Hitchens among the benighted

I'm dumber for even listening to this: Christopher Hitchens in a debate with FIVE blithering theologians (one of them was the so-called moderator). Hitchens was excellent, but the four other guys…Jebus. They all trot out these ridiculous arguments about a first cause and fine tuning and oooh, the historical evidence for Jesus is so good. Lee Strobel, in particular, is a flaming fraud and liar.

William Lane Craig was interesting, but stupid. His argument was that people couldn't have a debate if they were the mere product of chemical reactions, because chemical reactions just fizz, they don't hold debates. That's an argument from ignorance; it's claiming that all chemistry is a big black box he doesn't know anything about, there's no difference between biology and the chemistry of soda pop, and he needs to imagine a ghostly puppet master making the pop bottle dance. My impression of Craig's intellectual acumen plummeted in this one debate. (My impression of Strobel, of course, was already flopped flat in the mud, and the others I'd never heard of).

Hitchens, though…wow. That takes guts to charge into such a biased audience and a panel stacked and loaded against him, and maul them all.

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"...I don't know what his real reasons for supporting illegal wars, but I don't think his reasons for lacking belief in deities had anything to do with it..."

Quite the contrary, I think this is exactly what fuels his support for the Iraq War. Hitchens strikes me as a guy who deplores religion of all kinds to the extent that he thinks all of them to a creed work against human freedom. You can hear this tack of his in this two hour session, and I've heard him use it in other forums as well. It also seems that, even beyond religion, he deplores all manner of stark ideology in (possibly) either political direction. It's my supposition that Hitchens supports the Iraq War in large part because it draws the religious fanatics out into the open and at the very least provides a means of channeling their negative efforts so we can more directly fight them en masse while we pick them apart elsewhere through airport screening and international intelligence.

To be sure, Hitchens, while being perhaps the most well read, most capable, and historically aware IW supporter, has nonetheless had to support provable falsehoods in order to make the case that Saddam was uniquely worth toppling and Iraq the true core from which terrorism sprang. We know the IW basis to be false, and that Saddam himself was quite anti-fundamentalist (only using suiciders in other countries for small bombings when it suited him politically) because they challenged his own power, was a very thin Muslim himself, and has only ever been enabled by foreign supplies that had our fingerprints on it. When it comes to Hitchens and the IW, I see someone who finds a very different goal in the continued prosecution of the war, that being that it challenges a religion head-on, and at the very least offers an opportunity to provide a greater level of freedom to some people in the world, costs be damned. I of course think he is tragically wrong-headed if this is his true support motive, and it is a glaring misstep of his otherwise bountiful intelligence that he continues to support what so obviously was misguided and foolish in the extreme.

By BlueIndependent (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

Hitchens should not have done this. It is a ridiculous situation where he is going against 5 other people. If it were a 1-1 on debate or even 1-2 debate this might be more reasonable but this sort of thing really isn't helpful at all.

And for the record, I was very unimpressed with Hitchens in this debate even given the lopsided nature. He really didn't respond to much at all. I think that that fellow who debated Comfort in New Zealand recently would have done a better job for example.

you and your vaunted little philostopher buddies should just go watch Plato's Cave cartoons in your Cartesian theater, where your fat bloated homunculus with its quantum consciousness made of unexplainium and Mysterian microtubules, crams its face with jujubes, dribbling ectoplasm onto the cinemuck.

Quoted for grins.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

philosophy-hatred just because people can't immediately counter the arguments of the philosophical theists

Speaking only for myself, I don't "hate" philosophy, I just find it all immensely boring. For me, personally, it's much more fun and interesting and rewarding to think about stuff that, you know, exists in the real world around us.

*shrug*

Plus so much of it smells like bullshit.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

jennyxyzzy

Quoting the wiki definition:

The fine-tuned Universe is the idea that the conditions that allow life in the Universe can only occur when certain universal physical constants lie within a very narrow range, so that if any of several fundamental constants were only slightly different the universe would be unlikely to be conducive to the establishment and development of matter, astronomical structures, elemental diversity, or life as it is presently understood. [1]

You wrote:

Note the use of the word 'unlikely'. Also, note the use of the word 'fine' in fine-tuning. By specifying that the tuning is fine, and not rough, we are implicitly indicating that the probability of such tuning is low. You appear to be using a very non-standard definition of the fine-tuning argument. You shouldn't be surprised when people misunderstand you as a result.

The word "unlikely" refers to the fact that if the constants changed by much the universe would be unlikely to support life. Nothing from the Wiki definition says that the constants themselves must be unlikely or highly improbable. If the constants had probability unity, the wiki definition would still stand. That is not at all in conflict with my defintion.It is the same as my definition. The only thing we might agree on is that the name fine-tuning is bad--but I didn't give it that name.

And I'm never surprised that people misnderstand the actual definition of fine tuning.

Just for the record, it may be useful to list the seven arguments for God’s existence that Craig put forward. I will also give my carefully considered response to each of them.

1. Whatever exists has an explanation of its existence. If the Universe has an explanation of its existence then God exists. Since the universe exists God must exist.
Response: BS.
2. Whatever begins to exist has a cause. Scientific evidence shows that the universe began to exist, from which it follows that there is a transcendent cause which brought the universe into being from nothing. That cause is God.
Response: BS.
3. The argument based on the fine-tuning of the universe. Fine-tuning is due to either necessity, chance or design. Since chance and necessity are implausible, therefore it must be design, therefore God exists.
Response: BS.
4. The moral argument: If God does not exist objective moral values and duties do not exist. But objective moral values and duties do exist, from which it follows necessarily and logically that God exists.
Response: BS.
5. The ontological argument. If the existence of God is even possible then it follows that God exists. The argument is that God (‘a maximally great being’) is omniscient, omnipotent and morally perfect in every possible world. If it is possible that God exists in any possible world than God exists in every possible world.
Response: BS.
6. Jesus is the revelation of the Creator-God of the Universe.
Response: BS.
7. God can be known immediately through personal experience.
Response: BS.

Hitchens could have been stronger.

Drosera nails it. All arguments for god are essentially circular. All arguments for the god of the bible are pathetic.

I agree Andrew. But when the moderator becomes part of the debate it became quite absurd. He stuck with his basic anti christian theism argument that the god of love seems to be quite cruel and absent. There really was no way he could address every absurd point and argument being thrown around.

Drosera, more or less agree but let's be more explicit:

1. Whatever exists has an explanation of its existence. If the Universe has an explanation of its existence then God exists. Since the universe exists God must exist.
Response: The universe could have always existed. Moreover, if something did create the universe why assume that that thing has any of the standard divine traits (i.e. loving, omnipotent etc.) For all we know the universe could be the equivalent of a highschool science project for some extremely advanced entities.

2) Whatever begins to exist has a cause. Scientific evidence shows that the universe began to exist, from which it follows that there is a transcendent cause which brought the universe into being from nothing. That cause is God.

Response: See response to 1.

3. The argument based on the fine-tuning of the universe. Fine-tuning is due to either necessity, chance or design. Since chance and necessity are implausible, therefore it must be design, therefore God exists.

Response: No. There is very little evidence for fine tuning. Furthermore, design just pushes the matter up by 1 since it isn't clear why the designer wouldn't need to be designed.

