Uncommon Sense

November 13, 2018

#10 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A week and a half or so back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #10!

  1. Purpose and Meaning. For anything to have purpose and meaning, God must exist. If Hawking is right in that the universe is all there is and there is nothing else, nothing, including his research, has any meaning or value. Meaning, value, and purpose are found only because God exists.

Now this is an argument! Step 1: Include your conclusion in your first premise. Ta da! “For anything to have purpose and meaning, God must exist.” I suggest that these people are making the fundamental error in their belief that purpose and meaning for their lives comes from without. If that is true then when someone dies, their purpose and meaning live on! How that happens is beyond me. Purpose and meaning are things that are created by humans. My argument? If humans were to disappear instantaneously, what would happen to all of our meaning and purpose? Would alien archeologists coming to investigate the remains of our civilization be able to determine what they were? (Basically I think they would conclude that city dwellers would have been obsessed with collecting dog shit in little plastic bags that they preserved in large plastic, wheeled tubs for some religious purpose as there seems to be no practical purpose for that.)

As a counter argument I offer the following from Jonathan Gamer:

The Existential Argument Against God’s Existence
(Jonathan Garner)

  1. It is a known fact that many people find their life and journey to be meaningless, purposeless, and many humans/animals find life not worth living/continuing.
    2. Premise 1 is very surprising on the hypothesis of classical theism, but not surprising on the hypothesis of indifference.
    3. The intrinsic probability of indifference is much greater than that of classical theism.
    4. Therefore, other evidence held equal, classical theism is very probably false.
    Clarification
    It is important to notice that Premise 1 isn’t so much concerned with objective values. In other words, perhaps every life really does have intrinsic value and purpose. Nevertheless, some people don’t see this.

And To Conclude …
The list’s author makes the truly astounding comment that:

“I could certainly list other reasons to believe in God’s existence. But these will suffice for now. (Stephen) Hawking was a man of great intellect. Yet, despite his great mental prowess, it is quite odd that he could never quite see the evidence for God. While he could see, he was quite blind. Hawking said that ‘religion is a fairy tale for those afraid of the dark.’ I believe John Lennox provided a stronger claim by noting that ‘atheism is a fairy tale for those afraid of the light.’”

These are not serious claims, of course, but opinions. And the comment “Yet, despite his great mental prowess (Hawking’s), it is quite odd that he could never quite see the evidence for God.” is just priceless considering the offering of the wimpy intellectual arguments of this list. The arguments were almost juvenile and certainly lacking in development even compared to the arguments available from the current crop of apologists. That a genius couldn’t see what a simpleton could, doesn’t bring the genius’s comments into dispute.

 

November 12, 2018

#9 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A week or so back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #9!

  1. Near-Death Experiences and Consciousness. This is a fascinating area of study. Gary Habermas has noted that there are over 100 medically confirmed cases of near-death experiences where people have died and reported events that happened on this side of eternity which could be corroborated by others. The events described along with experiences of meeting God and the feelings of peace add to the case for God’s existence. Most certainly near-death experiences prove that materialism is a dead philosophy.

This one is a little confusing as I do not see what “and Consciousness” serves in the header. The comments are only about near death experiences, so I will address those only.

Again, this is a matter of interpretation. I grant all such experiences are “real” in the fashion that they represent mental states that the experiencers can describe. I have problem with the interpretations, of course.

To detail just one example, Air Force pilots often undergo centrifuge experiences as part of their training. These centrifuges set the pilots up in a cockpit like environment on one end of a beam with a counterweight at the other. Then the beam is spun at high rpm to simulate the g forces that one can encounter in high speed/acceleration fighter planes. The purpose of the training is to acquaint the pilots with the symptoms of g forces so they can control their aircraft so as to not cause themselves to black out while piloting.

