In defence of strong atheism

I’ve long been of the opinion that weak or negative atheism (a lack of belief in any gods) was a rational, defensible belief, but that strong atheism, also known as positive atheism (a positive belief that there is no god) was an insupportable claim that not only overreached, but betrayed a certain degree of arrogance. (Yes, the arrogant atheist thing – it takes time to shake off all those old ideas.)

TeapotLooking at the question again, I see my error. Obviously, from a logical and philosophical point of view, it would be making a big mistake to claim that a lack of satisfactory evidence of a being means that it definitely doesn’t exist. At this point, theists usually mention black swans as something that was wrongly supposed not to exist, but for every black swan there’s a Russell’s Teapot. Beliefs don’t become any more sensible just because they can’t be conclusively falsified.

And anyway, we don’t generally deal in precise logical and philosophical terms. I’m quite happy to say that homeopathy doesn’t work, psychics are frauds, and unicorns aren’t real. Strictly, I’m wrong to show such confidence, because I haven’t exhausted all possible avenues. Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence, and all those beliefs could be demolished with just a single example. But if I was presented with an example that disproved my claim, I’d change my mind.

It’s easy to see a bald statement that something doesn’t work/exist as arrogant and closed-minded, but that’s not how we talk in practice. When I say unicorns aren’t real, I’m drawing an inference based on the sum total of the evidence currently available. I don’t hedge it with caveats, just like I don’t say “According to current scientific theory” before any explanation of how something works, because those assumptions can be taken as read.

UnicornSuppose I’d repeatedly investigated mediums and found them wanting. Wouldn’t it be fair to say that mediums don’t talk to the dead? It might not be watertight as a logical conclusion, but it’s hardly unrealistic. I’d be far more worried about someone in that position who blandly said that they hadn’t found any genuine mediums yet, because they sound like the words of a potential mark.

As ever, there will be quibbles about exactly how sure you should be before saying that something doesn’t exist, the correct interpretation of the available evidence, and what would be necessary to change your mind. And there are undoubtedly some strong atheists who have no interest in evidence, and would never change their minds. That’s down to them, but it doesn’t affect the principle.

When I consider strong atheism now, it seems like a fancy name for a perfectly ordinary position. The only reason I can think of for someone not to identify with strong atheism is the inevitable and tedious attempts by theists to reverse the burden of proof because “it’s a belief”.

Images courtesy of BenDad and obelix666, used with permission

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About Recovering Agnostic

I'm Christian by upbringing, agnostic by belief, cynical by temperament, broadly scientific in approach, and looking for answers. My main interest at the moment is in turning my current disengaged shrug into at least a working hypothesis.

52 responses to “In defence of strong atheism”

  1. thesauros says :

    Then what you should be saying I believe, is something like:
    . I don’t believe that material things can begin to exist without an external cause (Because this has never been observed, tested or verified)
    . I don’t believe that everything material can come from literally nothing material without a cause
    (Because this has never been observed, tested or verified)
    . I don’t believe that an infinite regress of cause is tenable
    (Because this has been scientifically refuted)
    . I don’t believe that the material infinite is tenable
    (Because this has been scientifically refuted)

    BUT give me one example of these things occurring and i’ll start believing that this is a material universe only I.e. I’ll start being an atheist.

    Until then, I must believe that a Creator God is the most logical explanation of why there is something rather than nothing. In fact until then I’ll believe that the existence of a mathematically precise, life supporting, moral universe is best explained by the existence of an immaterial Creator on the order of a Supernatural Mind.

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      I didn’t expect this to turn into a pissing contest over who has the best evidence. I find it odd and revealing that you focus on these caricatures instead of the gaping holes in what I assume to be your own position, as you propose it as the default setting.

      I’ll just turn your line of argument around, observe the lack of evidence for invisible beings, violations of the laws of physics, and particularly any being that exists without a prior cause, just off the top of my head, and ask why you would want to go down that road.

