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 seven-part reply.

By providing natural explanations for all phenomena in the universe, it removes the necessity to accept anything supernatural. Science would be able to support the existence of God -- if such existence was actually a fact.
(R) Only if God has a physical presence, and uses physical means to control the universe, could science have any hope of supporting His existence.
(MB) And, if there's nothing physical about God or his methods, there can be no effect upon anything in the physical universe. Therefore, any entity whose nature is similar to what you claim for God either does not exist or is entirely superfluous to the physical universe. In either case, there is no reason to take the idea seriously.

(R) If He is a supernatural being, only logic and reason can be used to show He exists, but, as William of Occam deduced, it is impossible to prove the existence of God through reason alone.
(MB) Logic and reason still require some sort of evidence in order to make their conclusions valid. In the case of God, any time specific arguments are introduced to support his existence, they always contain flaws of logic and reason. Therefore, there is nothing with which to support the existence of God. In addition to there being no evidence, neither logic nor reason succeed in doing so. What's left? Since nothing succeeds in supporting the existence of God, Occam's Razor leads us to cutting out the entire idea from the set of ideas that seek to describe the origin and nature of the universe.

"If the atheist is 'dogmatic' for claiming that a god does not exist, is the theist also dogmatic for claiming that a god does exist? Of course not. Even in Rhodes' scenario, all that is necessary is that a particular god's existence logically imply something that we know is false within the .1% of knowledge that Rhodes says we have. It then logically follows -- we have a deductive proof -- that that particular god does not exist."
-- Jeffery Jay Lowder, "Is a Proof of the Non-Existence of a God Even Possible?"

You do what Point #6 states when you support your belief in God by stating that it can't be proven that he doesn't exist. That shows disdain for logic, reason and the scientific method of inquiry.
(R) Disdain in what way? Because there is no evidence, and no proof, either for or against the existence of God, it is perfectly logical and reasonable to believe either way. The scientific method of inquiry doesn't apply.
(MB) The scientific method of inquiry *always* applies. Evidence doesn't vanish simply because you refuse to accept or acknowledge it.

You might be first in the "accept" line, but I doubt you'd be so quick to jump into the other line. You have yet to demonstrate the slightest inclination to be amenable towards changing your beliefs under any circumstances.
(R) On the contrary, I've shown myself to be tolerant, open-minded, and open to change on all we've discussed. Of course, I have said it is impossible for you to prove God doesn't exist, and therefore, there can never be any reason for me to doubt my beliefs.
(MB) These sentences contradict each other by announcing your final verdict even before the case can be presented (as you did in your very first reply). This refutes any claim to be either open-minded or open to change. The only support you give for this mindset is to dispute centuries worth of basic philosophy concerning the burden of proof for positive existential claims.

You parrot Point #8 any time you say that anything can be explained in terms of "God did it" while offering not a shred of support for the claim while also casting doubts on the ability of science to explain "fundamental origins".
(R) I seldom parrot anything, and certainly not this point. Parroting means to directly repeat something said by another. You've misused the word, apparently for debate purposes, but you do that often, so I'm getting used to it.
(MB) May I assume that this diversionary attack on a word is meant to avoid answering the point being made? Incidentally, the definition of "parrot" as used here is "to repeat or imitate without understanding". That is what you have been doing concerning the standard arguments used by Creationists.

(R) Adding the words "could have" to such a statement makes it less absolute and displays a willingness to open-mindedly consider all alternatives.
(MB) In science, a "could have" argument carries no weight unless there is some evidence to support it. Since you have no such evidence, your "could have" argument is nothing more than a waffle to justify maintaining an unsupportable belief that is nothing more than a personal preference. There is no open-mindedness involved here.

(R) The basic argument which supports my beliefs is as follows: It is impossible to prove or disprove the existence of God, there is no evidence to support either position, neither position has any inherent superiority to the other, and it is equally reasonable and logical to believe in God as not to.
(MB) Basic philosophy concerning positive existential claims is sufficient to demonstrate that your basic argument fails on all counts. Therefore, that argument is worthless for any consideration other than pure emotion.

If you were the representative of your religion, how would you convince Fred to choose your beliefs over any and all of the others?
(R) I would tell Fred that each person has to make his own peace with God, individually, as a matter of study, reflection, and a personal search for truth. And I would tell him, that if he follows the great commandment of Christianity -- to love God with all his heart, all his mind, all his strength, and all his soul, and to love his fellow men as he loves himself, he will eventually reach that peace.
(MB) While this is admirable philosophy, it provides nothing to show any reason to believe in God. In fact, its basis presupposes God with no reason for doing so. How can one be convinced to "love God" if there is nothing to suggest that God even exists? There are Eastern philosophies whose entire rationale is to help one achieve inner peace and which do not encumber themselves with spurious deities and silly ceremonies. If the goal is inner peace, why complicate matters by adding God and all of the attendant nonsense?

