REPLY #21a TO
are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his 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 three-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.
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) You're right, I missed your point. To answer the question:
you can call the conflicting beliefs about the Loch Ness monster
anything you want, but neither bears the burden of proof more than
(MB) You still don't get it, do you? Or, do you have to say this in order to
preserve your only argument in favor of believing in God? Are you willing to
believe in *anything* -- no matter how ridiculous or unsupportable -- solely on
the basis that somebody might not be able to disprove it? If not, where would
you draw the line?
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?
(R) I am *not* claiming God exists because you can't prove He
(MB) You most certainly are! If your statement is true, however, then there
must be some other reason upon which to base your belief. What is it?
(R) Rather, I claim it is just as reasonable and logical to
conclude that God exists as it is to conclude He does not...
(MB) Pure rationalization based on nothing more than "personal preference",
right? In the absence of conclusive proof, the only reasonable and logical
position is skepticism.
(R) ...because neither position can be supported.
(MB) Even if we suspended reality for a moment and accepted that statement that
was true, why should anybody prefer to believe in anything's existence rather
than to be skeptical about it?
(R) You, however, keep insisting that because I cannot prove He exists, this
proves He does not. This is illogical, as I point out in my statement above.
(MB) Nope. I hold that it is neither reasonable nor logical to believe in
anything's existence in a case where there is absolutely no evidence to support
it. I further hold that in any such case, the skeptical position is the best.
None of this "proves" anything about the thing in question. It is only an
acknowledgment of the fundamentals of logic and reason. Unfortunately, neither
of those seem to apply to religion. That's a primary reason why it continues to
So, without God, there is no morality? You might want
to read my essay on that subject, too...
(R) I have. You are correct in arguing that morality is not a
matter of majority opinion, because it is often diametrically opposed
to such opinion. However, whether or not there are absolute rules
of morality is more open to debate.
(MB) For any such debate to have any meaning, one must presuppose the existence
of an all-powerful deity who is the definer and arbitrator of morality. If
there is no such deity, then, for absolute morality to exist, one must try to
establish that morality itself has some sort of existence in reality. If
neither of those explanations works, then you get to my view that morality is
simply what the majority of the members of any given social group tend to
believe for themselves.
In the first case, "right" and "wrong" are defined simply by whatever it is that
the deity has chosen to impose upon his creation. In the second case, "right"
and "wrong" would be side-effects of morality's physical manifestation(s). In
the last case, "right" and "wrong" are solely matters of majority opinion with
neither view having much of anything else to support it.
(R) I feel it is always wrong to kill another human being, except in
self-defense, it is always wrong to steal something which belongs to
someone else, and it is always wrong to take someone else's
spouse, or to betray your own. Any moral dilemma on these issues
comes from differing definitions of self-defense, property, or
marriage, and not from a lack of an absolute moral principle.
(MB) Killing another human being was certainly not considered "wrong" by
societies that practiced ritual human sacrifice. The word "steal" automatically
assumes a negative moral connotation or that the person taking the item knows
that he is doing wrong. However, it is anything but unusual for people to take
things that they feel they have a "right" to take. In that case, they don't
consider it "stealing". In the case of "betraying" a spouse or taking someone
else's, it's doubtful that the individual(s) directly involved would consider
what they were doing to be "wrong". A larger societal group might disagree, of
course, but who's to say which side has any absolute claim to being correct?
(R) The Golden Rule is a fine moral principle, but you don't take it far
enough. Why? Why follow the Golden Rule? From a purely
evolutionary, dog-eat-dog point of view, it makes no sense. After
all, life is short, and when it's over, that's it. May as well get as
much out of it as you can, even if you have to take it from someone
else. No reason not to. The need to be successful and strong, and
to procreate abundantly, dictates non-compliance with the Golden
(MB) On the surface, I'd agree completely with that assessment. The Golden
Rule's compelling nature for most people comes from the fact that we have little
choice but to interact with the rest of human society in our daily lives. If we
can act in such a way that will influence them to treat us favorably, our own
lives and survival will be enhanced.
(R) So, yeah, I guess you could say I feel that without God, there is
no morality. However, morality is not simply about going to
Heaven or avoiding Hell, if such places exist. It's about loving
God, trying to understand His will, and doing what is pleasing in
(MB) If one believes in God, the things you mentioned would be natural
consequences of that belief. However, this does not mean that those who
do not believe in your God (or in any God at all) can not choose or prefer to
behave in ways that might be considered "morally right" by their peers.
Therefore, I think it is more accurate to say that there is no morality without
others to judge it. Even then, it's not an absolute thing by any means.
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
(R) I see and understand your basic argument perfectly well,
you're just wrong.
(MB) No, you don't understand it. You keep trying to say that my basic argument
is "God doesn't exist" despite the numerous times I've attempted to correct you.
Why is this? Is it because to acknowledge my real basic argument would mean
that you could no longer evade answering my questions?
(R) Everything which exists in the universe has a
"cause," that is, something which preceded it and caused it to
(MB) That's incorrect. One prime example is the radioactive decay of atoms.
That happens due to unpredictable and uncaused quantum mechanical effects.
(R) The train of events of these different causes can be traced
back to the Big Bang. But, what caused that to happen? The "first
cause" could be purely a product of chance, or it could have come
from a Supreme Being -- who can ever know for certain?
(MB) There are two problems here. First is the logical paradox known as
"infinite regress". Any "first cause" would itself have to have been caused by
something. Second is the idea that could have been any such thing as "before"
prior to the creation of the dimension of time. One could easily just as well
say that the creation of time was the ultimate "First Cause".
