Last Update: 01 Jan 01

Return to "Religion" essay


This is the nineteenth of a twenty-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.

There are a great number of ways to prove the existence of the killer. There are no ways to prove the existence of a creator. So, which claim of existence is the more probable?
(R) You must not mean what you just said because if you do, then you have no basic understanding of how legal evidences work.
(MB) I mean what I said and I do understand how evidence ("legal" or otherwise) works. Since there is evidence with which to prove the existence of a killer in your scenario, but none to prove the existence of a creator in your theistic beliefs, it is blatantly obvious that the claim of the existence of a killer is *far* more probable.

(R) The killer himself does not exist at the crime scene during the moments of investigation.
(MB) He doesn't have to. The evidence of his actions exists there. If that evidence is consistent with our experience of the actions of killers and has no reasonable explanation other than that it was produced by a killer, then it is reasonable to conclude that a killer was responsible.

(R) The proof that is collected to determine the killer's existence at the crime scene is of an indirect, second-hand nature where residual evidences of the killer's actions are collected and corroborated to determine the killer's *existence* in the PAST.
(MB) We can only do this because we have prior experience in our accumulated body of knowledge to which we can compare the evidence at the current crime scene. If that evidence is consistent with our past experience with killers, we can reasonably conclude that a killer was responsible in the current case, as well.

(R) The same is true for a creator of the universe because in both scenarios, we are in the present looking at residual evidences to determine an event that happened in the past.
(MB) Except, of course, that we have no prior experience with the evidences produced by the actions of a creator, so we have no base of knowledge upon which to compare whatever you consider to be "indirect evidence" in the universe. You can't make any supportable claims for what a creator would produce, since you have nothing upon which to base such claims except your own purely personal beliefs.

Again, this demonstrates a poor grasp of basic logic.
(R) No it doesn't, it demonstrates *your* poor grasp of basic logic.
(MB) WOW! What a compelling counter-argument...*grin*

Since natural processes exist, it is reasonable to assume that we may not yet be aware of all of them or of the complete nature of the ones which we already know.
(R) Again, there is no natural processes that create universes uncaused out of nothing.
(MB) Again, there is no such theory in science, so you'll need to find another argument.

(R) To assume such as process' existence in the face of no evidence and massive improbabilities is nothing short of wishful-thinking.
(MB) I'm still awaiting your presentation of the case in favor of the "massive improbability" calculation. The only "wishful thinking" here is that any such calculation actually exists.

(R) If the common denominator is what we as piddly life-forms are capable of "being aware" of, then there is absolutely no grounds for dismissing transcendency since what we "know" is nothing but an infinitesimally small fraction of all that we *do not* know about the origin of all things.
(MB) That doesn't matter. What matters is that all we *do* know supports a conclusion that all things exist in the natural realm. For any counter-argument to succeed, it will have to bear the burden of proof in supporting the existence of anything transcendental.

Therefore, it is also reasonable to assume that we will devise new theories or modify existing theories in the future which are based on such processes. This does not mean that current theories are wrong or that no "right" theory exists. Newton's theory of gravity is demonstrably "wrong", yet only a fool would willingly and confidently step off a cliff. That's because the theory is so close to being 100% "right" that it is reasonable to use it and adhere to it. Such is the case for all scientific theories.
(R) Sorry, but such is not the case for "all scientific theories" since only a small fraction of all scientific theories even come close to the level of certainty as Newton's law of gravity.
(MB) Sorry, but a "theory" is something which has already been shown to be close enough to 100% "right" as to have gained general acceptance and high confidence for the purposes of using it for accurate real-world applications and predictions. If you don't believe this, please provide a few examples of theories which do not fall into this category.

(R) Also, the "part" of Newton's theory that is wrong is not the part pertaining to two bodies of greater and lesser mass attracting, so even if Newton's theory was 90% wrong, that 10% would be the reason nobody would step off a cliff; that is, unless they think they have larger mass than the planet earth.
(MB) Obviously, you don't understand what it is about Newtonian gravity that is insufficient (and it doesn't sound as if you have a good grasp on the rest of it, either). In any case, even if any given proposal was only 10% right, that means it has 10% support from evidence. This would put it ahead of any 0% supported proposal such as a theistic creation scenario.

Your ideas, on the other hand, go completely in the opposite direction. There is no evidence that any supernatural processes exist. It may be reasonable to assume that we might discover one in the future, but it is not reasonable at this point to formulate hypotheses based primarily upon such processes and then uphold them as being "on equal ground" with science. I can reasonably live my life as if God does not exist since there is no evidence to the contrary. Such is the case for all supernatural ideas.
(R) The fundamental error in your above speech rests in an important detail you overlooked. I have not formulated any hypotheses based on a supernatural "process", but on a supernatural *event*. There is a huge difference here.
(MB) The only difference is one of semantics. There is no evidence for supernatural "processes", supernatural "events", supernatural "[insert preferred term here]" or supernatural *anything*. Try again.

