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 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 the other.
(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 doesn't.
(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 survive.

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 Rule.
(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 His sight.
(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 such intervention.
(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 occur.
(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 belief.
(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 "hollow" claim.

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 you.

...there is only one logical conclusion as to which set of beliefs is superior.
(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 position.
(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.

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