I have been told that when pilots in training undergo their first such training experience they are not told what they will feel as almost every single person who experiences those g forces wants to “do it again” right away. Part of the experience involves the g forces causing blood to move toward the head more slowly causing significant disorientation. This process, if carried through, results in not a “fade to black” as the term “blacked out” infers but a fade to white as the ability to process the nerve signals coming from the eyes diminishes. There is also a feeling of tremendous well being that accompanies this which explains the “I want to do it again” attitude of all of the newbies. (The brain cannot process pain signals either as it becomes starved of its energy supply.) So, vision diminishes down to white light and a feeling of peace and happiness occurs because the brain is deprived of the blood it needs to function.

As one is dying, mental functions diminish in a like fashion and one can end up seeing a “white light” and having a feeling of peace and contentment. All of this having reasonable physiological reasons for it. But people who experience these sensations and report them because they came back from their near death experience describe these as “seeing god” or “seeing heaven” or “feeling the presence of god.” All of these interpretations are just that, interpreting sensations that occurred in a way that matches the beliefs and expectations of the experiencer. (How often is it reinforced for believers that they will meet god when they die?) And, of course, people from different religious cultures have different interpretations.

So, what do these “near death experiences” prove? Well, they cannot prove anything, unless the claimants that these are proof for the belief in a god establish the process by which one enters into heaven and experiences their god. What if they find out, as many have claimed, that there is a three day waiting period before one can enter Heaven? What if their god never greets people personally but has an entire cadre of heavenly greeters who do that task for it?

Where are the details believers? How can you say these near death experiences match your beliefs when your beliefs are wishy-washy and vague in the extreme? Is there a list of 10 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife?

November 9, 2018

#8 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A week or so back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #8!

  1. Miracles and Spiritual Encounters Craig Keener wrote a two-volume work describing the many documented miracles in modern times. While God may not always perform a miracle in every circumstance, a good deal of evidence suggests that God has performed miracles throughout history. Added with the many spiritual encounters people have had with the divine provides an added case that God does indeed exist.

I am getting a little bored of the “preaching to the choir” attitude involved with this list. He should start each of these with “We all know …”

Of course there are myriad documented miracles. People claim miracles, then they write about them or others do. (You can find new ones on the Internet, so they must be true!) The Catholic Church has a formal process to certify a miracle as being authentic. Considering some of the miracles authenticated to get Popes beatified, the process can’t be too rigorous.

Documenting a miracle is simply the recording a story. Verifying it is a whole ’nother thing. Whether the stories are delusions, fictions, or valid recollections is always something to be determined. (There are people who claim they have been abducted by aliens and “probed.” Are those stories believable?) To my knowledge, there has never been a verified violation of the laws of physics or, really, any other science for that matter.

The label of “A Miracle™” is slapped on an activity willy-nilly, but until I see someone who has had a leg amputated and the leg restored, I will remain skeptical of all such claims. (Why does God so hate amputees?)

Spiritual encounters … ah … yeah. Encountering a spirit or a ghost seems a bit far fetched. (And don’t give me any grief regarding the use of the word ghost; I grew up hearing the phrase “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost” over and over.) People claim to be spiritual but that term is almost undefinable or at least it means vastly different things to different people. (And I lived in Marin County, CA for years so I have a great deal of first hand experience!)

I don’t dispute people’s personal experiences, I dispute their interpretations. Every time someone has a personal experience of the type referred to here, they attribute it to the god they worship. So, Muslims say it is Allah, Christians say it is Jesus, the Ancient Greeks had a great deal of discretion as to which of their many gods was trying to communicate with them. There was, of course, a cottage industry of people who, for a fee, would confirm which god was involved. Some people claim that an overwhelming feeling of goodness was perceived. How do they know it wasn’t Satan faking it to get his foot in your spiritual door?

