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LaplacesDemon and The Thinker: the existence of God

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  • LaplacesDemon and The Thinker: the existence of God

    This is a formal debate/discussion between LaplacesDemon and The Thinker with only these two being permitted to post in this thread.

    The topic that they will be discussing is the existence of God with LD starting. After the opening there will be two rebuttals followed by a conclusion. The only limit on length is the maximum allowed in a post by Tweb.

    Each poster will have 48 hours to make each response unless the other participant agrees to a delay.

    LaplacesDemon will start

    I'm always still in trouble again

    "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
    "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

  • #2
    I'm going to welcome my opponent. It is good to be debating someone who shares my commitment to evidence based reasoning and solid metaphysics. What we are debating today is an important issue.For many years our ancestors looked around them and saw 2 radically different things. There are conscious persons and there is nature. Persons make choices for reasons and purposes. Blind nature has no purpose and just follows mechanistic laws. People wondered what the ultimate reality was. Did everyone come about because of a because of blind nature and natural processes or did they come about because of a transcendant person?
    I'll be defending the view that there was a person (God) behind the universe , and when we look at features of the universe we can see things that are the result of purpose and design.
    Now I don't think we can prove anything with certainty, but I think there is good evidence for the existence of God.

    1)Leibinizian Cosmological Argument [1]

    1) Anything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in an external cause or in the necessity of its own nature.
    2) If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
    3) The universe exists.
    4) Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence. (from 1, 3)
    5) Therefore, the explanation of the existence of the universe is God. (from 2, 4)

    Let us examine the premises.

    Premise 1 seems quite plausible. We know from our experience that things we see, whether it be a human or a planet or even a galaxy can be explained by referring to an external cause. If we deny this principle we might as well give up all science/philosophy and declare the world is just inexplicable and we should not explain things. But what exists out of the necessity of its nature? Now some philosophers and mathematicians hold that mathematical concepts and logic exist because it is necessary for them to exist. Mathematical truths are not caused and are eternal, that is they could not possibly fail to exist. Jack may wish to claim that the universe exists out of necessity, like logic and mathematical concepts. Someone can ask if the universe is a necessary being. For something to be necessary it could not possibly fail to exist. But cosmologists tell us the universe may have begun to exist and the universe could possibly end and fail to exist in the future[2]. It cannot possibly be necessary.

    As for premise 2 ,the universe is by definition all of spacio-temporal existence, everything physical. It must have been brought into existence by something beyond space-time , something non-physical , immaterial and timeless. What kinds of entities fit these descriptions? Abstract objects (such as sets) and minds are the only 2 metaphyscians hold that match these descriptions. But abstract objects do not cause anything to exist. For example did you ever see the number 7 cause anything to exist? The other option is that there is some sort of non-physical spirit or mind. The universe would have been caused by some timeless, immaterial mind able to create the universe from nothing, which is what theists understand to be God.
    Another argument is there are 2 types of explanations we can have. One is personal explanation and the other is explanation in terms of physical mechanistic causes (in terms of physical states and physical laws). Personal explanations are explanations in terms of agents and their volitions and decisions. We use these every day. eg "I wrote a post on this form because I wanted to debate". Which is the explanation of the universe? Causally prior to the universe there was no matter or physical laws, so the cause could not be a mechanistic one or physical one.
    The only explanation open is a personal explanation.

    Premise 3 is undeniable and 4 and 5 follow logically from the other premises so it seems to me that this is sound.
    Now I will make a cumulative case for God's existence from several factors. Let me explain the method of inference by which I will make a cumulative case.
    Robin Collins and Max Andrews [0] provide an explanation of something called the principle of confirmation (which is basically a restatement of the odds form of Bayes Theorem).
    Basically the principle says that if we are comparing 2 non ad-hoc hypothesis H1 and H2. Let us say we have observation O. O counts as evidence for H1 H1 over H2 if O is more probable under H1 than it is under H2.
    to borrow Collin's example
    "For our first illustration, suppose that I went hiking in the mountains, and found underneath a certain cliff a group of rocks arranged in a formation that clearly formed the pattern "Welcome to the mountains Robin Collins." One hypothesis is that, by chance, the rocks just happened to be arranged in that pattern-.... Suppose the only viable alternative hypothesis is that my brother, who was in the mountains before me, arranged the rocks in this way. Most of us would immediately take the arrangements of rocks to be strong evidence in favor of the "brother" hypothesis over the "chance" hypothesis. Why? Because it strikes us as extremely improbable that the rocks would be arranged that way by chance, but not improbable at all that my brother would place them in that configuration. Thus, by the prime principle of confirmation we would conclude that the arrangement of rocks strongly supports the "brother" hypothesis over the chance hypothesis.