4. The moral argument: If God does not exist objective moral values and duties do not exist. But objective moral values and duties do exist, from which it follows necessarily and logically that God exists.

Response: Why assume there are objective moral values? Different societies disagree radically with what is moral. So under what basis can one claim that morality is objective? Moreover, it isn't at all clear to me why you couldn't have objective morality without a deity. To use an obvious version of things you could have a universe with some sort of set Platonic ideals of good and evil.

5. The ontological argument. If the existence of God is even possible then it follows that God exists. The argument is that God (‘a maximally great being’) is omniscient, omnipotent and morally perfect in every possible world. If it is possible that God exists in any possible world than God exists in every possible world.

Response: This isn't the normal phrasing of the ontological argument but all forms of the ontological argument suffer from the same essential flaw: You can't use the properties of an entity unless you assume the entity exists. So the reasoning is circular. I could by functionally identical reasoning conclude that there is a largest integer. That's obviously nonsense.

6. Jesus is the revelation of the Creator-God of the Universe.

Response: And why should I think this? Why should I favor this claim over claims of other religions? And why would an all-powerful deity only send as his message a single human to a single part of the world as a one time event?

7. God can be known immediately through personal experience.

Response: Given the many cognitive flaws in human reasoning and the ability for humans to simulate quasi-religious experiences using psychological effects as well as drugs, why should I believe these personal experiences are anything less than cognitive quirks? Moreover, nearly identical claims are made about many other supernatural entities such as the Hindu deities. Indeed, Ramanujan claimed to get some of his mathematical ideas as revelation from Hindu deities. So if anything they've got a leg up on this God fellow.

Wow. That was a waste of time. Next time maybe I'll just use your tactic.

@ Ken Cope [[I only wish I was ignorant of Chalmers. It would appear that Lewis used ectoplasm as vigorously as Chalmers deploys philosophical zombies, and I've got two shells in my shotgun just in case I hear any zombie talk. You're not going to talk zombie, are you? If what you're selling is dualism to support a load of theism, then you may as well employ the trade talk of 19th century spiritualist grifters and parasites while you're at it--it's almost honest. Scott, you and your vaunted little philostopher buddies should just go watch Plato's Cave cartoons in your Cartesian theater, where your fat bloated homunculus with its quantum consciousness made of unexplainium and Mysterian microtubules, crams its face with jujubes, dribbling ectoplasm onto the cinemuck.]]

Did you remember to wipe?

I couldn't get through the second theologian without wanting to shoot myself in the head

"And the theists on here who make the case for Craig et al: Sorry, but either you don't know that Craig, Swinburne, Plantinga in their arguments for faith have long been refuted by so many philosophers, that their arguments do not stand uncontested as conclusive - then you're an idiot, or you DO know something about academic philosophy, you DO know that people like Mackie (The Miracle of Theism), Sobel (Logic and Theism), Everitt (The Non-Existence of God), Martin (The Improbability of God; The Impossibility of God; Atheism - A philosophical justification; The Cambridge Companion to Atheism) and so many more have long since dealt fatal blows to the arguments you present - in which case you're deceptive liars trying to come out as the intellectual 'winners' of this thread by being complete sophists in steamrolling the people here with philosophically weak arguments knowing full well that they cannot easily be assessed - and misrepresenting philosophy in the process."

This is a load of cobblers. You go on to make the same error with respect to Mackie, Martin, et al, that you accuse theists of making when it comes to Craig, Plantinga, et al. Talk about misrepresenting philosophy!

(Being an atheist) does involve accepting conclusions that may be unwelcome. I don't particularly want my own death to be succeeded by annihiliation and my return to atoms - it's not what I wish for myself. But I'm not going to say I don't believe it because I don't like it ... because that would be babyish, wouldn't it? Nobody argues like that.

Hitchens argues as though it's a foregone conclusion that God doesn't exist. Last I checked, the matter has yet to be settled. The fact is, people do argue like that, because it's only babyish if there is proof, or at the very least extremely compelling evidence, that what you want to believe is false.

I've not seen compelling evidence to suggest that God does not exist, so I choose to believe in God, because the alternative is simply too awful. Prove to me there is no God, and then I will concede my belief to be babyish -- irrational, even.

(At this point someone will inevitably invoke the cosmic teapot or the flying spaghetti monster or any of the other flaccid strawman arguments that deflect from the real question. Irrespective of precise form, the question is whether or not some kind of conscious entity created the universe.)

The stakes are very high: eternal existence on the one hand and oblivion on the other. In the absence of proof either way, why not look for any evidence at all in support of the best possible option? Why is it babyish to hope -- in the absence of proof -- that the best option is true?

Prove to me there is no God,

Typical idiocy of the religious. Negatives cannot be proven. To show some intelligence, you have to turn the arguement around so that god doesn't exist until clear evidence is available to show otherwise. And there is no evidence showing otherwise.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

In the absence of proof either way, why not look for any evidence at all in support of the best possible option?

Why not look at the evidence objectively and go where it leads? Furthermore, there isn't absolute proof, and you can't expect it. Rather, you should look at the large amount of evidence suggesting that an anthropomorphic invisible entity who cares about us doesn't exist.

Your suggestion, that we specifically keep an eye out for evidence that confirms our preferences, is almost a perfect description of the wrong way to do things.

The stakes are very high: eternal existence on the one hand and oblivion on the other.

Why do you assume that just because there is a deity it will let people live forever? Why do you think you will be one of those getting this privilege? Explain what you think 'eternal existence' means when you are absent a body or brain, or some kind of corporeal form.

It's very easy to make these arguments when you keep things murky. Give specifics, and your argument will flake apart.

Prove to me there is no God, and then I will concede my belief to be babyish -- irrational, even.

No, you prove to me that there is a God, or at least present some evidence.

Why is it babyish to hope -- in the absence of proof -- that the best option is true?

Because it is exactly that. Besides, you don't hope, you believe.

#516 is mine. I forgot to use the new Nym.

O.K. Stickwick - as Nerd @515 put it, you have the question backwards. If you make incredible claims, you'd best have incredible evidence. So what specific evidence do you have that there was some intelligent creator needed for the origin of the universe? You are defaulting to the wrong premise. Because we don't know something does not default to supernatural causes. The correct default is that we don't know right now but we may find out later.

More to the point, just why does there have to be a creator at all? One of the interesting arguments is that there "has" to be a reason for our existence. Nope. No reason needed, we just are. It is rather like the fine tuning argument. The constants are what they are so that we can exist. No - basackwards again. The fact that we exist and life is possible indicates nothing about any design. If the constants were different, then life is a non-event but that does not mean that there must be a creator to adjust everything until, like Goldie Locks, everything is just right.

because the alternative is simply too awful.

Funny, I'd say that the universe being ruled by a psychopathic, omnipotent overlord with the inclination to subject human beings to eternal torment is one of the most awful ideas anyone ever entertained. But that's just me.

But that's just me.

No, CJO, I'm right there with you. It's what it says about people who buy that account, and enthusiastically, that bothers me; it says lots more about people than it does about the truth of the proposition, or how we'd be able to tell if it were true. As god concepts go, it's more daft and less hopeful than most, especially the ones from other cultures that seem so readily dismissable and laughably preposterous to Westerners steeped from birth in tales of zombie Jesus whose magical flesh and blood we're to consume so we'll get to live forever.

