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

I don't (nor must I) promote my beliefs.
(R) So, publishing an essay in which depicts all religious persons as narrow-minded, pompous bigots with ridiculous beliefs is not promoting your beliefs?
(MB) Nope. When somebody accesses my web site and goes to my Philosophy of Life page, they see an introduction that informs them that the essays contain my opinions on various topics. If somebody selects an essay, they are interested in reading what I have to say. In effect, they are asking me the question, "What is your opinion on this issue?". The content of the essay comprises my answer to their question. I haven't forced my beliefs upon anybody who isn't interested in knowing them. I haven't interjected my beliefs into a totally unrelated situation. And, nobody hears any more about them unless they freely choose to read other essays and/or replies and/or choose to e-mail me a comment about them.

(R) Well, excuse me if I beg to differ. You may not "must", but you most certainly "do". I'm also willing to bet that you promote similar beliefs with your family, friends and acquaintances when the subject of religion arises.
(MB) You would lose that bet -- unless, of course, somebody was trying to offer up some nonsense or was trying to convert me.

What I do is to debunk illogical arguments put forth by those who claim that God exists. I don't put bumper stickers on my car saying "There is no God". I don't delay the start of a meal by asking for all those at the table to give thanks that the natural Universe brought about the food. I don't feel the necessity for invoking the name of a deity whenever somebody sneezes or whenever I manage to succeed at an athletic endeavor. If nobody prayed in a loud voice, I would have nothing to say about it.
(R) I'm glad you don't do these things and I'm proud of you for it, but surely your not saying people who do the opposites do any harm or should be prohibited from doing so?
(MB) Perhaps you should read my essay on Public Prayer for an in-depth answer to that question.
    Let me ask you a couple of questions on this subject. What do you think is happening and why is it seemingly necessary for so many people to say "God bless you" whenever somebody sneezes? Why should we believe that God has any interest in which boxer is able to pound the other into submission or in which professional team wins a game?

Not in those words, but, at the end of your first reply, you did mention something about "You won't change my mind, but I may have you in church by the time we're done". This sounds like you'll accept only one possible outcome.
(R) The operative word here is "may". "May" have you in church. If it happens, it will be completely your decision. I won't be forcing you to do anything.....nor would I want to.
(MB) That's not the point. The point is that your statement demonstrates a position that there is only one possible outcome to this discussion. If that is so, open-mindedness is impossible. Your statement also indicates that you believe that you can successfully support your beliefs to the point where I would be converted to them and willingly head off to church. I'm still waiting for such support to begin.

So you have claimed. However, if that's all there was to it, why would you defend it so adamantly?
(R) I have stated clearly that my belief in God is a purely personal choice. You can take my statement at face value or not, it doesn't matter to me, but that doesn't change the fact I mean what I say. I defend my beliefs for the same reason you defend your beliefs: because I think I'm right.
(MB) Again, this is the point -- your beliefs are *not* being defended. All that is being said is that you have them. Is there anything at all you can point to which would support a belief that your beliefs are right?

(R) But also, because I don't like to see my beliefs ridiculed. And, because I think what you believe is potentially very dangerous, not just to yourself, but to others who may be influenced by you.
(MB) How could what I believe possibly be dangerous? If there is a God who is what is claimed for him, then he already knows what I believe, he knows that I am honest about it, he knows what would change my mind and he also knows that, if my mind was changed, that I would strongly support him. If there is no God, then my beliefs represent the state of reality as we currently know and understand it.

How, for example, would you prove that the Loch Ness monster doesn't exist?
(R) Presumably, the Loch Ness monster has a physical presence. If there is no physical evidence to support its existence, it is valid to conclude it does not exist.
(MB) Correct. Wouldn't you also conclude that the conflicting beliefs in the existence/non-existence of the Loch Ness monster are not equal and that belief in its existence is the positive position upon which rests the burden of proof?

(R) No physical evidence is available to prove the existence of God, and His existence can only be discussed philosophically.
(MB) Then, God can not be said to exist in reality any more than absolute morality can be said to exist in reality. No matter how you approach it, there is no support for the positive belief that God exists.

(R) It is not valid to conclude, one way or the other, whether he exists. It is only possible to believe one way or the other. And one person's insupportable belief is no better than another's.
(MB) Correct. However, my beliefs are not insupportable since there is a mountain of observational, experimental, and logical evidence for them. Whether or not you choose to accept any of it, you can't say that I haven't presented some of it here. Since I have presented evidence and you have presented none either to support your belief or to refute my evidence, an impartial observer must conclude that a serious doubt has been cast upon the validity of your beliefs.