    Or consider another case, that of finding the [suspect's] fingerprints on the murder weapon. Normally, we would take such a finding as strong evidence that the [suspect] was guilty. Why? Because we judge that it would be unlikely for these fingerprints to be on the murder weapon if the defendant was innocent, but not unlikely if the defendant was guilty. That is, we would go through the same sort of reasoning as in the above case. "[3]
    Now to extend the illustration a bit we can have multiple lines of evidence support a hypothesis. Lets say several witnesses saw the suspect at the scene of the crime , his fingerprints were on the weapon and a jacket with the murder victim's blood was found at the suspect's house. All these lines of evidence strongly suggest the suspect is guilty. Now we can dream up alternative scenarios. For example , perhaps the witnesses all had a group hallucination, someone else stole the gun and planted the fingerprints and the jacket. However these situations are not plausible and the evidence is not undermined. Similarly I'm going to present several lines of evidence that God exists and that confirm theism over atheism by the principle of confirmation.

    The case for cosmic design[3]
    Robin Collins holds that the case for cosmic design is stronger than the evidence for common ancestry. I agree with him.

    2)The evidence of fine-tuning (FT)

    Now physicists and cosmologists have recently discovered that in order for us to have a life-permitting universe (LPU) there has to be a lot of fine-tuning. The evidence for fine-tuning has to do with the fact that the laws of physics, the constants and initial conditions of the universe all fall into a very narrow range that would allow for the growth and development of intelligent beings such as ourselves.

    Now there are 3 types of fine-tuning. They are:-
    (i) The fine-tuning of the laws of physics.
    (ii) The fine-tuning of the constants of physics.
    (iii) The fine-tuning of the initial conditions of the universe.

    Now i) has to do with the existence of certain laws and principles without which life would be impossible. To give an example, if gravity did not exist, masses would not clump together to form stars or planets, and hence complex, intelligent life would be impossible.Other examples are electromagnetic force,the strong force, the strong force the Pauli-exclusion principle ,the quantization principle, ,Baryon Conservation.
    (ii) Take the cosmological constant ,which governs the expansion of the universe. If it was too large space would expand so quickly that all matter would disperse and no galaxies or stars or planets could form. It is fine-tuned to a degree of 1 in 10^53. The weak force-1 in 10^9. The Gravitational constant- one part in 10^36. To get an idea of how precise this is, it would be like throwing a dart at the surface of the earth from outer space, and hitting a bull's-eye one trillionth of a trillionth of an inch in diameter
    iii) Has to do with the initial conditions of the universe after the big bang. One is the low entropy state of the universe. Roger Penrose calculated the fine-tuning of entropy to 1 in 10^(10^123). Other such instances of fine-tuning such are the initial distribution of matter and anti-matter, the balance between baryons and anti-baryons and the density of the universe.

    The fact of fine-tuning is highly improbable under atheism , but it the sort of thing we'd expect given theism , so it strongly confirms theism.

    3) Discoverability [4]
    Robin Collins has also pointed out that as well as well as fine-tuning for life , the constants and quantities are structured in such a way as to make them amenable to scientific investigation and discovery.
    For example the low entropy state of the universe allows us so see other galaxies and obtain evidence the universe was expanding. It also allowed us to discover general relativity (which assumes a uniform distribution) and many of the fundamental laws of the universe.
    The fine structure constant also falls into a narrow range
    “A small increase in α would have resulted in all open wood fires going out; yet harnessing fire was essential to the development of civilization, technology, and science – e.g., the forging of metals….. Going in the other direction, if α were decreased, light microscopes would have proportionality less resolving power without the size of living cells or other microscopic objects changing (when measured in atomic units).”
    Other examples are ratio of radioactive decay compared to the strength of gravity, which allows for radioactive dating ,the baryon to photon ratio and the the dark energy density.

    Albert Einstein famously remarked that "the eternal mystery of the world is that it is comprehensible.... The fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle" . Paul Dirac , Mark Steiner and Paul Davies have also made similar statements about how 'user-friendly' the universe is.
    As Davies notes, "uncovering the laws of physics resembles completing a crossword in a number of ways.... In the case of the crossword, it would never occur to us to suppose that the words just happened to fall into a consistent interlocking pattern by accident...." . The fact of intelligibility is surprising under atheism , but is unsurprising under theism , where the universe was designed by a transcendent intelligence.

    Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg has said the criteria of beauty and elegance are commonly used with great success to guide physicists in formulating laws. Physicists Paul Dirac , Vilenkin ,Wall, Greene and Einstein have made similar statements .Weinberg admits that "sometimes nature seems more beautiful than strictly necessary" . The beauty, elegance, and ingenuity of mathematical equations make sense if the universe was purposefully designed like an artwork, but are completely inexplicable under the atheism. Perhaps my opponent will claim that the beauty we see in nature is merely subjective. However, this does not account for the amazing success of the criterion of beauty in producing very accurate theories, such as Einstein's general theory of relativity , quantum mechanics .. etc. We would expect merely subjective impressions to lead to highly successful theories and accurate predictions.


    As Shelly Kagan, a Yale ethicist, has said:
    This need for explanation in moral theory cannot be overemphasized. . . . One of the things we want our moral theory to help us to understand is how there can even be a moral realm, and what sort of objective status it has"
    I agree and I think theism provides a strong metaphysical basis and good explanation for the moral realm of the world we experience.
    In fact I think many atheists would admit this as well. For example the late atheist JL Mackie said "if there are objective values, they make the existence of a god more probable than it would have been without them. Thus we have a defensible argument from morality to the existence of a god."
    Now to identify 2 features of morality , moral values and moral duties. Moral values are about whether something is good or bad. Moral duties are about whether something is right or wrong.
    In divine command theory , we can identify good values with God's nature. God is essentially compassionate, fair, kind, impartial, and just. God’s character serves as the paradigm of moral goodness. Similarly we can identify our moral duties with God's commands. God's commands are not arbitrary , but are expressions of his perfectly just and loving nature.

    Now some people try to deny the objectivity of moral values. But I think this is clearly absurd. It would mean that killing innocents for fun or torturing infants for fun was objectively neutral. As ethicist Peter Cave notes
    Whatever skeptical arguments may be brought against our belief that killing the innocent is morally wrong, we are more certain that the killing is morally wrong than that the argument is sound. Torturing an innocent child for the sheer fun of it is morally wrong, full stop.
    Now let me stress, I'm asking my opponent to give an ontology of moral values like that I have given. I an not asking for a semantic or epistemological account of how he knows morals or how moral terms are defined. I'm asking what the metaphysical basis for moral values and duties is in his worldview. What are these moral facts and what makes them true? How do they create moral duties and values ?
    As Paul Kurtz puts it, “The central question about moral and ethical principles concerns their ontological foundation. If they are neither derived from God, nor anchored in some transcendent ground, are they purely ephemeral?”. What kind of grounding can my opponent give for moral values and duties?

    Now I think I've identified several factors that make a strong cumulative case for the existence of God.
    I look forward to my opponent's response.

    [0]Max Andrews and Robin Collins, “The Teleological Argument,” in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology Eds. William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2009), 205.
    [1]Formulation comes from William Lane Craig , Reasonable Faith.
    [2] See for example here or Vilenkin, Many Worlds in One for beginning and end scenarios of the universe.
    [3]material here comes from Robin Collins in Robin Collins, “The Teleological Argument,” in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology Eds. William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2009), 205. also The Case for Cosmic Design (2008) by Dr. Robin Collins.
    [4]Robin Collins, Fine Tuning for Discoverability
    [5]Quotes from also


    • #3
      First I want to thank my opponent LaplacesDemon (hereafter LD) for debating me. I enjoy debating with people who disagree with me and who are passionate about what it is that they believe in, so this should be a lively dialogue.

      Second, I will be defending the atheistic point of view that is directly at odds with LD’s theistic worldview. Atheists are often accused in debates of not addressing their opponent’s arguments and so what I will focus on that instead of focusing on making the positive case for atheism. The reason why is that in these debates, the theist bears the burden of proof as they are making the positive claim. And if they do not make solid arguments using good evidence to meet that burden, they lose.