When I was in college, my thyroid gland decided to dump all of its hormone into my body at once. On the basis of that event I had a couple of months of fairly unusual feelings. Initially I was hyperactive and felt I could do anything. I’d wear teeshirts and shorts in cold foggy weather. Later I became rather slow and lethargic. I got good medical advice (from Kaiser Permanente by the way) that I should just wait. The doctor said, it messed itself up, it may just correct itself the same way … and it did. If I were a more spiritual/ghostial person, I might have spent many introspective moments trying to interpret the “messages” I was receiving. Instead, I went to class and continued to play basketball (weighing finally twenty pounds less than when I started the season).

I do not think subjective experiences are among the best reasons to believe. Their interpretations show none of the patterns we expect from real phenomena. But people will still go to the hospital and have an operation and be cured of cancer and then thank their god for a miracle. Instead, I think they ought to thank the doctor and her team and the university that trained her, and the government support that enabled that treatment. That was no miracle. That was modern medicine … performed by and for humans.

November 7, 2018

#7 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A week or so back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #7!

  1. Historicity of Jesus’ Resurrection. One of the most historically provable events of ancient history is Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection is quite intriguing because he continuously appealed to God the Father to raise him from the dead. For Jesus to have risen from the dead indicates that the one whom he mentioned did what Jesus claimed he would do. The resurrection of Jesus points to a transcendent reality we call God.

Whoa, I wonder what color the sky is on the planet this guy lives on. The only reports of Jesus’ supposed resurrection are found in the New Testament, a collection of writings that have a vested interest in the resurrection being a real thing. Basically: no resurrection, no Christianity.

One of the first rules for the evaluation of “historical sources” is to determine who wrote the text and what were his/her biases. We do not know who wrote these texts (the four gospels), as the earliest manuscripts available have no authors attributed. Author names were added later by the church, so from the get-go these texts are unreliable. The gospels show clear signs of multiple authors and were written quite spread out over time and well after the events they are claimed to witness (the gospels themselves do not claim to be written by witness, but, well there they go again.). They also show signs of being substantially edited, and the editors are neither identified or their biases made known.

So, Premise #1 (One of the most historically provable events of ancient history is Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.) is a flat out lie. We have no evidence of either event. Neither do we have reliable documents attesting to the events. It is a common tactic in dishonest arguments to sneak a premise in that, if accepted, proves the conclusion. Premises are supposed to be readily accepted facts.

The additional claims regarding the written accounts “he continuously appealed to God the Father to raise him from the dead” conflict with theology that also claims that Jesus and Yahweh, the son and father, are one and the same, parts of the Holy Trinity. So, why would Jesus appeal to himself, out loud, so others could hear him?

Even if we were to grant that Jesus died and was resurrected, it certainly does not “point to a transcendent reality we call God.” For all we know Satan was the resurrector and his motivation was to fuck us up for millennia by believing in a false religion. You would need to find evidence that Yahweh/Jesus himself did the resurrecting.

As “arguments” go, this one is pathetic.

Plus, one could ask: what does sacrificing a “son of god” without knowing He was a son of god, have to do with anything? And, is it by blood magic that we are saved somehow? What is the mechanism of being saved? How does belief in a story (because all it is to anyone who wasn’t there is a story) have any affect on anything?

If you are interested in Christian apologetics, reading some of the “learned” opinions on these questions is quite illuminating. Stuff is made up, stupid stuff, but do check it out for yourself.

 

November 6, 2018

#6 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A few days back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #6!

  1. Science and Mathematics. Ironically, the scientific method and mathematics appeal to God’s existence. Scientists hold that the universe operates according to certain laws on a regular basis. The ability to do science itself means that human beings have been given cognitive abilities to observe the universe and, interestingly, have been placed in a position where the universe is observable. One must inadvertently appeal to the divine to even do science and mathematics. To add to this point, the beauty one finds in nature would have no real aesthetic value unless God exists.

This is several “arguments” in one. Basically, it is “we must thank God for the gifts of beauty, science, math, and the brains to perceive them.”

This is a stupid argument.

