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 fourth of a four-part reply.

This is not very well thought out. First, as I've said before, it is impossible to know everything in the Universe. However, we can use basic principles of logic and evidence to make compelling cases for things. For example, we can prove that the other side of our galaxy exists even though we don't have the ability to see it directly or to visit it in person.
(R) On the contrary, it is thought out perfectly well. It is a simple refutation of one of your inapplicable and illogical maxims.
(MB) Because I have shown the examples used in your argument to be incorrect, they do not constitute a successful refutation.

I detect some grasping at straws here.
(R) You're accusing me of grasping at straws? You've been grasping at every straw you can think of to keep from admitting my basic point..... that you hold your beliefs, despite a lack of conclusive evidence in support of them, simply because you choose to.
(MB) Once again, whether or not you choose to accept any offered evidence as being "conclusive", you cannot say that no evidence has been offered. On the other hand, not only have you offered no evidence to support your own position, you have stated numerous times that you have none to offer. Yes, we both have things we choose to believe, but only one of us has anything with which to back them up.

(R) You've told me my beliefs are ridiculous...
(MB) No, I've said that they are unsupportable.

(R) ... and I shouldn't be allowed to promote them,...
(MB) No, I said that you had no business promoting them if you can't support them.

(R) ... you've told me I have to prove my beliefs are true but that you don't have to,...
(MB) No, I've said that the burden of proof rests with the positive position and that it is impossible to prove the negative position.

(R) ... you've tried to paint me a narrow-minded religious bigot, ...
(MB) Those are your words, not mine, and you have used them to describe me (substituting "science" for "religion", of course).

(R) ... you've used invalid and inapplicable examples to make your points, ...
(MB) Have I? That has yet to be demonstrated.

(R) ... and you've made up weird, illogical philosophical maxims.
(MB) Sorry, I don't make up the rules of logic. They're not "weird" simply because they don't support what you choose to believe.

But, there is an important question to be answered. If you can't help answer it in your favor, then we must fall back to the default position that there is no question to be answered (i.e., there is no God about whom to debate).
(R) Do you mean the question, "Does God exist?" It can't be answered. You're gonna have to explain to me why this means there is no question and therefore, no God.
(MB) In other words, if an idea can't be supported, then, for all practical purposes, the idea could just as well not even exist. One might as well be trying to defend "Harvey".

So, to paraphrase a popular admonition, it's time to either preach or get off the pulpit.
(R) Also, I don't understand the last sentence. Could you clarify it?
(MB) Either support the position or have no more to say about it. "Shit or get off the pot".

Fair enough. After all, I've asked the same thing of you and your beliefs, correct? Here goes... Every physical object we have examined so far, without exception, is comprised of varying combinations drawn from a limited set of the same basic building blocks (i.e., sub-atomic particles). We understand the properties of these particles and understand how they interact and combine with each other to produce atoms, how atoms combine to create molecules, and how molecules combine to create macroscopic objects. There is nothing we have yet discovered that it is so unusual that we have no choice but to conclude that it could only have been created through the intervention of a supernatural force. This includes the species of living being we call Homo sapiens. Because there is nothing unusual about the Earth or anything on the Earth, we have no reason to believe that the rules which apply here do not also apply everywhere else -- and this has been shown to be true in every galaxy, star, or planet which we have been able to examine so far. Because there's nothing unique about the Earth and because there must be nearly-innumerable other planets in the universe, the probability that life exists on Earth and nowhere else in the universe must be so near to zero that there's no reason even to consider such a thing. Now, what about this is "faith" with no evidence to support it?
(R) You have said absolutely nothing which proves your beliefs are true.
(MB) Oh, please! Is that the best you can do? Just poo-poo everything I say with no rebuttal and keep on holding to your own beliefs? Show me just one thing that could not be as I have stated. Show me where my facts are in error. Cast some reasonable doubt. Don't just blow it all off and continue to claim that I "have presented no evidence".

