Friday, August 03, 2007

A meta-post on Atheism, Agnosticism and Faith.

I've been having another discussion/debate on another forum and felt like sharing some of the exchanges. All quotes are written by myself unless otherwise specified.

This was written as part of an ongoing debate on a forum and is simply copied from there verbatim, so the language used may reflect that.
Justifying the existence of God by saying that the Universe requires a creator is nothing more than creating a problem in order to find something for your "solution" to solve. And your solution is to create something necessarily even more complex than the universe to create it. Which would then require an even more complex creator, ad infinitum of increasing complexity.

It's simple to say that the Christian God simply does not and cannot exist. And even the God of the "The universe requires a creator" cannot logically exist. And if the universe could just spring into being, or have always been in some form or another, then there is no requirement for a God, and no reason to create an infinitely more improbable and complex "God" to fit a problem that doesn't necessarily exist in the first place.

"That which can be claimed without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence." and as I've said before, we have a hell of a lot of evidence that says that God doesn't exist. And frankly your excuse is rather simple minded and childish.

Calling something like that "God" implies that you have a need to have some "god" figure, so you're willing to call anything "god" just to fill some gap in your brain so you can feel comfortable. You're absolutely inventing something out of thin air without even the "benefit" of a bunch of other people's shared wishful thinking. Just your own over active (and sadly off kilter) imagination.

Just because something is here doesn't mean it required a creator. A rock lying in the street didn't need a creator. Natural forces create all kinds of things around us. Sand dunes, mountain ranges, forests, entire planets formed from the naturally occurring physical forces of the universe. Gravity, atomic attraction, atomic reactions etc.

As it's said "we are all made of stars". Everything you see around you today was once a part of a star. All the complex elements etc.

Just because you might not yet know the answer to something, doesn't mean that you can come up with some utterly improbable or downright impossible reason off the top of your head and think that makes your idea somehow valid or even plausible.

That's the funny thing about this universe and this world we live in. There are certain physical laws and natural rules that govern everything around us. You can't physically be both where you're sitting right now and sitting here at the table with me. 5 is not equal to 0. If you walk outside and toss an apple into the air, it is going to fall back to the ground, unless you physically tie a balloon full of hot air or helium or hydrogen or something to it to counteract that very real force of gravity.

In reality those forces have to be taken into account and they are on a daily basis. You don't drive your car into a tree at 70 miles per hour because it's going to smash it horribly and those very real physical forces have a good chance of killing you. Wishful thinking doesn't make them go away.

In a nutshell, if the universe requires a creator, so does God, which creates an infinitely more complex recursion (which is even more improbable than the universe just springing into being, for the record). If God doesn't require a creator, then neither does the universe, negating the need for God in the first place. So God is impossible and irrelevant either way.

Atheism. From it's Greek roots simply means "without theism". A lack of religious belief, or even active disbelief. It doesn't denote the "evil" tones that Christians would like it to. It simply means you know enough to make a rational, logical and informed decision not to believe in absolutely unprovable and impossible fairytales that cannot ever, by their very nature, be proven or disproven because they simply do not exist. They are figments of the human mind, created by simple minded and ignorant people to assuage their fears of the unknown.
M.I.N.A.S. said:
and the fact still remains that stars wouldn't exist without some sort form of creation. A world of -completely nothing- is unimaginable by the human mind. You can just picture a huge white space...but the problem there is that a world of completely nothing wouldn't even have black or white colors. Colors wouldn't exist either. It's something beyond human comprehension.
And that justifies your impossible and childish "god" "answer" how? :)

Just because you can't understand the real reason for something yet, doesn't make your made up fairytale answer correct by any stretch of the imagination.

The problem here is with the definition of "creation". Stars were produced as a result of physical forces after the Big Bang. And right now scientists are working on what preceded the Big Bang.

Just as our knowledge has moved from the primitive and ignorant explanation of a father figure that created the universe, and life specifically as we know it, meaning cows, pigs, sheep, birds and us, in 7 days, around 6,000 years ago... to the modern understanding of actual cosmology, astrophysical forces etc that enables us to ascertain the actual age of the universe and the bodies within it etc... which led to our understanding of the Big Bang... so does science continue to progress and broaden our knowledge to the point where in the future we should have an even greater understanding.

We now understand the actual age of our planet and the vast array of life that has evolved here over the course of millions of years... long before cows and sheep of the bible's creator. The life that the primitive and ignorant authors of the bible did not, and likely could not have, known about. They wrote their fairytale explanation based on what they saw around them and their incredibly limited understanding of the world around them, much less the workings of the "heavens" above them.

The solution is not found in clinging to utterly unprovable and impossible ancient fairytale explanations, but instead on actual scientific and empirical studies. Ignorance of science is in no way proof of primitive superstitions.