"The good, say the mystics of spirit, is God, a being whose only definition is that he is beyond man's power to conceive- a definition that invalidates man's consciousness and nullifies his concepts of existence...Man's mind, say the mystics of spirit, must be subordinated to the will of God... Man's standard of value, say the mystics of spirit, is the pleasure of God, whose standards are beyond man's power of comprehension and must be accepted on faith....The purpose of man's to become an abject zombie who serves a purpose he does not know, for reasons he is not to question."
-- Ayn Rand, "For the New Intellectual"

"There is no religious experience which guarantees that our experience is an experience of God. This can be asserted without for a moment doubting that some people have religious experiences. The psychological reality of such experience is one thing, that these experiences are actually experiences of God is another."
-- Kai Nielsen, Philosophy and Atheism (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1985) p. 46.

How can anything non-physical possibly affect anything in the physical universe? What non-physical questions are there? What evidence is there for the existence of anything non-physical? If there is none, why should we concern ourselves with such things? If it's not a waste of time, then there must be something definitive to suggest otherwise. What is it?
(R) These questions have relatively simple answers after only a bit of thought.
(MB) I've been asking for these "simple answers" for quite a while now, but none have yet been presented. Perhaps they're not so "simple" after all?

(R) That you have to ask them displays, I'm sorry to say, the shallowness of your personal philosophy. It shows you never look past the surface on issues which are exceedingly complex, but merely make snap judgments based on a few assumptions which are often incorrect. This is displayed throughout the essays you publish on your site.
(MB) Once again, we see diversionary vitriol rather than direct answers to questions. If you have problems with any of my other essays, why not send in replies to them and point out where you think I'm wrong rather than making meaningless blanket statements? If your philosophy is better than mine, it will show in what you say. If it's not, that will also show up. In neither case will mere insults refute anything.

(R) Everything which exists can be divided into two primary categories: the material and the non-material. Material things are what make up the physical universe, and the evidence of their existence is brought to us by our senses.
    Non-material things, on the other hand, by their very nature have no physical evidence of their existence. We can only draw conclusions about them through reason. Many people have argued (most notably, Auguste Comte, the founder of Positivism) that anything which is not physical doesn't truly exist. This couldn't be more wrong.

(MB) One has to trivialize the meaning of "existence" into worthlessness in order to dispute Comte. If that's all one has to go on to support "existence", that support is very weak, indeed.

(R) The idea, "All men are created equal," has its own separate, non-physical existence -- an existence which is vitally important to our daily lives.
(MB) Ideas are statements and not things. In the case of a spoken idea, all that exists are the sound waves which carry the spoken words from speaker to listener. "Importance" is a separate philosophical issue.

(R) If I write the words, "All men are created equal," on a piece of paper, then the idea has a physical presence.
(MB) The idea doesn't have a physical presence. The writing on the paper is what has a physical presence. If one doesn't read or understand English, the writing is no different from random scribbles and has no more meaning than if there was no writing there at all. Even if one can read and understand what is written, that is still no indication that what is written is the truth or that any reader will accept it.

(R) If I burn the paper, the physical evidence is gone, but the *idea* remains, separate from any physical existence it had either then or at any other time.
(MB) Not true. If nobody ever again speaks or writes down the idea and there is no other record of it, the result is identical to the case where the idea had *never* been elucidated or even considered. There would then be no evidence to support "existence" for it.

(R) The idea that all men are created equal has existed since the beginning of time.
(MB) Since men have not existed since the beginning of time, how could any of Man's ideas have done so? That idea hasn't even been around for the entirety of human history.

(R) It was just as true 10,000 years, ago at the dawn of civilization, as it is today.
(MB) The "truth" of the idea is not an indisputable absolute. You and I and many others may certainly believe it, but that does not prove it. It's not even a tenet of your religion or of your God (according to Genesis)!

(R) At some point in the past, someone first articulated the idea, but it was true centuries before then, just as the laws of science have always been true, even before we had knowledge of them.
(MB) Concepts are not "true" in the same way that the laws of science are true. Concepts (like moral dictates) are "true" only by popular fiat. Einstein's equations, for example, reflect truth whether or not anybody understands or accepts them.

(R) The concept that ideas have a separate, non-material existence shows that non-physical things do exist.
(MB) When the concept is flawed, so is any conclusion drawn from it.

