Playing With Theists

I’m sure many of you can do better. Go have some fun – and ignore the negative proof mumbo jumbo.

Every so often I like to see how far one of my fundamental beliefs can be stretched by intelligent opposition. Today I want you to try to convince me there is no God

Of all the logical fallacies we’ve experienced in humanity, I think “Prove to me God doesn’t exist” has been, by far, the most egregious, not to mention the most bloody. But hey, it’s been an interesting debate, and it’s made a lot of people really rich! Not that rich pastors prove anything about a god. Well, except that if you think of him as a boss, he’s batting just about 0 – .**

(** at least for those he decides are to be his public face.)






162 replies
  1. 1
    Bombadil says:

    Why do theists demand proof that God doesn’t exist, but balk at providing proof that God does exist?

    I do not believe God exists. I have no proof — it’s a matter of faith.

  2. 2
    Zifnab says:

    Every so often I like to see how far one of my fundamental beliefs can be stretched by intelligent opposition. Today I want you to try to convince me there is no God

    If there were a God, you’d have been struck by lightning by now. QED.

  3. 3
    BIRDZILLA says:

    Igorant atheists evolutionist like RICHARD DAWKINS can blabber all he like about his poppycock bull poo but he is very ignorant on where humans came from but all he can prove is his own stupididy

  4. 4
    Andrew says:

    Faith is not the correct work to use. It sets you up for the argument that your atheism is just another religion. The correct thing to say is that you have no proof, but you are certain to a high degree of probability.

    Just like you need no faith to believe that there are no unicorns, you only need to understand the unlikeliness of their existence.

  5. 5
    Third Eye Open says:

    When in doubt, I like to refer to the book of Homer: “Can God heat a burrito so hot that he can’t eat it?”

  6. 6
    Bombadil says:

    Just like you need no faith to believe that there are no unicorns, you only need to understand the unlikeliness of their existence.

    Wait — are you saying there are no unicorns?

  7. 7
    Michael D. says:

    Just like you need no faith to believe that there are no unicorns, you only need to understand the unlikeliness of their existence.

    Don’t. Go. There! :-)

  8. 8
    Bombadil says:

    Andrew Says:

    Faith is not the correct work to use. It sets you up for the argument that your atheism is just another religion.

    And, yeah, that’s kind of why I used the word in the first place.

  9. 9
    cleek says:

    I do not believe God exists. I have no proof—it’s a matter of faith.

    maybe for you. not for me.

    it would take faith for me to believe in something super-natural. it takes no faith at all to believe nature is all that there is.

  10. 10
    norbizness says:

    Well, I don’t know about Earthly unicorns, but the pink unicorn on the perpetually dark side of Triton is definitely real and speaking to me on a daily basis. Ask any questions about the P.U.T. and they shall be answered by me yelling about you being a heretic.

  11. 11
    jenniebee says:

    If it isn’t human nature to believe in a God, whether or not one actually exists, then we are forced by rational, logical deduction, to declare that the preponderance of humans throughout human history have behaved unnaturally. This is obviously incorrect, unless we are willing to radically redefine what is “natural” and what is not. The urge to anthropomorphocize is a survival mechanism writ into our bones; that this urge is expressed in the creation of a human-like will as a driving force behind natural phenomena is no more surprising than when the urge is expressed in smaller convictions – like, say, that your dog loves you. If the one is subject to mockery, so ought the other to be.

    Your dog doesn’t love you, Michael. It’s time to come to more rational grips with life than to believe that she does.

  12. 12
    Bombadil says:

    Your dog doesn’t love you, Michael. It’s time to come to more rational grips with life than to believe that she does.

    Wow — first they come for the unicorns, next they come for the puppies.

  13. 13
    Michael D. says:

    If it isn’t human nature to believe in a God, whether or not one actually exists, then we are forced by rational, logical deduction, to declare that the preponderance of humans throughout human history have behaved unnaturally. This is obviously incorrect…

    Religion isn’t any more natural than any chosen behavior. The reason religion prevailed throughout history is because humans, for hundreds of thousands of years, had no other way to explain what they did not understand.

    Religion therefore, is no more natural than science. Both are learned behaviors. Science can offer empirical, testable explanations, whereas religion cannot.

  14. 14
    Michael D. says:

    Your dog doesn’t love you, Michael.

    I actually agree with you. She knows where the food, wrestling, and belly rubs are though, and if I choose to irrationally believe that’s love, then so be it. I’m fine with that.

    But your fallacy is that you are equating emotion (feelings) with the existence of a divine being. I can prove that the feeling of “love” is the result of a chemical reaction in the brain (if I had that sort of education.)

    And, by the way, my dog certainly seems so like being around me. It makes her feel good when I come home, for example.

  15. 15
    Sstarr says:

    Proof that there is not God?

    Hot Pockets. Dancing With the Stars. Carrot Top.

    Though they could all be proof that there is a God who doesn’t like us very much, I suppose.

  16. 16
    altheia says:

    Why is it simply a given that there IS a god? The burden of proof lies with the individual advancing the proposition that there IS a god. Once sufficient evidence for that proposition exists (actual evidence, as opposed to opinion, even mass opinion across millennia), then the burden of disproof lies with the other point of view. No one has ever proved that there IS a god, except by philosophical abstraction. Until that proof is presented, there is no need to disprove the existence of a god.

  17. 17
    capelza says:

    Playing with Theists brings to mind that commercial?Messin’ with Sasquatch”…

    Anyhoo..I ain’t going there, but I did steal one tiny exchange someone had posted awhile back…from Fark I think..(maybe I stole it from someone here or SN..apologies if I did)

    Anti-evolutionist: To actually believe that every living thing came from the same point of origin is beyond delusional.

    Evolutionist: You mean like “God did it”?

  18. 18
    Dreggas says:

    jenniebee,

    Actually Humans are acting naturally when it comes to religion, however not because it is human nature to believe in a creator of some sort, rather because we are a community animal we tend to follow what leaders do and thus base our beliefs on what those leaders say.

    From youth we are taught to do as we’re told, follow what our parents say, etc. This spills over into religious beliefs. Those less prone to “following” tend to question those beliefs more readily than you or I might.

    Therefore while it is human nature to learn and follow, as well as adapt to the “herd” it is not human nature to believe in some deity, necessarily.

  19. 19
    Dreggas says:

    capelza Says:

    Playing with Theists brings to mind that commercial?Messin’ with Sasquatch”…

    I had just come back to ask if the “Playing with Theists” reminded anyone of “Messing With Sasquatch”.

  20. 20
    jenniebee says:

    Religion therefore, is no more natural than science. Both are learned behaviors.

    Science is a learned behavior? Science is a behavior? Is math a behavior now too, or is that still a field of study?

    Leaving that one aside for now, you’re falling for the fallacy that has been pushed by western religious fundamentalists since the Inquisition that says that belief in a god is incompatible with scientific inquiry. Since thousands of scientists have not found religious beliefs to be an impediment to their scholarly pursuits, I think we can stipulate that this is not so.

    And even if one were to go to a logical extreme and state that because science seeks to find non-supernatural explanations for natural phenomena, it follows that there is no place for the supernatural even outside of what may be explained naturally, that still wouldn’t mean that the one absolutely invalidates the other as a belief system because humans are perfectly able to reconcile mutually contradictory and otherwise ridiculous belief systems quite comfortably without showing any more absurd symptoms than, say, subscribing to libertarianism.

  21. 21
  22. 22
    Seanly says:

    Short answer to jenniebee: Umm, wtf was that? I think the answer is no.

    If there was a God, norbizness would be struck down for continuing to tease us with providing a link to his homepage. Ya think maybe he’s posting again only to go there & find a Wii bowling vid.

  23. 23
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    I cannot convince someone that God doesn’t exist; that’s impossible.

    What I can do is argue that God isn’t necessary; that questions of origins, ethics, and morality can be answered without resorting to God.

  24. 24
    LITBMueller says:

    Today I want you to try to convince me there is no God

    George W. Bush is President of the United States of America.

    What do I win? A Wal Mart gift certificate?

  25. 25
    jenniebee says:

    Actually Humans are acting naturally when it comes to religion, however not because it is human nature to believe in a creator of some sort, rather because we are a community animal we tend to follow what leaders do and thus base our beliefs on what those leaders say.

    That’s a pretty bleak view of human intellect you have there, Dreggas (not to say that it isn’t true, up to a point, but it’s bleak).

    Unfortunately, it assumes a Great Man interpretation of history. You’d have to believe that Medicine Men appear in every tribe because they’ve all figured out an angle. Occam’s Razor and humanity’s instinctive and pervasive anthrocentrism (we see a man in the moon, in clouds…) I think lean my way on this one. If there was no god, we would have to invent him.

  26. 26
    cleek says:

    I cannot convince someone that God doesn’t exist; that’s impossible.

    primarily because the (necessarily illogical) definition of God puts it outside the realm of logic.

    if you define the problem such that it can’t be solved… surprise! it can’t be solved.

  27. 27
    Dreggas says:

    jenniebee Says:

    Religion therefore, is no more natural than science. Both are learned behaviors.

    Science is a learned behavior? Science is a behavior? Is math a behavior now too, or is that still a field of study?

    That had me scratching my head since science is still a field of study and math is a science LOL. Faith and belief in the purple spaghetti monster, on the other hand, are learned behaviors.

  28. 28
    Andrew says:

    Your dog doesn’t love you, Michael. It’s time to come to more rational grips with life than to believe that she does.

    I actually agree with you. She knows where the food, wrestling, and belly rubs are though, and if I choose to irrationally believe that’s love, then so be it. I’m fine with that.

    I think you’re both wrong. I bet Michael’s dog loves him very much. He probably wants to protect Michael, play with him, and just being around him. That’s pretty much what humans do with their loves ones. It’s not necessarily completely rational in either case: a dog or a person might die to protect their family. If you argue that a dog’s behavior is just instinct, then so is the human’s. Dogs exhibit agape, the highest form of classical love.

  29. 29
    Andrew says:

    Oh, and I far more faith in my dog than I do in god.

  30. 30
    Ugh says:

    If God is all powerful can he make a rock so big that he himself can’t lift it?

  31. 31
    Pb says:

    There had been a God, but he got consumed by the Flying Spaghetti Monster and his noodly appendages. Ramen.

    Seriously, though, even accepting the premise, Atheists have far fewer problems than Theists do here. First, they’d have to deal with monotheism vs. polytheism (and don’t even get me started on Christianity’s schizoid blending of the two, or the recognition of “other Gods” in the OT…). Then, once you’ve picked one, you’ve got to figure out the nature of the God(s) in question! Jehovah or Allah? Odin or Zeus? etc., etc.

    So, go fight over all that for a few thousand years, and the “no God” model might start looking pretty attractive, especially absent any evidence whatsoever of divine intervention in the meantime. Finally, there’s yet another option to consider–if there aren’t any Gods (or even if there are), are there still more possible spiritual models out there? Sure, there’s animism, reincarnation, the supernatural / paranormal, the occult, etc., etc. Feel like disproving any of those? Is Ungazigmit shamanism any more or less probable or falsifiable than Zoroastrianism, or West African Vodu? Inquiring minds want to know!