      So without further ado…

      LD starts out by posing the question that we’re faced with: Are humans the product of blind, natural forces or is there a transcendent creator deity? We both acknowledge that we’re not going to be arguing from absolute certainly. Rather, we each are making probability arguments. That is to say, given our arguments and the evidence backing them up, what is more probable - that the god of classical theism exists, or doesn’t? Unfortunately, LD did not define what he means by god, and so we’re left with many open-ended possibilities. For the purposes of this debate, and since I know he’s a Christian, LD is defending the god of classical theism. That is an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving being that transcends space and time. For him that god is Yahweh, the god of the Bible.

      To make the case for the existence of this being, LD has 6 arguments. I will critique each argument one by one and use those opportunities to explain why atheism makes better sense of the evidence.

      1) Leibnizian Cosmological Argument

      LD’s first argument is the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument (LCA) which presupposes the principle of sufficient reason (PSR) to argue that everything requires an explanation, and concludes that god is the explanation of the universe. You can refer to LD’s description of the argument, as I will not be repeating it.

      Why should we accept premise 1? Yes many things have explanations, but does everything have to have an explanation? The theist cannot logically prove this, they have to assume it. LD refers to our common experience to argue that things have external causes. His problem, and indeed the problem of all of theism, is that it assumes, inductively, conclusions that are based off of everyday experience. When you’re dealing with fundamental ontology, you cannot use everyday experience, or even classical logic, as your underpinning. Fundamental ontology does not behave according to our intuitions, it actually violates it, and this is apparent in General Relativity and especially in Quantum Mechanics.

      We don’t have to deny any science or philosophy to deny the PSR, and many scientists and philosophers do. No one is denying that some things have explanations, but what can be challenged is whether everything has an explanation. Just because we can ask “Why?” questions, doesn’t mean it will have “Why?” answers. Ironically, science and philosophy are what atheists use to conclude that the universe has no purpose. Special Relativity tells us that past, present and future all exist. This is derived from Lorentz transformation[1], for which we have very good empirical evidence for.[2] Once you grant this phenomenon, the reality of past, present and future becomes undeniable because there will be numerous logical paradoxes that can only be solved by it.[3] The philosophical view of this is known as eternalism. If every moment in time exists eternally, then the universe as a whole is eternal and never truly came into being as it is colloquially described.

      What this means is that time and the universe are not what our intuition tells us it is like. Therefore, any metaphysical arguments based on our intuitive sense of existence is based on faulty knowledge of it, and more likely to be wrong. We’ve seen this happen many times with Aristotelian metaphysics, and Newtonian mechanics. They were both wrong because they assumed human intuition was accurate, but all too often isn’t.

      So we can say that an eternal universe (in the sense Special Relativity describes) need not a creator, since there never was a time that it didn’t exist. And our entire notion of necessary and contingent existence is flawed given the reality of this. So to ask “Why is there something rather than nothing?” incorrectly assumes that ‘nothing’ is somehow the ontological default. Whereas, I’m arguing that existence is the ontological default and that the notion of absolute nothing has not ever, and cannot ever exist.

      The atheist generally considers all the purposes attributed to the universe and this is where religion comes in. Each religion has its own purpose to explain why the universe exists. What the atheist does is compares all those purposes with the evidence and concludes that no stated purpose of any religion makes any sense given the evidence. This is one reason why atheists conclude that the universe has no objective purpose and simply just is. I will provide more evidence of this when addressing LD’s next argument.

      But finally, an additional problem LD faces with the LCA is that if everything can be explained by an “external cause” then so can our will. And what ever caused the will can also be explained by an external cause, and so on and so forth until you have a chain of causes, or explanations, going back to the Big Bang. This ultimately leads to determinism, and the theist argues himself out of free will and shoots himself in the foot.

      2) The evidence of Fine-tuning (FT)

      LD moves on the the fine-tuning argument (FTA) but not before quoting Robin Collins regarding the “principle of confirmation” that relies on a variation of Bayes Theorem. I’ve seen BT applied to god and the historicity of Jesus with very bad results for them, so let’s see how it does here. In Collin’s example, the hiker has empirical evidence that his brother exists and that he went into the mountains before him, plus we have no natural mechanism for how rocks arrange themselves into messages, but plenty of examples of people arranging rocks. Such is not the case with god and nature. We have no empirical evidence that god exists, and we have many known natural mechanisms that give the false appearance of design, like evolution. So Collins’ analogy is false. And contrary to what Collins says, we have way more evidence of common descent than for fine tuning, god, Jesus, the historicity of the Bible, and all other religions combined.

