Night Owl Mk. II

Return to "Religion" essay

Back to Philosophy page

Please feel free to E-mail me with your own comments on this issue or on anything else included in my Philosophy of Life section. Debate is good!

Please report any problems with this page to the Webmaster!


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 second of a five-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.

(R) Overall, your belief that there is no God and that the universe is a product of chance is reasonable and logical.
(MB) I want to be sure that it is understood that my basic premise is that the universe is a product of chance. My belief that there is no God is a consequence of that basic premise and is not my primary belief. Also, my philosophy is derived from my basic premise and not from the consequential belief that God does not exist.

(R) Things may be the way you have stated. Then again, they may not.
(MB) That is correct. However, the preponderance of evidence suggests that things are the way I have stated and there is none to suggest that they are not.

(R) Your little toe isn't necessary, but it never-the-less exists.
(MB) True enough, but trivial. The fact is that there is conclusive evidence that my little toe exists whether or not it has an important function.

(R) But regardless of that, your argument that God is not necessary is nothing more than your opinion. I hold the contrary opinion.
(MB) My argument is more than just an opinion. It is a consequence of the evidence which supports my basic premise.

(R) We can certainly understand how things occur, but even if they occur in an apparently "natural" way, how can we be sure there is no supernatural force which initiates and directs them?
(MB) Because natural and supernatural forces are mutually-exclusive. There is no such thing as "apparently" natural. Either something occurs through the operation of the finite set of laws of science or it does not. Nothing supernatural can have any effect on the natural realm.

(R) If anyone could prove the universe originated purely by chance, perhaps there would be some support for the idea that there is no God and everything happens entirely at random, but this is not the case.
(MB) Here, once again, we come to the question of "levels of proof". I would venture, however, that even if definitive proof of the natural, chance origin of the universe was proven, proponents of God would still claim that he got it all started and would continue to believe as they always do. This shows that such beliefs are emotional rather than intellectual and are not subject to change by any amount of factual evidence.

(R) There is empirical evidence which supports the Big Bang theory over competing theories like steady state, but ideas of why the Big Bang occurred or what may or may not have been before it are in the realm of pure conjecture.
(MB) Not true. Many of the mechanisms which could have caused the natural origin of the universe are well defined and combine to form consistent hypotheses. Science, however, will not raise these hypotheses to the level of theories until the mechanics involved can be duplicated or observed in the particle accelerators of the future. The mathematics behind them is solid. All that remains is the observational verification.

(R) It is just as reasonable to believe God initiated the Big Bang as it is to hold any other belief.
(MB) No, it is not. "God did it" is the pure conjecture until there is some sort of evidence to support it.

(R) It is at best a hypothesis, one which has no evidence to support it whatsoever, at least none you've presented. As such, it no better than a personal opinion.
(MB) The fact that you can even say such a thing is a strong suggestion of your unwillingness to accept anything other than God for an explanation of the universe. It should be obvious to anybody that nothing has yet been found for which the supernatural is the only explanation. If this was not the case, there would be no debates on the matter.

Another opinion... but, without supporting evidence, not an equal one. It's no more of an explanation than a parent answering "Because" to a child's question "Why?".
(R) Definitely, another opinion, another hypothesis, and unsupported just like yours. However, saying God created the universe is not at all like saying "Because" to a child's question.
(MB) If you are right, then it is an answer that not only explains the universe accurately, but also would have evidence to support it. If you are not right, then it explains nothing and only serves to assuage a shallow curiosity in the absence of any real answer.

(R) Saying the universe is a product of chance, saying it exists "because it happened," falls much more into that category.
(MB) The universe does not exist "because it happened". The universe contains all of the things we see because of the operation of the physical laws which govern it. The complete set of those laws was created along with the universe.