If you contrast what we know today with what we knew then, you get an idea of how far we've come, and how far we can still go in our understanding. That should be our noble goal. Not wallowing in the ignorant superstitions of the past.
M.I.N.A.S. said:
It's a metaphor. I even stated I was just using that as an example so I could get the point across. I hardly consider the big bang a legitimate answer to the existence of either life nor matter.
It's the best answer we have right now. :) A hell of a lot better than using primitive metaphors for men in the clouds.

And what point do you think you were getting across? You haven't made a valid point yet.

What you've tried to describe so far could only by stretching even be called deism at best and certainly not theism. Aside from the fact that I've already shown how incorrect your assertions are even on that front.

Even Einstein who made figures of speech about God was expressly non-religious and resented having his words taken out of context.
The more a man is imbued with the ordered regularity of all events the firmer becomes his conviction that there is no room left by the side of this ordered regularity for causes of a different nature. For him neither the rule of human nor the rule of divine will exists as an independent cause of natural events. To be sure, the doctrine of a personal God interfering with natural events could never be refuted, in the real sense, by science, for this doctrine can always take refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet been able to set foot.

But I am convinced that such behavior on the part of representatives of religion would not only be unworthy but also fatal. For a doctrine which is to maintain itself not in clear light but only in the dark, will of necessity lose its effect on mankind, with incalculable harm to human progress. In their struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast power in the hands of priests. In their labors they will have to avail themselves of those forces which are capable of cultivating the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in humanity itself. This is, to be sure, a more difficult but an incomparably more worthy task... --Albert Einstein
It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it. --Albert Einstein
I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it. --Albert Einstein
As I believe I said in the beginning... Agnosticism is nothing more than the juvenile form of Atheism. As you grow to understand the reality you live in, and the facts involved... your primitive supernatural idea of God becomes a veritable impossibility.

If you understand medicine, how it works etc... you don't continue to call it magic. You have grown beyond the primitive wonder at something which you did not understand and hence ascribed to it a supernatural power.

The same goes for the world we live in and the universe we live in. When you grow to understand these things, you no longer need to use ignorant and primitive language to describe it.... you simply call it what it is and address the unknown as the unknown, but only in the context of all that you do know to be factual. You take a holistic view of the body of human and scientific knowledge and see that such primitive notions have no place in an educated, rational mind.

Childish metaphors are for children who cannot understand or speak of the reality of things. The Stork for child birth for instance... when you grow up you forget that childish explanation for the wonder of pregnancy and birth. You speak of it in educated terms. So it should be for your childish metaphor of the birth of life and everything as we know it.


Anonymous said...

This is on Shoosh too but I figured the more responses and critics the better.

There is no reason why God, like the universe, can’t have existed forever. If the universe has not existed forever (has some start date) then why can’t God be the creator of that universe? “There is no requirement for a God,” yes, but there also is no reason why there cannot be a God.

If the universe has some start point then that starting point, or what caused it, would be considered God. It may or may not have “intelligence,” but the religious assume that it does and they call him God. Since we don’t scientifically know the origins of our universe we really can’t say either way (at least for the time being, but we may never know).

Our scope of knowledge in the creation of the universe is minimal, at best. There are many “theories” but very little scientifically indisputable support to back them. This is much different than our knowledge regarding electricity and magnetism where we have significantly more reproducible experiments to back their claims. Therefore making assertions that God can or can’t exist either through logic or our current, limited scientific knowledge about the beginnings of the universe is far too bold of a claim.

You are correct when you say religious people use God to fill the gaps that science has not. However, you repeatedly claim certain “gaps” have been filled in by stating weak scientific theories, such as the Big-Bang, as indisputable evidence when these theories are in-fact questionable and far from being the “gap” fillers you claim. Coincidentally, most religious text and guidelines are written in such abstract terms that can accommodate most, if not all, scientific discovery (some better than others). For example, some religious scholars argue that the Earth can only be about 6000 years old by using Genesis. Perhaps they are right, and God made everything look like it was billions of years old and he hid dinosaur bones and Neanderthals in the ground just to confuse the hell out of us. That seems a tad-bit outrageous. A more reasonable and much simpler explanation (thank you Occam’s razor) is that the Earth is much older than 6000 years old. Luckily for the religious scholars, Genesis never explicitly states how old the earth is. This is one of the perks of well written religious texts, ambiguity. Which leads me to my next point, how can anyone prove God’s existence?