  32. 32
    Dreggas says:

    jenniebee Says:

    That’s a pretty bleak view of human intellect you have there, Dreggas (not to say that it isn’t true, up to a point, but it’s bleak).

    Unfortunately, it assumes a Great Man interpretation of history. You’d have to believe that Medicine Men appear in every tribe because they’ve all figured out an angle. Occam’s Razor and humanity’s instinctive and pervasive anthrocentrism (we see a man in the moon, in clouds…) I think lean my way on this one. If there was no god, we would have to invent him.

    Bleak but then again look at the past 6 years…

    Sarcasm aside, Yes if god did not exist then man would invent him. I also agree to some extent that god was nothing more than a SATSQ writ large for primitive man. That is, there is lightning it is the thunder god. All religion either mono, or poly, traces its roots to this.

    However a religion, lacking followers, tends to die. We have seen this happen in many instance throughout history. Indeed we only know of ancient religions such as that of the greeks, romans, and egyptians due to history, or at least what history the church did not manage to destroy.

    Now when talking of the “Great Man” interpretation of history, and the history of religion specifically it is, though cynical, quite plausible that the shamans were doing nothing more than selling snake oil from the get go. If one looks at various religions over time, through to the present day, they are wielded by men to exert control and power over other men for both good and ill. What is to say that the initial idea of religion was not to do the same?

    Given enough time, and a lack of knowledge of natural processes it is no wonder religion did take root, and no wonder that it has been used ever since to further advance power of one kind or another, little of it being “spiritual”.

  33. 33
    Perry Como says:

    Well, I don’t know about Earthly unicorns, but the pink unicorn on the perpetually dark side of Triton is definitely real and speaking to me on a daily basis. Ask any questions about the P.U.T. and they shall be answered by me yelling about you being a heretic.

    HEATHEN! Everyone of the one TRUE faith KNOWS that the Pink Unicorn (may His sparkles bless us) is on the dark side of the moon.

  34. 34
    jake says:

    Playing with Theists brings to mind that commercial?Messin’ with Sasquatch”…

    Thank God you said that, I thought I was having a huge geek attack.

    As for the existence or non-existence of God, or belief or lack of belief or complete rejection of the concept God. I have only this to say:

    That’s interesting, just don’t use your conclusions as an excuse to fuck with me.

    Thank you.

  35. 35
    Dreggas says:

    Oh and why does this not have a gratuitous youtube clip of The God Warrior!

  36. 36
    jcricket says:

    Oh and why does this not have a gratuitous youtube clip of The God Warrior!

    DORK-SIDED! DORK-SIDED!

  37. 37
    Circe says:

    Fools! Embrace Polytheism now! you’re guaranteed a better limbo performance and arts’n’crafts skills!

  38. 38
    Dreggas says:

    jcricket Says:

    Oh and why does this not have a gratuitous youtube clip of The God Warrior!

    DORK-SIDED! DORK-SIDED!

    Oh please! You know this was just begging for it!

  39. 39
    canuckistani says:

    If it isn’t human nature to believe in a God, whether or not one actually exists, then we are forced by rational, logical deduction, to declare that the preponderance of humans throughout human history have behaved unnaturally. This is obviously incorrect, unless we are willing to radically redefine what is “natural” and what is not. The urge to anthropomorphocize is a survival mechanism writ into our bones; that this urge is expressed in the creation of a human-like will as a driving force behind natural phenomena is no more surprising than when the urge is expressed in smaller convictions – like, say, that your dog loves you. If the one is subject to mockery, so ought the other to be.

    It may well be human nature to believe in a god, but that is no evidence that any gods actually exist. Having never seen any evidence of the supernatural, I will not believe in it until I do see evidence. If people are claiming that an invisible man in the sky loves them so much that he will torture them forever for failing to worship him, well, I think the burden of proof is on them.

    On the other hand, Michael has some evidence that his dog loves him, or can at least fake it convincingly. Not that I object to mocking him and his god/dog on general principles…

  40. 40
    Dreggas says:

    Circe Says:

    Fools! Embrace Polytheism now! you’re guaranteed a better limbo performance and arts’n’crafts skills!

    And just think, multiple deities means multiple Holidays, think of all the time off you will get!

  41. 41
    jenniebee says:

    What is to say that the initial idea of religion was not to do the same?

    But if people are sheeple looking for authority figures, why would shaman need any authority other than their own to cow people into submission?

    Put another way, while it is probable that a person believes in a specific supernatural myth because that is the one that an authority figure told him, that doesn’t explain why people regularly seek out a new mythos when the old one is no longer reconcilable with what they observe to be true.

  42. 42
    Punchy says:

    Too many damn Andrews on this fucking blog. Where the hell’d the funny one go to?

    /slams fist on table

  43. 43
    jcricket says:

    Oh please! You know this was just begging for it!

    I do love that right after the whole rant, with the check ripping, they put the text on the screen about her eventually relenting (uh-huh) and giving the money out as intended. Money talks, indeed.

    Do you want to know the sad thing, though? I never watch that show (I watch lots of other trash on TV, though) except that I caught that episode when it was being aired. Totally made me crack up/freak out.

  44. 44
    jcricket says:

    And just think, multiple deities means multiple Holidays, think of all the time off you will get!

    You know you’re a parent when all you think about, instead, is the presents your kids will demand.

    “Where’s my Pastafarian Passover cookies?”

  45. 45
    Cyrus says:

    If it isn’t human nature to believe in a God, whether or not one actually exists, then we are forced by rational, logical deduction, to declare that the preponderance of humans throughout human history have behaved unnaturally. This is obviously incorrect, unless we are willing to radically redefine what is “natural” and what is not.

    First of all, you’re the first person so far to use the words “nature” and “natural.” All you have proven is that your chosen definitions of them do, indeed, need to be radically redefined. For example, the same could be said of wearing clothes. (For definitions of “preponderance” and “history” that aren’t quite as comprehensive as yours, but still would fall well within casual usage.)

    Secondly, OK, so most people have behaved unnaturally. So what? Even in your context, if “behaved unnaturally” includes all examples of everything that’s called belief “in a God,” it doesn’t mean anything more specific than “sometimes held beliefs based on inadequate evidence in the existence of nonhuman intelligence.” Just because peoples’ tendency to anthropomorphize has probably created a belief in supernatural entities, what does that mean? It doesn’t mean such entities exist, and it certainly doesn’t mean we should agree with such people or give equal time to what they say the supernatural being wants them to do. You very probably didn’t mean either of those, but what did you mean?

    To be fair, there was a pretty big problem with the original post too.

    Of all the logical fallacies we’ve experienced in humanity, I think “Prove to me God doesn’t exist” has been, by far, the most egregious, not to mention the most bloody.

    The bloody wars or episodes of persecution you’re probably thinking of have usually if not always been over whose god is bigger or better, not one side saying “God doesn’t exist” and another side killing them for it. I’m one of the first people to say that religious groups have too much authority, but people being killed or even just persecuted for atheism is much rarer historically than for loyalty to the wrong god.

  46. 46
    Nylund says:

    Usually, in the US, the theists are Christian and since I know I can’t win the “there is no god” argument with them, I typically just mess with them and say that I do believe in God, its just that I don’t think Jesus was Lord. I then point out that a majority of the world agrees with that.

    The whole, “I believe in a A god, just not YOUR god,” really messes with them because what most of them are really trying to get you to say is that THEIR God is real.

    When they ask me which God I believe in, I just name one randomly from another religion. When they role their eyes, I ask them to prove to me that my God isn’t the right one. Thus, they are forced to argue the same unwinable debate they asked of me to begin with.

    This then usually proves that no one can really claim that their God is the correct one, including them. And, if out of all the variations of god out there, if none can be proven to exist, doesn’t that show that none exist?

    In other words, you could make a list of every single possible god, and systematically prove that there is no way that one is more real than the others, thus all must be real, or all must be unreal.

    If you get the, “well, all the gods are just variations of the one true god, so it doesn’t matter,” then ask if you can go to heaven for praying to the Flying Spaghetti Monster and ignoring Jesus. Usually they say no, which proves that all those gods are not just variations of a single idea, meaning each God is distinct, none of which can be proven any more existent than the other.

    It might not prove that there is NO god, but it will show that any particular god you choose to believe in is pretty much arbitrary and meaningless and if you are only rewarded for picking the right one, then you’d have a better chance of being hit by lightning.

    In fact, if humans can imagine an infinite amount of gods, and if you must pick only one, then your chances of picking the righ god becomes 1/infinity, and, 1/infinity equal zero, and if you have a zero percent chance of picking the right God, wouldn’t that mean that if it was impossible to pick the right god, there is no right god? So if there is no correct answer, can one even say that the answer even exists?

  47. 47

    anti-theists behaving badly

    Huh. New guy at Balloon Juice Michael D likes to pick on girls.

    Michael, as a reading comprehension public service I requote part of Willow’s post to you:

  48. 48
    jenniebee says:

    It may well be human nature to believe in a god, but that is no evidence that any gods actually exist.

    I never said that it was, only that it is grounds not to engage in a gleeful superiority-fest whenever we encounter someone who does believe in a god. Whether or not a god does exist, it is no less rational to believe in one as it is to engage in any other kind of anthropomorphic projection, like, for instance, believing that your dog loves you. It’s kind of nice to imagine that your dog loves you, just like it can be kind of nice to believe that there’s some consciousness in the universe and that we’re not just a bunch of random atoms and that our consciousness will not completely extinguish when we die. So why mock people who fill psychological needs by believing in a loving god and defend people who do the same by believing in a loving dog?

  49. 49

    my favorite God-debunking site is Why Dopes God Hate Amputees.

    My favorite segment asks why, if god is all-powerful and omnipotent, he doesn’t seem to know more than the primitive people who wrote the bible:
    ” When reading Leviticus 15, any normal human being asks questions like these:

    * Why didn’t God transcribe a useful medical guide into the Bible for these primitive people, rather than transcribing rituals that accomplish nothing?
    * Why doesn’t God explain how to manufacture antiseptic solutions, sterile dressings, tetanus vaccines and antibiotic creams?
    * Even better, why not explain how to build a Star Trek Tricorder to instantly heal the wound?
    * Even better, why didn’t God design the human immune system to prevent all infections in the first place and eliminate the discharges completely? Why would God intentionally inflict human beings with all of these different types of abnormal discharges?”

  50. 50
    Peter Johnson says:

    A bunch of liberals preaching atheism in a blog. Is that a stereotype or what?

  51. 51
    Dreggas says:

    jenniebee Says:

    But if people are sheeple looking for authority figures, why would shaman need any authority other than their own to cow people into submission?

    Picture it this way, you have someone who is an authority figure in power claiming extraordinary power and abilities, maybe even demonstrating a few parlour tricks then saying they have the backing of Deity X who is even more powerful and can see everything. Basically, saying “if I can beat you up, imagine what my big brother can do”. Combined with the power of persuasion and not a small amount of fear it was easy to win converts, initially.