Stickwick Stapers,

I just had a look at your website. As a collector of godbots I must say that you are an interesting specimen. You are an astrophysicist with a PhD from 'a respectable institution.' I have a few of these in my private collection, but they are pretty rare. Some of my fellow collectors would sell their grandmothers to get an undamaged specimen.

It seems you have fallen for the lure of the afterlife. I fear that you have spent too many lonely nights looking through a telescope and realizing what an insignificant speck of matter you really are. Granted, this realization can be unpleasant. But I just can’t see how an intelligent person, as you probably are, can swallow that silly Jesus fairytale in response. Of all the incredible nonsense that religious zombies have invented that must rank among the most nonsensical. Why would you believe one iota of it?

Now, where did I put my bottle with chloroform?

Sorry Heddle you stated this.

Any kind of life requires complex chemistry and big molecules to store information. It therefore requires metals.

And this,
Sorry. I am using metal to mean "anything beyond helium." It is entirely obvious that you need them. From hydrogen and helium you can only get--hydrogen and helium. You cannot store information--so you cannot have life. Of any kind.
And this,

You must collect that H and He into stars and cook it into metals. Then you can have a rich enough chemistry to make molecules for storing information, such as DNA. Maybe it needn't be organic--but it has to be complex.

And this,

The argument is this: if the universe cannot create stars, then the hydrogen and helium from the big bang will remain hydrogen and helium. Unless protons decay

I could go on.

Your whole argument is assuming that a viable universe for life requires the exact same physics as we see in our universe. Well if you are after the exact type of conditions that we currently see then of course the universe is fine tuned, fine tuned to such a degree that what we see is, well what we see. So in essence you are in fact defining life as life as we know it. Secondly, you mention sensitivity of constants, since we don't fully understand the the physical universe, yet! and do not have a TOE, how can you make any claims about sensitivity or in fact the constants themselves.

By Doug Little (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

"Typical idiocy of the religious. Negatives cannot be proven."

Typical internet 'wisdom.' Negatives can be proven quite easily, and quite obviously. Most logical proofs rely on the negative proposition, "Nothing can be both true and false at the same time and in the same respect," better known as the law of noncontradiction -- a law that can be formally derived and proven. If you've ever worked your way through a proof of the law of noncontradiction, you've proven a negative. Also, there's this little thing in logic called double negation, so *any* proposition can be stated as a negative (P = ~~P).

The real problem is with the term 'prove.' The sense in which you want to use it entails that we can't prove a positive proposition, either. Think about it.

The stakes are very high: eternal existence on the one hand and oblivion on the other

Pssssst, Your being conned!

By Doug Little (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

Now that Eric has revealed the secret of the double tilde, the philostopher's guild, with its demands for rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty, is going to want the half a bee that Eric is not, to be returned post haste. It's the half that Eric could assume for a conditional proof, the imaginary premise Eric can use to prove he's entitled to any conclusion he starts with.

Science never does prove anything. Science leaves proof to math, whiskey, and philosophy, careful even to accord the status of "fact" more than provisionally, defining a fact (per Gould) as "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent." Philosophy proposes many ideas that are not disproven, that also "do not merit equal time in physics classrooms."

I've not seen compelling evidence to suggest that God does not exist, so I choose to believe in God, because the alternative is simply too awful. Prove to me there is no God, and then I will concede my belief to be babyish -- irrational, even.

Prove to me there is no Ra, no Zeus, no Thor, no Brahman, no Loch Ness Monster, no Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc.You can't prove the absence in regards to existence because absence of evidence and evidence of absence look like the same thing. The default position should always be scepticism as it's positive evidence that sways us towards the existence of whatever it is we are talking about. Even William Lane Craig takes this position. Do you have reasons to believe in God? Do you have positive evidence for the claims? If so, bring them out and see if they are reason enough to believe. If they aren't, then why should we believe?

Typical internet 'wisdom.' Negatives can be proven quite easily, and quite obviously. Most logical proofs rely on the negative proposition, "Nothing can be both true and false at the same time and in the same respect," better known as the law of noncontradiction -- a law that can be formally derived and proven. If you've ever worked your way through a proof of the law of noncontradiction, you've proven a negative. Also, there's this little thing in logic called double negation, so *any* proposition can be stated as a negative (P = ~~P).

When we break out of logic and to reality, negatives cannot be proven. What would the difference between absence of evidence and evidence of absence be in the case of God? I'm reminded of the dragon in my garage bit out of The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan.

"Science never does prove anything."

Right, which was the point of my last remark:

"The real problem is with the term 'prove.' The sense in which you want to use it entails that we can't prove a positive proposition, either. Think about it."

See?

"When we break out of logic and to reality, negatives cannot be proven."

And neither can 'positives.'

Eric thinks philosophy is something other than sophistry. Without physical evidence, all philosophy is sophistry.
I'll leave the math arguments to Charlie Epps. ;)

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

WRT "fine-tuning," form follows function. If I am designing a habitat for polar bears, one of the characteristics of the resulting structure is that a considerable percentage of it will be habitable by polar bears. Even the parts that are not directly polar bear-habitable (such as the refrigeration systems, water purification system and so on) will exist in support of polar bear habitability.

If I am a competent designer, then there should be a minimum of space and material that is not relevant to maintaining an environment for polar bears, and most of the actual space taken up by the structure should be suitable for providing life-support to polar bears.

If only .0001% of the structure is habitable for polar bears, it is a poor design. Likewise, if I design a hamster cage the size of Sears Tower, but only a shoebox sized volume of it is not instantly fatal to hamsters, it's an extremely poor design for a hamster cage.

Now, if we posit the following:

1)An Intelligent Designertm exists who is capable of creating a Universe and dialing up the physical operating principles and constants of that Universe to order for the purpose of providing life-support for intelligent beings (we'll call them "humans" for simplicity) capable of worshiping Him/Her;

2) This Designer possesses unlimited intelligence and capability;

It follows that a Universe intelligently designed as a life-support system for humans would be mostly human-habitable.

For example, we could imagine principles of physics set up so that instead of stars and tiny little planets lost in an inconceivably vast empty void, the Cosmos is filled with a honeycomb-like structure that is land and ocean on all exposed surfaces, with a sun-like light/heat source in the center of each cell. Physical forces like gravity and the nuclear forces would be "set up" to insure that the structure would be stable and safe for humans. The humans themselves would be designed to fit seamlessly with the nature of the structure. If "humans" were designed to be the size of dragonflies or bacteria (while still being able to consciously choose to love and worship the Designer), even more of them could be supported in the same amount of space.

If each honeycomb cell possessed the surface area of planet Earth, and the structure as a whole filled an equal volume to that of Universe as we know it, this structure could support uncountable -illions more humans than our Universe. Needless to say, a Cosmos designed along these lines would provide the Designer with far more worshipers with whom to have loving personal relationships than our Universe does. I concocted this design in a matter of minutes. A superhuman intellect would be able to do far better.

From this it follows that if our Universe is designed, it is designed for some purpose other than as a life-support system for humans. We would be like some little colony of bacteria living in the Large Hadron Collider saying "Whelp--we can live here, so this place was obviously made for us!" A "fine-tuned" Universe could very well be "fine-tuned" for some purpose as unfathomable to us as the purpose of the Large Hadron Collider is to bacteria.