Basically this is a list of things we are in awe of and claiming a source for them all. But what about all of the other things available to us? Do we thank god for all of the ugly, nasty things? How about the diseases he created, like the Black Plague, smallpox, cancer, diabetes, syphilis, etc. And then there are those terrible predators and poisonous insects and reptiles. (Oh, my!) Must we thank “Him” for those too.

Basically, this is a hold over from Plato and his theory of absolutes and forms. We have only one teeny tiny corner of the universe to observe and these idiots want to claim that it is the best that could possibly be, so it must have been created by a god. Well, how many solar systems, galaxies, and universes have these people examined? What if we find out after all of these years that we have been relegated to a low rent slum of a planet and other gods have created far cooler planets for their believers. Argh!

This is not even an argument. There is no connection between the premises and the conclusion. The premises are, also, cherry picked.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

And this further supports the position that these people have no real connection with their god. If they did, a lame ass excuse for an argument to believe, like this one, wouldn’t rate #6 on a top ten list. A god should be able to supply much better reasons.

And, really, couldn’t the author have looked up a reasonable statement of the argument from beauty? I presume he did but he is clearly trying to wrap these arguments in modern garb to not display the fact they have been around, and been refuted, for centuries, so all of the other claptrap was needed.

Here is an actual version:

The Argument From Beauty

1. There are many beautiful things all over the world.
2. Only a god who is beautiful and unchangeable could have made these beautiful things.
3. Therefore, God exists.

Here it is refuted.

The Evolutionary Argument for Beauty

1. There are many beautiful things all over the world.
2. There once were humans who did not see the beauty in such things and they were so depressed that they didn’t live long enough to pass on their genes.
3. Therefore, only people who can see beauty still exist.
4. Therefore, a god is unnecessary as a creator of beauty.

 

 

 

November 4, 2018

#5 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A few days back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #5!

  1. Explanation for Data (Information Argument). Why is there anything at all? Even though the quantum world is a strange place, it still behaves according to certain laws. Why are there quantum particles? Quantum fields? Why do physical processes and procedures exist? One explanation: God. For any data to exist, a programmer must exist. That Programmer must be God himself.

Again, this is an old argument wrapped up in new science. (Quantum, My Precious, we hasss quantum.) This argument is based upon the question “Why is there something rather than nothing? People have been discussing this for millenia, so it is not any newer than most of the other items on this list.

Rather than delve into the specifics one can discuss around this question, such as the question can only exist in universe in which there is something, allow me to address the structure of this argument, and really many of the others.

A logical argument has the following structure:

Premises (premise 1, premise 2, etc.)
Applied logic/argumentation
Conclusion

This argument has the following structure:

Premises (premise 1, premise 2, etc.)
Opinion
Conclusion

So, the premises are stated:
1. Quantum particles exist
2. Quantum field exist
3. Even these strange particles obey “laws” or rules of behavior
4. physical processes and procedures exist

Then the opinion comes: there can be only one explanation, God

Then the argument follows, out of place in the form of a conclusion: “for any data to exist, there needs to be a programmer,” which is not in any way connected to the premises.

Obviously, “God” means the Abrahamic god, but there is nothing in the argument that says why this god is indicated (There is a hidden premise here “We all know there is but one god.”), so it could be Visnu or the Flying Spaghetti Monster for all we know.

Clearly this “argument” is completely distorted by the presupposed opinion of the arguer. I am reminded of Bertrand Russell’s opinion of Thomas Aquinas as a philosopher (in part):

“He does not, like the Platonic Socrates, set out to follow wherever the argument may lead. He is not engaged in an inquiry, the result of which it is impossible to know in advance. Before he begins to philosophize, he already knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith. If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation. The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 29, 2018

Oh, This is Going to Be Fun

I ran across an op-ed piece in the Voices column of The Christian Post with the alluring title of “10 Reasons to Believe God Exists” by a gentleman of the name Brian G. Chilton who is a pastor and theologian and has degrees from various seminaries amongst other credentials.

