Kaptonok, father of four and strong agnostic, in our last conversation (here) raised several questions against the believing Christian’s worldview, many of which have already been thoroughly explained, though being an interested observer, they have continued to advance new arguments in favor of their agnosticism. Steven Pinker, Robert Hare and arguments from probability being just a small sampling of the authorities and arguments I’ll have advanced against me in the upcoming material, though are any of the sources going to truly stand up to scrutiny. Are any of their argument in favour of agnosticism going to convince you in the upcoming discussion? Let’s review what’s already been shared and find out.
[K] How fixed ideas hamper investigation. . .
[K] Sam Harris’ “useful yardstick”. . .
[K] Consciousness as a quantum triggered event. . .
[OSC] Chapter eight of the Gospel of John: “Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me. . .”. . .
[OSC] Thomas Nagel: “In speaking of the fear of religion. . .”. . .
[OSC] The chicken or egg situation of Thomas Nagel. . .
[OSC] Affective disorders. . .
[OSC] Paradise Lost: “Better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.”. . .
[OSC] The infallible Kool-aid of the scientific consensus. . .
[OSC] The hoax of Charles Dawson. . .
[OSC] David Berlinski: “We are asking for a standard of behavior that would be wonderful to expect, but that no serious man actually does expect. . .”. . .
[OSC] Richard Dawkins: “I am more interested in the fence-sitters who haven’t really considered the question very long or very carefully. . .”. . .
[OSC] Alister McGrath: “Western atheism had waited patiently, believing that belief in God would simply die out. But now, a whiff of panic is evident. . .”. . .
[OSC] Holding to the fixed idea that holding to fixed ideas hampers investigation. . .
[OSC] Fixed ideas of an orderly universe. . .
[OSC] Fixed ideas of discerning by way of your mind. . .
[OSC] Using science to prove science. . .
[OSC] The applicability of science and maths. . .
[OSC] Doom of the universe. . .
[OSC] The promises of God versus the predictions of science. . .
[OSC] Jesus healing the lepers. . .
[OSC] Jesus’ Son of God confession. . .
[OSC] Jesus ben Ananias. . .
[OSC] The Gospel of John chapter nineteen. . .
[OSC] The difference between Jesus son of Joseph and Jesus ben Ananias. . .
[OSC] The graves of Buddha and Mohammad. . .
[K] The believing rejectionist. . .
[K] No evidence to suggest an intelligent creator. . .
[K] Dawkins is afraid of the effect of fairy stories. . .
[K] Religion moves to accommodate modern times. . .
[K] Our purpose. . .
“I see no moral improvement.”
So, is the above to say you find no moral improvement between Saudi Arabia, a nation whose government publicly cut people’s heads off, and Sweden, a nation of people who don’t? Most certainly you’ll experience something moral if you had to witness something so repugnant. However, you wouldn’t consider that experience anything other than your own personal preference. Similarly there’s no moral improvement between a nation committed to battling climate change when compared to an industrialist nation, the sort which might flatten and rape the earth of its natural resources to the point of extinction. There’s no moral dimension to such behaviors in your mind.
“Our purpose is to make the world a better place in the here and now.”
See, the above again is something a purely scientific interpretation of the universe/human experience doesn’t allow for. If you’re after “Just the facts ma’am” there’s no chance of us sneaking in purpose. Moreover by writing “a better place” you’re supposing a good, better, best approach. All of these ideas you’re betraying are simply intuitive, not scientific, they’re a part of what it means to be truly human, which is why I’m surprised to note you depart from this intuitive experience when the subject of morality appears. We simply can’t suppose a good, better, best approach because when we say something is “better” than some other thing, we’re in fact measuring them both by a third things. So when a person says such and such is better (morally) than such and such, what they’re doing is judging both men by an immutable third standard. Similarly when you wrote we two would draw the line differently between where competitiveness becomes something selfish, it’s not an issue in my mind for you to disagree with where my line stands, rather I’m convinced of an objective morality merely because you’ve drawn a line of your own!
If you and I both stood in a field and espied what looked a white blob, I may due to my normally impeccable eyesight say that we’re both seeing a lone sheep (or an Ewe to be technical), yet you’ll disagree, instead saying it’s a ram. Now, regardless of whatever on earth we’re looking towards, we’re certainly looking towards something. We have fair reason to doubt if the prison of our senses isn’t wholly reliable we may both not be seeing what’s truly there, nevertheless there’s something there.* Eyesight needn’t be universal, rather it tips us off that something is going on in between the process of image to eye to brain etc. Similarly, objective morality would mean there’s reality in a moral experience, not universality.