(R) All you have done is describe physical phenomena which don't necessarily require supernatural intervention, but also do not preclude it.
(MB) How? If I show how something could have arisen without supernatural intervention, I have presented evidence in support for a positive position that such things exist. If you cannot show any evidence for anything that could only have arisen via supernatural intervention or if you cannot show where what I have offered is in error, then you have no basis for disputing it.

(R) You still are in precisely the same position as you were before: you believe something, despite a lack of conclusive evidence which proves it to be true.
(MB) I'm in the same position, but it's not the one you claim for me. You are also in the same position -- holding a positive position and providing absolutely nothing (whether or not it would help prove the point) to support it.

(R) I haven't looked up the definition of faith yet. Shall I?
(MB) Go for it! In fact, let me save you the trouble. Definition #1 is: "Belief without evidence". That's what you have. Definition #2 is: "Confidence; trust". That's what science has because it is based on having evidence to support it.

(R) A few years back, I read a short story written by Issac Asimov, entitled "The Darwinian Pool Table." A synopsis follows: Everyone knows you can strike a cue ball with a cue stick in such a way as to cause it to propel another ball into one of the pockets on a pool table. Sometimes, it is even possible to sink two balls at once. I have even seen expert players sink up to six balls at once. It is theoretically possible to sink all 15 pool balls at once. You'd probably have to make the balls and the pool table of sturdier material than normal, and use some sort of machine, instead of a cue stick, to launch the cue ball on its initial path. You'd also probably have to use a computer to calculate the proper positions for the balls and the correct angle and speed to launch the cue ball. But it could be done. Now, if it can be done with 15 balls, why not 100? Or 1000? Or, given infinite wisdom and power, billions? If you consider the universe as an infinite pool table, and the Big Bang as the initial " break" of the pool balls, this provides a perfectly reasonable construct of how God might have set our universe in motion. Once again, let me emphasize that this in no way proves God exists. But it does make it apparent it is perfectly plausible for him to exist. Just as plausible as what you believe--indeed, I think it is a great deal more plausible.
(MB) Why is this "a great deal more plausible"? Because you don't understand mathematical probabilities? Because you are unaware of the scientific theories (such as quantum mechanics, superstrings, and chaotic inflation) that describe how the same thing can occur in a natural and understandable way?
    By the way, Asimov also wrote a superb short story called "The Last Question" in which the stunning climax hints that God is actually an all-powerful supercomputer that is the sole survivor of a past incarnation of the universe. Great story, but hardly a basis for a belief that becomes the focal point of one's life.

(R) My religious beliefs are no more special than anyone else's, as I've said before. Neither are they any less special.
(MB) So, are competing religious beliefs "right" or "wrong"? They certainly can't all be true.

Out of curiosity, what word or term would you use in place of "religion" to describe belief in or worship of a deity that would differentiate that belief methodology from mine? It makes no sense to attempt to label both with the same word.
(R) That's easy. I would call it Christianity, or Buddhism, or Islam, or any of several dozen other names. Or perhaps, atheism?
(MB) You are identifying separate religious disciplines much as the terms "chemistry", "physics", and "biology" define different scientific disciplines.

My emotional needs are served by the intellectual knowledge that I'm not believing in unsupported superstition.
(R) I think there are other emotional needs filled by your beliefs, including some which you may not even be aware of.
(MB) Such as?

(R) Also, belief in God is not an insupportable superstition.
(MB) It has been that way so far during this discussion. Are you about to change that?

What possible intellectual needs can your beliefs fulfill? They certainly don't describe anything in the universe accurately.
(R) I've already described the intellectual needs my belief in God fill. My beliefs provide me a picture of the natural universe which is at least as accurate and logical as your own.
(MB) Surely you jest. The Bible certainly has no scientific validity in the creation stories it tells. In fact, it is full of contradictions and errors. Sorry, but if that fills your intellectual needs, they must be rather slim.

(R) So, let's return to my final question to Joe. What do you think his answer would be? I submit it would be, "Neither".
(MB) I submit that you would refuse even to participate in the experiment out of fear of his eventual and inevitable answer that he would believe the scientific person.

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