    Put another way, while it is probable that a person believes in a specific supernatural myth because that is the one that an authority figure told him, that doesn’t explain why people regularly seek out a new mythos when the old one is no longer reconcilable with what they observe to be true.

    Having had a mythos for so long and it being so ingrained in society, people would naturally try and reconcile their mythos with what they observe or learn all the time. The reason this did not happen with other religions, such as those found in Europe, pre-rome and elsewhere was because of the manner in which religions like christianity were spread, namely at the point of the sword and through occupation.

    It is almost a safe bet to believe that Christianity may have died off or at most been a sect had it not been for its adoption as the state religion of Rome. As such it had the backing of an empire, and the swords to spread the faith.

  52. 52

    Back when I was an apatheist, I liked this quote from Stephen Roberts: “”I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one less god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss the rest of the gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

    Of course, I don’t use it anymore myself, since I’m a dirty filthy theist, but this is my gift to you all. Enjoy!

  53. 53
    Zifnab says:

    That had me scratching my head since science is still a field of study and math is a science LOL. Faith and belief in the purple spaghetti monster, on the other hand, are learned behaviors.

    That I’ll politely disagree with.

    Math is a learned behavior in the sense that – by and large – it is not something performed naturally or instinctively. While we may naturally act to quantify our surroundings, the study of math requires a certain amount of ingraining of thought process. You have to learn the base 10 system. Then you have to learn how these base 10 numbers interact with each other when combined and split. Geometry and Algebra skills don’t occur naturally – I’ve been a math tutor long enough to know that. And higher level concepts like Calculus and Numerical Analysis are so rooted in terminology and historical practice that two savants could easily discover the exact same high level concept and be unable to convey it to each other absent the historical backbone of pre-Cal.

    The difference between mathematical learned behavior and religious learned behavior is the different between doing a backflip and acquiring a nervous tick. But they’re both still routines of action – behaviors – and neither of them are the result of just being born that way.

  54. 54
    Evinfuilt says:

    Oh and why does this not have a gratuitous youtube clip of The God Warrior!

    That scared me. Not just her craziness, but the gap between the teeth you can’t stop looking at.

    She’s the type of person who can’t take responsibility for her own problems, and thus has embraced “religious fever” so to speak.

  55. 55
    jenniebee says:

    The bloody wars or episodes of persecution you’re probably thinking of have usually if not always been over whose god is bigger or better, not one side saying “God doesn’t exist” and another side killing them for it.

    Or because one group wants power, resources, authority, etc, and uses the imprimatur of religion to seize thrones, justify landgrabs or just to get a bored army on the move somewhere else. Religion has certainly been a common justification for bloodshed, but I can’t think of a single case in which there wasn’t an underlying material motivation behind a religious war or a domestic persecution.

    And when “invade their country and convert them all to Christianity” isn’t a fashionable war cry any more, “stop oppression, spread democracy and get the WMDs!!!” will do the job quite as well.

  56. 56
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    The whole, “I believe in a A god, just not YOUR god,” really messes with them because what most of them are really trying to get you to say is that THEIR God is real.

    Yeah, I like this one, too–it cuts straight through the bullshit and gets to the real point of inquiry. It also ties in nicely with “Think about why you have rejected the myriad other gods out there, and you will start to understand why I reject your god.” Or, more succinctly, “We both reject lots of gods; I just happen to reject one more than you do.”

  57. 57

    Bubblegum Tate, JINX!

  58. 58
    Dreggas says:

    Peter Johnson Says:

    A bunch of liberals preaching atheism in a blog. Is that a stereotype or what?

    A conservative with a first, and last name that are euphamism’s for being a dick…Is that stereotypical or what?

  59. 59
    canuckistani says:

    It’s kind of nice to imagine that your dog loves you, just like it can be kind of nice to believe that there’s some consciousness in the universe and that we’re not just a bunch of random atoms and that our consciousness will not completely extinguish when we die. So why mock people who fill psychological needs by believing in a loving god and defend people who do the same by believing in a loving dog?

    Well, maybe if Michael was trying to suppress the teaching of science in my children’s school, or demand dog prayers at the start of school, or prevent my gay friends from marrying, or prevent my cousin from obtaining an abortion, or denying me a tax exemption for supporting my common-law wife, or preventing access to condoms for AIDS sufferers, all because his dog demands this to show his love, then there would be an equivalence. But if religious people are going to make the world a worse place to meet the demands of their invisible friend, damned right I’m going to push back, and the mockery shall not be stinted.

  60. 60
    Xanthippas says:

    “Scientism and religion are brothers in intent; they have just chosen different roads. Both are evasions.”

    Bull. The argument that science is some sort of “dogma” to be adhered to is silly; science is by definition the exact opposite. That scientists can be dogmatic is true, but the belief in the power of science to explain the world where faith and superstition cannot is rationality, and is not a matter to be taken on faith. Science and religion are not opposite sides of the same coin; they are anathema to each other.

  61. 61
    RSA says:

    Even better, why not explain how to build a Star Trek Tricorder to instantly heal the wound?

    You poor, unenlightened atheist–tricorders are only diagnostic devices.

  62. 62
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    Bubblegum Tate, JINX!

    Dammit! I owe you a Coke.

  63. 63
    jc says:

    One day, there will be an atheist argument that encompasses the following two facts, without doing those facts an injustice.

    a. It is common throughout history, to have “spiritual”, or sacred, or mystical experiences. Most of which are the most meaningful experiences that people are reported to have.

    b. The nature of existence – that it is coherent, that the laws work to actually HAVE a universe, rather than not. When looked at from a mathematical perspective (all the constants of the physical universe have to be JUST SO, and not even a tiny tiny bit off), is incredibly unlikely, in combination. Like throwing heads with a coin, a billion times in a row.

    We are surrounded by the miraculous, in the ongoing endurance and persistence of the space-time continuum.

    But we take it for granted, as fish swimming in water.

    Now, what TYPE of higher order is reflected? Certainly not the limited judeo-christian god.

    But it is a leap of faith to simply assume that all of this order, and this creation just happened ‘by chance’, when most other examples of a coherent, persistent system, didn’t just happen by chance.

  64. 64
    Punchy says:

    Whether or not a god does exist, it is no less rational to believe in one as it is to engage in any other kind of anthropomorphic projection, like, for instance, believing that your dog loves you. It’s kind of nice to imagine that your dog loves you, just like it can be kind of nice to believe that there’s some consciousness in the universe

    Not sure these are similar. I don’t have to really imagine my dog loves me, as I can see actual, real, visual clues that s/he does. God, however, has never been seen, felt, or heard from. No actual clues at all.

    Unless my dog is actually….GOD! Wait, I think I’m on to something….more later….

  65. 65
    Dreggas says:

    canuckistani Says:

    Well, maybe if Michael was trying to suppress the teaching of science in my children’s school, or demand dog prayers at the start of school, or prevent my gay friends from marrying, or prevent my cousin from obtaining an abortion, or denying me a tax exemption for supporting my common-law wife, or preventing access to condoms for AIDS sufferers, all because his dog demands this to show his love, then there would be an equivalence. But if religious people are going to make the world a worse place to meet the demands of their invisible friend, damned right I’m going to push back, and the mockery shall not be stinted.

    Why does Michael’s dog hate so much?

    This of course also would mean that Michael’s dog was a pushy demanding bitch..

  66. 66
    jenniebee says:

    Dreggas:

    That’s quite a Hobbesian worldview. I don’t deny that there have been enough religious charlatans over the eons that if we put them on a scale opposite the get-rich-quick charlatans that have blossomed over the same eons, they’d all jump off the scale, compare notes, and trash their suites in a wild all-weekend party.

    I disagree though with your notion of what motivates people to adopt a belief strongly enough to allow it to be ingrained into society to the degree that religion is. It may be possible that a tribal shaman may be able to fool all the people all the time, even though he lives among them and is constantly observed by them, but if such a thing may be done, Karl Rove would like that shaman’s number.

    Conquerors who have converted by the sword have typically either achieved their conversions by completely depopulating areas and colonizing them with believers, or else they only manage to impart to their subject populations the firm and unwavering belief that their Conqueror has a Sword.

  67. 67
    libarbarian says:

    Try f-ing with my god bitches

    Lord forgive my sins? Bah! Lord, help me slaughter my enemies!!!


    8 The ever-slaying, bold and furious Indra, the bright bolt’s Lord, infinite, strong and mighty,
    Who slayeth Vṛtra and acquireth booty, giver of blessings, Maghavan the bounteous:

    9 Alone renowned as Maghavan in battles, he frighteneth away assembled armies.
    He bringeth us the booty that he winneth may we, well-loved, continue in his friendship.
    10 Renowned is he when conquering and when slaying: ’tis he who winneth cattle in the combat.
    When Indra hardeneth his indignation all that is fixed and all that moveth fear him.

    11 Indra hath won all kine, all gold, all horses,—Maghavan, he who breaketh forts in pieces;
    Most manly with these men of his who help him, dealing out wealth and gathering the treasure.

    12 What is the care of Indra for his Mother, what cares he for the Father who begat him?
    His care is that which speeds his might in conflicts, like wind borne onward by the clouds that thunder.

  68. 68
    jc says:

    Besides, consciousness is always prior to any event. As Kant showed.

  69. 69
    Punchy says:

    But it is a leap of faith to simply assume that all of this order, and this creation just happened ‘by chance’, when most other examples of a coherent, persistent system, didn’t just happen by chance.

    Oh Dear. What other examples of “persistent systems” (organic, natch) didn’t happen by chance?

    Leap of faith? No, Gibbs. dG = dH – TdS. Really, pretty simple.

  70. 70
    Dreggas says:

    jc Says:

    a. It is common throughout history, to have “spiritual”, or sacred, or mystical experiences. Most of which are the most meaningful experiences that people are reported to have.

    Most often this occurs through the use of drugs or when the person is in some other excitable or excited state, most of these experiences can be caused by the stimulation of certain receptors in the brain which cause the release of certain chemicals, whether those be endorphins or seratonin, or even dopamine.

    For example self-flagellation has always been seen as a means of inducing what would be termed a “religious experience”. This is because of the brain and body’s release of endorphins which trigger a euphoric state that can be heightened in some or sedate in others.

    In the case of various chemicals, notably those with hallucinogenic properties, the experience is less physical, far more mental and far more euphoric, adding in the hallucinations it can be believed, and was believed, that the experience was real because the person saw it as real.

    In other cases, through symbolism, ritual, dance, prayer or other mediums trances can be induced that allow the person entering them to “experience” things they otherwise would not, these being considered religious. The majority of religious experiences occur during great trauma or are preceded by some ritual of preparation and are more likely than not, nothing but release of various chemicals in the brain.

  71. 71
    George B. says:

    Well, maybe if Michael was trying to suppress the teaching of science in my children’s school, or demand dog prayers at the start of school, or prevent my gay friends from marrying, or prevent my cousin from obtaining an abortion, or denying me a tax exemption for supporting my common-law wife, or preventing access to condoms for AIDS sufferers, all because his dog demands this to show his love, then there would be an equivalence. But if religious people are going to make the world a worse place to meet the demands of their invisible friend, damned right I’m going to push back, and the mockery shall not be stinted.