Again revising your idea of a human purpose. There’s simply no purpose, nor meaning, nor value if we’re to accept the sort of purely scientific worldview you’ve thus far described. Meaning to write about “Our purpose” is utterly without sense. Instead according to the model you have outlined we would have purposes, meaning subjective, ephemeral, individually tailored purposes which for each new person we encountered could be totally opposed to the last person we came across. Dr. L. D. Rue in an address to the American Academy for the Advancement of Science in 1991 explained as much. Chemicals, matter, objects, they simply are, for which to ascribe value or purpose to them is as sensible as me describing The Purpose (capital T capital P) of a rock.
It would appear to me that your issues are much like Sam Harris’, you’re both faced with a value problem, which David Hume (in a fashion) touched upon with their is ought problem. You’re given a universe as it is, and it makes no sense for you or Harris to say it ought to be otherwise. To suppose purpose and imply value (as you have) if merely a product of your own personal tastes would simply be irrelevant to….let’s say…..the psychopath!* Who would most certainly have their own purposes tailored to supplying themselves with various goals. Reviewers of Harris’ Moral Landscape book weren’t ignorant of the fact either:
“Moral obligations or prohibitions arise in response to imperatives from a competent authority. For example, if a policeman tells you to pull over, then because of his authority, who he is, you are legally obligated to pull over. But if some random stranger tells you to pull over, you’re not legally obligated to do so. Now, in the absence of God, what authority is there to issue moral commands or prohibitions.
There is none on atheism, and therefore there are no moral imperatives for us to obey. In the absence of God there just isn’t any sort of moral obligation or prohibition that characterizes our lives. In particular, we’re not morally obligated to promote the flourishing of conscious creatures. So this is/ought distinction seems to me to be one that’s fatal to Dr. Harris’s position and has been widely recognized as such by reviewers of The Moral Landscape.”
Furthermore, you and I should remember how Jerry Coyne and Sam Harris took double D (Dan Dennett) to task over their sneaky redefinition of freedom of the will in an attempt to retain the words yet eject the meaning. Harris however has been far from a saint with regards to the redefinition of terms, as exposed during a debate he had with Christian philosopher William Lane Craig:
‘So how does Sam Harris propose to solve the Value Problem? The trick he proposes is simply to re-define what he means by “good” and “evil” in non-moral terms. He says, “We should define good as that which supports the well-being of conscious creatures.”‘
‘So, he says, “questions about values are really questions about the well-being of conscious creatures.” And therefore, he concludes, “it makes no sense to ask whether maximizing well-being is good.”
‘Why not? Because he’s redefined the word “good” to mean the well-being of conscious creatures. So to ask, “Why is maximizing creatures’ well-being good?” is on his definition the same as asking, “Why does maximizing creatures’ well-being maximize creatures’ well-being?” It’s just a tautology. It’s just talking in circles! So Dr. Harris has “solved” the Value Problem just by re-defining his terms. It’s nothing but wordplay.’*
Murky waters indeed! Nonetheless, if we’re to say there’s some section of the nation who have any desire to redefine the moral good into whatever maximizes a creatures’ well-being, why not simply coin themselves another clearly defined concept instead of attempting (unsuccessfully) to hijack the moral good? In addition, further into their debate came what was called “a knock-down argument” against Harris’ entire landscape:
‘But Dr. Harris has to defend an even more radical claim than that: Uh, he claims that the property of being good is identical with the property of creaturely flourishing. And he’s not offered any defense of this radical identity claim. In fact, I think we have a knock-down argument against it. Now bear with me here; this is a little technical. On the next-to-last page of his book, Dr. Harris makes the telling admission that if people like rapists, liars, and thieves could be just as happy as good people, then his “moral landscape” would no longer be a moral landscape.
Rather, it would just be a continuum of well-being whose peaks are occupied by good and bad people, or evil people, alike. Now what’s interesting about this is that earlier in the book, Dr. Harris explained that about three million Americans are psychopathic. That is to say, they don’t care about the mental states of others.*
They enjoy inflicting pain on other people. But that implies that there’s a possible world, which we can conceive, in which the continuum of human well-being is not a moral landscape. The peaks of well-being could be occupied by evil people. But that entails that in the actual world, the continuum of well-being and the moral landscape are not identical either.’
Imagine a universe populated by a mere 300 psychopathic persons/sadists, for example. This by Sam Harris’ own book would disturb and unseat his ideas.
‘For identity is a necessary relation. There is no possible world in which some entity A is not identical to A. So if there’s any possible world in which A is not identical to B, then it follows that A is not in fact identical to B.
Now since it’s possible that human well-being and moral goodness are not identical, it follows necessarily that human well-being and goodness are not the same, as Dr. Harris has asserted in his book. Now it’s not often in philosophy that you get a knock-down argument against a position. But I think we’ve got one here. Uh, by granting that it’s possible that the continuum of well-being is not identical to the moral landscape, Dr. Harris’s view becomes logically incoherent.