      The FTA is in my opinion the only halfway decent argument for god. But even if granted, it doesn’t lead one to conclude the existence that theism is true any more than deism, or that the universe is a computer simulation. In fact, if the universe is fine tuned, those two options are overwhelmingly more probable than theism. And I will argue why.

      I’m not going to dispute the parameters LD mentioned even though a few of them are a bit off because almost all scientists agree that the life permitting range for those values is very narrow. What I will instead argue is that the apparent fine tuning is better supportive of atheism, not theism.

      i) The FTA makes it seem as if god himself is constrained by the laws of physics. LD even writes, “if gravity did not exist ... intelligent life would be impossible.” Why does god need to fine tune anything? Are you telling me there is only one way god can create a universe with life in it? That would be like saying there’s only one way god can make a cake because he’s constrained by the directions on the box. God is supposed to be able to do anything logically possible, so he should be able to create life via perpetual miracles in conditions where life wouldn’t otherwise be able to exist. If the universe didn’t have its life-permitting parameters and yet life still existed, that would be better evidence for god. Or if the earth was literally the center of the universe, that would be evidence for god. Such is not the case.

      ii) The fact that life on earth exists on such a knife’s edge whereby the slightest change can be catastrophic leads many atheists to conclude that the universe is not fine tuned for human beings. The haphazard cruelty of evolution makes it impossible to accept the belief in a traditional omni-god who is all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving. When you look at the full picture of evolution and you consider the 3.5 billion years during which this unfolding drama played out, when there were millions and millions of species that evolved only to be snuffed out and pushed into evolutionary dead ends, and during which time there was at least 5 mass extinctions [4] in which some 70-95 percent of all the living species on earth at that time went extinct, I'm being asked by theists to believe that this was all part of a divine creator's plan who was sitting back and taking pleasure in watching millions of species (whose evolution he allegedly guided) get wiped out one after the other, and then starting all over again, and then wiped them out again and repeated this process over and over, until finally getting around to evolving human beings – which I'm told was the whole purpose of this cruel and clumsy process.

      There is no way I can believe that. I’m not just arguing that the existence of evolution’s cruelty makes god improbable, I’m arguing the two are logically incompatible. Grant a designer to the universe and you must grant that that designer is either totally incompetent, totally indifferent, or totally cruel. There is no logical way of it. Thus the god of classical theism - which we are debating - is logically impossible given our universe.

      iii) The apparent fine tuning of the universe can be explained by chance given the multiverse hypothesis. If there are an extremely large number of universes, then our universe’s hospitable conditions can be explained in the same way that our planet’s hospitable conditions can be explained - there are a lot of planets, and through sheer chance some will be just the right distance from its star to support life. Given the fact that the multiverse was originally derived from inflationary theory, not some ad-hoc explanation to refute the fine tuning, and that recent data strongly indicates inflationary theory is correct [4], we have very good scientific reasons to believe our universe is not alone.

      The the scale of the universe, the insignificance humans play in it, the multi-billion year cosmic evolution, the multi-billion year haphazard cruelty of the evolutionary process, and the strong evidence we have that the multiverse is probable all seem more likely given chance under the atheistic worldview as opposed to theism. The theist here must argue skeptical theism, and therefore puts themselves in an epistemic handicap when it comes to knowing anything about god. For if skeptical theism is true and we’re in no position to tell why god has allowed evil and suffering, then if someone were to see a person (or animal) suffering, it's possible for one to reason that it's all part of god's plan that in the end will make sense and that they should not interfere. This, as we can imagine, could lead to indifference towards moral evil and natural suffering.

      3) Discoverability

      Every argument from design has essentially got it ass-backwards, to use a colloquial term. Our hands were not designed to grasp bananas or iPhones, rather, they were designed to fit our hands. Our universe (and indeed our bodies) could have been designed better. Physicist Don Page, who is an evangelical Christian, argues that if the cosmological constant were zero, or a negative number, “the fraction of baryons that condense into galaxies that in turn form living organisms would be higher” and that this “result thus gives a preliminary suggestion that there might eventually be evidence against optimal fine tuning for life”. [7] But I expect LD to argue that god is an artist, not an engineer, and so god is free to create humans anyway he wants, fast or slow, because god “wants to splash his canvas with extravagance of design” to quote William Lane Craig. [6] But what kind of artist would use sentient beings as his material and sit back and watch them suffer and die for no logically necessary purpose for millions of years? Not an all-loving god that’s for sure.