I will address each of these hoary old “arguments” one at a time. Each of these really could be seen as a “reason” to believe, so I am oh, so grateful he didn’t use the more forceful term “proof” instead. He begins with:

  1. Necessity of a First Cause (Cosmological Argument). Physicists Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin discovered a mathematical theorem which dictates that all physical universes, including the theoretical multiverse, must have a required starting point. There was a time when physics (even quantum physics), time, and matter did not exist. How did it come to be? Atheists will argue that it just is. However, the data seems to suggest that an eternal, metaphysical (beyond the physical realm), Mind brought everything to be. That Mind would need to be omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. That Mind is who we know to be God.

As in all of these “reasons,” factual statements are made, followed by completely unreasonable conclusions. In this case, let me parse “However, the data seems to suggest that an eternal, metaphysical (beyond the physical realm), Mind brought everything to be. That Mind would need to be omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. That Mind is who we know to be God”

“The data seems to suggest” (It should be “the data seem” as data is plural, but I make mistakes all of the time, so we glide past this one.) So, the data … uh, which data are these? The lead in to the conclusion talks about a theoretical conclusion, that may or may not be correct, not a statement of fact. There are no data referred to here. The use of the word “data” is apparently being used to make the author’s point seem more scientific. The correct term would be “theoretical conjecture,” not data, and the sentence should start “If the theoretical conjecture is correct, then …” But that doesn’t sound very conclusive now does it.

This argument has been around for a long, long time. Plato and Aristotle offered variants of this argument two thousand plus years ago. So, the wrapping of the “reason” in the science of the here and now is an attempt to freshen up a stale, old argument.

In what way does the “data” (all physical universes, including the theoretical multiverse, must have a required starting point) suggest that a Mind (not just a mind, mind you) is involved? And how is it required that this Mind is eternal? Could not each universe have its own Mind? Could not the life cycle of such Minds be that once they fulfill their destiny by creating their universe, that they die, like a salmon that has spawned?

Such a universe creator would need to be quite powerful, but why omnipotent? Why not a being who is a really powerful alien like Q from the Star Trek franchise? There certainly is absolutely no need for such a being to be omnipresent. They would need to be somewhere at the beginning of their universe, but once they created it, the universes seem to perk along all by themselves, so why does the creator need to be everywhere simultaneously? The necessity of having an angel present to move each celestial body so it doesn’t fall out of the sky has been discredited for quite some time.

And why omniscient? What possible need would a universe creator have for such a power? How would it help? Nothing is offered here.

As we shall see as we proceed through this wonderful set of obfuscations of rational thought that the structure of each of these “reasons” has a starting point (varies from argument to argument) and an ending point (the theologians conception of his god) and a tortured line linking the two. (In this argument, if we were to substitute “Flying Spaghetti Monster” for “God” would the argument be changed at all?)

The assertion that the being must be metaphysical is without substance (no pun intended). If it were to be such a thing, some argument must be made as to how something “beyond the physical realm” can have any effect whatsoever on things inside a physical realm. It is a little like saying a being on Mars could have a direct personal effect on a person on Earth, but is really closer to claiming a person in another galaxy, rather than a person on Mars, can have such an effect. How would this effect occur? What is the nature of existence outside of “the physical realm”? (Enquiring minds want to know!)

And incredible amount of hand waving going on here and this is the #1 reason on the list!

These arguments are made for true believers, people who have already reached the same conclusion as the person making the argument and who are just looking for a little reinforcement for their position. My hope is that the author of this piece is just plain ignorant or stupid and not doing this for reasons political.

(For those who argue that an author with a Master’s degree and working on a Ph.D. can’t possibly be ignorant or stupid, please realize that the topic is theology. A great deal of intellectual horsepower has never been required for its study, albeit a number of theologians historically have been brilliant people, it was never a requirement.)

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