So your good, better, best approach could again be employed by anybody. The rapist has a certain type of well-being they demand satisfied, the eugenicist, pedophile and of course the above mentioned psychopath (Who undermines Harris’ entire book).* Therefore, the peaks of well-being can be occupied by totally contradicting people and behavior types. Meaning, when you wrote Harris was merely making a helpful suggestion, people could then ask “helpful to whom?!”’
Now, if we’re to be scientific peoples, a science which can only be interpreted by the tools of reason and logic, humanity are bound by that same reason to reject incoherent notions like those of Sam Harris as found in the Moral Landscape. In concluding their speech William Lane Craig quoted from Dr. Arthur Allen Leff, whose article in Duke Law Journal reads:
All I can say is this: It looks as if we are all we have. . . . Only if ethics is something unspeakable by us [that is, something transcendent], could law be unnatural, and therefore unchallengeable. As things now stand, everything is up for grabs. Nevertheless:
Napalming babies is bad.
Starving the poor is wicked.
Buying and selling each other is depraved.
There is in the world such a thing as evil.
(All together now:) Sez who?
God help us.
Similarly concerning your point about changes in religious ideas and observance, attitudes and people may change in that they compromise, you’ve written so yourself, however “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” hasn’t ever changed. That’s been the case before, during and after our greatest minds supposed a static eternal universe. It’s the science that has confirmed the Bible narrative. Likewise in the great Christian tradition Saint Augustine wrote how the days described in Genesis needn’t be taken as literal 24 hour days, in fact, their interpretation isn’t based in mere Hebrew, it’s supported by the very context as found in Genesis and even Job! (Our earliest Bible book).*
With regards to your upcoming point, it’s one which isn’t uncommon amid the self styled infidel community, although I have to write I’m surprised you yourself wouldn’t have exposed the wealth of faulty reasoning attached:
“I see no evidence in the world or the universe at large to suggest an intelligent loving creator.”
Now, an evidence or evidences don’t necessarily point towards anything without first being interpreted, so when you write “I” (meaning you) see no evidence for a creator God, you’re really saying one of two things.
You’re either writing you have never happen upon some experiential, experimental or philosophic data which didn’t find a superior explanation in the naturalistic sciences. Yet to say that is your claim would mean discarding this highly effective rhetorical jab of “no evidence”, because it would be to admit there are other interpretations of the data which can point towards God, and unbelievers in general simply aren’t so sophisticated as to admit that. They (like most) are after red meat, their main desire isn’t to explain various features of our universe, rather it’s to feel as though they’ve already got an answer.
Or, you’re meaning to say you’ll never accept an interpretation of the evidence which could suppose God or lead to a conclusion towards affirming God. Although this alternative is unworthy of thinking people, for which I doubt you’re meaning to write this.
The reality of the situation is that evidence can point to several coherent conclusions based upon valid premises, and it’s the human mind which scrambles or conforms their evidence to some coherent system of ideas. So again, when someone asks for just the facts, they’ve already got all the facts everybody else has, especially so in public debate style conversation, for which people often try using these fallacies based upon how people came to their conclusions. Now, an example for evidence used in a conclusion pointing towards God would be the design argument as found in nature and the universe, about which even professor Dawkins wrote these are subjects for study “which look designed….but aren’t!”*
In January 2004 Flew and Gary Habermas, his friend and philosophical adversary, took part in and conducted a dialogue on the resurrection at California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo. During a couple of telephone discussions shortly after that dialogue, Flew explained to Habermas that he was considering becoming a theist. While Flew did not change his position at that time, he concluded that certain philosophical and scientific considerations were causing him to do some serious rethinking.
British philosopher Anthony Flew formed the always popular No True Scotsman fallacy, in addition to the invisible gardener illustration. Both of which, despite Flew later becoming a believer, are in use today.*
Flew stated that “the most impressive arguments for God’s existence are those that are supported by recent scientific discoveries” and that “the argument to Intelligent Design is enormously stronger than it was when I first met it”. He also answered in the affirmative to Habermas’s question, “So of the major theistic arguments, such as the cosmological, teleological, moral, and ontological, the only really impressive ones that you take to be decisive are the scientific forms of teleology?”