    Right. Because all religious people are trying to teach your children to grow up morons. Just like all atheists are burning churches to the ground and killing priests just because a couple Commie atheists did that back in the 1930s.

    I do so love these pointless smug-fests! Everyone who believes in any form of God whatsoever is a jackass on par with Pat Robertson. We’ve already established that. So now, can we please move on to arguing about which kind of pet is best? There are some cat-lovers out there I’d LOVE to see get torn a new asshole.

  72. 72
    horatius says:

    So jc. Riddle me this.

    How did this god being happen? If the whole universe is so impossibly perfect that only some beings will created it, then what other more perfect being willed the perfect being into existence?

  73. 73

    Gee, we’re sure doint a lot of highbow tail chasing here.

    How about dogs? Pack behavior of dogs determines their reaction to human interaction, human definitions of “love” are wide enough to encompass whatever it is that a dog “feels” in dog terms. How often we agree on the definitions of a lot of things is questionable.

    God is one of those definition things if you believe in a god, if you do not, it still is a definition thing. It’d be a wonderful thing if that argument could be sorted out, there’s a problem, it’s not subject to being sorted out. Agnostics may have the most rational take on the deal – it’s unknowable and therefore not relevant – but that doesn’t satisfy people who want answers. Once there was a singularity – WTF? Why is that a more reasonable answer than god, or conversly why is god more reasonable? If you state that there is a god, why is that god definable in human terms? The “rationalist” who states there is no god wants an answer that fits what they want as well as the religious want what they want. So we seem to think we have to fight about it.

    Oh hell, Gus – the 145# Pyrennes – finds me the most important thing in his life, I’ll let that be love and not worry about it.

  74. 74

    I’ll take Dean up on that, but first he has to prove to me that he’s not a child molesting alien.

  75. 75
    Dreggas says:

    I disagree though with your notion of what motivates people to adopt a belief strongly enough to allow it to be ingrained into society to the degree that religion is. It may be possible that a tribal shaman may be able to fool all the people all the time, even though he lives among them and is constantly observed by them, but if such a thing may be done, Karl Rove would like that shaman’s number.

    Conquerors who have converted by the sword have typically either achieved their conversions by completely depopulating areas and colonizing them with believers, or else they only manage to impart to their subject populations the firm and unwavering belief that their Conqueror has a Sword.

    Given how non-believers and those who “weren’t fooled” were treated under various religions, especially ones such as christianity it’s pretty easy to see that the problem wasn’t fooling people all of the time. Priests did and do live amongst the people, they wield power and authority over them, and even if they did “slip” it was often ignored. Just look how long it took for the catholic priest abuse scandal to really come to the fore. People looked the other way, in many cases they didn’t even know.

    As for spreading religion at the point of the sword the spread of christianity was done in much the way you described throughout Europe. In this case Rome had captured and already occupied a large number of areas and governed over many different people with many different beliefs. As the church came into being conversion in the conquered lands was more easily achieved as societies had mingled and even bred, however where it wasn’t that simple the sword, and by extension slaughter, were very common.

  76. 76
    jc says:

    Dreggas,

    That is pointedly untrue, actually. This is the common ploy, of ocurse, to take those mystical experiences, and reduce them to some dysfunctional brain state. But it also is common to have experiences such as the above, while remaining very practical, functional, and productive in the world.

    Now, one possible way, would be to say it’s some higher form of, say, multiple personality. That you develop some enduring positive state structure, that feels larger than the “normal” ego. But reducing all of it to some dysfunctional brain state, simply isn’t a true statement.

  77. 77

    crap, talk about tailchasing, I forgot my point.

    Why is it important to an atheist that others believe there is no god? Is it for the same reason that the religious think it is important – something to do with the betterment of humanity? If that is the case, what does either actually have to do with it? What has to do with it is what a person does, not whether spagetti monsters or singularities are real. Finally, a god does not neccessrily infer interference in the natural course of events, that is the view of some religions.

  78. 78
    Zifnab says:

    I do so love these pointless smug-fests! Everyone who believes in any form of God whatsoever is a jackass on par with Pat Robertson.

    Not all of them. But roughly about one in four. And that’s really enough to push the non-believers into a rather pessimistic view of the whole.

    I’m sorry, but the “good Christian” is rare and even more rarely seen. While he may not be the quintessential Christian, Pat Robertson has his own TV Station. It’s really hard to get a good view of a faith system when I can get an incredibly bad view of it 24/7 on channel 63.

    Your religion got jacked. I’m very sorry for you. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to think more highly of it.

  79. 79
    jc says:

    horatius,

    This is the final question, isn’t it? As true for Big Bang theory, as anything else.

    Doesn’t address the observation that “chance” is unlikely, as a cause of the universe.

  80. 80
    libarbarian says:

    If the whole universe is so impossibly perfect that only some beings will created it, then what other more perfect being willed the perfect being into existence?

    When people talk of God they are not always speaking of a bearded man who sits outside the world and judges it. That is a very limited view of God. Maybe, God didn’t create the universe so much as God IS the universe – the totality of it all.

    Look at the current scientific story of the origin of the universe – the big bang aka. “once there was nothing and then it exploded”. I’m not mocking it – I got a B.S. in Physics so I don’t say this out of ignorance – but the fact is that its a pretty vague theory that doesn’t even TRY to explain what caused TBB cause we dont even know where to begin. We accept that the TBB just happened and we start explaining how things originated only after that.

    With God or without we end up at the same place – still not knowing what the hell started it all.

  81. 81
    George B. says:

    Why is it important to an atheist that others believe there is no god?

    From listening to the atheists on this blog, it sounds like the whole debate is really more about feeling intellectually superior to theists. That’s why I call it a smug-fest. I can relate. I feel the same way myself, vis-a-vis cat-lovers.

    Is it for the same reason that the religious think it is important – something to do with the betterment of humanity? If that is the case, what does either actually have to do with it? What has to do with it is what a person does, not whether spagetti monsters or singularities are real. Finally, a god does not neccessrily infer interference in the natural course of events, that is the view of some religions.

    Yeah, but you believe in a god so you’re still a fucking dumbass, goody-two-shoes.

  82. 82

    I don’t see why it’s even an interesting debate, frankly. THe reason that we know that the Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn’t exist is because we know who made the idea up and why.

    Oh. Did somebody mean another God? OK. Then you need to define the God which you want me to prove doesn’t exist.

  83. 83

    you believe in a god so you’re still a fucking dumbass, goody-two-shoes.

    Yup, I am. I tried very, very hard to disbelieve, and I couldn’t.

    You’ll have to forgive me — I realize that my humility before my Creator detrays a grave character flaw. Sorry. So sorry.

  84. 84
    George B. says:

    Not all of them. But roughly about one in four. And that’s really enough to push the non-believers into a rather pessimistic view of the whole.

    Fine and dandy. It’s a question whose answer is impossible, so the best we can hope for (in lieu of actual, you know, TOLERANCE) is to make fun of others for having answers we think are stupider than ours. Pat Robertson laughs at you for going to Hell, you laugh at him for believing in a Hell. It doesn’t have much of a point, but it sure is fun!

    I’m sorry, but the “good Christian” is rare and even more rarely seen. While he may not be the quintessential Christian, Pat Robertson has his own TV Station. It’s really hard to get a good view of a faith system when I can get an incredibly bad view of it 24/7 on channel 63.

    Who gives a shit about Christianity? I thought we were debating the stupidity of theism as a concept, here. Christianity is an extremely small subset thereof. If anyone who believes in a god is an idiot, Christians are merely a subset of idiots.

    Your religion got jacked. I’m very sorry for you. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to think more highly of it.

    Who said it was my religion?

  85. 85
    George B. says:

    You’ll have to forgive me—I realize that my humility before my Creator detrays a grave character flaw. Sorry. So sorry.

    Ha ha, dumbass! You admit it!

  86. 86
    jc says:

    Punchy,

    Naming the 2nd Law of thermodynamics, doesn’t tell me anything about how you are applying it, in this case.

  87. 87
    Dreggas says:

    jc Says:

    Dreggas,

    That is pointedly untrue, actually. This is the common ploy, of ocurse, to take those mystical experiences, and reduce them to some dysfunctional brain state. But it also is common to have experiences such as the above, while remaining very practical, functional, and productive in the world.

    Now, one possible way, would be to say it’s some higher form of, say, multiple personality. That you develop some enduring positive state structure, that feels larger than the “normal” ego. But reducing all of it to some dysfunctional brain state, simply isn’t a true statement.

    And who says this is untrue? I can be completely practical, functional and by all accounts “normal” and still have a hallucination caused by a brain disorder. People who are otherwise “normal” see things all the time, minus the drugs but nonetheless in some altered state, at least mentally.

    There are many factors, most of which are quite easily explainable based on brain functions and chemicals. Add in the the human being uses a small fraction (i believe somewhere around 10%) of their brain and its power, it could be possible that those who are “prohetic”, psychic, have visions etc. merely A) use more of their brain voluntarily or B) use more of their brain involuntarily.

    Remember, Joan of Arc was believed to be a prophet of a sort, it turns out however she was schizophrenic. To also add that many of the maladies associated with “possession” not even 200 years ago are today known to be symptoms of epilepsy, Schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder.

    This is not to say that an experience cannot feel as if it were religious/spiritual but more often then not it is, in fact, not religious. Even the Catholic church, always on the lookout for another miracle, acknowledges most “visions” are nothing more than common hallucinations, it’s why they have an investigatory body that looks into claims of some miracle or other and do not just pronounce everything as such.

  88. 88
    Sirkowski says:

    demimondian Says:
    THe reason that we know that the Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn’t exist is because we know who made the idea up and why.

    And we know when Jews wrote the Old Testament and why. So what’s your point?

  89. 89
    grumpy realist says:

    Go read “Conciousness as the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” by Julian Jaynes and then come back and talk to me about questions involving existence of a Deity. If that question still even makes sense to you.

    (Actually, most Americans don’t really believe in God, either. “God” is just this nice little happy concept floating up in their brains that they get to appeal to as the supreme authority as in “God will send you to Hell unless you do X.” If we really believed in the existence of God then why don’t we believe people who claim to have killed so-and-so “because God told me to”? We don’t–we think them nuts.)

  90. 90
    PK says:

    People need to believe in God because otherwise they would have to accept that this sorry state of human civilization is IT! This is all that life has to offer! A lot of people are going to have to jump off a cliff.
    I would like to believe that there is a God. No religion has convinced me so far that such a being exists. No atheist has convinced me that so far that it does not exist. No one can be a 100% sure. I am clinging to the unknown uncertainty!

  91. 91
    jc says:

    Well, as Sam Harris has said, “mysticism is a rational enterprise”.