The only evidence available of Gods existence is witness accounts. The overall problem is that if a God does exist, how would you ever prove it? There is no scientific test for a God. There is no way to prove if God visited someone or did something. He doesn’t leave behind a toll-free number or a business card. Maybe he caused a flood, maybe it was natural phenomenon. Perhaps God has visited people--perhaps the people claiming to have been visited by God were lying, mentally ill, dreaming, or on drugs. As it stands the only proof of God is the people that claim to be visited by him or witnessed his acts.

What is important to realize is if you believe “witness accounts” of God then you can begin fleshing out God’s personality, mentality, and motivations from his actions. This is why there are so many different religions. Every religion has different witness encounters with God. Every religion varies on which encounters they believe and which ones are more important than others. However, just because a certain religion is found to have a verifiably wrong encounter with God, does not mean their entire religious beliefs are wrong (though it should cast some doubts). This is the same for science, just because one scientist falsifies or fails on work relating to stem-cell research, does not mean that all stem-cell research is entirely fraudulent and useless.

With this said, belief in God and belief in religion are two different things. Belief in religion requires a belief in God, but a belief in God does not require a belief in a particular religion. Thus, you can be entirely scientific and believe in God, you just have no idea about his “personality” and motivations, unless you believe in a religion’s witness encounters or have had your own encounter. (Kant and Hume have some very good things to say regarding this subject:

Atheism, however, means you believe that God does not exist. It has nothing to do of why you believe God doesn’t exist. It is complete denial of the possibility of any God, or God-like entity. Science has not filled in all the gaps of knowledge so to say that there is no possibility that God exists is just as outrageous as saying that you are certain he does exist.

Agnostic is more of the grey area in between religious and atheist. Simply put, Agnostics “don’t know yet and may never know” They see evidence both ways but due to a lack of knowledge withhold jumping to conclusions by not claiming certainty one way or another. In, other words, “the only thing I know for sure is that I don’t know…at least for the moment.” (I would claim that many atheists are more agnostic than they think they are) So can’t we use science to prove God doesn’t exist?

One thing you must understand about science is that it is based on experimentation. Therefore, the only way scientific findings are ever irrefutable is if you perform the experiment an infinite amount of times. A good example is flipping a coin.

If I flip a coin 1 million times it should land on heads approximately half the time. However, I could flip the coin 1 million times and it always lands on heads, I would then conclude that this coin will always land on heads no matter how many times I flip it.

Though this problem seems trivial by deductive reasoning, imagine this same experiment occurring in a black-box environment. For example, instead of flipping a coin yourself, someone else flips a coin and places it in a box. You open the box and write down what side of the coin is up. You don’t see the man flip the coin. All you know is that there is a coin in the box and you must write down what side of the coin is up. By this process you could very well conclude that the coin in the box will always be “heads.” This is the problem with experimentation; it is limited by the scope of knowledge of an experiment as well as the number of trials. What scientists do to avoid such a problem is to make the assumptions from previous experiments and try to understand the system as a whole, while at the same time, understanding the possibility of error that accompanies such assumptions. Overall, scientific discovery is a slow process, but it is getting faster by the day. But new discoveries often turn previously known “truths” upside down. Remember it was scientifically believed that many things were impossible: traveling around the world, breaking the sound barrier, traveling to space and the moon.

The only thing we know without a shadow of a doubt is that “I think therefore I am,” but we can make assumptions based on experimentation to move cautiously past such limitations. Hence, if you walk outside and toss an apple into the air, through experience, you know it is probably going to fall back to the ground. BUT we must always remember when we are making assumptions (especially when dealing with unknown and uncharted scientific areas such as space and time) so we do not claim certainty (i.e God cannot possible exist) when such clear uncertainty exists.

JStressman said...

In short, it is very easy to illustrate why the notion of God is so improbable as to be impossible, and simply outright impossible in most regards. "God" is simply an ambiguous label for the "unknown", and I also illustrated in-depth why it was a ridiculous notion.

Perhaps you should go read and try paying attention. Obviously you didn't comprehend what I wrote or you wouldn't be making "arguments" that I already rendered moot.

Not to mention the whole idea of science further relegating "God" to the increasingly smaller realm of the unknown in and of itself is another proof of the superiority of science over the absolutely unprovable and utterly devoid of evidence belief in God.

To imply that they are even remotely on equal ground in terms of plausibility is outright stupidity on your part.

Agnosticism is simply being too ignorant and/or stupid to understand that fact.

So again, go back and read what I wrote and try paying attention this time. Your argument is moot. (I get a little miffed when people try to argue against something I wrote when it's obvious that they either didn't even read what I wrote, or were too stupid to comprehend it.)

Anonymous said...

Tell me which wheel you re-invented (which argument) and we'll continue from there:

PS Consider this:

a) No one understands your writing because others are too stupid to comprehend it (which you repeatedly claim).

b) Your writing is not as sound and concise as you think it to be.