So the scientific forms of teleology convinced professor Flew, the Richard Dawkins of his day, that there truly was somebody watering those flowers and pruning roses after all! The argument and evidence from designed carried the day, and here’s a brief explanation of how it might read:
More specifically, the values of the various forces of nature appear to be fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent life. The world is conditioned principally by the values of the fundamental constants a (the fine structure constant, or electromagnetic interaction), mn/me (proton to electron mass ratio, aG (gravitation), aw (the weak force), and as (the strong force). When one mentally assigns different values to these constants or forces, one discovers that in fact the number of observable universes, that is to say, universes capable of supporting intelligent life, is very small. Just a slight variation in any one of these values would render life impossible.*
For example, if as were increased as much as 1%, nuclear resonance levels would be so altered that almost all carbon would be burned into oxygen; an increase of 2% would preclude formation of protons out of quarks, preventing the existence of atoms. Furthermore, weakening as by as much as 5% would unbind deuteron, which is essential to stellar nucleosynthesis, leading to a universe composed only of hydrogen. It has been estimated that as must be within 0.8 and 1.2 its actual strength or all elements of atomic weight greater than four would not have formed. Or again, if aw had been appreciably stronger, then the Big Bang’s nuclear burning would have proceeded past helium to iron, making fusion-powered stars impossible. But if it had been much weaker, then we should have had a universe entirely of helium. Or again, if aG had been a little greater, all stars would have been red dwarfs, which are too cold to support life-bearing planets.
If it had been a little smaller, the universe would have been composed exclusively of blue giants which burn too briefly for life to develop. According to Davies, changes in either aG or electromagnetism by only one part in 1040 would have spelled disaster for stars like the sun. Moreover, the fact that life can develop on a planet orbiting a star at the right distance depends on the close proximity of the spectral temperature of starlight to the molecular binding energy. Were it greatly to exceed this value, living organisms would be sterilized or destroyed; but were it far below this value, then the photochemical reactions necessary to life would proceed too slowly for life to exist. Or again, atmospheric composition, upon which life depends, is constrained by planetary mass. But planetary mass is the inevitable consequence of electromagnetic and gravitational interactions. And there simply is no physical theory which can explain the numerical values of a and mn/me that determine electromagnetic interaction.*
Moreover, life depends upon the operation of certain principles in the quantum realm. For example, the Pauli Exclusion Principle, which states that no more than one particle of a particular kind and spin is permitted in a single quantum state, plays a key role in nature. It guarantees the stability of matter and the size of atomic and molecular structures and creates the shell structure of atomic electrons. In a world not governed by this principle, only compact, superdense bodies could exist, providing little scope for complex structures or living organisms. Or again, quantization is also essential for the existence and stability of atomic systems. In quantum physics, the atom is not conceived on the model of a tiny solar system with each electron in its orbit around the nucleus. Such a model would be unstable because any orbit could be an arbitrary distance from the nucleus. But in quantum physics, there is only one orbital radius available to an electron, so that, for example, all hydrogen atoms are alike. As a consequence, atomic systems and matter are stable and therefore life-permitting.
Furthermore, before there’s the temptation to search after another interpretation of the above data, be the reply multi verse theory, some bounce model of the universe, whatever the multitude of alternative theories may happen to be, my argument isn’t that the above interpretation of the data is accurate, it’s that it’s viable. Which would mean your earlier attack against evidence for a creator God wouldn’t be accurate:
“I see no evidence in the world or the universe at large to suggest an intelligent loving creator.”
Surely it would be fanatical and intellectually dishonest if after having examined the above data a person continued to insist their wasn’t any evidence for a creator God. Now, if you and I can agree on the following statement, then there’s both evidence and argument for a creator God: There’s an interpretation of the scientific data, one of a great many interpretations, which could serve as a premise in an argument with a conclusion pointing towards a creator God. The statement itself appears fairly reasonable, and my aim modest, wouldn’t you agree?
Nevertheless, when professor Dawkins wrote how the universe and certain complex structures in it appear designed, they were in fact being a scientist, they found complex and specified information which is independently verifiable, they could easily conclude then that this was the product of design (Be it man, God or alien).* These findings were much unlike anything we find in reality, since when we leave a room for several hundred years we don’t return to find new carpeting and an expensive flat screen television mounted to the wall, instead we find the room in a dusty state of disrepair. Yet we expect this supposedly cruel and crumbling universe edging nearer and nearer into oblivion to be producing increasing intelligent life! Surprisingly however, it’s the second part of Dawkins’ statement which isn’t science, as they nonchalantly add “but aren’t” to the statement these complex structures appear designed. They mingled their philosophy of atheism with their science so casually most people hardly notice.
“The mature and observant are not fooled.”
An answer to the above would be an excellent test of maturity, simply due that the single thing we cannot say is that there’s no evidence for God when an arsenal of data can and is being interpreted by rational, intelligent men and women within the confines of a religious worldview. To disagree and insist there’s still no evidence for a creator God would surely be laughable when many of the greatest thinkers, thinkers who weren’t religious when they began their study, have concluded on the basis of the evidence that there is indeed a God.
Might I respectfully suggest you see in me your old unredeemed self.