    That is where I’m going, actually. From the AlterNet interview:

    He likes that Buddhism will make you relax. And “dial in various mental states,” he says. In the classic case, he says, “you see various lights or see bliss.” And like a Scientologist cleric promising you the state of Clear, evicting alien ghosts ruining your life, Harris expresses a faith that his own style of pleasurable mental exploration ushers in good deeds. Meditation, he says, will drive out whatever it is “that leads you to lie to people or be intrinsically selfish.”

    So it purges your sins? “You become free to notice how everyone else is suffering,” he says. Well, some more than others.

    The point being, that as you say, we only use 10% of our brain. But these spiritual pursuits tend to be incredibly fulfilling, more so than any other endeavor, especially, shifting to a recognition of interconnectedness. But to say it’s “chemical imbalance” or some such, is like saying the normal state of awareness is based on “chemicals”. It doesn’t mean much, does it?

    The question is, really, is the reality realized by various mystics, which in the main is of a deeper fulfillment than the “ordinary” life, have any meaning for a rational metaphysics?

    I’m saying, if you combine that evidence, with the evidence of the supreme unlikelihood of this functioning universe happening through chance, it isn’t that irrational to come to the conclusion there is a higher order.

    Of course, the nature of that higher order, who knows.

  92. 92
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    Why is it important to an atheist that others believe there is no god?

    It doesn’t matter to me at all. Believe whatever the hell you want to believe. If it gets you through the day and helps you cope with life’s stresses and all that, I’ve got no problem. I do, however, have a problem when, among other things:

    *You believe that your invisible friend makes you de facto superior to those who don’t believe in your invisible friend

    *You start using your beliefs to justify despicable acts

    *The only justification you can come up with for (to use one obvious example) treating gays as lesser human beings is “because it says so in the Bible”

    *You start proselytizing

    I’m a very “live and let live” kind of guy, but you start doing those things, and I will push back. Don’t start none, won’t be none.

  93. 93
    Dreggas says:

    jc,

    I am not denying there are benefits to these experiences, however it has been shown that there are, indeed, chemical reactions associated with deep states of meditation and such. These states lead one to feel they are part of some higher consciousness or are at a higher state of consciousness. What it represents, for the most part in real, practical, terms is that there are certain functions of the brain being tapped into, turned on, whatever you want to call it and the end result is “enlightening”.

    We have managed to explain a large portion of these experiences, enough so that it’s pretty safe to say they can happen to anyone. Using your own example of Buddhism, and more specifically Zen Buddhism, they speak of these things as a higher state of consciousness related to the brain, they also speak of the deity within, not of some external deity.

    However it does not dwell on these experiences being the result of anything other than coming from within, ie they aren’t triggered by some external “God”.

  94. 94
    RSA says:

    Go read “Conciousness as the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” by Julian Jaynes and then come back and talk to me about questions involving existence of a Deity.

    Despite Jaynes using ad hoc methods and probably being completely wrong about the details in his explanation of consciousness (per Daniel Dennett), he was asking the right questions.

    Me, I’m taken by brain-in-a-vat thought experiments, or their modern equivalent of intelligent agents running in a simulation. I could (in principle, perhaps) build such systems. Would my artificial agents develop a belief in my existence, if I were careful enough to hide the traces? Maybe, maybe not. They’d certainly have great difficulty inferring any of my characteristics correctly; similarly, I don’t think any conventional religions are justified in their beliefs about the existence or nature of God.

  95. 95
    John says:

    The teleological argument is really not very convincing.

    And the 10% of the brain thing is a myth.

  96. 96
    jc says:

    Dreggas,

    There are of course chemical reactions associated with mystical experiences, just as there as chemical reactions associated with normal experiences. Here’s the thing though, if I’m understanding you correctly. You reduce any of the content of a spiritual experience as “just” a chemical reaction, and dismissing any of the content of the experience, as, essentially, meaningless.

    But the question is, is the content that comes up, ABOUT anything? You say it’s essentially illusory, but why?

    When I hear George Bush say smugly, “I’m the decider”, and I get pissed, that is ALSO “just” a chemical reaction. But it is ABOUT something, right? there is an OBJECTIVE REFERENT.

    You classify spiritual experiences, as something like reading fantasy, no different than reading a Harry Potter novel, in terms of a chemical reaction. But this fundamentally misreads how a mystic experiences things. But the sober, rational mystics understand the difference between reality and fantasy, and experience a mystical experience as being a referent about an ‘actual reality’, not a fantasy.

    So, it is incumbent upon a “more inclusive” atheism, to get beyond mere “chemical reaction” dismissals, which in point of fact equate mysticism (and the peace, perceptiveness, love, and better functioning adult that emerges thereof) from simply fantasy, or from dysfunctional “hallucinations”.

    There is a difference in mystical experience, as compared with fantasy, or hallucination, which in point of fact, makes a VERY big difference in the result.

    It’s a difference that makes a very big difference. And the normal labeling as just “hallucination” doesn’t account for that difference.

    So you would need to classify differently.

  97. 97
    grumpy realist says:

    There seem to be several different Gods floating around here:

    1) Creator of the Universe

    2) That responsible for whatever mystical experiences people have when they say they are “communing with God”. (i.e., bicameral experiences.)

    I don’t see any reason why our Big Bang couldn’t have been an outgrowth from another universe (a White Hole), either with or with slightly different cosmological constants. The argument about probability never has seemed to make any sense to me–given Infinite time, an Infinitely unlikely thing is bound to happen.

    Answer to (2)==> see above, Julian Jaynes, bicameral experience. Based on my own bicameral experience, what was most disconcerting was the sensation of a separate entity in one’s brain. Asking me to now not believe in the separate existence of such a entity would be very hard, even though I know, logically, such an entity does not exist.

  98. 98
    jc says:

    grumpy,

    I don’t see any reason why our Big Bang couldn’t have been an outgrowth from another universe (a White Hole), either with or with slightly different cosmological constants. The argument about probability never has seemed to make any sense to me—given Infinite time, an Infinitely unlikely thing is bound to happen.

    Could be. Nevertheless, the fact is, given the cosmological constraints necessary to bring this universe into being (and sustain it as well – gravity needs to continue to work, rather than shift tomorrow), you are talking about tossing heads a billion times in a row.

    Answer to (2)==> see above, Julian Jaynes, bicameral experience.

    Again, the only thing I would say is, this is simply being too reductive. Whatever is involved in mystical experience, it is of a different order than simple hallucination, or simply fantasy. It’s of a different type of experience.

    Again, still may mean nothing in regards to a metaphysics. But it shouldn’t be classified with hallucination.

  99. 99

    we know when Jews wrote the Old Testament and why. So what’s your point?

    Do we now? Perhaps we know reasonably well when, but I’d certainly question the “and why” claim. We don’t know why they wrote it — we have a number of theories, but we really have no evidence in support of any of them.

    Even so, my point was that even if we did know why, we’d know no more about whether some God existed, but only about whether that particular God existed.

  100. 100

    Ultimately, nothing has been added to this debate since Hume and Kant at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries, and anyone who is taking it seriously should go read Hume. It’s an unanswerable question, and, worse, it’s a question with no interesting answer. That’s the way the world is constituted, and it isn’t going to change.

  101. 101
    John says:

    Could be. Nevertheless, the fact is, given the cosmological constraints necessary to bring this universe into being (and sustain it as well – gravity needs to continue to work, rather than shift tomorrow), you are talking about tossing heads a billion times in a row.

    argumentum a posteriori.

    I deal thirteen cards, and look at the hand. What are the odds of that particular hand having arisen? Why, about one in 600 billion. Would it be reasonable for me to therefore conclude that the hand was designed?

  102. 102
    LITBMueller says:

    Every so often I like to see how far one of my fundamental disbeliefs can be stretched by irrational opposition. Today I want you to try to convince me there is no Zeus!

    Heh.

  103. 103
    jc says:

    I deal thirteen cards, and look at the hand. What are the odds of that particular hand having arisen? Why, about one in 600 billion. Would it be reasonable for me to therefore conclude that the hand was designed?

    Well, the next hand you deal will change, right? Once you form a different universe, with different laws, then that’s a useful takedown.

    More seriously, yes, of course, it’s a posteriori – I’m not denying that. All I’m saying is, it’s not unreasonable a posteriori. After all, what are the odds? It is pretty amazing, right? the whole universe created in split seconds! If any of a billion variables had been just a bit different, no universe!

    But –

    a. There is a universe
    b. It’s built on a highly unlikely series of cosmological constants that had to be “just so”.
    c. The odds of that is google negative.

    And I’m fine if you believe that “it just happened”. How the hell do I know?

    I’m just saying, it’s not unreasonable to believe, that it didn’t “just happen”.

  104. 104
    Douglas Adams says:

    A puddle wakes up one morning and thinks: “This is a very interesting world I find myself in. It fits me very neatly. In fact it fits me so neatly… I mean really precise isn’t it?… It must have been made to have me in it.”

  105. 105
    cleek says:

    The odds of that is google negative.

    show your work.

    I’m just saying, it’s not unreasonable to believe, that it didn’t “just happen”.

    but you’re fine believing in something that has utterly no physical evidence and is cleverly defined in such a way that it defies scientific or logical analysis ?

    talk about unreasonable!

  106. 106
    John says:

    Well, the next hand you deal will change, right? Once you form a different universe, with different laws, then that’s a useful takedown.

    After all, what are the odds?

    That is precisely the point: you can not calculate the posterior odds without knowledge of the priors. If I am given a hand of cards, I can not determine whether those cards were deliberately or randomly selected. Repeated trials will give me more information which I can use to calculate the prior distribution.

    As you point out, if we can examine multiple instantiations of universes, then we can calculate the odds of this one. Until that time, any a posteriori calculation of the odds is absolutely meaningless.

  107. 107
    jc says:

    but you’re fine believing in something that has utterly no physical evidence and is cleverly defined in such a way that it defies scientific or logical analysis ?

    The physical evidence is all around us. Every day, while the laws of the universe work in harmonious ways. You just take them for granted, and think they are there “just because they are”. Which is a metaphysical interpretation, by the way, not science. If we just went by science, we wouldn’t engage in such speculation at all. Either that the ultimate cause “just is”, or that the ultimate cause is an implicit higher order.

    In which case, the correct answer would be “we can’t know either way”. Why are there mathemetical equations that govern how the universe works? Because we have found those laws through testing, and they are repeatable.

    But why is that?

    Who knows?

    And thus enters philosophy and metaphysics.

    “It just is so”
    “It reflects a deeper order”.

  108. 108
    jc says:

    As you point out, if we can examine multiple instantiations of universes, then we can calculate the odds of this one. Until that time, any a posteriori calculation of the odds is absolutely meaningless.

    But how relevant is that?

    a. We have a universe.
    b. We have mathematics laws that explain the universe’s phenomenon. The universe is a giant theorem, right?
    3. We can posit that if any variable of that giant theorem was different, we WOULDN’T HAVE a universe. And that’s based on the universe we do have, not counterfactual random universes.

    That seems like a logic trick, similar to “if I go from Point A to Point B, first I need to go halfway, to point C. But then I have to go to point D, halfway between point C and point B. And then point E, halfway between point D and point B. How will I ever get there?”