      4) Intelligibility

      Anything physical that exists is going to be able to be described mathematically, either through weight, mass, momentum or velocity. That does not in any possible way prove Yahweh exists.

      5) Beauty

      Nobel prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg has also said, “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.” [8] And Einstein has said “"It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere". [8] Quote mining respected scientists to get what you want works a lot better for atheists, so I advise all theists to tread carefully when doing this.

      Beauty is subjective. If you take seriously General Relativity, which builds off of Special Relativity, then you’re left with eternalism, and that and a creator god are incompatible. So the beauty of nature is that it eliminates the need for god, and shows that humankind is nature becoming conscious of itself. Also, many accidents that were not intended can be subjectively beautiful, so perceived beauty is no indication of purpose.

      6) Morality

      Lastly we come to morality. LD is defending Divine Command Theory (DCT), which is very easy to refute for two reasons: i) the Euthyphro Dilemma, and ii) the Epistemic Problem.

      i) Is something good because god commands it, or does god command it because it’s good? The first part makes morality arbitrary, and the latter makes god irrelevant to what's good. The standard response is that god is the good, i.e. god is the ontological foundation of goodness because he is intrinsically loving, compassionate and fair, etc. But then we can ask, is god good because he has these properties or are these properties good because god has them? In order to avoid compromising god's sovereignty and admitting that these properties are good independently of god, the theist who wants to hold to the moral argument must say that these traits are good because god has them. But how is love, compassion, fairness or any other positive attribute good only because god has them? They would be good irrespective of god's existence, as would be evident by their effects. The theist would bear the burden of proof to demonstrate that they wouldn't be good without god, which I haven't yet seen anyone successfully achieve. Thus I say objective moral values exist independently of god.

      ii) Even if people believe in god, no one is going to fully agree on what god or what version of god is the correct one, or what commands are authentic and how to properly interpret them. You're going to be faced ultimately with moral relativism in practice, as is evident from the wide range of beliefs and practices of all religions. Thus DCT and the moral argument fails in theory and in practice.
      Now I think I’ve successfully refuted all of these arguments for god and showed how the classical theistic god is actually logically incompatible with our universe. Not only do all the arguments for god fail when critically examined there are numerous positive arguments that make atheism more plausible. Let me list a few of them below:

      A. God is Not a Fully Coherent Concept

      How does a timeless god who knows everything freely chose to create our world and not some other world? Think about it. God can't make decisions, because if he did that would require time, and he can't be indecisive because that would falsify his omniscience. So god must have the eternal desire and knowledge to create our world, say World X, and not some other world, say World Y – meaning there was never a time god wanted to create World Y instead of World X; he always wanted to create World X. How then is the creation of World X freely decided by god if the creation of world Y or the forbearance to create any world never existed? And how does god create time, if prior to time existing literally nothing can happen?

      William Lane Craig in a recent debate with Lawrence Krauss tries to give us an answer. "I would say that God exists timelessly with the intention that a physical world exist. And then there's an exercise of this causal power, um, that brings the universe into existence." [10] But Craig's answer misses something very important. God cannot merely exist with the intention to create a physical world, he has to exist with the intention to create our physical world because any deliberation to create World X over World Y or vice versa would require time and indecision, which god cannot have prior to creating the universe. Craig goes on to say, "But we shouldn't think of God as existing, twiddling his thumbs, from eternity and then 'deciding' to make a universe." But if that's true, if god's decision to make a universe always existed, then how did he decide to "exercise his causal power"? To create something requires at least two decisions. First is the decision on what to create, and second is the decision to act that brings about the creation. I can intend to write a book and never get around to it out of laziness unless I decide to act and exercise my causal power. If having the intention to create World X (our world) existing eternally absolves god from having to make the first decision (even though it opens up additional problems), then the second necessary decision to act on it still requires time and would logically require an antecedent state of indecision. But if however, you argue that god's decision to act was also preordained and existed eternally, as it must have in order to avoid problems with god's timelessness and omniscience, then god has no free will and our universe was determined since it would have been impossible that it didn't exist. These are some of the things that convince me that "god" is not a fully coherent concept.