It seems to me that the intentions of a truly superhuman entity capable of custom-designing Universes would almost certainly be unfathomable to us. The motives attributed to Yahweh in the Bible--to have a collection of human serfs to obey and praise him--are very human motives we can see in action in any king or dictator. That Yahweh is repeatedly referred to as a "king" in the Bible makes it abundantly clear that he is a projection of the ideology of Iron Age monarchy onto the Cosmos.

Human kings have entirely explicable reasons for seeking the adoration and obedience of their subjects. Without it, they have no power or wealth, and would have to get a real job. The serfs are valuable to the king because their capabilities are comparable to his own. They can perform useful work for him that he cannot or would rather not do for himself.

These motivations do not apply to beings of vastly superhuman capability who can design entire Universes on the level of fundamental physics. If this Universe were "fine-tuned" by intelligence, this it would be a disproof of Christianity, not an evidence in its favor.

Just watched it.

While Hitchens did a great job of making points, I'm afraid I have to agree with William Lane Craig (a loathsome admission on my part) on one thing: Hitchens did an abysmal job of addressing points made by others.

We mock Ray Comfort for riding through the debate with Sam, ignoring Sam's challenges and just sticking to his prepared comments and condemnations, and yet Hitchens did just about the exact same thing. We need someone like Hitchens to publicly and solidly shut down nonsense like the ontological or fine tuning arguments, or else the cretinists are just going to keep using them AND crow about how they stumped a prominent atheist with them!

So while Hitchens probably made some people think, he was too quick to go off on his own without relating to or addressing the questions or apologetics posed to him.

"Do you have reasons to believe in God? Do you have positive evidence for the claims? If so, bring them out and see if they are reason enough to believe."

You seem to be confusing warrant with 'being persuaded.' I can be persuaded of something that the evidence doesn't warrant, and I can doubt something that is warranted. The concepts are quite distinct.

I think you have the quality of being 'rationally coercive' in mind, which is to say an argument is rationally coercive just in case any rational person who hears and understands it will accept its conclusion. Do you think that the proposition, 'God exists' is only warranted if it follows from a rationally coercive argument, or do you concede the possibility that a person could rationally believe that god exists even if his arguments fail to persuade you?

Now that Eric has revealed the secret of the double tilde, the philostopher's guild

*sings*

Weeee represent the Philosophers' Guiiild, the Philosophers' Guiiild, the Philosophers' Guiiild...

Jason, that "Wintery Knight" guy, Walter Bradley? He's a creationist held in high esteem by the chair of the Texas State Board of Education. He was treated like royalty by the board, even as they snubbed some of the world's greatest scientists.

In fact, they call Bradley a great scientist.

Damned. Texas is damned, and Walter Bradley is God's evidence of that damnation.

Do you think that the proposition, 'God exists' is only warranted if it follows from a rationally coercive argument, or do you concede the possibility that a person could rationally believe that god exists even if his arguments fail to persuade you?

Honestly I don't think anyone could rationally believe in God regardless of whether they could persuade me or not. That's what faith is after all. I think the phrase 'God exists' requires much more than an argument, but evidence supporting that argument. It's the same kind of burden of evidence I would put on any idea, be it God or gravity (or as I like to call it, intelligent falling.) Surely in your dealings with atheists on here, you've ascertained that the words "show me the evidence" are more than just rhetoric, that evidence is important to the people here.

Eric@524,

Two words: Intuitionistic logic.

Come back when you understand this.

"Honestly I don't think anyone could rationally believe in God regardless of whether they could persuade me or not. That's what faith is after all... Surely in your dealings with atheists on here, you've ascertained that the words "show me the evidence" are more than just rhetoric, that evidence is important to the people here."

Let me get this straight -- you spend all your time requesting evidence you're persuaded doesn't exist? Does that sound rational? It sounds like therapy to me: 'Most people believe such and such, but I don't; when I ask them for evidence, they can't provide it, yet they still believe; this makes me feel smart.'

"Eric@524,
Two words: Intuitionistic logic.
Come back when you understand this."

Drosera, come back when you learn to read, eh?
I wrote:

"**Most** logical proofs rely on the negative proposition, "Nothing can be both true and false at the same time and in the same respect," better known as the law of noncontradiction -- a law that can be formally derived and proven."

Now, how is that in conflict with intuitionistic logic? (Incidentally, you seem confused here: Intuitionistic logic does without the law of the excluded middle; it retains the law of noncontradiction. So, here's your homework: first, work on your reading -- this is very important! Second, review whatever it is you think you know about intuitionistic logic.)

Dork. Hitch couldn't of possibly addressed all their arguments. It was stacked against him. Even the "moderator" piled on. And he wasn't given much time to rebut.

Let me get this straight -- you spend all your time requesting evidence you're persuaded doesn't exist? Does that sound rational?

No, you don't have it straight. I'm requesting evidence because I don't find faith a good answer for anything. The more evidence, the less faith required. And the less faith required, the more likely a concept is to be true. I can think of many pieces of evidence that would convince me that God is real, can you think of anything that would falsify God to you?

'Most people believe such and such, but I don't; when I ask them for evidence, they can't provide it, yet they still believe; this makes me feel smart.'

You're missing the point. My atheism is the lack of evidence to support any notion of theism. That I don't see enough evidence to believe so I don't believe. So if you show me enough evidence then I'll change my mind. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I think you are confusing my scepticism with absolute certainty.

KevinC,

Good point, I'm sure that there is plenty of other way more interesting things going on in the creator's petri dish to not even give us a second glance. I could see it now.

"Oh, and over here we have unremarkable carbon based life. Would you like to see something really interesting?"

By Doug Little (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

Kel, take a close look at these two quotes from your previous posts:

"I'm requesting evidence because I don't find faith a good answer for anything...I can think of many pieces of evidence that would convince me that God is real...So if you show me enough evidence then I'll change my mind."

"Honestly I don't think anyone could rationally believe in God regardless of whether they could persuade me or not."

Right. So, you can think of many pieces of evidence that would persuade you that god is real, and if you have enough evidence you'll change your mind, but you don't think that anyone could rationally believe in god -- yourself included, if the evidence ever persuaded you?

Dude, this is simply incoherent.

Right. So, you can think of many pieces of evidence that would persuade you that god is real, and if you have enough evidence you'll change your mind, but you don't think that anyone could rationally believe in god -- yourself included, if the evidence ever persuaded you?The 2nd quote you took of me was talking about faith. The f word. That's why I don't think anyone can rationally believe in God. Because it requires faith. God requires faith to believe in. To believe in God requires faith. Got the idea yet? This is why I argue to show me evidence, to take it out of faith and bring it to reality. If God exists, then there should be evidence for God. Otherwise how would we know that God exists to begin with? How would we know the mind of God, i.e. the moral commandments, the instructions on how to live? How do we know? How did we come to know? How can we verify that? Those are the real questions I wanted answered about any potential deity. If there were evidence for a god, I'd be a deist. If there were evidence that points that the god is the god of the bible, then that again requires evidence. Not faith, evidence. While the idea of God is tightly coupled with faith, I would argue that no person can rationally believe in God. Do you understand the difference yet?