  2. unkleE says :

    Excellent Thesauros. I was going to say something the same, only you said it better.

    RA, I think your analysis is valid as far as it goes. No-one has proof about these things, only what they believe is most likely. An atheist is no different to a theist in that regard. So it has nothing to do with who has the “burden of proof”, but it simply comes down to evidence. If you think there is minimal evidence for God, then logically you should be an atheist.

    But I agree with Thesauros, the evidence that atheism cannot explain the universe we experience seems to me to be very strong, so I’ll remain a theist too.

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      But it has everything to do with the burden of proof. A theist says there is a god. That’s a positive statement in need of support. An atheist can simply say that the proposition hasn’t been demonstrated.

      I’ll accept that where we came from and why anything exists is a tricky question, but the better answer is to say we don’t know but will continue to investigate, not to postulate the existence if a deity that raises as many questions as it answers.

  3. unkleE says :

    “An atheist can simply say that the proposition hasn’t been demonstrated.”
    But your post is “in defence of strong atheism” (= “a positive belief that there is no god”), so you are as much defending a proposition as I am, aren’t you?

    “but the better answer is to say we don’t know but will continue to investigate”
    If you were arguing against God based on the problem of evil, and I said “the better answer is to say we don’t know but will continue to investigate”, would you think I had adequately answered your argument?

    “not to postulate the existence if a deity that raises as many questions as it answers”
    Two things I disagree with here:

    1. I am not introducing a new postulation here – it has been on the table all around the world for millennia. And you have even recognised it by calling yourself an atheist, in opposition to theism. So we have two hypotheses that are already under discussion, and the question is which best explains the most. We have suggested a number of very important things that atheism doesn’t explain. That is a valid way to proceed. Dodging the arguments doesn’t actually recommend the alternative hypothesis.

    2. Every piece of knowledge raises a new question. That doesn’t make new knowledge valueless. Finding a dead body in your lounge room certainly raises more questions than it answers, but who would suggest it wasn’t an important discovery? Likewise, concluding God exists might raise many questions, but they are academic compared with the very important questions it answers.

    So I suggest this is not an adequate response. The right response, I believe, is to list the important questions that are better explained by atheism than by theism, to counter the ones Thesauros raised supporting theism.

    • Arkenaten says :

      Maybe you ought to demonstrate a little integrity and at least state upfront that you are a Christian, which immediately adds an extra component to your theism, Yashua.
      You’ve trawled many atheist blogs with this tripe and none have bought so far. In all honesty, what makes you think you áre going to soft ‘sell” Recovering Agnostic, unklee?

  4. IAMM3Z says :

    I enjoyed reading your blog. The strong atheist position is one that I struggle with. Some days I’m able to see in the same light you describe, other days not so much. Remembering who holds the burden of proof seems to be key but for some reason I seem to assign myself that responsibility therefore making myself unable to label myself a strong atheist.

  5. thesauros says :

    Dawkins says that the difference between a universe with a Creator and a universe without a Creator might be difficult to distinguish. The difference, Richard, is that without a Creator, there wouldn’t be any universe, and certainly not an infinite number of universes. The coming into being of a material universe, from nothing material before the laws of physics / science were in place is the working definition of a miracle.

    Atheists are fond of saying that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. That’s true.
    Claiming that there is no evidence for Creator God is indeed an extraordinary claim. Especially in the presence of a mathematically precise, life supporting, moral universe.
    Claiming that inanimate and inorganic material evolved into life is indeed an extraordinary claim. Especially when this has never been observed, tested or verified.
    Claiming that everything material came from nothing material without any cause is indeed an extraordinary claim. Especially when a violation of the law of causality has never been observed, tested or verified.

  6. Hausdorff says :

    Totally agree RA. I really like your example of mediums, it’s always possible that there are real mediums out there and the person investigating them just happens to always come across fake ones, but at some point they will just say “mediums don’t exist”. People don’t expect them to constantly hedge that by saying there could be real mediums out there that they haven’t met yet.