    Those calculations are based on the universe that we actually have, and that actually works, not a random counterfactual.

  109. 109
    Xenos says:

    “It just is so”
    “It reflects a deeper order”.

    Or not, as the case may be.

    Anybody want to explain inflation? Our inability to do so is no evidence for or against God, just evidence of our ignorance. Our nearly boundless, limitless ignorance. “Omnithick?”

    I dub this the ‘misanthropic principle’, but I am sure someone more clever than me has come up with it already.

  110. 110
    cleek says:

    Every day, while the laws of the universe work in harmonious ways. You just take them for granted, and think they are there “just because they are”. Which is a metaphysical interpretation, by the way, not science.

    until you can prove there are other universes with different laws and constants, pretending that this one is special in any way is simply illogical.

    furthermore, the fact that scientists find the values of some constants surprising today is hardly a solid basis for assuming there was a super-natural hand behind them – history is full of scientists finding natural explanations for things biblical literalists claimed were solid proof of the supernatural.

  111. 111
    John says:

    3. We can posit that if any variable of that giant theorem was different, we WOULDN’T HAVE a universe. And that’s based on the universe we do have, not counterfactual random universes.

    You are making a specific argument: the odds of us having the universe that we do are infinitesimal. In order for that claim to have any meaning, you have to assume those random universes.

    And as you point out, that assumption is either counterfactual or unknowable. Therefore, appealing to an a posteriori argument is meaningless.

    I am dealt a full house. If any of those cards were different, I would not have a full house. If I am unable to:

    a) examine the deck of cards before the deal,
    b) observe the deal, and
    3) repeat the deal,

    I can make *no* statement about the prior odds that I was going to receive a full house.

    Now, based on my subjective knowledge of the context in which I was dealt that hand, I can make assumptions about the prior distribution.

    Since neither you nor I have any subjective knowledge of the context in which the universe occurred, we can make no assumptions about the prior distribution of universes, and can therefore not make any claims about the probability that this one would have occurred.

    Xeno’s paradox has nothing to do with it. You are assuming knowledge which we do not have.

  112. 112
    Darkness says:

    Andrew’s post reminded me about the dyslexic agnostic insomniac.

    Okay, just in case… he lies awake at night wondering if there really is a dog.

  113. 113
    Dreggas says:

    jc,

    They are closer to finding evidence for parallel universes. Further string theory, or as it is now called M theory makes the idea plausible as well. I wouldn’t be so quick to write off the idea that even the universe is not unique.

  114. 114

    To be upfront about it, I probably qualify somewhere on the theistic side of agnosticism. I don’t propose to tell anybody what god thinks, that is a little past my intellectual capabilities. I don’t have any real idea whether he is a construct of my emotional/intellectual matrix or not, it works better for me as a 19 yr recovering alcoholic/addict.

    But there is an intellectual disconnect in this argument, if you follow science far enough back, you get to a singularity and you’re stuck as with a god. The proposal is that something just existed, that doesn’t work well with our birth/death finite experience, neither is ‘reasonable.’ I don’t claim an insight into an answer and frankly a lot of ego seems to be flying around as though those answers exist. That final point remains on both sides, the beginning and both deny a beginning – there was always a god, there was always a singularity and whatever your side in this ‘dispute’ you run smack into that and despite your rational arguments on whatever side you still run into something that is ‘erternal.’ That would seem to put it into the unknowable and unanswerable catagory and darn near any other answer is composed of faith.

  115. 115
    CDB says:

    The Babel Fish.

    QED

  116. 116
    grumpy realist says:

    Also that arguement about probability of the universe existing doesn’t add to much.

    If N universes are equally improbable, but each with an existence length which can vary, with most of the N universes having very short lifetimes and a few with very long lifetimes–

    figure out if you do a random observation at time T, which universe you are most likely to observe? I think you’ll find yourself in the very-long-lifetime universe.

    To anyone who wants to argue that “improbability of the present universe indicates the existence of God”–feh. I woulc equally as well argue that getting a Royal Flush in poker indicates the existence of the Poker Fairy.

  117. 117
    Delia says:

    Two things I’ll share that I fervently believe in: one is that there is no bigger waste of electrons than debating the existence of God on the internets.

    Two is a verbal retelling of an old New Yorker cartoon:

    Dog thinks: “They feed me, they pet me, they play with me. They must be gods.”

    Cat thinks: “They feed me, they pet me, they play with me. I must be a god.”

    And that’s about all I’ll say.

  118. 118
    George B. says:

    This argument’s fucking boring. Nobody knows, everybody cares. When the dust settles, all we’re left with is an overabundance of smug assholitude and a breath-taking dearth of certainty.

    Have a nice night, folks.

  119. 119
    George B. says:

    Two things I’ll share that I fervently believe in: one is that there is no bigger waste of electrons than debating the existence of God on the internets.

    Two is a verbal retelling of an old New Yorker cartoon:

    Dog thinks: “They feed me, they pet me, they play with me. They must be gods.”

    Cat thinks: “They feed me, they pet me, they play with me. I must be a god.”

    And that’s about all I’ll say.

    Amen. (Well, maybe that’s not the right word to use, here…)

  120. 120
    cleek says:

    That final point remains on both sides, the beginning and both deny a beginning – there was always a god, there was always a singularity and whatever your side in this ‘dispute’ you run smack into that and despite your rational arguments on whatever side you still run into something that is ‘erternal.’ That would seem to put it into the unknowable and unanswerable catagory and darn near any other answer is composed of faith.

    ah, but science keeps pushing the “beginning” farther and farther back, learning more and more about it; religion says “God did it, move along”. science sees an unknown and demands that it becomes known; religion says “God did it, move along”. science works by find, exploring and filling-in the gaps in our knowledge; religion works by papering over them with “God did it”.

    which is a better description of “faith” ?

  121. 121
    grumpy realist says:

    Also, for those who HAVEN’T had bicameral experiences, it’s very hard to understand how people having one can have the sensation of another being in their heads.

    Until someone proves it differently, yes, I am going to take mystical experiences of deity and all that as being on the same level as hallucinations. Go read Julian Jaynes again. Schitzophrenics hear voices–why are they considered “unreal” while experiences of God “real”? Occam’s razor.

  122. 122

    But why, if God is all knowing an dall-powerful and according to the bible answers everyone’s prayers, don’t amputees grow their limbs back?
    “Knock and the door shall open.”
    “Ask, and ye shall receive.”

    And that’s for people with as little faith as a mustard seed, which is a very small seed.

    there is no god. I don’t feel superior about that, nor do I believe that everyone has to share my atheism. Unlike Christians who are so busy spreading the pretend news.

  123. 123
    RSA says:

    I woulc equally as well argue that getting a Royal Flush in poker indicates the existence of the Poker Fairy.

    Well, of course; the idea of parallel poker hands is clearly ridiculous, and this poker hand is obviously the best of all poker hands.

  124. 124

    the idea of parallel poker hands is clearly ridiculous, and this poker hand is obviously the best of all poker hands.

    That would be Dr. Pangloss, Poker Fairy.

  125. 125
    JC says:

    The whole point is, that you CAN’T posit other variables, such that this universe would work, or that any universe would work. You can’t, right?

    You can posit 13 cards falling differently. But that wouldn’t work for this universe. By the way, that’s one reason why intelligent design doesn’t go away. The closer we get to the “starting point”, we realize mathematically, just how mind-blowingly improbable it is that this universe exists. The odds against chance just “happening” to spit out this universe, keep getting longer. So you will continue to see this.

    And you start positing starting variables for the universe, as say you would posit cards falling in a different direction, and you can’t. The math doesn’t work. But you can for cards falling.

    Dreggas,

    Re: multiple universe theorem. Yeah, if there are multiple universe (possibly infinite), then this renders this point of mine moot, completely. But the “logic scoffing’ here that is being utilized to blur what seems an essentially sound point (to me anyway), doesn’t.

    For example, cleek saying “pretending that this universe is special”. I don’t even get that. If it’s the only universe, of course it’s pretty special. Logic proves it isn’t?

  126. 126
    JC says:

    Grumpy realist,

    Regarding mystical experiences. One HUGE difference. An experienced meditator can go into a deep theta state, by choice, at will. And at that level, consciousness is experienced as a “connected, single, whole”. This is a choice, and in the meditator’s control (or at least a choice), not an existence of hallucinations/schizophrenia, of which people SUFFER from.

    That’s a pretty profound difference.

  127. 127
    JC says:

    Of course, saying there is an implicate intelligence in no way means you can insert your favorite religion into the mix.

    Just that it isn’t an unreasonable inference.

  128. 128

    No, JC, is proves nothing of the sort.

    You’re repeating something called “the anthropic fallacy” — the belief that is the only universe because it is the only one we observe.

    Of *course* it’s the only one we observe. By definition, the universe comprises exactly that which we can observe and measure, no more and no less. It doesn’t say anything about whether there are things we cannot observe, which could easily and without difficulty include other, self-contained, organized mixtures of matter, energy, and exotic stuff. To “people” embedded in those universes, we would be ghost stories to tease particle theorists with, just as they are to us.

    Discussion of such parallel universes, however, is necessarily non-scientific; it is outside the magisterium naturale in which science and empiricism rule supreme. Whether there is any there there or not is a question which has no more meaning than a Zen koan.

    [kerplop]

  129. 129
    PaulW says:

    I’m surprised no one’s referenced the Babel Fish argument proving the non-existence of God yet.

    Smug theocrists. They’re arguing it wrong. We can prove God exists. The thing is, we can prove OUR interpretation of God exists! Their interpretation of God only exists in back issues of Weekly World News. Our God’s better than your God, neener neener!

  130. 130
    JC says:

    By the way, since the most eternal thing we’ve got, according to science, is a unchanging equation, that all matter must obey, is the universe simply the Big Equation?

    And, since is the equation can only be understood specifically by abstract thought, is it fair to call the universive the Big Thought?

  131. 131
    Henry says:

    I agree with those before who have said that this is a somewhat useless argument, and doomed to fail from the onset. What one side would argue as proof of God’s non-existence, is the lack of proof of his existence – that’s all we have (if we had actual proof of his non-existence, we wouldn’t be having this discussion).

    So one approach is to point out inconsistencies in the concept of God. However, those who believe in God simply will dismiss the inconsistencies as ‘God’s mysterious plan’, which we can never understand. So, we are failed before we begin.

    So, with failure in mind, I offer this: If there is a God (focusing on the ‘biblical’ concept of God), a God who is supposed to be the very embodiment of good, why do babies die? Ignore evil for the moment. The babies are not murdered, not killed by the hand of man, but simply fail to live.

    A lack of God makes this explanation easy (though, the reality no easier for the parents). Birth is a biological process which is sometimes flawed, and sometimes those flaws lead to birth defects, which lead to death.

    But if you assume there was – not just an intelligence, but an all knowing, all powerful hand behind developing the process, then why have the parents suffer through the hope of having a child, to have them smashed so God can take back what he already had? It’s not for our free will, that’s for sure.