We both have confidence, but the evidence resides solely with my side. To say otherwise is to display an extreme degree of closed-mindedness. That is detrimental no matter what beliefs a person might hold.
(R) The physical evidence is entirely inconclusive and supports neither position. To argue otherwise shows merely an intolerant bias towards one's own opinion.
(MB) Evidence does not have to be conclusive in order to lend support to any given position. You agree that there is evidence (although you find it inconclusive). You also admit that there is no evidence which supports your position. Therefore, all of the evidence must support my position. Since that is the case, our positions cannot possibly be equal. This hardly qualifies as "intolerance".

There's the key phrase! You "find it easier". In other words, who cares about facts, evidence, logic, reason or anything else other than an answer that is "easier", eh? "Ease of understanding" is not a factor in the physical laws that govern the universe. Because they are not easily understood, that does not mean that it is valid to substitute superstitious nonsense in place of them.
(R) To more fully appreciate my meaning, let's try a few synonyms in place of the word "easier," shall we?
(MB) OK, let's redefine terms once again...

(R) How about "simpler?"
(MB) How does that differ from "easier"?

(R) Or, "more sensible?"
(MB) It is more sensible to believe what the evidence supports.

(R) Or "more rational, logical, and reasonable?"
(MB) Rationality, logic and reason all side with the evidence and conclude that the burden of proof resides with the positive existential claim of existence.

(R) The facts and evidence, logic and reason, support the idea of a Creator equally as well as they support the idea there is none.
(MB) How? You've already admitted that there is nothing to support the idea of a Creator. Therefore, the negative existential position is the more logical and reasonable.

(R) Neither idea is nonsense, superstitious or otherwise, unless the other is, too.
(MB) Since the beginning of that statement is incorrect, so is the conclusion.

You also seem to be a little hazy on the difference between "impossible" and "highly improbable".
(R) I have no problem understanding this difference. I understand it is possible to roll ten "ones" in a row with a die. I also understand a pencil will always fall to the floor when dropped, and that neither a 747 or a watch will ever be created randomly, regardless of any theoretical possibilities concerning such matters.
(MB) You've just proven my statement to be true -- you *don't* understand the difference. "Impossible" means just that. It refers to an event that cannot occur under any conceivable circumstances over any amount of time. Since each of your examples is conceivably possible (although I would not bet any money on their happening any time soon), they are not impossible. They are, instead, "highly improbable".

Some have argued "it would have taken too long for the universe to have been spontaneously created". Well, prior to the universe being around, there would have been no such thing as time and nobody to notice how much would have been passing.
(R) I've never heard of anyone arguing it would have taken too long for the universe to be created.
(MB) The fact that you've never heard the argument before doesn't matter. It is a common theme among those who mangle probabilities in order to "prove" that God created the universe because it couldn't have arisen by chance.

(R) I think you've got this mixed up with those who have argued the universe hasn't been around long enough for Life to have appeared randomly -- using this as evidence to support the idea the universe is not directed by chance, but by a Higher Intelligence.
(MB) No confusion here. That's a separate, but related argument, used by those whose main concern is the special creation of Man by God. The mathematics in both arguments are equally bogus.

The fact that the universe exists is proof that "highly improbable" and "impossible" are not the same thing.
(R) I don't think you need to go so far as to invoke the existence of the universe to prove the difference between the improbable and the impossible, because it is already somewhat obvious.
(MB) Since there was some initial confusion and since there are those who mangle numbers to attempt to show otherwise, it is sometimes necessary to invoke the obvious.

Apparently, you don't understand it or you wouldn't infer that creation by God is a natural process. Something "supernatural" can not also be "natural". Those are mutually-exclusive terms.
(R) Certainly the supernatural and the natural are different, but so are "natural" and "man-made."
(MB) "Man-made" is a subclass of "natural". Man does not create anything by invoking the supernatural or by violating any laws of nature. He is merely the catalyst which causes things to happen more quickly than they might otherwise happen.

(R) Cattle are natural, and airplanes are man-made. However, we can intervene in natural processes, through selective breeding, and produce pure-bred Angus cattle. If we can impose man-made direction on nature, why is it impossible to suppose God can impose His own direction?
(MB) Such a thing would not be impossible for an all-powerful God. However, that presupposes that such an entity actually exists. If he does not, then the question is pointless.