We as men are party to our every private sin, we’re a constant companion and witness testifying against our every misdemeanor and major fault, whether that being that we were lustful, petty, deceitful, cowardly, quick to anger or worse. Which means for me to imagine you as my former self would be doing you a grand disservice!!! Instead, in my mind, a studied Christian mind if I may boast, you’re seen as wearing the image of someone far more valuable. We read in the book of Genesis:
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.*
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
The supreme proof of God’s sovereignty and command over your own life, kaptonok, you have been fruitful and multiplied four times! 😛 But seriously, you’re in God’s image in that you’re a rational, moral person, so too are your dearest loved ones. Christ was once asked whether or not the Jewish people ought to pay taxes to Caesar, their hated enemy, with which the rabbi asked that a denarius be brought to them, showing He lived so modest a life as to lack even a simple coin, they then asked upon receiving the coin: “Whose image is this?” “Caesar’s.” Was their reply. Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Caesar’s coins may bear his image, you and your children however were made in God’s likeness. He knew you as a friend and loved them as His own before any of us were born.*
Without God our love and care for one another doesn’t rise above speciesism, “a prejudice or bias in favor of the interests of members of one’s own species and against those of members of other species.” With God however the sort of love we’ve inherited is eternal, and the design in our universe isn’t merely in appearance, it’s actual, moreover, meaning, value and purpose are restored to an absurd universe.
Kaptonok: l’m a bit slack but it serves me well sometimes. I see no global over all improvement. We all see reformed characters and those who go to the dogs. Most evangelical Christians would agree with me , some would say we are worse than ever. End times and all that. As I keep repeting man is moral he has a conscience so he uses words like better or worse and he sees purpose in his actions. There is no immutable standard for the agnostic. Even among Christians standards differ.
My purpose is without sense to you because we see purpose differently.*
You see an over-arching universal purpose I do not. I don’t know about Sam Harris but I accept the universe as it is ; I have come to terms with it. Just as you have with your method of acceptance. You supplied the moral authority ; the law. Sam Harris’s well-being is just the golden rule restated. Robert Hare is the man to tell us about psychopaths he knows them very well and has released startling facts. There is no value problem is part of human make up. The rapist has no well- being he is ihunted down by the law. It is the law that keeps evil in check as admitted by St Paul: its our schoolmaster.
Notice please I said I see no evidence you obviously do thats no problem. Im not saying to you, you must see no evidence. You are looking at fine- tuning in reverse. If I pull from a pack of cards a two of clubs then the six of diamonds I could say how remarkable my chance if doing that was 2500:1.* If you could estimate the chance from say six thousand BC of me sitting here typing this it is staggeringly small. Yet here I am! Professor Brian Cox gave convincing evidence that intelligent life does not exist in our galaxy. We are very likely alone. Nonetheless we are here!
In his book How the Mind Works Steven Pinker dares to suggest our minds may be limited and unable to unravel all truth. The mind was evolved by natural selection for survival not to solve problems that are unecessary for that purpose. Many scientists and Christians behave as if we have unlimited mental resource.
OldSchoolContemparary: Good morning, kaptonok! So, to return to your reply, in your last message you wrote: “I see no global over all improvement.” Though this is very different from your earlier assertion of “I see no moral improvement.” It’s the equivalent to a young girl telling her parents “I’m not pregnant…..also I’m a little bit pregnant.” There either is or isn’t a baby in there! Similarly there’s either moral improvement or there isn’t. In addition, your use of “I see” appears to have several less than explicit meanings attached.
For example, how you’re applying “I see” or “I don’t see” in many of your replies appears to be used in an equivocating fashion, thus obscuring the matter of fact nature of the dialogue in relativism. Or the “It’s true for you but not for me” defense. Relativism however, like the ideas of Sam Harris, is self-referentially incoherent. Nevertheless, I’m next going to return to an argument you’ve most certainly misunderstood, and it’s apparent you’ve misunderstood it because after outlining the scientific evidence for God as found in the finely tuned constants of you universe, I wrote:
before there’s the temptation to search after another interpretation of the above data, be the reply multi verse theory, some bounce model of the universe, whatever the multitude of alternative theories may happen to be, my argument isn’t that the above interpretation of the data is accurate, it’s that it’s viable.
You then continued to dismiss the above and attack the concept of finely tuned constants as found throughout the universe! Yet your attack still doesn’t show the fine tuning of the universe by a creator God unviable. So, once over, I’m going to outline the argument in an altogether more formulaic style:
(1) Data doesn’t say anything without first being interpreted.
(2) Reasonable (not insane), sincere (not deceptive), highly intelligent unbelievers are being convinced by a viable interpretation of the data that a creator God exists (thus marshalling evidence for God).
(3) Therefore there’s evidence for an argument with a conclusion leading towards God.
(4) Therefore there’s both evidence and argument for God (regardless of what a person chooses to see or not to see).
