REPLY #44d 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 fourth of a four-part reply.
Not if you are trying to proselytize your beliefs or if you are trying to
position them as a valid alternative to any other beliefs or as the equal of any
(R) I think the fundamental precepts of Christianity are a fine guide for
living a happy, full, and productive life, and that other people could gain from
(MB) Do you think that such values are limited to the practice of Christianity
or even to the practice of religion in general? The majority of Christian
values are not unique to Christianity and many of the moral teachings of Jesus
can also be found in the earlier writings and teachings of Eastern religions and
philosophies. The values are fine. However, I see no need for them to be
associated with the baggage of unsupportable belief in supernatural
(R) While I'm not willing to argue they are the best, I will emphatically say
they are the equal of any and better than some.
(MB) Naturally. Otherwise, you wouldn't practice your chosen religion, right?
Out of curiosity, on what do you base your emphatic belief in the superiority of
your religion's values system?
(R) Why then, shouldn't I tell others about them?
(MB) Because religious proselytizing is never limited to the teaching of basic
values of behavior for their own sake. If they are always associated with the
belief in supernatural stories, this detracts from their impact.
(R) I'm not trying to cram it down their throats or force them to
(MB) Perhaps not to that degree, but you have previously admitted to being
involved in evangelism and if your values system is inextricably intertwined
with your religious beliefs, you will inevitably inject those beliefs into your
efforts to tell others about your values. Also, I'm curious about why you would
bother to make a concerted effort to tell others about your values if you didn't
want them to change their own? I'm sure you don't restrict yourself to
"preaching to the choir".
(R) I simply want them to enjoy the same benefits as I do.
(MB) What makes you think that they don't already enjoy those benefits (and
more) or that their values are somehow inferior to your own?
(R) And if I am to be muzzled, why is it O.K. for you to promote your
(MB) First, I don't evangelize my views. Second, I can support my views about
the universe with evidence which others can freely examine in order to make
their own decisions. Third, my views carry no expressed or implied warnings
about eternity in hell or other dire consequences for disbelief.
There must be some reason for you to keep debating the point with me and it must
be something far more substantial than mere "personal preference". If that's all
it was, there would be no reason for you to care that much about what I
(R) It boils down to a single reason: your insistence that all logic and all
evidence indicates there is no God and anyone who believes otherwise is stupid.
This cannot go unanswered.
(MB) Apparently, it can't even be properly repeated no matter how many times
I've corrected you. This suggests a tacit acknowledgement that your own
position is so weak that you can only keep it afloat by distorting mine and then
attacking those distortions.
Belief that there is no God is a consequence of the complete failure of any and
all ideas that any supernatural entity actually exists.
(R) I seem to detect a hint of regret here. Am I right?
(MB) Not at all. It's merely a logical inference. Reading ahead, I see that
you will offer up some of the standard old philosophical arguments in favor of
the existence of God -- some of which have been conclusively refuted since the
time of David Hume and the rest of which have since been similarly shot full of
(R) Arguments supporting the idea that God exists fall into five main
categories: ontological, causal, design, experiential, and pragmatic. (I won't
bother to define each of these, but if you're unfamiliar with them or can't find
anything on them, let me know.)
(MB) I know them all quite well since they have all been addressed in numerous
books and articles.
(R) Arguments against the existence of God can be categorized as multiplicity
(which we've just been covering) and simplicity (Occam's Razor.)
(MB) Each of which offer strong points in refutation of the positive existential
claims in favor of God -- sometimes about the God of the Bible in particular and
other times about the ideas of supernatural deities in general.
(R) Additionally, the idea that because evil/pain/injustice exist and therefore
God either doesn't exist or isn't a loving God, is often used to argue against
(MB) This is called the "Argument from Evil" and has never been successfully
contested by apologists.
(R) Each of these pro/con arguments has some validity, though I also have
varying objections to each. Overall, I consider the causal and design arguments
to be quite strong,...
(MB) Actually, these are among the most easily refuted arguments since each
relies on an unwarranted basic assumption. Hume effectively decimated the
design argument, while Kant provided the first refutation of the causal
The causal argument
(better known as the "cosmological argument") is based upon the premise that all events must have a
cause. It goes on to say that the beginning of the universe was an event and
must, therefore, have had a cause. It concludes by saying that this cause was
God. It is defeated first by recognizing that events can be uncaused (as shown
in quantum mechanics) and then by extrapolating the reasoning used to show that
it requires that the existence of God must also be a caused event.