(R) A distant past event such as "God creating the universe" is impossible to verify empirically since such an event is neither testable, repeatable, or observable.
(MB) Then, there is no evidence upon which to base your "God did it" conclusion and any promotion of that conclusion amounts to nothing more than a statement of purely personal belief.

(R) As I've detailed earlier, the body of support for theistic hypotheses resides within the arenas of philosophical reasoning, legal evidences, and indirect scientific evidences of the universe.
(MB) In other words, it resides within the arena of your purely personal belief, since all of those arguments have previously been shown to fail.

[RE: You must show that universal materialism exists before you can invoke it as any sort of default position.]
Since I invoke nothing of the sort, I need not demonstrate what you demand.

(R) Oh? Are you telling me that you do not believe the entire universe is exclusively material??
(MB) No, I'm telling you that I'm not invoking "universal materialism" (whatever that might be) as being responsible for the creation of the universe. Now, since you invoke a theistic scenario of intelligent design as the default position, you must provide a compelling and positive case in its support.

The universe does not have to be completely materialistic in order for it to have been created by natural processes.
(R) Okay, then explain exactly how a natural process creates non-materialistic attributes in the universe, and explain what these non-material attributes are.
(MB) That's easy enough. There are three macroscopic physical dimensions and one macroscopic temporal dimension ("time") in our universe. All of these dimensions were created concurrently with the universe. Anything "material" exists in one or more of the physical dimensions. Something which exists only in the temporal dimension of time (including the dimension of time itself) would not, therefore, be "material". Unless you wish to argue that time doesn't exist, you have the answer to your poorly-considered challenge. Now, do you see why I keep urging you to educate yourself on what "materialism" actually is before arguing against it?

(R) Also, you have yet to provide scientific evidence for the existence of this natural process that you allege created the universe.
(MB) See previous rebuttals.

On the other hand, you still have the burden of demonstrating the existence of anything supernatural rather than continuing to run from the question.
(R) I don't know what I could possible do or say using natural things to prove something supernatural. I already addressed this earlier.
(MB) If the supernatural actually exists, there will be something for you to use as evidence in its support. It is up to you to find and present that evidence if you wish to argue in support of the supernatural. If you fail to do so, you have no business demanding that I (or anybody else) still must believe it.

Please give examples of existing things which are not "natural". Remember that an "existing thing" does not require the evaluation of Man in order to exist.
(R) Black holes are most definitely existent, yet astrophysicists believe that all physical law breaks down within the black hole at the point of singularity. It is safe to assume that if a state of existence includes the total break down of all physical law, it is not "natural."
(MB) That's not correct. A black hole is the product of a completely natural process (i.e., the total gravitational collapse of matter). Our total understanding of black holes is limited primarily by the fact that we don't yet have an acceptable theory of quantum gravity to use in unifying all of the fundamental forces of nature. The fact that some physical laws may break down inside black holes is no reason to claim that anything about black holes is "unnatural". This only shows that black hole physics show current theories to be insufficient in the same way that Einsteinian relativity showed Newtonian gravity to be insufficient.

[RE: Do you or do you not claim that every event, cause, entity and action that has ever occurred throughout the entire universe's past, present, and future was/is/will be - purely material? Yes or no? If yes, you are making a positive existential claim for universal materialism, thus, you would be Bob, not Fred.]
Correct. However, I'm making no such claim. Indeed, it would be foolish to do so since I do not have knowledge of all things throughout all of time. However, it still remains that everything we *do* know about can be explained by natural laws and processes.

(R) Then your case is extremely weak since the totality of our knowledge of observed phenomena is an infinitesimally tiny fraction of all occurring phenomena throughout the present universe, as well as all the phenomena of it's 15 billion-year history as well. In that respect, your atheism is based on not only poor assumption, but terminal ignorance as well.
(MB) With this comment, you have removed all credibility from your theistic beliefs and from any scenarios which are based upon them. If you claim that my views are unfounded because they are not based on the totality of evidence in the universe, then how can you even begin to uphold your own views -- which you admit have *no* empirical evidence to support them? Again, this demonstrates the hazards of trying to support your case by arguing against an opposing view. You are always going to end up shooting yourself in the foot and causing more damage to your own side than to the opposition. As such, it is now safe to conclude beyond any reasonable doubt that you can have nothing compelling to offer in favor of your own views.

On the other hand, do you or do you not claim that there is objective and empirical evidence which supports the idea that anything supernatural actually exists?
(R) Yes, I believe the universe is a body of empirical and objective evidence which supports an interpretation that includes supernaturalism.
(MB) How can you say this now when you have previously argued that no such empirical evidence exists? Do you have any idea what you want to argue or are you just being argumentative out of habit? If you now want to argue that empirical evidence *does* exist to support your views, you have yet another opportunity to dredge it up and present it.