Which of the above four points would you disagree with and why?
Returning again to your use of “I see” and “I don’t see”, because rather than “I see” meaning you see a sight to see, or to mean you’ve understood the material presented, “I see” when used by yourself appears to sometimes mean “I accept” or “I agree”, meaning when you wrote “I see no evidence for a creator God” what you meant wasn’t that there is no evidence for a creator God, just that you refuse to accept the evidence.* Yet the language being used is sufficiently murky so to inadvertently mask your point, selfsame Sam Harris, Dan Dennett and Lawrence Krauss, who famously equivocated over the word nothing.
If I pull from a pack of cards a two of clubs then the six of diamonds I could say how remarkable my chance if doing that was 2500:1.
Now, by the above you’ve attacked whether or not the design argument yet remains a viable option, however, your example remains fundamentally flawed in several respects. Firstly, it’s apparent you’ve underestimated just how extraordinary (even impossible) the claim is that chance, chance which is merely a descriptive term, could serve as explanation enough for the apparent fine tuning of our universe. Rather, an accurate example would be you winning the lottery, not once, not twice, but an innumerable amount of times! On and on into eternity. When do both you and I draw the line, because there must be a moment in which our culture stops glibly saying “Well, somebody had to win!”
Sir Fred Hoyle, famous for their beginnings in Cambridge and their theory of stellar nucleosynthesis, explained the situation simply like so:*
Now, if Sir Fred Hoyle believed there was evidence for a creator God in the universe, whether or not others choose to see that same evidence says more about their openness to the facts than about the facts themselves. A further example of how unlikely your chance hypothesis is comes by way of William Dembski in their Design Inference book:
Bill Craig: ‘Someone asked last week, “When does something become so improbable that it becomes impossible?” And I answered that question from memory by saying that William Dembski had set a probability bound of 10 to the 80th power (10 with eighty zeros thereafter), which is the number of subatomic particles in the universe.* Checking Dembski’s book, The Design Inference, I see I had a memory lapse and therefore need to correct this. You don’t consider simply the number of particles in the universe; you also need to consider the number of seconds in the universe which he generously places at 10 to the 25th power. So you would consider those states of the universe all through its history. Then he multiplies this by 10 to the 45th power as the number of events, or reactions, that could take place per second. On this basis, he arrives at a probability bound which is one half times one out of 10 to the 150th power. Anything that falls beyond that probability bound, he says, is not different from impossibility. That would be the answer to that question about when does something become so improbable as to be impossible.’
Their class continued: “That is a generally accepted figure – that there are around 10 to the
80th power [subatomic particles in the universe]. That is obviously an approximation. The same with the number of seconds in the history of the universe. That is given by the age of the Big Bang. These are not really controversial figures” (Meaning the figures of William Dembski).
A more clear description of the argument would read like so:
1. The fine tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
3. Therefore, it is due to design.*
You decided upon chance, which in reality causes nothing, an example being if you tripped while climbing a set of stairs “chance” wasn’t the cause of your falling over. Rather your foot hitting a wooden step and throwing you off balance was the actual cause. Once over, another accurate description of whether or not chance were involved would read as follows:
“The correct analogy would be like this: imagine a lottery in which billions and billions of white ping pong balls were mixed together with a single black ball.* You are told that a random drawing will be made, and if the ball is black, you will be allowed to live. But if the ball is white, then you will be shot. Notice that in this lottery, any particular ball that rolls down the chute is equally improbable. Nevertheless, it is overwhelmingly more probable that which ever ball rolls down the chute, it will be white rather than black. That is the analogy with the universe. Even though every particular ball is equally improbable, it is overwhelmingly more probable that it will be a white ball rather than a black ball.”*
“Similarly, out of all of the universes that might exist, any one is equally improbable; but it is overwhelmingly more probable that whichever one exists, it will be a life-prohibiting one rather than a life-permitting universe. So in the case of the lottery, if, to your shock, the black ball rolls down the chute and you are allowed to live, you ought to definitely think that it was rigged because it is overwhelmingly more probable that a white ball should have rolled down the chute. And if you still don’t see the point, then sharpen the analogy and imagine that the black ball had to be picked randomly five times in a row in order for you to live. That really would not affect the odds appreciably if the odds against choosing the black ball even one time were sufficiently great. But, nevertheless, I think everyone of us would see that if that happened five times in a row, you know that the lottery was rigged to let you live.”
“In the correct analogy, we are not interested in why you got the particular ball that you did – any ball you get is equally and astronomically improbable. What we are interested in is why you got a life-permitting ball rather than a life-prohibiting ball. That is not addressed by saying, “Some ball had to exist or be picked, and any ball is equally improbable.” In exactly the same way, we are not interested in why this particular universe exists. What we are interested in is why a life-permitting universe exists. That question is not answered by saying that some universe has to exist and every universe is equally improbable. We still need to have an explanation for why a life-permitting universe exists.” (Transcript: The Existence of God part fifteen).