The design argument postulates that the order we observe in the universe
could not have come about by random chance and must, therefore, be the product
of an intelligent designer. This argument ignores the fact that the physical
laws which rule our universe are responsible for how things are formed. This
means that the process is not truly random and requires no outside force to make
(R) ...the experiential and pragmatic to be fairly strong (Kant's argument was
basically a pragmatic one)...
(MB) The experiential argument claims that we can know that
God exists because we have experienced his presence in our daily lives. The
main flaw in this argument is the rather nebulous definition of "experience".
Since this argument's connotation of "experience" relies more on gut instinct
than on evidence, there are no conclusions drawn from it that can be objectively
supported. A "gut instinct" experience is merely a personal interpretation of
feelings and emotions that could run the full gamut from legitimate
enlightenment all the way through simple indigestion. Without evidence of the
actual cause of the experience, no explanation of it can rise above the level of
argument, as popularized by William James a few decades back, basically says
that any proposition is likely to be correct if it works well in human life.
Again, this is more a matter of personal interpretation than of evidence. A
belief in God may work well to satisfy any given person, but that does not
constitute any evidence that God actually exists. Kant's basic approach to
pragmatism was that human knowledge is confined to the world of phenomena. In
other words, mere feelings don't constitute knowledge.
(R) ...and the ontological argument to be rather weak.
(MB) I'd say it doesn't even deserve to be called "weak".
The ontological argument basically says that because we can imagine the concept
of a perfect God, such a being must exist. If this logic was sound, we would,
in effect, grant ourselves the power to call into existence anything we wanted
to merely by being able to conceive of it. Little more need be said about the
absurdity of that line of thought.
(R) On the other hand, I consider multiplicity to be meaningless and simplicity
to be simply wrong,...
(MB) Even though, as we've already seen, you can't support this...
(R) ...and feel the existence of evil/pain/injustice only questions the nature
of God, not His existence.
(MB) The Argument from Evil questions a basic tenet of the nature of the
Biblical God. If it is successful, the God of the Bible cannot exist as he is
depicted and worshipped. Questions about the nature of any given deity are very
important. If one can't say anything definitive about his God, he can't begin
to support that God's existence. If it is claimed that some given God has no
nature at all, or that his nature is unknowable, then his existence is either
meaningless or it is entirely false.
(R) I can't agree with you about the complete failure of all ideas that God
(MB) Naturally. Yet, it is still a fact that no argument in favor of God's
existence or any claim about his nature have ever survived critical scrutiny.
Of course, this doesn't bother believers since faith has nothing to do with
facts or logic.
(R) Certainly, though, none of them prove God exists.
(MB) None even successfully suggests such a
(R) Of course, you have interjected a couple of unorthodox arguments against God
into this discussion, which might be called the "argument of the invalid
comparison" and that of the "inherent superiority of the opposite claim," but
these are easily dismissed.
(MB) I'm sure that your "easy dismissal" of these things (which, needless to
say, has not yet been accomplished) will cause a major upheaval in the world of
philosophy. Sorry, but I don't make up the tenets of logic and philosophy. I
just use them to demonstrate where arguments fail.
(R) Comparing God to Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy is more
convincing than anything you've brought up.
(MB) You haven't addressed that one, either. In fact, there's more evidence
that could be used to support Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy
than there is to support the existence of God. Since you can't prove that they
don't exist, may we assume that you believe in them?
That example only demonstrates the relative nature of disparate conditions. It
says nothing about actual truth. Boiling water is always 100 degrees Celsius
whether or not you dip your hand into a cold bowl of water first. In other
words, how hot boiling water feels is relative. How hot it actually *is* is
truth. The way to find that truth is to take a objective measurement, not to
subjectively contrast that bowl with another one. Perception is *not*
(R) Precisely the point of the illustration. The center bowl has a specific
temperature, which can be measured exactly....if you have a thermometer. If you
don't, if you have no way to take an objective measurement, you have only your
own perceptions to go on.
(MB) In which case, the best you can do is to generalize the temperature of the
water in each bowl by using terms such as "hot", "cold", "warm", etc. This will
still give you more information about the nature of the water in each bowl than
you would have had prior to testing the water in the first place.
Still, if you were trying to tell another person about the nature of the
water in a given bowl, general terms might not have the same meaning to him.
What's "hot" to you may only be "warm" to him. So, while perceptions may be
sufficient for you, they will not be sufficient if you are attempting to
convince somebody else of your findings. That will require the evidence
provided by a thermometer.