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      As it happens, this was partly inspired by talking to someone who doesn’t believe in mediums in general, but is adamant that one in particular is genuine. It’s a mindset that I find entirely baffling, but it’s given me lots of ideas!

  7. ubi dubium says :

    When I say “there’s no god”, I really don’t like to have to qualify it every single time as “There’s probably no god. My expected value for the existence of a god is vanishingly small, and can be disregarded for most discussion purposes “, but that’s what I actually mean. My opinion rounds off to “there’s no god”. I have a high confidence level in that being the correct answer.

    • thesauros says :

      But you’re still avoiding the implications of your original statement, which was / is a statement of belief. Forget about your perceived lack of evidence FOR Creator God. In order to maintain your atheism you must ignore scientific evidence that this is not just a material universe. You must reject scientific evidence that every year moves closer and closer to pointing directly to an immaterial Creator.

      There wouldn’t be anything wrong with ignoring or rejecting evidence in the sense that people do it all the time. We believe what we want to believe. The thing is however, atheists are usually (and maybe you’re not one of them) but atheists are usually those who say something like, “I don’t believe anything unless it’s scientifically proven.” The fact is, a material universe sans Creator is not scientifically proven. Atheism is a philosophical belief.

      That’s why the wiser among you have, after spending literally years trying to get the wording just right now say, “I’m a non believer in gods.” A non belief doesn’t require evidence to be rational whereas a statement that God does not exist, especially when held by those who identify as specifically rational, and logical, does require supporting evidence. Evidence that you don’t have.

      Now, atheists also say, “You can’t prove a negative,” as in “God does not exist,” but they and you sure believe this negative that can’t be proven. Yes?

      • ubi dubium says :

        “In order to maintain your atheism you must ignore scientific evidence that this is not just a material universe. You must reject scientific evidence that every year moves closer and closer to pointing directly to an immaterial Creator.”

        The problem is, the “scientific evidence” isn’t there. I majored in physics, and I try to stay as up to date on discoveries in all fields as I can, and I haven’t seen any. Yet when pressed for this evidence, believers seem to fall back on “The universe is really complicated and we don’t understand it, I have an ancient book that’s better than all the other ancient books because it says so, lots of people believe what I do, and I feel it in my heart.” Those things aren’t “evidence”.

        If there actually were a god, I would expect the evidence to be solid and overwhelming, and it just isn’t. Something like – I’d expect missionaries to be unnecessary, because every tribe out there already knew about god because bibles grew on their trees. Or, the stars could rearrange every so often to spell out Qu’ran verses. Or, there wouldn’t be 30,000 sects of christianity, just one, because everybody magically understood their ancient book in the same way. Or we wouldn’t need doctors or hospitals, because prayer and sacrifice to Zeus was so much more effective than medical treatment.

        Or, something simpler, some missionary could have walked up to me and said my pass-phrase. It’s a sentence in plain English that I’ve thought many times but never told anybody. An omniscient god would know what it is, and would be able to tell one of his true followers to come say it to me, so I’d listen to them. So far, silence.

        “Scientific proof” isn’t really the issue here, since you can’t prove a negative. Evidence and probability are more relevant. An omniscient, omnipotent being who wants me to know that he exists should have no trouble making his existence known. A lack of evidence where there should be tons of evidence points to a god who either doesn’t exist (or is deliberately hiding). “Is there a god?” is a question which I think does have a correct answer. My current conclusion, given the lack of evidence, is that the correct answer is very probably “no”.

  8. unkleE says :

    “Or, there wouldn’t be 30,000 sects of christianity”

    Hi ubi dubium, I don’t want to distract you from your discussion but I wonder if you can tell me what you define as a “sect” so that we get 30,000 of them please? Is this something you have researched and are sure of?

    Thanks.