      B. There is no evidence for free will

      Most versions of Christianity rely on us having free will in order to somehow be judged by god upon our deaths. This makes no sense on its own, but physics and neuroscience have shown that there is no evidence for free will and is something one must take on faith, despite the evidence. Quantum mechanics is completely deterministic. Once you know the initial conditions of a state of quantum particles, its subsequent conditions are completely determined by it. The apparent indeterminacy of QM is therefore epistemological, not ontological, and even William Lane Craig agrees with this, saying, “I’m inclined to think, that quantum indeterminacy is, in fact, merely epistemic, not ontic”. [11] What he fails to take seriously is that a determined world means we could not have been any other way, and so we certainly cannot be blamed eternally for things we had no free will to do. And so theists like him believe in the incoherent idea of free will purely on faith.

      Modern neuroscience shows that our physical brains determine for us what our thoughts, decisions and actions will do, up to 7 seconds before we become consciously aware of this. [12] This is something that has been replicated time and time again and is well known among neuroscientists, the vast majority of whom are materialists. There are no theories of dualism, not Cartesian Dualism, nor Dualistic Interactionism that are compatible, let alone that can predict, this one way cause of events from the physical brain to the consciousness, and it’s never the other way around. These findings are exactly what you’d expect if materialism and atheism were true.

      C. Dualism makes no sense

      Even without the evidence from neuroscience that strongly favors atheism over Christian theism, dualism on its own makes no sense. How can the soul be held eternally accountable for what it does, if the body it has to work with is damaged? For example, imagine you're driving a car and the brakes fail. You crash and kill someone. After an inspection of the car, you are not deemed criminally responsible because it was caused by a mechanical error and not any kind of negligence on your part. But with our souls, I'm being asked to believe that god holds them eternally responsible, even if they have a physically damaged body that they cannot control properly. It would be like holding the driver of the car criminally responsible for the car's brakes failing, even though they could do nothing about it. Genetic predispositions for violent and/or aggressive behavior, schizophrenia, psychopathy, sociopathy, brain tumors, mind controlling parasites like Toxoplasma gondii, all affect our behavior for which we have no control over. Dualism hence makes no sense. The very existence of psychopathy, that is the physiological inability to empathize, makes no sense under theism. Why would god design or allow people to be born without the physical ability to be fully moral, if our ability to be moral is something we’re going to be judged on?

      Also, when did the soul arrive during human evolution? Did it spring up overnight? Did one generation have a soul whose parents didn’t? That would mean that one generation of people dealt with all the horrible things nature has to offer and died with no afterlife, but their kids somehow got to possibly go to heaven. Did Neanderthals have souls? What about homo erectus? Evolution and the soul make no sense.

      D. Christian theism makes no sense given evolution

      Not only is god incompatible with the unnecessary cruelty of evolution, Christian theism makes no sense with it. Why would god use evolution to make human beings, when it is evolution that made us sexual beings prone to lust, as well as our anger, and our territorial nature? Surely an omniscient god would have known this beforehand. It’s like I make a machine programed to desire sex, and then blame the machine when it desires sex! It makes no logical sense. If god didn’t want us to desire sex, he could of make us asexual. He could of made our sex drives seasonal like many other species of animals, instead of being year around. The bottom line is that all of our supposed flaws under Christianity are the direct result of our evolutionary past, and so it makes no sense that god would choose to use evolution as the means to make us if he’s going to make most of the things we evolved to be a sin. It makes god sadistic, and far from morally perfect. Atheism makes better sense of this problem.

      I have many more positive arguments for atheism that show theism to be incoherent, but since I’m at my limit, I will wait for the rebuttals to possibly add more and address LD’s responses. Thank you. I look forward to continuing this debate and many others.

      8. Dreams of a Final Theory: The Search for the Fundamental Laws of Nature (1993)
      9. 1947 letter Einstein wrote to Murray W. Gross cataloged in Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology (1999) by Max Jammer
      10. Debate, "Life, the Universe and Nothing: Why is there something rather than nothing?"
      12. Bode S, He AH, Soon CS, Trampel R, Turner R, et al. (2011) Tracking the Unconscious Generation of Free Decisions Using UItra-High Field fMRI. PLoS ONE 6(6):e21612. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021612
      Blog: Atheism and the City

      If your whole worldview rests on a particular claim being true, you damn well better have evidence for it. You should have tons of evidence.


      • #4
        I accidentally posted twice due to a technical error. Ignore this post.
        Last edited by The Thinker; 07-01-2014, 07:18 PM.
        Blog: Atheism and the City

        If your whole worldview rests on a particular claim being true, you damn well better have evidence for it. You should have tons of evidence.


        • #5
          Closing due to lack of participation

          I'm always still in trouble again

          "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
          "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman


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