Translating this to the debate about God's existence, your own perceptions
on the matter may be sufficient for you, but will not be good enough to convince
somebody else. That will require evidence.
(R) The unfortunate fact of our existence is that exact, objective measurements
are impossible for most phenomenon and absolute truth cannot be seen except
indistinctly. There is a single reality, and a single truth about that reality.
But it is very difficult to know them.
(MB) One doesn't have to take a 100% exact measurement in order to gain
sufficient information about a phenomenon. In the previous example, your
thermometer can't take a 100% exact temperature measurement of the water in any
bowl, but it can get close enough to provide valid evidence of how hot the water
actually is. Would you deny that a measurement of approximately 190 degrees
Fahrenheit provides any evidence that the water is hot simply because the
measurement isn't 100% accurate? Yet, this is exactly the sort of denial used
by religious apologists (including yourself) when they dispute science's ability
to describe valid theories of the universe. They do this while, at the same
time, emphatically upholding their own views which haven't even been supported
to any degree of accuracy. Why?
For example, the current debate on the Hubble constant involves the details of
its value and not on whether or not the universe expands.
(R) On this issue, scientists have aligned themselves into two diametrically
opposed and deeply entrenched camps, one convinced the constant has a high value
and the other absolutely certain it is low. One camp postulates a relatively
"young" universe in which the stars may themselves be older than the universe!
This is hardly a minor detail. Thank you for perfectly illustrating my point
about disagreements among scientists. I could never have come up with it on my
(MB) Thank you for perfectly illustrating my point about the fallacies of
extrapolating disagreement over details into something larger about the whole of
a general theory.
There is no major rift about the age of the universe here. The studies that
would indicate a "young" universe are based on analysis of the data received
from certain types of supernovas. All other data shows an "old" universe.
Since the "young" universe data is anomalous, it indicates incomplete or
incorrect knowledge about the type of supernova being studied and not a problem
with theories about the expansion of the universe.
The exact value of the Hubble constant is not known, but it is certainly not
the value that would produce a "young" universe despite the contrary and
uninformed claims of some creationists. Your glee over this "dispute" is
Creationists love to take debates over details and claim that they
represent general dissension about the larger issues.
(R) Isn't this exactly what you do when you argue that differences among
religions show all religions to be nonsense? A clear-cut case of the pot
calling the kettle black.
(MB) A clear-cut case of the apologist misrepresenting
what is being argued.
Those who are influenced by Creationist arguments tend to adopt their ideas
and tactics in their own arguments. A lack of complete agreement about all
details of an issue does not, in any way, infer general disagreement about the
(R) Bingo! Your last sentence says it all. The major Christian
denominations, which account for at least 75 percent of American Christians, are
in general agreement on all the major issues, and the lack of complete agreement
about details is irrelevant to the larger ones. However, these minor
disagreements are often pointed to by those such as yourself in an attempt to
discredit Christianity as a whole.
(MB) The difference here is that "the issues" are supposedly clearly defined in
the religion's holy book. Why should there be any disagreement about them at
all? Surely, questions about such things as the virgin birth of Jesus, the
nature of the Trinity, and the divinity of Jesus are hardly "minor details", but
they are just a few of the disagreements between the various sects of
Christianity. If members of the same religion can't get their basic stories the
same, how is it that anybody else should be compelled to believe
(R) Even among completely different religions, the differences are not so much a
question of right and wrong as of which is closer to the truth.
(MB) Surely, you jest. Are you going to try to tell us that religions that
worship different Gods (or different numbers of Gods) and tell entirely
different stories (to include declaring themselves to be the "chosen people")
don't consider each other to be "wrong"? Even if we were to grant that absurd
proposition, on what basis would we determine which competing religion was
"closer to the truth" or that any of them even approaches the truth? And, if we
can't do that, on what basis are we to justify belief in any of them?
A lack of consensus is not the same thing as a lack of evidence. If there is a
lack of evidence, no amount of consensus is sufficient to validate a
(R) Agreed, lack of consensus (or majority of opinion) in and of themselves
mean nothing. And, if there is no evidence to support any theory, all theories
are equally valid.
(MB) That should be "equally invalid". In the case of religion, we have *both*
a lack of evidence and a lack of consensus. That makes belief in any particular
religion even less justifiable.
If 80% of the people believe in nonsense, it's still nonsense.
(MB) And, that is a pretty good description of the state