Do you or do you not claim that the God you choose to worship and the "intelligent designer" to whom you wish to ascribe the creation of the universe are one and the same entity? Yes or no? It's time to quit shuckin' and jivin' here.
(R) Yes, I do believe they are one and the same entity, although any further discussion on their linkage is completely peripheral to propositions I've set forth in this debate.
(MB) Hallelujah! He finally admits his beliefs! Now that you've done so and admitted that your chosen God and your "intelligent designer" are one and the same (as I've always said and you've always previously been afraid to state for the record), we can finally dispense with all of this "generic designer" crapola and start getting down to brass tacks. We can dispense with any of your arguments that your "intelligent designer" has any attributes other than what your version of Christianity ascribes to Yahweh. And, since you've finally stated what I've always known that you truly believe, there will be no more nonsense about "irrelevant" attributes or avoiding comparative theism arguments. From this point on, all future references of yours to "intelligent designer", "creator", or "supernatural" or "transcendent" entities will be read as "Yahweh" and you will be required to defend any such claims on the basis of your religion's depiction of him if you hope to maintain any integrity in your arguments.
    I thank you for showing that I've been right about this all along. We could have saved a lot of time and a lot of bickering if you had just owned up to what we both know your beliefs are right from the start.

Through the use of illogical scenarios. Through the inability to understand that you must apply the same standards of evidence to all competing propositions to claim that they are on "equal ground". Through the continued use of buzzwords that you seem barely to understand and then making them the cornerstones of your arguments. Through constructing the bulk of your case around logical fallacies rather than upon evidence. Etc....
(R) Not a single thing you just said is true. If all you can do is make sweeping generalities, there is nothing substantive for me to respond to.
(MB) *Everything* I just said is not only true, but has been documented and explained for you at every point where you have made these errors. In addition, you yourself have argued that you feel you are not under any obligation to submit your case to the same standards as those applied to competing views, so I don't know how you can say that I was not saying something true when I point this out to you. The fact that you just sweep all of these things under the rug as being "sweeping generalities" and claim that there is "nothing substantive" here is further proof that you are unwilling and unable to deal with uncomfortable facts directly and honestly.

This has nothing to do with subjectivity, Sherlock. Rather, it has everything to do with what Sherlock Holmes would describe as the veridical worthlessness of any position -- no matter how strongly it is believed -- for which there is no supporting evidence.
(R) It is all about subjectivity if we are talking about Carl Sagan's statement (that's what we were talking about, right?). What may be considered "extraordinary" to one person may be quite "ordinary" to another. There is no objective standard for personal perception.
(MB) There doesn't have to be any such thing in order to understand what Sagan was talking about. "Extraordinary" in your confused connotation (such as chicken alfredo pasta) is nothing but a personal impression. "Extraordinary" in Sagan's statement refers to those phenomena which are outside of our collective body of knowledge. Certainly, no pasta dish (no matter how good) qualifies as an extraordinary phenomenon.

(R) As for the evidence being "supporting" to atheism or theism, thats the focus of this entire debate. You can choose to assume the truth of precisely what is in question, (i.e, whether or not the evidence supports theism or atheism) but it will not *actually* do anything for you.
(MB) But, I *can* do something which you admit you can't do -- provide supporting evidence in favor of my arguments. That alone vindicates my reference to the quote from Sherlock Holmes and suggests that your denials are also unsupportable. That makes them, like your case for theism, nothing more than an extension of your purely personal beliefs.

Something "extraordinary", in Sagan's usage, is something which falls outside our body of knowledge and may even present violations of that knowledge. Neither the birth of the universe, quantum mechanics, the space shuttle, nor chicken alfredo pasta are such things, so they are not "extraordinary" things.
(R) Well in that case, you must prove that Sagan's definition of extraodinary is an *immutable truth* as opposed to a eloquently opinionated perception.
(MB) Again, if you had any concept of basic logic (along with an understanding of the meaning of the word "extraordinary"), you would not be asking for any such "proof" that Sagan's statement is correct. Unless, of course, you could suggest an example of an extraordinary phenomenon which could be proven with ordinary evidence.

(R) Furthermore, there are many theories regarding the birth of the universe, but very little "knowledge", so even granting Sagan's definition, the birth of the universe is "extraordinary."
(MB) Absolutely! That's why there is so much intensive work going on in the attempt to obtain the data necessary to help provide the required extraordinary explanation. What similarly-intensive research effort is attempting to prove the extraordinary idea that Yahweh was the intelligent designer who created the universe?

(R) If you disagree, then I would suggest you supply this "knowledge" (not theory) of the birth of the universe.
(MB) Theories are a formal expression of "knowledge" (i.e., the combined set of all data, predictions, and mathematics which are associated with the phenomenon being explained). Your argument does nothing more than recycle the old "it's only a theory" chestnut which simply brushes aside the evidence itself in favor of attempting to denigrate the word "theory".

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