(R) Just because you suppose the supernatural and the natural to be mutually exclusive doesn't mean the former cannot affect the latter.
(MB) That is the meaning of "mutually-exclusive". If they can't exist in the same realm, they can't affect each other.

Time in any one universe must be finite if it has a beginning and an ending. Time between different universes would have no meaning. That is a difficult concept as we tend to be fixated in our linear dimension of time. There's no reason that the same manifestation of the time dimension would exist in another universe where the laws of physics are different.
(R) Time is a funny thing.
(MB) Not really. Only our flawed conceptions of it are funny.

(R) The speed of light is constant, as far as we know.
(MB) That was proven by Einstein.

(R) In any frame of reference, light always travels at 186,000 mi./300,000 km. per second, and if space curves or time slows, it would seem to be only so as to maintain this constant. If a frame of reference has zero velocity, time moves at nominal speed, indeed, it would seem it could never move faster than this nominal speed, because a reference frame cannot have less than zero velocity. However, if the velocity of the reference frame is increased, and approaches the speed of light, time will slow down. But what, exactly, does this mean?
(MB) It means that you are leaving out one piece of the puzzle. If there is only one thing in the universe, it can't be said to have any velocity at all since there would be nothing for it to be moving relative to. Therefore, time would neither speed up nor slow down for such an object since there would be nothing to measure it against.

(R) If a space ship travels past the Earth at 99 percent the speed of light, time proceeds much more slowly for an astronaut in the ship than for the people on Earth. Does this mean everything inside the ship, as perceived by the astronaut, happens in slow motion?
(MB) Nope. To the astronaut, everything would seem normal since he, too, is moving at the same speed as his spacecraft and everything in it. If an observer on the Earth could see the astronaut, it would seem to that observer that the astronaut is moving in slow motion. If the astronaut could see the observer on the Earth, it would appear to him that the observer was moving extremely quickly.

(R) When he get up in the morning, and turns on the lamp in his cabin, the light from the lamp must still take exactly the same faction of a second to reach the far side of the cabin, in order to keep the speed of light constant, as it would if the space ship were standing still. But time on board the space ship is moving much more slowly, almost to the point of stopping. Does this mean the astronaut can actually see the rays of light emerge from the lamp and travel toward the wall? Or does everything proceed normally, as far as he is concerned, just as if he were standing still on earth? Is his perception of time exactly the same, regardless of the space ship's velocity, or does he notice time slowing down?
(MB) The astronaut would notice nothing unusual or different since everything about his relative and immediate surroundings would be moving at the same speed and would experience the same time dilation effects. The light from the astronaut's lamp would move just as quickly as it always does -- as far as he was concerned, anyway.

(R) If the space ship achieves light speed, then time stops.
(MB) It is more accurate to say that as the ship approaches light speed, the advancement of time approaches zero. No object with a mass greater than zero can attain light speed.

(R) Meanwhile, on Earth, time proceeds along quite merrily. Does this mean time doesn't exist for the space ship, or just that its not moving?
(MB) It would mean that time has slowed down to near zero as far as the ship was concerned.

(R) If time stops in-between universes, that is, in-between Big Bangs, has it truly ceased to exist?
(MB) Since time is one of our universe's four physical dimensions (or, at least, one of the four that did not curl up), neither it nor any of the other three dimensions would exist "between" universes -- if, indeed, the concept of "between" has any meaning at that point.

(R) Or does it merely briefly stop and immediately (a very relative term in this context) start again? If so, it would have no beginning and no end, and would be infinite.
(MB) One could not equate the existence of the time dimension in one universe with the existence of a similar time dimension in a subsequent, previous, or co-existing universe. Each existence of a particular manifestation of time would be finite in extent within its own universe.

Created with Allaire HomeSite 4.0 .......... Last Update: 04 Jun 98

Earthlink Network Home Page