    So, which is more likely. An embodiment of good who causes torment for his creations (for whatever invisible purpose), or a genetic flaw?

    Let’s move on to some other areas.

    If you consider the human body as the product of evolution, it is amazing. Trial and error over thousands of years to produce us. If you consider the body as designed by an all knowing being, it’s D+ work, at best. He required us to need the sun, for warmth and food. Yet, too much sun will kill us. He required us to breathe. Why? What purpose does it serve? (I know, I know – Unknowable plan). If we didn’t need to breath, we wouldn’t drown. We wouldn’t die from to much Carbon Monoxide.

    What about bodily waste. God couldn’t make us so we used every nutrient from the stuff we ate? In fact, why do we need to eat at all? He made the sun and water enough for plants, why not for us?

    Then look at the planet. He made the poles just about unlivable for us, yet he created the planet with us in mind. Why did he create earthquakes? They serve no purpose, other than to destroy and kill. Same thing with Hurricanes. If these are meant as ways of culling the flock, why not make it harder for us to multiply?

    From a geological standpoint, these things make sense. But, for God who could have chosen any design, they make no sense.

  132. 132

    You are making the classical error of someone who isn’t familiar with the theological underpinnings of modern Christianity. Here’s a hint: the Catholics (correctly, in my view) hold that Intelligent Design is heresy. The only orthodox view of the origin of life on Earth is through…Darwinian evolution.

    FDDD likes to point out that one of the reasons she became an evolutionary geneticist was her first evolution textbook, written by Dr. Francisco J. Ayala, S. J., Donald Bren Professor of Evolutionary Genetics at UC Irvine. Did you notice the little SJ I slid in there? Yes — Ayala is a Jesuit priest. And, yes, he is held in high esteem.

    The truth is that you are right — an intelligent designer would not have equipped us with appendices, or fused the tendon anchorages of our third and fourth fingers (fourth and fifth digits) or any of the other myriad flaws which are a part of us. All that shows is that the scientists are right…so what?

  133. 133
    Sirkowski says:

    demimondian Says:
    Do we now? Perhaps we know reasonably well when, but I’d certainly question the “and why” claim.

    Yeah, you ‘would’ question, because you’ve never actually done so.

  134. 134
    Pb says:

    You’re repeating something called “the anthropic fallacy”

    Thanks, demi, beat me to it. :)

    There’s more here, for John.

    In other news… wherever you go, there you are.

  135. 135

    Yeah, you ‘would’ question, because you’ve never actually done so.

    My bet is that you would make some argument about social dominance, or some such. That’s certainly a plausible argument. Ignoring the divine inspiration argument (which you reject out of hand, as inconsistent with your preconceptions), there are any number of other, equally plausible, purely phenomenal explanations, such as competitive story telling, which you can’t rule out.

    More than that, we also know that there are several different “authors” of the early biblical canon. We have no reason to believe that they all had the same reason.

    I’d say you were the one who’d never actually questioned his preconceptions.

  136. 136
    John says:

    The closer we get to the “starting point”, we realize mathematically, just how mind-blowingly improbable it is that this universe exists. The odds against chance just “happening” to spit out this universe, keep getting longer. So you will continue to see this.

    You keep circling back around to the same fallacy.

    I am not attempting to make any argument about the uniqueness of the universe or the existence of God. I am merely pointing out that statements like the one above are absolutely meaningless, mathematically.

    You can not draw any conclusions about the probability of the universe that we observe to exist without knowledge of the priors. Period.

    If the creation of the universe is a unique event, then to speak of the “odds” is mathematically meaningless.

    If it is not unique, if those “variables” in your grand “equation” are actually variable, then without knowledge of the distribution of those variables, the “odds” are mathematically meaningless. (And to understand the distribution of those variables, we’d need to understand the *structure* of those distributions, as well. We’d essentially need to understand the entire mechanism of universe creation. Science is an ever-expanding boundary of ignorance.)

    If you are going to make probabilistic arguments, you need to understand their limits. You can’t just say, “It doesn’t seem likely to me”.

  137. 137
    Tim F. says:

    The probability that schoomaker-levy would slam into Jupiter precisely when and how it did are so close to zero that it basically can’t happen. Then again, the probability of schoomaker-levy just missing Jupiter by any specific vector are equally small. The bayesian laws that govern the universe dictate that everything that happens is ridiculously implausible, yet things happen. The existence of specific outcomes doesn’t force me to assume that schoomaker-levy or any other tangible thing is guided by a specific intelligence.

  138. 138
    Henry says:

    You are making the classical error of someone who isn’t familiar with the theological underpinnings of modern Christianity. Here’s a hint: the Catholics (correctly, in my view) hold that Intelligent Design is heresy. The only orthodox view of the origin of life on Earth is through…Darwinian evolution.

    I’m aware the RCC has, of late, given some mixed messages in terms of evolution and Intelligence Design. And then backed away from them. And then pushed them forward again.

    I’m pretty sure, however,that the ‘Intelligence Design’ theory has not be officially named as ‘heresy’. Not by the Pope, anyway.

    All that shows is that the scientists are right…so what?

    The point is that God, conceptually, is perfect. So, whether you believe that he actually stitched the human brain together out of dirt, or merely sowed the seeds for the Big Bang, knowing the universe would eventually get to this point, is irrelevant. It is still a flawed universe. A flawed design. Why would an all-powerful, all knowing, perfect God create something he must know was to be flawed?

    And, the further away from the creation of Man you place God from the less relevant he becomes. The ‘Watchmaker’ concept of a God who stands back and watches makes less sense than an intelligence design concept of God, when viewed through the lens of Spirituality.

  139. 139
    Randolph Fritz says:

    “Science is a behavior?”

    Well, of course. What else would it be? See Thomas Kuhn, passim.

    Proving a negative is not, except in mathematics, possible. Feh. On the other hand, proving the existence of god, though it might turn out to be possible, sure hasn’t been done, yet.

    Believe nothing on the faith of traditions,
    even though they have been held in honor
    for many generations and in diverse places.
    Do not believe a thing because many people speak of it.
    Do not believe on the faith of the sages of the past.
    Do not believe what you yourself have imagined,
    persuading yourself that a God inspires you.
    Believe nothing on the sole authority of your masters and priests.
    After examination, believe what you yourself have tested
    and found to be reasonable, and conform your conduct thereto.
    –attributed to Gotama, called enlightened (buddha)

  140. 140
    josephdietrich says:

    If Dean Esmay doesn’t want to believe in God, he will need to convince himself. One cannot rid him of his credulity for him.

  141. 141
    TenguPhule says:

    Nevertheless, the fact is, given the cosmological constraints necessary to bring this universe into being (and sustain it as well – gravity needs to continue to work, rather than shift tomorrow), you are talking about tossing heads a billion times in a row.

    And if the coin came up tails somewhere, you wouldn’t know the difference. We could have green skin and it would seem normal because that’s how evolution ended up.

    The universe already delights in expanding modern ignorance, don’t try to compete with it.

  142. 142

    Suppose you take all the Books out of the definitions of god, what happens to the arguments about dead babies and the other Santa Claus god arguments?

    This one I’m kinda serious about, drop the theology and the sophistry right out of the god picture, let science be science and leave god in the picture, you know, drop the ideas of “I know God’s will/whatever” and just the concept of something like “all knowing, all seeing, give damn, non-interfering” and where do all the ‘rational’ arguements go?

    You could question the point of wanting such a god, but that’s not the argument here. Most of this argument has revolved around the Judeo/Christian concept if not theology and that was never the question.

    If you go back through this thread you’ll find that almost every piece of it references some theological aspect of god rather than the simple concept of one. Actually the concept of a winning Browns team is probably a lot more interesting…

  143. 143
    George B. says:

    Why would an all-powerful, all knowing, perfect God create something he must know was to be flawed?

    To really understand the answer to that, you’d probably have to be all-knowing and/or perfect yourself, wouldn’t you? I don’t explain to my dog why I don’t let him eat the whole bag of dog food, so why do you assume that this oft-posited God fellow owes you an explanation for every shitty thing that happens in life? Assuming there is a God in the Judeo-Christian sense, that is. (If we go for polytheistic notions of gods, all of your concerns are very easily addressed indeed: shit goes wrong because the gods squabble.)

  144. 144
    slippytoad says:

    I do not believe God exists. I have no proof—it’s a matter of faith.

    Not for me. I don’t believe God exists because the origin of the God idea is from ignorance and superstition, not from deduction or evidence. I don’t number the God hypothesis among the credible explanations for existence.

    It’s not a matter of faith with me. I require no leap of irrational belief to replace an existing leap of irrational belief. I just . . . have better things to think about.

  145. 145
    Zifnab says:

    I don’t number the God hypothesis among the credible explanations for existence.

    I disagree with that. While the field of ID is a giant load of bull, the premise is not without merit. We, as humans, are capable of all manner of creation and mutation within our environment. We engineered cars, constructed buildings, dug drainage ditches, manufactured computers. There is nothing inherently wrong with the idea that some other extraterrestrial being came along and “made” us. I’ve got no problem with that, hypothetically.

    A “creator God”, as an explanation for everything we experience, is not without merit. But SETI has made more headway in finding a “God” than the ID crowd, because they’ve actually tried looking. And that’s rather pathetic.

  146. 146

    Now, when I talked to God I knew he’d understand
    He said, stick by my side and I’ll be your guiding hand
    But dont ask me what I think of you
    I might not give the answer that you want me to.

    +++

    You see. Peter Green talked to Him.

  147. 147
    Henry says:

    Suppose you take all the Books out of the definitions of god, what happens to the arguments about dead babies and the other Santa Claus god arguments

    Well, I alluded to this already. It’s hard to unwind the intertwined connection between God and Theology. Our notion of God is generally rooted in those theological underpinnings. Thus to prove his non-existence, as I suggested, requires pointing out inconsistencies in these two concepts. If we don’t have a definition to begin with, how to we disprove it? ( I shouted to the heavens ‘God, if you don’t make me a slice of Cheesecake right now, I’m going to be forced to assume you don’t exist’, and there was no cheesecake. QED?)

    I’ll agree that, if you consider a poly-deity existence, then my arguments don’t work as well (which is why I noted I was approaching it from the Christian / biblical concepts). And, honestly, I’m not informed enough about poly-theism to make a good argument against several gods.

    The Dog/God argument falls flat. The dog may not understand the limits I place on him, but he understands I am placing them. And, most of the pets I have owned, while thinking I was perfect, we less than diligent in their worship of me (why would you eat SOAP, when you know it is forbidden!).

    Finally, The idea of a Diety who creates us all, and then sits back and watches is not really God as most people would define. It also raises the specter that God is not all knowing, and all seeing, Rather just so much more advanced than us, that he seems God-like.

    But, I will leave that scenario for a poorly written Star Trek episode.

  148. 148
  149. 149
    George B. says:

    Well, I alluded to this already. It’s hard to unwind the intertwined connection between God and Theology. Our notion of God is generally rooted in those theological underpinnings. Thus to prove his non-existence, as I suggested, requires pointing out inconsistencies in these two concepts. If we don’t have a definition to begin with, how to we disprove it? ( I shouted to the heavens ‘God, if you don’t make me a slice of Cheesecake right now, I’m going to be forced to assume you don’t exist’, and there was no cheesecake. QED?)

