay because I told you to do so or because it was forced upon you in any way? Were you required to reply to it? Is it displayed in a public place where one couldn't help but see it whether or not they were actually looking for it? Were you tricked into reading it? Do I buy or sell advertising for it?
    Since you're not likely to believe anything I might have to say in my own defense, allow me to quote an e-mail message I recently received. The author of this message directed its contents towards you and it concerns this current point of debate. The message follows:

"While reading all the debates on releigion with MB, I find myself a little miffed by your statement in Reply #9c. I was born and raised Catholic. I was married in the Baptist church and attended it for a few years. I have also attended the Christian church and been to the Temple. My step-mother is Jewish. I am not a beleiver in organized religion after being turned off by the different things that have happened. This does not mean I don't beleive in a Higher Being. I've known MB for about two years, and I assure you he forces his views on no one. Most people who know him socially don't even know his beliefs or how he feels. I have always found religion to be a very interesting subject and enjoy reading the replies on his web site. He and I have had discussions about our views on religion. At no time has he ever tried to change my view or my beliefs, as if he could. He has however opened up a world of different thinking to me which I find interesting. He truly beleives in being one with the universe and kind to his fellow man. Because he thinks differently doesn't make him wrong. It just makes him different. He is entitled to that, just as you are entitled to what you think and feel. Do I agree with MB, no not always, but we are still friends. We have discussed numerious topics and not once has he ever tried to force an opinion on me, even if I disagree with him. If you were to meet him at a party you wouldn't even know this is the same person you have been debateing. I'd love to see that."

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