(R) Your consciousness is another example of something which has no physical presence. It has no essence, you can't pour it out into a container and measure it, but it never-the-less exists, as you can well attest. Perhaps it is nothing more that the result of chemical reactions in your brain and body, but still, it has no physical presence of its own. It has a non-material existence.
(MB) This demonstrates a flaw in your understanding of "consciousness", as any reading of Freud will show. Consciousness is the selective attention and learned reaction to thoughts or external stimuli. In other words, it is an effect produced by the workings of the unconscious mind and is, therefore, not a discrete "thing". If there's any doubt about this, ask yourself if your consciousness will continue to "exist" after your death.
    Incidentally, many people mistakenly think that "consciousness" is only found in human beings and have used it as an argument for our being "special" in some way.

(R) So, now that we've covered some basic concepts on the nature of things, which would be covered in any entry-level college course in philosophy, why don't you go back and answer your own questions from the preceding paragraph.
(MB) Since we've covered the flaws in your arguments, we can conclude that my questions have not been successfully answered. Your arguments invoke examples which are each manifested by the operation of things in the physical realm which can themselves be supported by evidence. If you wish to equate "God" with your examples, you will need to show what things in the physical realm acted to bring him into "existence". If you can't, then you must conclude that your examples are irrelevant as answers to my questions and are no justification for any belief in the existence of God.

Perhaps my question should have read: "If such explanations have nothing but emotional appeal, why even bring them up?"
(R) Yes, that's more clear.
    I don't feel supernatural explanations have only emotional appeal. They also appeal to logic and reason, by helping make sense of life and the universe, and they have a certain amount of pragmatic, practical appeal as well.

(MB) How can they "help make sense" of anything if they are fraught with errors of reasoning and fact? It seems that their only "practical" appeal is to free their adherents from having to make the effort to learn and understand reality.

(R) Emotional appeals can be made in many ways. George Smoot, one of the leaders of the COBE project, which found evidence for the birth of the universe in the Big Bang, said, "It's like looking at God," and, "There is no doubt that a parallel exists between the big bang as an event and the Christian notion of creation from nothing." Such statements, from a noted scientist, have a fairly strong emotional appeal.
(MB) An emotional appeal is not a statement of fact and cannot be used to justify anything. Smoot's analogy is just that. Notice that he did not say that the COBE findings *verify* any Christian notion of creation. He said only that there was a "parallel". The only things that the COBE findings helped prove are the mathematics and theories which underlie the Big Bang cosmological model -- which themselves are tied to other sets of theories and mathematics that seek to describe the universe's ultimate origins. The evidence (which you say doesn't exist) continues to mount.

"Still, some articles announced that scientists have viewed creation and seen 'the handwriting of God.' I've looked at the picture of the COBE results that has been widely published and am afraid I can't make out the words 'I am, who I am' spelled out in the sky."
-- Victor J. Stenger, "Big Bang Ripples No Message from God"

"Physicists use 'God' as a metaphor more often than other scientists--- especially in popular writing, but in the technical literature as well. Of course, this is just a metaphor for order at the heart of confusion. A rational or aesthetic pattern underlying reality is far from a theistic God."
-- Taner Edis, "Is Anybody Out There?"

I bring it up because I'm trying to elicit some sort of explanation why a claim of "personal preference" -- a purely emotional response -- should be used to support the supernatural as being valid.
(R) I don't agree with your assessment that my statement (we each hold our beliefs as a personal preference) is purely emotional. I view it as a statement of fact.
(MB) Earlier, you denied saying that God's existence is a fact. Here you say that it is. Which way do you want it? You can't have both. And, that still evades the question of why such statements should be used to support any notion of the supernatural as being valid.

(R) We each hold our beliefs, despite the lack of evidence to support them, as a matter of personal choice.
(MB) Incorrect. That applies only to your beliefs. Whether you choose to accept it or not, I have a great deal of evidence to support mine. My beliefs are an intellectual choice -- not a personal or emotional one.

"Religious experiences in one culture often conflict with those in another. One cannot accept all of them as veridical, yet there does not seem to be any way to separate the veridical experiences from the rest."
-- Michael Martin, Atheism: A Philosophical Justification, (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990), p. 159.

(R) You say there is no reason to believe in God. I say there is no reason not to. What's the difference?
(MB) The difference is that basic logic and reason dispute your contention while they support mine. This remains unchanged for any question involving positive existential claims. If your reasoning is correct, then we must accept any claim of existence that anybody can make for which there isn't 100% absolute disproof. If my reasoning is correct, then claims of existence are believable in proportion to the amount of evidence which supports them. If that amount is "zero", then there is no reason to believe the claim. That's what we have here.

"If the answers to prayer are merely what God wills all along, then why pray?"
-- Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: FFRF, 1992), p. 108.

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