Therefore, the science which so convinced professor Anthony Flew remains a viable option. Meaning not only can you and I find evidence from science to suppose God, but your earlier argument isn’t an appropriate critique.
There is no immutable standard for the agnostic.
That’s actually incorrect on two levels, firstly, an agnostic neither affirms nor rejects an immutable standard, meaning they don’t honestly know whether or not such a standard exists. They rather remain undecided. It’s atheism which leads to radical statements denying that there’s an immutable standard about which humanity should be concerned. Or perhaps your intention was merely to write: “In the opinion of an agnostic person there’s no positive affirmation of an immutable standard.” Although that’s just stating the obvious! That’s like me writing there’s no such thing as an underage sexual partner in the opinion of a member of NAMBLA (The North American Man/Boy Love Association).
The above statement about what agnostic people believe, as if because they believed it it were somehow true outside of their private imagining, is exactly why no thinking person insists upon their relativism. A person may indeed believe there’s no round to the earth, nevertheless, that doesn’t mean our planet earth is flat in reality!
“My purpose is without sense to you because we see purpose differently. You see an over-arching universal purpose I do not.”
The issue here isn’t that your definition of purpose is misunderstood, rather it’s that it’s understood all too well! Your purpose, no longer “our purpose” as you originally believed, could if we’re being candid be absolutely anything. An ambition of yours could be so grand as being elected president or a prime minister, or plain in that you’d simply like to work an ordinary job, have children and live a familiar formula as many people have done before. Yet regardless of how you decide to expend an ever dwindling cache of existence, whether you lived as an Albert Einstein or an Elmer Fudd,* none of your life experiences truly amount to anything.
Dr. Rue in their The Noble Lie book highlighted how by his estimation, which is seemingly shared by yourself, our lives are truly without meaning, for which we must altogether invent meaning, a breakdown of their book hereafter:
Dr. L. D. Rue, confronted with the predicament of modern man, boldly advocated that we deceive ourselves by means of some “Noble Lie” into thinking that we and the universe still have value. Claiming that “The lesson of the past two centuries is that intellectual and moral relativism is profoundly the case,” Dr. Rue muses that the consequence of such a realization is that one’s quest for personal wholeness (or self-fulillment) and the quest for social coherence become independent from one another.
This is because on the view of relativism the search for self-fulfillment becomes radically privatized: each person chooses his own set of values and meaning. If we are to avoid “the madhouse option,” where self-fulfillment is pursued regardless of social coherence, and “the totalitarian option,” where social coherence is imposed at the expense of personal wholeness, then we have no choice but to embrace some Noble Lie that will inspire us to live beyond selfish interests and so achieve social coherence. A Noble Lie “is one that deceives us, tricks us, compels us beyond self-interest, beyond ego, beyond family, nation, [and] race.” It is a lie, because it tells us that the universe is infused with value (which is a great fiction), because it makes a claim to universal truth (when there is none), and because it tells me not to live for self-interest (which is evidently false). “But without such lies, we cannot live.
Yet even the title of their book lacks true sense to it, since where is nobility in a universe where everything is relative. There’s nothing noble about this lie, there’s nothing ignoble either, not under atheism, it just is what it is.*
“I don’t know about Sam Harris but I accept the universe as it is; I have come to terms with it.”
Margaret Fuller once said “I accept the universe!” To which Mark Twain replied “I didn’t know anybody offered it to her.” 😛 Surely, if you and Harris are wrong (big if indeed), you’ve accepted a sort of universe you want to accept, and rejected another sort of universe (maybe even the true universe) because of various reasons, some good others bad.
“Sam Harris’s well-being is just the golden rule restated.”
The above is a superficial way in which to view “Do unto others”, and here’s why I write that: An atheist (Sam Harris) couldn’t merely restate a moral position from history, not when the teaching in question was the product of an entire belief set which atheists don’t share. Jesus’ belief set begins with fundamentally different propositions than those of every professing atheist, by which I mean to write, Jesus possesses propositional knowledge, and it’s due to their belief set in addition to their knowledge of propositions that they arrive at such ideas as “Humanity is objectively of worth”, or “There’s a moral difference between murdering my neighbors and healing their illnesses.” It’s as a consequence of such beliefs as the above that Jesus teaches profound moral and spiritual truths with regards to human life.