    Read Aristotle. All he requires is a Prime Mover, a causeless causation which is the net root cause behind every effect. Tough to disprove, really. Which is why we’re having this annoying conversation.

    I’ll agree that, if you consider a poly-deity existence, then my arguments don’t work as well (which is why I noted I was approaching it from the Christian / biblical concepts). And, honestly, I’m not informed enough about poly-theism to make a good argument against several gods.

    The Christians made some. Let’s use theirs!

    The Dog/God argument falls flat. The dog may not understand the limits I place on him, but he understands I am placing them. And, most of the pets I have owned, while thinking I was perfect, we less than diligent in their worship of me (why would you eat SOAP, when you know it is forbidden!).

    Dogs are fairly intelligent pets, though. The difference between your dog’s intelligence and your own is substantially less than the difference between your intelligence and that of your (hypothetical) Creator. Even talking about a pet turtle/spider/goldfish doesn’t do the analogy justice, although I’d argue that those pets have pretty much no idea you exist. And if they do know you exist, they perceive you as a threat. They certainly wouldn’t understand why you cut off their food, since they probably don’t even understand clearly that you’re the one providing it.

    Finally, The idea of a Diety who creates us all, and then sits back and watches is not really God as most people would define. It also raises the specter that God is not all knowing, and all seeing, Rather just so much more advanced than us, that he seems God-like.

    You can’t disprove it though, which is the point of all this pointless bickering.

  150. 150
    jenniebee says:

    Peter Johnson Says:

    A bunch of liberals preaching atheism in a blog. Is that a stereotype or what?

    I just noticed this. If you finish that off with “and the first person defending the theists is an unapologetic socialist with animist leanings” what stereotype does that fit into, I wonder?

  151. 151
    Larv says:

    On the subject of who wrote the Bible and why, I would strongly recommend anyone curious about this to read How to Read the Bible, by James Kugel. The title may sound like something you’d pick up at the local Christian bookstore, but it’s really, truly an excellent read, expecially for those with a skeptical turn of mind. Kugel uses linguistics, textual analysis and archaeology to analyze Biblical stories and place them into their original context (at the time of writing). In so doing, he turns many of the standard interpretations of Biblical stories on their head, and does well in explaining the numerous contradictions and inconsistencies. Great stuff.

  152. 152

    Damn it, George B.! I was going to go all Godwin with Aristotle, but you beat me to it.

    Aristotle, by the way, justifies his assertion of a first mover using Zeno’s Paradox on infinite regression. So this, as all these discussions do, winds up coming around in a circle. You can’t get anything out that you didn’t put in; you can only see what’s in your own universe, even to the point of not knowing is there are others, or even if there used to be more to yours than there is now. You are ignorant, I am ignorant, and there’s no rational answer to the question.

    If God pops up in front of me, then he and I can bicker about whether that was fair, but, short of that, it’s not a question worth debating.

  153. 153
    Henry says:

    Read Aristotle. All he requires is a Prime Mover, a causeless causation which is the net root cause behind every effect. Tough to disprove, really. Which is why we’re having this annoying conversation.

    The idea of a Prime Mover merely seeks to impart a spirituality to scientific phenomenon. I would still argue that, the more removed you make God from day to day events, the harder it is to distinguish him from science, and the less of a ‘God’ he becomes. Most people see God as a consciousness and a force. Which is why I started by clarifying I was dealing with the ‘biblical’ concept of God.

    I’d argue that those pets have pretty much no idea you exist. And if they do know you exist, they perceive you as a threat. They certainly wouldn’t understand why you cut off their food, since they probably don’t even understand clearly that you’re the one providing

    I’m still not buying the analogy. First of all, I’ve had lots of pets through the years, from fish, to mice, to dogs, cats, and rabbits. They all knew I existed. They all knew I provided food (with the possible exception of the fish). Sure, they would not understand why I cut off food, but they would understand I was the one doing it. They may doubt my reasoning, my actions – but they don’t doubt me.

    You can’t disprove it though, which is the point of all this pointless bickering.

    Which brings us back to the need to define which God we’re seeking to disprove.

  154. 154
    jc says:

    You can not draw any conclusions about the probability of the universe that we observe to exist without knowledge of the priors. Period.

    Why? So if an airplane was to asssemble itself from it’s own parts, in the space of milliseconds, and then 5 billion years later, evolution has gotten far enough, that on the “universe plane”, someone on the airplane is conscious enough to ask, “hey, how the hell did the plane assemble itself so perfectly?”

    That’s an invalid question? I just don’t see it. No matter if I know the priors or not, because I do know:

    a. If one little bolt of the composition of the airplane was off, the plane wouldn’t fly.
    b. The plane keeps perfect cabin pressure, comfortable enough, etc.

    You simply can’t dismiss this LINE of questioning, simply because you don’t know the priors. When a detective investigates a murder scene, he is also looking for clues of “whodunit”. So he is always looking a posterior.

    At the very least, it’s a natural and human reaction, to posit there is an intelligence at work. So why all the snark? Why treat people “as if” they are idiots?

    Again, it’s not unreasonable. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s not unreasonable.

    Say, since you will engage me on this, since we have found that mathematical equations, are the most “real” and permanent things, which all matter and energy must obey, and since mathematical equations can only be comprehended by abstract thought, is it fair to say that the universe is a big thought?

    I’m assuming that you at least think it’s fair to say that the universe is a Big Equation, right?

  155. 155
    jc says:

    The bayesian laws that govern the universe dictate that everything that happens is ridiculously implausible, yet things happen. The existence of specific outcomes doesn’t force me to assume that schoomaker-levy or any other tangible thing is guided by a specific intelligence.

    Tim,

    Then basically you are saying, we can’t speak of whether it is chance or not, right? But you assume the universe happens just “by chance”, or randomly.

    You and John keep referring to events that are explainable, random, and, repeatable (asteroids due hit planets), and do indeed come from physical laws.

    That’s an apples and oranges comparison though, because talking about systemic variables that even allow the creation of the system (the universe), is different thank talking about a specific event, and it’s a difference that makes a difference.

    I’ll ask you the same question, but slightly different – it isn’t even INTERESTING to you, that the most real “thing” in the universe, is a Grand Equation, that all matter and energy must obey?

    The universe is the Grand Equation. This isn’t objectionable, correct? The colorless, weightless, energyless, ghostly Equation, rules all.

    And yet, an equation is only “knowable” by an abstract mind. I’m assuming you think this (AGAIN!), is just a coincidence.

  156. 156

    The idea of a Prime Mover merely seeks to impart a spirituality to scientific phenomenon.

    Yeesh, Henry. Really, guy, you ought to read a bit before you spout off. Aristotle talked about the prime mover when he was writing about Physics, under the rubric of causality. There was nothing spiritual about his analysis.

  157. 157

    The fact that there is theology concerning a god, makes it not one bit relevant in a discussion of the concept god. You can make all kinds of excuses to have to deal with theology, and they’re nothing else. The original posit was god, not some theology based concept of god, just god.

    If your intellectual ammunition is so small calibered to need a self-defined construct to argue against, then the subject matter is out of your reach. There is no point asking what god to argue against, that was never the question. I’ve already made it clear I’m taking no position on yea/nay, I’m asking for an honest argument.

  158. 158
    slippytoad says:

    I disagree with that. While the field of ID is a giant load of bull, the premise is not without merit. We, as humans, are capable of all manner of creation and mutation within our environment. We engineered cars, constructed buildings, dug drainage ditches, manufactured computers. There is nothing inherently wrong with the idea that some other extraterrestrial being came along and “made” us. I’ve got no problem with that, hypothetically.

    Really? What is the origin of this hypothesis?

    Because from where I’m sitting, the only credible origin of the God hypothesis is: “I don’t understand how all this works, so someone smarter and more powerful than me must-a done it.”

    That’s not a hypothesis derived from evidence. It’s a wild-ass guess derived from ignorance.

    Sorry, still not even in the running. No one has found fingerprints, hair follicles, or signatures on glaciers. Hell, no one can even figure out where such a being would live, or, and this is really the crucial question, where he would have come from.

    It’s nothing but self-centered anthropomorphism. “God” is a being like us except with magical powers and the ability to create a Universe. This is derived only from the utterly flawed premise that Man can sometimes weakly create things, therefore whoever created the Universe must be manlike.

  159. 159
    Henry says:

    Yeesh, Henry. Really, guy, you ought to read a bit before you spout off. Aristotle talked about the prime mover when he was writing about Physics, under the rubric of causality. There was nothing spiritual about his analysis.

    Perhaps you should take a step back and look at Aristotle as a whole. This is the man who added the 5th element of Aether, a divine element, to the established elements of Earth, Fire, Water, and Air. He needed an element that was eternal, unalterable, and neither heavy nor light, for his view of the universe to make sense.

    His explanation of the ‘Prime Mover’ was that the heavenly bodies moved towards it, because it was an object of desire for them. And thus, enjoyed the best life.

    Aristotle lacked the knowledge of Newtonian physics and concepts of gravity. He needed a force which caused the heavens to move – so he dreams up a God who spends time ‘contemplating contemplation’, and who’s so good, and leads a life so enviable, that the heavens as a whole are attracted to it physically.

    In short, he added a spiritual element to explain the physical process of the stars moving across the heavens. Admittedly, the words ‘spiritual element’ are mine, not Aristotle’s. Though, I never claimed that is what Aristotle called it.

    The fact that there is theology concerning a god, makes it not one bit relevant in a discussion of the concept god. You can make all kinds of excuses to have to deal with theology, and they’re nothing else. The original posit was god, not some theology based concept of god, just god.

    Actually, the original posit was to disprove the existence of god. However, I (and others) have argued that before that can even be attempted, a working definition of God must proceed it. If you argue (as Aristotle might), that God is energy – well that’s much harder to disprove than the Concept of God as a person who pops into burning bushes every now and again.

  160. 160
    George B. says:

    God is at least as real as the concept of mathematics. Prove to me that numbers exist, other than as intellectual abstractions. Prove to me that equations exist, other than as mental exercises striving to make sense of the world. (In other words, the same way an atheist would define God.)

    His explanation of the ‘Prime Mover’ was that the heavenly bodies moved towards it, because it was an object of desire for them. And thus, enjoyed the best life.

    Was that in Physics or Metaphysics? Anyway, trashing Aristotle (a sport I’ll gladly join you in) does nothing to refute the idea of a Cause behind all Causes. That’s pretty hard to refute, or prove.

    This thread is pointless. Thanks for another turd, Mike D!

  161. 161

    In Michael’s defence, 160 comments

  162. 162
    George B. says:

    A big turd is still a stinker.

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  1. anti-theists behaving badly

    Huh. New guy at Balloon Juice Michael D likes to pick on girls.

    Michael, as a reading comprehension public service I requote part of Willow’s post to you:

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