"That's why I don't think *anyone* can *rationally* believe in God. Because it ***requires*** faith*. God ***requires*** faith to believe in. To believe in God ***requires*** faith. Got the idea yet? **This is why I argue to show me evidence, ***to take it out of faith*** and bring it to reality**. If God exists, then there should be evidence for God...Got the idea yet?"

No, and neither do you, apparently. Again, reread what you wrote.

Three times you wrote that belief in god *requires* faith; then you wrote that you ask for evidence to 'take it out of faith.' Again, this is incoherent. If belief requires -- *requires* -- !REQUIRES! -- faith, why are you spending so much time trying to 'take it out of faith,' something that can only be judged -- if belief requires -- *requires* -- !requires! --faith, to be impossible?

You can't be serious Eric.

Three times you wrote that belief in god *requires* faith; then you wrote that you ask for evidence to 'take it out of faith.' Again, this is incoherent. If belief requires -- *requires* -- !REQUIRES! -- faith, why are you spending so much time trying to 'take it out of faith,' something that can only be judged -- if belief requires -- *requires* -- !requires! --faith, to be impossible?

Stop playing with words and see the underlying meaning. Whether God exists in the universe or not is external to our belief in God correct? And faith is not a means to ascertain knowledge, it's a justification for a position. What I want to know is how we can tell whether there is a god or not, and if there is one or more deities that if the Christian religion has the correct version. So my questions are how we came to know God and how we can discern that from all the other deities and supernatural explanations that are pretty much omnipresent across societies. The belief in God may require faith, but God as an entity either exists or doesn't completely external to the human experience. I'm not interested in what people believe, just what is real.

Eric the half a fuckwit, just blundered on arguing with us as if we had disagreed with him when he claimed, ""Science never does prove anything."

Right, which was the point of my last remark:

"The real problem is with the term 'prove.' The sense in which you want to use it entails that we can't prove a positive proposition, either. Think about it."

See?

You were fucking agreed with, an experience you must find so unusual that you missed it, and carried on as if anybody was contesting your claim that science can't prove a positive proposition. Two posts after the one you're quoting, genius, I wrote:

Science never does prove anything. Science leaves proof to math, whiskey, and philosophy, careful even to accord the status of "fact" more than provisionally...

What philosophy "proves" isn't worth a bucket of warm piss. Philosophy, the way idiots like Eric and the Philostophy Stoners deploy it, is the marketing arm of medievalist theology.

To go further. We have good reasons not to trust faith. The plethora of different religious faiths is a good start. Individuals in each of these different religions are all convinced of the religion's truth, and they can't all be true given the different nature of these claims. Futhermore we can see the same kind of rationalisation elsewhere: in conspiracy theories, with ghosts and other paranormal activities, alien abduction stories, talking to the dead, cryptozoology, etc. Each time we are seeing rationalisations of beliefs that all defy what we understand reality to be, and conflicting ideas both pushed with equal measure.Through psychology we can understand just how this works. It may be that one of the millions of different beliefs that people hold on faith and rationalise through reason may be correct. But when there are so many different ideas all requiring belief rather than a presentation of the evidence, what are the chances of any single one being correct? Christianity on faith is as appealing to me as the idea that moon landing was a hoax. This is why people ask for evidence, it's because there are so many snake-oil merchants out there who all demand that same belief without evidence. So for any one of those to be correct requires something more than faith. I may be going to hell for taking this position, but you may be reincarnated with a degenerate disease for having a desire...

Eric:

the law of noncontradiction -- a law that can be formally derived and proven. If you've ever worked your way through a proof of the law of noncontradiction, you've proven a negative.

You have "formally derived and proven" the "law" of non-contradiction? ~(p^~p)=T ?
What set of axioms did you use? Publish immediately!

Intuitionistic logic does without the law of the excluded middle;

Intuitionists first don't accept the axiom of double negation ~~p=p
Deep sixing the "law" of the excluded nibble... err... middle, a theorem which is derived from it.

This is why people ask for evidence, it's because there are so many snake-oil merchants out there who all demand that same belief without evidence.

Oh, come now, Kel, if you demand evidence, if you fail to believe, if you behave skeptically, when Madame Leota intones the magic words from inside her floating crystal ball:

Horntoads and lizards, fiddle and strum. Please answer the role by beating a drum!

Ghost fiends and furies, old friends and new! Blow in a horn, so we'll know whether it's you!

Serpents and spiders, tail of a rat; call in the spirits, wherever they're at.

Rap on a table; it's time to respond. Send us a message from somewhere beyond.

Goblins and ghoulies from last Halloween. Awaken the spirits with your tambourine.

Creepies and crawlies, toads in a pond; let there be music, from regions beyond!

Wizards and witches, wherever you dwell, give us a hint, by ringing a bell!

--then there'll be no ectoplasm for you, young man!

Eric, you have been pushing your philosophical god for ages now. How many regulars agree with you? If the number is the fingers of one hand minus four or five, maybe you need to just let the argument go. As a salesman, your bonus is zero.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

Um, I didn't say that such a set existed. Nor do I feel the need to explain what I mean to someone who has no idea what they're talking about and isn't in a position to understand the explanation even if it were given.

Boringly predictable, really. Philosophy partisans wield these unsupported claims of ignorance as a cruxifix against a vampire.

I've been reading philosophy off and on for many years. Never in my life have I encountered any philosophical concepts that were difficult to understand, except sometimes in cases where they were closely related to topics in science or mathematics. This has always been an amusing contrast to my reading in mathematics and physics, where I encounter difficult problems or challenging passages in texts, on almost a daily basis.

Daniel Dennett has admitted that an intelligent scientist can become "quite a savvy philosopher of mind" with only three weeks of hard study. How long do you think it takes to become quite a savvy cognitive scientist or quantum physicist?

Daniel Dennett has admitted that an intelligent scientist can become "quite a savvy philosopher of mind" with only three weeks of hard study. How long do you think it takes to become quite a savvy cognitive scientist or quantum physicist?

The text of Shadows of the Mind by Roger Penrose would be quite the useful introductory exercise for aspiring cognitive scientists. If "spot the logical fallacy" were a drinking game with that book, nobody could get through a few pages, let alone a chapter, without dying from alcohol poisoning. And it's written by an authority on quantum physics!

Faith is the concept the religious invented once they realised science wasn't finding any evidence for their gods and people started to get a little less enthusiastic about filling the collection plate and doing what they were told.

The Old Testament Israelites didn't have the same concept of faith that contemporary humans are told they should have. They didn't need to; the evidence was everywhere (because they had no other explanation for the moon and rainbows etc.) and, somewhat significantly, their god showed up from time to time and actually did shit to remind them of his existence*.

Then some genius decided that - I'm not sure why - an invisible, untouchable, unsmellable, intangible carrot/stick combination would be as effective as (if not better than) the usual, physically present kind.

Of course, these are also the people who guarantee there's an afterlife. I wonder if they've got any bridges for sale?

*Of course, some of what he did to remind them he existed was bad - but at least it showed he cared.

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

Doug Little,

how can you make any claims about sensitivity or in fact the constants themselves.

Not just me. Virtually all of us, that is the physicists on the planet, who are mostly atheists, agree. There are some exceptions of course, but I could provide you with a large number of references of renowned atheistic physicists who agree that the habitability of the universe is sensitive to the values of the constants. If you think that its a theist thing, you're dead wrong. It’s really not that hard. Change the electron proton mass ratio a bit, and atoms are no longer stable. This sort of thing.