Sam Harris however, as you and I can plainly read for their Moral Landscape material, can only borrow from Jesus’ end conclusions without venturing further into the root cause of their teaching. For which Harris’ final draft became incoherent. Imagine this being done in another scenario:
A tough talking intellectual named Samson Harrison says he’s going to reform our justice system, “I’m all about law and rules”, Harrison assures people. The final draft of their proposal for reform however isn’t everything that it appears, though they’ve got everything right there in black and white, judges, policemen, lawyers and jurists, yet they’ve each been stripped of their professional and authoritative positions within society.* “Samson Harrison is all about law and rules”, Harrison’s critics begin by writing, “Marshal law and mob rule!” Samson Harrison, being the hard talking tough guy everybody knows him to be, found lawyers, judges, jurists and the like as altogether superfluous to the whole process of policing a nation. Romantic types who fancy a grander, more meaningful kinda justice system (Harrison imagines) are only fooling themselves that these things work. “Just think about it,” Harrison would write, “Capital punishment, prison suicides, miscarriages of justice, children born behind bars, they’re bad things, and my redefinition of the language helps move our culture away from these things. There ain’t no problem an old fashioned lynch mob can’t solve!”
The fact of the matter is people may find fault in various methods and institutions, and their eyes may be fixed upon an inquisition or persecution of days bygone or even here in the now. Nevertheless, to redefine the moral good in non moral terms and then say it’s “objective” (as professor Sam Harris tried) isn’t sensible, it’s the equivalent to saying 2 + 2 = 4 without wanting to commit yourself to the truth of mathematics. Due to the above reasons and more Sam Harris isn’t able to reaffirm many of the teachings of Christ which people find so compelling, they’re beliefs which point down a road atheists say doesn’t exist. If for example I said I have a better image of Galway in Ireland in my mind than you do, you’d possibly agree, after all Galway is an actual place, and I having been there can have more or less knowledge of the actual city than you, but if instead I wrote I’ve walked further down the mountain ranges of Mordor you’d reply that’s absurd, Mordor isn’t an actual place! Moral issues are similar in kind, and if atheists like Harris believe they’re in essence a Mordor (that and not Galway) then nobody can have better or worse familiarity with the moral landscape.*
Ross Douthat, a writer for the New York Times, brought the above issue of our human nature to light in an interview with comedian and critic of religion Bill Maher. In which they concluded their conversation: “If you think people are generally good, and then here comes religion with its flying spaghetti monsters and magical unicorns, then yeah, you’ll think it’s making people kill each other. But if you think how I do, and I think it’s proven by empirical evidences, that people are generally pretty shitty without religion, then you’ll look instead to moments where religion lifts us up.” Surely the message of the past 100 years, one with no end of godless dictators all too happy to kill for non-religious ideas, is that yes, people generally are “shitty”, of course for you and I to suppose either a generally good or bad humanity means postulating that third thing, that immutable standard they can be in violation of.*
To casually ignore the foundation of a house yet assume the roof will hold up says everything there is to say. Yale historian Jeroslav Pelikan explains where the West and Europe have gone horribly wrong, that being we’ve tried to hold onto the end result of Jesus’ belief set while dismissing the set itself. We’re hoping to conform Jesus’ image into someone the modern world can cosy up to, a man who won’t say they’re doing the bad:
“If it were possible, with some sort of super-magnet, to pull up out of that history every scrap of metal bearing at least a trace of Jesus’ name, how much would be left?” The answer being not a whole lot.
“Professor Brian Cox gave convincing evidence that intelligent life does not exist in our galaxy. We are very likely alone.”
To write “convincing evidence” is an interesting use of language, mostly due that you’ve thus far been unconvinced by many a point I’ve found thoroughly convincing. Could you outline the convincing evidence that ladies’ favorite Brian Cox convinced you by?
Purpose, probability and Sam Harris (or is that Samson?) have had extensive treatment in the above exchange, and although Sam’s ideas are logically incoherent, shallow and self defeating, maxing pleasure and minimizing pain would be how ordinary people understand moral dimensions at present. Harm is evil, whereas sex, food and wine are good, and that’s as deep as the understanding goes. The argument from design, as advanced by physicists and non-specialist Christian speakers alike, has also featured heavily, which surprised even me, as after the initial interest in the discovery, my personal taste for the study quickly melted away for the joy of studying Scripture. Nonetheless, unbelievers everywhere are being won over by the power of the argument from design, perhaps due to society’s materialism, since if even the material world is testifying of God, then to the person who’s always indirectly told to value the material universe, that’s good enough. Hopefully it’s that initial interest in science, the cosmos and God, one which is common amidst everybody everywhere, that could open the door so that people can begin seeking the Lord while He can be found.
Until our next exchange however, don’t so many questions remain unanswered, moreover, isn’t it possible that my conversation partner could turn our entire exchange upside down by use of their secret weapon?! That’s right, there’s a very good chance Mr Brain Cox is coming into orbit.
― T. C. M