(R) All I
know is that it is equally reasonable and logical to believe either
way. You cannot "prove" the Big Bang happened by chance, by
any stretch of the scientific evidence you claim supports your
opinion. I certainly can't prove God initiated it. However, the fact
that one of us cannot prove our case does not mean the other side
is automatically right.
(MB) The fact that you don't understand or wish to acknowledge the vast
scientific evidence doesn't mean that your hypothetical God is just as good an
explanation for the universe as is the Big Bang theory. To do that will require
that you either support your own hypothesis or that you show how the
interpretation of the scientific evidence is in error.
(R) I cannot point to a single thing in the universe which requires
some sort of "magical" cause to explain it...
(MB) ...and because you can't do so, any attempt to claim that such causes exist
must fall flat on its face under the accumlated weight of all of the evidence
that shows that nothing exists which was created by anything supernatural.
(R) ...but neither can you point
to a single thing and say its existence makes it impossible for there
to be a God.
(MB) That's correct. However, that's not what I have said at any time. You are
simply distorting my position in a feeble attempt to support your own. I say
that the evidence shows that supernatural explanations are unnecessary to
explain the existence of anything in our universe. Again, to dispute that
assertion will require just one clear example to the contrary. Since you have
already said that there are no such examples, we can safely discard the notion
that there actually is anything supernatural in our universe.
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
(R) Yes, but inserting, "It happened by itself," is no better. In
the end, there is no support for either belief.
(MB) When one shows evidence (such as I have done) that supports "It happened by
itself", that idea has just become the only one that has any reason for anybody
to believe in it. In the end, there is support for my views and none for yours.
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.
(R) All your saying here is, because the universe exists and the
laws of science work, there is no God. Speaking of hollow and
meaningless statements, there's one.
(MB) That's your statement, not mine. Even so, how is it either "hollow" or
"meaningless". Saying that the laws of science work is tremendously profound.
That means that everything is understandable and there can't be anything at all
"meaningless" about that. When the evidence supports it, it's anything but a
Since my beliefs have tremendous support and yours have
absolutely none (to this point)....
(R) Neither position has any support.
(MB) By now, even you must acknowledge that this is incorrect.
....and since your beliefs espouse a positive position and,
therefore, must be supported in order to be taken seriously....
(R) An interesting concept, but incorrect.
(MB) A basic concept and one that is unavoidable. Sorry if it's unpleasant for
...there is only one logical conclusion as to which set of beliefs
(R) Either conclusion is equally logical. Neither is superior.
(MB) Again, that old chestnut should have been thoroughly roasted by now.
Emotional appeals and "what if you're wrong" scenarios are
interesting but play no part in the final conclusion.
(R) Agreed. I'll continue to attempt to avoid them, except to
point out, that if I'm wrong, is doesn't matter, but if your wrong, it
may matter a lot.
(MB) Since your entire argument is based upon emotional appeals, the only ways
you can avoid them are either to support your position with facts or to withdraw
it, quit arguing for it and concede the debate.
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?
(R) Such a jury would see the inescapable logic of my basic
(MB) ...and after they had finished with their raucous laughter and picked
themselves up off the floor upon hearing your words "inescapable logic", they
would vote unanimously in my favor.
(R) I have not attempted to refute the assertion you mention, because
it is perfectly logical and reasonable to conclude the universe
occurred naturally and did not require God to create it.
(MB) That is a cop-out. You don't refute it because you can't. You just ignore
it and continue to hold your own "personal preference".
(R) It is not
necessary for me to refute this. All I need to demonstrate is that it
is equally reasonable and logical to conclude the universe was
created by God.
(MB) To make your view equally reasonable and logical will require it to have an
equal amount of evidential support.
(R) This has been done.
(MB) How? You haven't so much as supplied Exhibit #1 of evidence in favor of
your position for the benefit of the jury. You've also not displayed any
command of the basics of logic and won't acknowledge any errors or
inconsistencies in your arguments. This all demonstrates that your position is
equal to mine?
(R) Your attacks on this premise,
through your claims that a belief in God is intellectually inferior to a
belief there is none, have been easily fended off.
(MB) The jury wouldn't even need to get out of their chairs to deliberate before
they would return a verdict in my favor on that one. Your best attempt to fend
off my claims has been to distort them.
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).
(R) I assume you refer here to our on-going discussion of the
hydrogen atom. I haven't challenged or attempted to refute your
answers for the obvious reason that they reflect the most current
scientific thought in these areas -- of which you are much better
informed than I. We will, however, eventually come to
unanswerable questions, thus illustrating my original point -- that it
is impossible for us to have perfect knowledge of the universe or
anything in it, including God.
(MB) The jury would note that your original point was to find an "unanswerable
question" so that you could claim equality for a God-based explanation.
However, that notion is only valid if you can show that science would never be
able to provide answers to those questions and that we must turn to the
supernatural to find them. Since the history of science has convincingly shown
otherwise, there is no reason to accept the premise that any currently
unanswered questions will remain that way. Again, this means that there is no
reason to turn to belief in God for answers.
Also, the fact that we might not have perfect knowledge of the universe does not
equate to support for the idea that God exists.
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.
(R) Such an example cannot be given, but it is not necessary to
do so. Neither can you give an example of something which could
not have been created by God.
(MB) Since I can provide support for natural causes of creation, there is no
need to waste time considering any other ideas -- especially ones for which
there is no support. Since you can show no reason why we must consider the God
theory, there is no reason to do so.
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) This statement is no more meaningless than saying, "It could
have happened by itself."
(MB) So, you agree that your statement is meaningless while I've already shown
that my claim is anything but meaningless. Once again, it can't be argued that
the two are equal.