Perhaps you should write all of them and tell them that you are sure they are wrong, and trivially wrong at that.

Heddle,

I could provide you with a large number of references of renowned atheistic physicists who agree that the habitability of the universe is sensitive to the values of the constants. If you think that its a theist thing, you're dead wrong.

No doubt.

Then there's Douglas Adams:

... imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!'
By John Morales (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

@557 & Douglas Adams:

That's right!

Got to love Douglas Adams.

I know I do; I've been more influenced by him than probably any other single person.

He's very high up on the list of people I really, really wish hadn't died without giving us so much more - along with the likes of Elliott Smith, Bill Hicks, Kurt Cobain and Heath Ledger, to name a few.

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

What Wowbagger wrote.

Well, I've made it down to #450, but there's still a way to go, so excuse me if I'm repeating something that's already been said since post #450.

To all the guys who are calling William Lane Craig stupid ,(especially that one guy who claimed he could beat WLC in a written debate) I challenge you to engage William Lane Craig where it counts IN THE PEER REVIEWED LITERATURE. Craig is a research professoir of philosophy and has published much on the fine-tuning and cosmological arguments you are calling "stupid" now in many philosophical and astrophysics journals .
If Craig's arguments are so stupid you people should easily be able to access his articles, and write a logically coherent rebuttal of sufficient muster to survive peer review demonstrating the stupidity of his position.
If not you should at least be humble in pointing out perceived flaws.

So after reading this comment, I went along to Craig's Wikipedia page to see what ideas he was famous for. All but one section was about theology, and a few "proofs" for God e.g. "He is often credited with reviving the Kalam cosmological argument for the existence of God, which argues for a first cause from the finitude of past events and the origin of the cosmos." Such arguments have many different refutations, and in fact have been refuted many times in the past by, not only laypeople such as ourselves, but actual philosophers too. And we don't need to "study" (in the sense of the word that means go out and spend a few years on the subject) philosophy to reject such arguments because they are essentially basic arguments (compared to the rest of philosophy), and because you don't need to study biology to refute intelligent design.

Now, there is one part of his page that mentions non-theological matters. It says, "In the philosophy of time, he has vigorously defended the tensed or A-Theory of time and a Neo-Lorentzian interpretation of the Theory of Relativity, involving a privileged frame of reference and relations of absolute simultaneity."

If that really is his position on the subject, then he is going against the overwhelming majority of physicists who would mention that simultaneity and frames of reference are all relative due to the special theory of relativity. In fact, anyone who'd studied one year of a physics degree could tell him this (this includes me). Seriously, I'm willing to bet that there are more biologists that are Creationists than physicists that are "Neo-Lorentzians".

The Neo-Lorentzian interpretation of the Theory of Relativity is basically the same as the conventional interpretations of relativity, except they hold onto the idea of an "aether" that permeates all of the universe and this provides an absolute frame of reference. Before the late 19th century, this was an assumed part of most scientific models of the universe. However, in the late 19th century and early twentieth, several experiments to detect the aether and measure absolute motion produced results that were inconsistent with the aether theory. Then Einstein came along, and revolutionized physics, showing them that the universe needs no aether. In fact, to hypothesize an aether now, is to hypothesize something that by definition can never be detected. Ever. Even if it existed. There can never be any evidence for it, that's how powerful a message those experiments sent. So, I actually have more respect for Craig's religious beliefs than his views on physics, because at least if his religious views were true, then they could in theory be demonstrated. His views on relativity though, not only are they unfalsifiable, they are actually indemonstrable too!

Now, there also seems to be some discussion of philosophy vs science(least there was earlier). Here's my two cents. I've seen a lot of talk about materialism, as if that's somehow synonymous with science. It's not. I can think of at least one thing in science that isn't materialistic: space-time.

Anyway, I see science as a subset of philosophy. It is specifically the subset that follows the scientific method (I know that sounds like a tautology, but I really don't expect to have to describe the scientific method on Pharyngula) and assumes one thing: that empiricism works. It doesn't assume much else major as far as I can tell. There are plenty of concepts in philosophy that show that empiricism isn't infallible (e.g. problem of induction, Plato's allegory of the cave, Descartes' evil daemon, solipsism, yadda yadda). Those are of course weaknesses of science, but they aren't arguments for rejecting science either. The scientific method is the best method we have of finding out the nature of truth, so even with ideas that demonstrate empiricism's flaws, there's no reason to suppose that they make empiricism automatically false. Only if empiricism is shown to be false should we reject science, and I really don't see that happening any time soon.

By Alex Deam (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

Virtually all of us, that is the physicists on the planet, who are mostly atheists, agree. There are some exceptions of course

Voltaire: "All is for the best, in the best of all possible worlds!"

Eisenhower: "Things are more like they are now than they ever were before."

Man! Woman! Child! All are Up against the Wall of Slipshod Theistic Apologetics desperately attempting to appropriate credibility unto itself by taking credit for the myriad accomplishments and dizzying success of Science!"

Yeah guys, heddle's actually right. The whole shebang about fine-tuning actually isn't in and of itself a religious argument. It's actually a scientific one, and is essentially a glorified version of the anthropic principle. The idea of a "fine-tuned universe" has been hijacked by intelligent design advocates and creationists as their "intellectual" version of the argument from design. It hasn't helped that the concept is crippled with an unimaginably bad name (I mean come on, the name "fine-tuned" implies a "fine-tuner"), so I hope whoever named it gets their comeuppance.

So you shouldn't be too worried if someone says, "I believe in a fine-tuned universe" (however, I do believe that the concept is flawed through lack of imagination, but it's a valid belief I guess). However, you should be worried if someone says, "I believe in a fine-tuned universe, therefore God".

By Alex Deam (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

The text of Shadows of the Mind by Roger Penrose would be quite the useful introductory exercise for aspiring cognitive scientists. If "spot the logical fallacy" were a drinking game with that book, nobody could get through a few pages, let alone a chapter, without dying from alcohol poisoning. And it's written by an authority on quantum physics!

Shadows of the mind is deliberately not in Penrose's area of expertise. It is a book examining consciousness, so the fact that a physicist wrote a book on consciousness should clue you in that it may contain fallacies, and will almost certainly be against the grain of current understanding in science. So in fact "aspiring cognitive scientists" shouldn't read that book.

However, aspiring physicists should read Penrose's "The Road to Reality", which is absolute tome of a book (it basically starts out with rudimentary mathematics and then by the end of the book you're learning al about Theories of Everything). It's an epic book. My goal is to be able to understand everything in the book (so far I'd be pushed to understand a quarter I reckon).

By Alex Deam (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

Yeah guys, heddle's actually right. The whole shebang about fine-tuning actually isn't in and of itself a religious argument. It's actually a scientific one, and is essentially a glorified version of the anthropic principle.

And the anthropic principle has flavors defined by fideist and skeptic Martin Gardner, as, the Weak Anthropic Principle, the Strong Anthropic Principle, the Final Anthropic Principle, and the Completely Ridiculous Anthropic Principle, otherwise known as WAP, SAP, FAP and CRAP, as cited in the New York Time Review of Books, so there's your peer review right there...