You have no doubts at all about your God -- including claiming that I can't change your mind"-- even though you can't provide a shred of evidence in support for him.
(R) I admit this completely. I have no doubt that God exists, and unashamedly state you can't change my mind because you can't prove He doesn't. I also fully admit I can't provide a shred of evidence to support my belief.....but neither can you provide a shred in support of your beliefs.
(MB) What other positive positions do you hold simply because nobody can prove that they aren't so? Would you call this "knowledge"?

In fact, you expend more effort demanding proof that he *doesn't* exist.
(R) Once again, I have done no such thing.
(MB) You just did so in the preceding paragraph! Not to mention all the other times in this and preceding replies.

But wouldn't you agree that UFO cultists are off-base for promoting their beliefs with no evidence to support it?
(R) I can't really agree with this statement while living in a country in which free speech is a basic right. However, the faking of evidence is deplorable. I've always thought the Piltdown Man situation was a bad show.
(MB) "Free speech" doesn't mean that everything said has equal validity. All opinions must be heard in order to be certain that all possibilities have been examined prior to choosing a "winner". All opinions must also be subjected to the same standards. Any belief that refuses this cannot be taken seriously.

(R) You've made several statements like "nothing can prove non-existence," or "if something exists, it can be easily proven to exist," or "it is impossible to disbelieve through faith." None of these statements are valid. You can prove something doesn't exist by showing it is impossible for it to exist. If I say, "Life exists on the moon," all you have to do is show that the conditions which support life are not present on the moon and that it is therefore impossible for life to exist on the moon.
(MB) That example is incomplete since it depends on a limited definition of "life". For example, there may be forms of life that do not require water and/or oxygen and which could survive nicely on the Moon. In point of fact, there are numerous species of bacteria here on Earth that might just survive on the Moon. The existence of any conceivable life forms on the Moon could easily be proven, but could never be disproven. Once again, the burden of proof rests with the positive position that any such life form does exist. Disproof is impossible because the supporters of the positive position can always invent another scenario under which their position might conceivably be true. Strong doubt in the positive position is the best that can be acheived, and that is realized by refuting everything offered in support of the positive position.

(R) You make these statements sound like philosophical maxims which can never be denied, absolute rules which have to be followed slavishly. This makes it appear as if you've appropriated the mind-set of certain religious adherents you portrait so unflatteringly.
(MB) Sorry. Just because the rules of logic don't change to fit the needs of those who choose to believe in something doesn't mean that following them makes one closed-minded.

My evidence is in the form of successful debunking of the arguments of those who try to claim God's existence. (R) In other words, you have no evidence.
(MB) In other words, I have more than I could possibly relate. This doesn't change because somebody chooses to dismiss it or just can't accept it because it would challenge a cherished belief.

Let's try something to see how strong the case in favor of God might be. Assume that we both meet "Joe". Joe comes from some isolated spot and has never heard of either science or religion. Joe asks us both to explain the nature of the world. Joe is an intelligent person and can easily spot flaws that might be present in our explanations. Which of our explanations is likely to be more compelling to him?
(R) I would ask Joe what was easier for him to believe, that a team of skilled technicians carefully assembled a Boeing 747 from parts made by other technicians, or that a hurricane swept through a junkyard a few billion times and made one by chance.
(MB) This example was lifted directly from the pages of the book "Scientific Creationism" by Henry M. Morris, the Director of the Institute for Creation Research. It is one of his numerous failed attempts to disprove evolution. There are two major flaws in this argument. One is in the failure to realize that atoms and molecules are not assembled at random. There is a finite and very limited set of basic rules that determine how atoms and molecules can combine. Also, many of these combinations are self-ordering and will always arise if all components are present. The second flaw is in treating a macroscopic object as a single entity that is created all at once in a single step rather than as an assemblage of smaller components that may require many steps and lots of time to come to pass. Joe would understand this.

(R) I would ask him whether he thinks a watchmaker should painstakingly assemble a watch from bits of glass and metal, or should instead put the bits in a jar, shake them up and toss them over his shoulder a few billion times, and hope they land as a watch.
(MB) A few billion times would be nowhere near enough trials to produce a significant probability of the watch being produced by the method you describe. However, it is not impossible. Joe would certainly realize that the watchmaker is merely the agent by which the near-infinite number of possible arrangements of watch components are reduced to a workable one. He would also understand the difference between improbable and impossible.

(R) I also might describe two persons to him and ask him which person held the inherently superior position: Person A, who believes God exists, but has no evidence to support his belief, or Person B, who believes God does not exist, but has no evidence to support his belief. What do you think his answer would be?
(MB) That's too easy. He'd believe Person B. Joe would understand that, without any support, no positive position can be valid.

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