Based on the performance of heddle in this thread, my respect for him has gone up exactly one notch. We're not out of negative numbers here yet, and fideism as a stance for heddle to take not yet out of reach. It is at least understandable, since the night is long, and whatever gets you through the night...

And yet, Offisa Pup, And yet...

A physicist who looks forward to the eternal worship of a god that can eternally punish, and who will somehow dry our tears and make us feel all better about how the person that we used to be would think it really sucked that loved ones had an eternity of torture to look forward to and it's good, good that god is torturing the people I loved before I had my merely human compassion fixed, and still torture college students with their failure to properly parrot the second law of thermodynamics.

It's a puzzlement.

may contain fallacies

I'm so glad I was not attempting to savor a postprandial beverage. My monitor thanks me too. The only lingering respect I have for the field of philosophy is due to the gusto with which logicians and philosophers, average Janes and Joes from next doors all across this tiny globe of ours, lit into the text of Shadows of the Mind as if it were something more than merely a flaming sack of poop on the doorstep of anybody who took the subject of consciousness and its explanation seriously and soberly.

A puzzlement? My ex-wives are puzzlements. Heddle is another guy on the quad.

By Sven DiMlo (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

Heddle is another guy on the quad.

The sort that teaches Sunday School, among the reasons I would never let my young children anywhere near such a pit of depravity. Of course, I drive defensively.

My ex-wives are puzzlements.

I have only one ex-wife. I refer to her as the anti-wife. Sometimes, marriages are like pancakes; you have to throw the first one out. Sorry, I decided not to figure out a way to work "bacon" into this remark.

Erasmus @553:

"Daniel Dennett has admitted that an intelligent scientist can become "quite a savvy philosopher of mind" with only three weeks of hard study. How long do you think it takes to become quite a savvy cognitive scientist or quantum physicist?"

I wouldn't call this an "admission", but where exactly does Dennett claim this?

Scott@372:

Ectoplasm is a technical term in philosophy, but you're illiterate, so you wouldn't know that. You sound like a dipshit who hears a scientific term they don't understand and then calls "stupid".

That one or more of Chalmers or Lewis or Jackson (none of whom believe in sui generis mental substances) use the term "ectoplasm" to refer to an example possible (but non-existent) mental substance doesn't make "ectoplasm" a "technical term" in philosophy. especially when the term is apparently actually a technical term in "metapsychics[sic]" (Compare "the hard problem", "Humean supervenience", and "the placement problem", for terms associated with these philosophers, respectively).

By Benson Bear (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

if our Universe is designed, it is designed for some purpose other than as a life-support system for humans. We would be like some little colony of bacteria living in the Large Hadron Collider saying "Whelp--we can live here, so this place was obviously made for us!" A "fine-tuned" Universe could very well be "fine-tuned" for some purpose as unfathomable to us as the purpose of the Large Hadron Collider is to bacteria.

I am so stealing this analogy.

nothing's sacred said:

Or this variation:

a) Exactly one of these statements is false.
b) There is no God.

If a is true, b must be false, but if a is false, b can't be true, so b is false either way and there is a God. Actually, I think this one is harder to refute than most of the stuff people like Craig and Plantinga come up with.

Or this variation:

a) Exactly one of these statements is false.
b) There is a God.

Therefore, there is no God.

(In fact both these arguments don't take into account polytheism, but never mind that)

It is obvious that the statement "Exactly one of these statements is false" must be kept separate from the 2+ statements if those 2+ statements are to have any meaning.

e.g. Exactly one of these statements is false:

a) Some statement
b) A different statement

Anyway, isn't this just another version of the Liar's paradox?

Stickwick Stapers said:

(Being an atheist) does involve accepting conclusions that may be unwelcome. I don't particularly want my own death to be succeeded by annihiliation and my return to atoms - it's not what I wish for myself. But I'm not going to say I don't believe it because I don't like it ... because that would be babyish, wouldn't it? Nobody argues like that.

Hitchens argues as though it's a foregone conclusion that God doesn't exist. Last I checked, the matter has yet to be settled. The fact is, people do argue like that, because it's only babyish if there is proof, or at the very least extremely compelling evidence, that what you want to believe is false.

I've not seen compelling evidence to suggest that God does not exist, so I choose to believe in God, because the alternative is simply too awful. Prove to me there is no God, and then I will concede my belief to be babyish -- irrational, even.

But Hitchens isn't saying that belief in God is babyish in the quoted paragraph, he's saying that belief in God is babyish if it's because the believer doesn't like the idea of a world without God. And such a reason for belief is babyish. No-one likes having to pay taxes, but it's moronic to go, "Well I don't like paying taxes, therefore taxes don't exist".

KevinC said:

WRT "fine-tuning," form follows function. If I am designing a habitat for polar bears, one of the characteristics of the resulting structure is that a considerable percentage of it will be habitable by polar bears. Even the parts that are not directly polar bear-habitable (such as the refrigeration systems, water purification system and so on) will exist in support of polar bear habitability.

If I am a competent designer, then there should be a minimum of space and material that is not relevant to maintaining an environment for polar bears, and most of the actual space taken up by the structure should be suitable for providing life-support to polar bears.

If only .0001% of the structure is habitable for polar bears, it is a poor design. Likewise, if I design a hamster cage the size of Sears Tower, but only a shoebox sized volume of it is not instantly fatal to hamsters, it's an extremely poor design for a hamster cage.

Now, if we posit the following:

1)An Intelligent Designertm exists who is capable of creating a Universe and dialing up the physical operating principles and constants of that Universe to order for the purpose of providing life-support for intelligent beings (we'll call them "humans" for simplicity) capable of worshiping Him/Her;

2) This Designer possesses unlimited intelligence and capability;

It follows that a Universe intelligently designed as a life-support system for humans would be mostly human-habitable.

For example, we could imagine principles of physics set up so that instead of stars and tiny little planets lost in an inconceivably vast empty void, the Cosmos is filled with a honeycomb-like structure that is land and ocean on all exposed surfaces, with a sun-like light/heat source in the center of each cell. Physical forces like gravity and the nuclear forces would be "set up" to insure that the structure would be stable and safe for humans. The humans themselves would be designed to fit seamlessly with the nature of the structure. If "humans" were designed to be the size of dragonflies or bacteria (while still being able to consciously choose to love and worship the Designer), even more of them could be supported in the same amount of space.

If each honeycomb cell possessed the surface area of planet Earth, and the structure as a whole filled an equal volume to that of Universe as we know it, this structure could support uncountable -illions more humans than our Universe. Needless to say, a Cosmos designed along these lines would provide the Designer with far more worshipers with whom to have loving personal relationships than our Universe does. I concocted this design in a matter of minutes. A superhuman intellect would be able to do far better.

From this it follows that if our Universe is designed, it is designed for some purpose other than as a life-support system for humans. We would be like some little colony of bacteria living in the Large Hadron Collider saying "Whelp--we can live here, so this place was obviously made for us!" A "fine-tuned" Universe could very well be "fine-tuned" for some purpose as unfathomable to us as the purpose of the Large Hadron Collider is to bacteria.

It seems to me that the intentions of a truly superhuman entity capable of custom-designing Universes would almost certainly be unfathomable to us. The motives attributed to Yahweh in the Bible--to have a collection of human serfs to obey and praise him--are very human motives we can see in action in any king or dictator. That Yahweh is repeatedly referred to as a "king" in the Bible makes it abundantly clear that he is a projection of the ideology of Iron Age monarchy onto the Cosmos.

Human kings have entirely explicable reasons for seeking the adoration and obedience of their subjects. Without it, they have no power or wealth, and would have to get a real job. The serfs are valuable to the king because their capabilities are comparable to his own. They can perform useful work for him that he cannot or would rather not do for himself.

These motivations do not apply to beings of vastly superhuman capability who can design entire Universes on the level of fundamental physics. If this Universe were "fine-tuned" by intelligence, this it would be a disproof of Christianity, not an evidence in its favor.

You're arguing against a religious strawman. What you're calling "fine-tuning", is actually the argument from design.

By Alex Deam (not verified) on 11 Apr 2009 #permalink

Foggg@549,

Thanks a lot, you spare me the trouble of answering that pompous idiot Eric myself.

Thank you #422, Richard:

Fine-tuning?This is a planet where 90%+ of all life it has ever seen has gone extinct. That is not the track-record of a system finely-tuned for _life_.But what about human life? This is a planet where fully 3/4ths is terrain that would kill us in hours if we were dropped on it. Most of the 1/4th of the planet that isn't impossible to live on for aquatic reasons is still lethal to humans -- either too hot, or too cold.Of the remainder of the planet where humans could actually thrive, most of _that_ is infested with bacteria, parasites, poisonous insects, and bears, all of which would make a happy meal of a human being (and they do, on a daily basis!)This is not a planet that is finely tuned for life, and it is even _less_ finely tuned for human life.

and #531, KevinC:

If I design a hamster cage the size of Sears Tower, but only a shoebox sized volume of it is not instantly fatal to hamsters, it's an extremely poor design for a hamster cage....If each honeycomb cell possessed the surface area of planet Earth, and the structure as a whole filled an equal volume to that of Universe as we know it, this structure could support uncountable -illions more humans than our Universe. Needless to say, a Cosmos designed along these lines would provide the Designer with far more worshipers with whom to have loving personal relationships than our Universe does. I concocted this design in a matter of minutes. A superhuman intellect would be able to do far better.From this it follows that if our Universe is designed, it is designed for some purpose other than as a life-support system for humans. We would be like some little colony of bacteria living in the Large Hadron Collider saying "Whelp--we can live here, so this place was obviously made for us!" A "fine-tuned" Universe could very well be "fine-tuned" for some purpose as unfathomable to us as the purpose of the Large Hadron Collider is to bacteria.

Thank you both for this wonderful ammo! I just used your ideas to enlighten some Jehovah's Witnesses with great success. They actually left of their own volition, pleasantly, after I committed blasphemy pretending to be God creating a skyscraper-size dwelling for a few people and then relegating them to a little cage in the back.It occurs to me that many religious people have never had an atheist point out the absurd moral implications that reality reveals about their god, or identify the social foundations of their faith (why not another religion à la Dawkins), or question the authenticity of their "historical" doctrine.In the end, one of the reasons I think Hitchens does an excellent job in debates is because he gets Christians and Jews and Muslims to laugh at their own beliefs. We should never allow believers with exemplary philosophical backgrounds to feign the deist/OC argument when they are only using it to shield their own belief and others' in zombies, souls, miracles, etc. Hitchens keeps bringing it back to the absurdity of belief.

By aratina cage (not verified) on 11 Apr 2009 #permalink

aratina cage

It occurs to me that many religious people have never had an atheist point out the absurd moral implications that reality reveals about their god, or identify the social foundations of their faith (why not another religion à la Dawkins), or question the authenticity of their "historical" doctrine.

No, that never happens. We never talk to unbelievers! I tell my kids unbelievers can give them cooties, even over the internet! I mean, geez louise, a few weeks ago a heathen tried to lie to me that Christmas was once a pagan holiday!! Not that I believed him of course. I just put my hands over my ears and prayed loudly, and he went away. Praise Jesus.

I just put my hands over my ears and prayed loudly, and he went away. Praise Jesus.

And the difference is that heddle plugs his ears and prays in the sophisticated manner of a real honest to gosh physicist (no, really! he teaches physics in college and used to practice physics in a lab! and he's so important, that God miraculously intervened and saved his sorry ass and turned him into a Calvinist!) who lives to snark at atheists, claiming that only he and Ken Miller have the standing to steal science back from atheism and make the crudest theist (which heddle is not, nope nope nope) embrace evolution like a clandestine lover.

aratina cage

It occurs to me that many religious people have never had an atheist point out the absurd moral implications that reality reveals about their god, or identify the social foundations of their faith (why not another religion à la Dawkins), or question the authenticity of their "historical" doctrine.

No, that never happens. We never talk to unbelievers! I tell my kids unbelievers can give them cooties, even over the internet! I mean, geez louise, a few weeks ago a heathen tried to lie to me that Christmas was once a pagan holiday!! Not that I believed him of course. I just put my hands over my ears and prayed loudly, and he went away. Praise Jesus. - heddle

LOL! Not you, heddle. I don't mean Baptists or Buddhists or Wiccans or New Agers arguing with Lutherans about theology, either. How many of your believing friends have you sent to Pharyngula? How many believers have had lengthy conversations with confident atheists of the kind you find here? Maybe I should have said naturalistic atheists, the ones who look at woo with deep skepticism.These guys were laughing with me at their attempts to justify zombie Jesus using Josephus (thanks for your honesty about that in the maggie thread, btw, heddle) before they decided to go. They asked very personal questions about my non-belief. Sure, it could have been a big act. I'll never know. However, I found that they had very earth-centric viewpoints unlike you, heddle, as if this little dust ball in space was the very purpose behind the creation of the universe.

By aratina cage (not verified) on 11 Apr 2009 #permalink

And the difference is that heddle plugs his ears and prays in the sophisticated manner of a real honest to gosh physicist... - Ken Cope

*grinning at Ken* Exactly. The thing is, unlike heddle, the physically disabled man at the end of the Q&A session had probably not gone out of his way to listen to such an astute atheistic perspective before attending the debate. Hitchens is great at connecting with the audience.

By aratina cage (not verified) on 11 Apr 2009 #permalink

Heddle's a Calvinist and believes in predestination, so presumably it doesn't matter in the slightest if he or his kids listen to an atheist. It doesn't matter if he actually deconverts. It doesn't matter if he murders or rapes or commits genocide. God decided his fate before he was born, and there's not a damn thing Heddle can do about it.

@32: "These men were professionaal philosophers, theologians and apologists trained in the use of reason"

I lol'd

Anyway, isn't this just another version of the Liar's paradox?

Not quite, and your saying "just" and providing other examples indicates that you didn't get my point at all. I used the Liar's paradox to construct an argument that God exists. We know that the argument is invalid because we can use the same logic to "prove" anything at all, but it is extremely hard to show how it is invalid (or it was, before Tarski). Compare this to arguments by Craig an Plantinga. They are worthless, because no matter how difficult it may be to show how they are invalid -- although not nearly as hard as with the Liar's paradox -- we can be darn sure that they are invalid, as they try to prove something that just isn't the sort of thing that can be deduced with pure logic.

By nothing's sacred (not verified) on 12 Apr 2009 #permalink

I don't know if it has been said but that was Wilson's main argument not Craigs.