    • ubi dubium says :

      30,000 is of course a ballpark guess, but here’s a long list of denominations: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations

      And here’s the Pew Forum’s commentary on how they estimate this in their research, and they came out with 41,000, but admit there is some overlap: http://www.pewforum.org/uploadedFiles/Topics/Religious_Affiliation/Christian/ChristianityAppendixB.pdf

      The point being that there is a lot more than one version of this religion (in direct contradiction to the bible’s John 17:11, where Jesus prays that his followers will be one, which certainly has not ever happened). If religion were a human invention, this is exactly what I would expect to see – everybody making up their own version and insisting they have it right. If a god existed, he could certainly show up on everybody’s TV one day and say something like “The Fire Baptized Holiness Church of God of the Americas is the one that has it right, and the rest of you guys need to shape up already switch to that”.

      As for defining a “sect”, that of course will always be difficult to pin down, because there’s such a spectrum. Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, those are easy divisions to make, but how many people does it require to qualify as a “sect”? A few hundred Shakers, there’s a sect, but how about Westboro Baptist? How about five guys meeting in somebody’s living room? How about the guy holding a sign and shouting on the corner, is he a sect all on his own?

      • unkleE says :

        I thought that was the information you were referring to. Have you read the references? Do you realise that the references don’t say what you are suggesting, i.e. not “sects” or “denominations” but organisations? So the data doesn’t support the statement you made?? Check it out.

      • ubi dubium says :

        UnkleE, you’re nitpicking to avoid the general point I am making. It doesn’t really matter whether there are 41,000, 30,000 or 10,000 varieties of christianity. The point is that there are A LOT of different versions of christianity, just as there are A LOT of different non-christian religions in the world. ? Why all this disagreement? Why aren’t the basics of what this god is like, what it wants, and how it communicates with people so obvious that people all have the same basic understanding? If a perfect god exists, why is he such a lousy communicator? Whereas, if gods and religion are a human invention, all this diversity is exactly what we would expect to see.

      • Arkenaten says :

        @ Ubi Dubium.
        Unklee is just a tad peeved that there are so many Christian Sects Maniacs and he isn’t getting any.
        His god is such a spiteful old git.

  9. thesauros says :

    Are you saying that you’re familiar with the findings of Borde, Guth, Vilenkin? You’re familiar with the Big Bang Cosmological theory, both of which point to universe with an absolute material beginning, and you just ignore the implications?

    Alexander Vilenkin stated, based upon their findings, that the definition of nothing means “The universe had a radius of zero.”

    There was nothing material and then there was everything. Their findings show that ANY model of ANY expanding universe requires a definitive space / time boundary. You’re familiar with this and just ignore it?

    “An omniscient, omnipotent being who wants me to know that he exists should have no trouble making his existence known.”

    If a mathematically precise, material, life supporting, moral universe that came into being from literally nothing material and is, for all we know, infinite in dimension doesn’t qualify as tonnes of evidence, I don’t know what would.

    • ubi dubium says :

      “If a mathematically precise, material, life supporting, moral universe that came into being from literally nothing material and is, for all we know, infinite in dimension doesn’t qualify as tonnes of evidence, I don’t know what would.”

      I need to dissect this a little.

      “…mathematically precise” – as in the matter and forces in the universe behave in consistent ways? Yes, they do, but we invented the math part, and there’s lots in the universe that isn’t nice and conveniently tidy and “precise”. Try quantum theory and chaos theory. The universe is a messy fuzzy place.

      “…material” – as opposed to what?

      “…life supporting” – most of the universe is overwhelmingly and alarmingly hostile to life. Go to any random place in our solar system and the odds are you’d very quickly be dead, because it’s very, very unfriendly out there. We’re biased on this, because our teensy little corner of the universe supports life. Earth is not a representative sample.

      “…moral universe” – the universe is not moral, not in any way. It just doesn’t care about us. Children get cancer, hurricanes flatten the homes of philanthropists and criminals just the same, there’s nothing about the behavior of the universe that shows that it “cares” about our thoughts or behavior. If there’s an asteroid headed for earth, no amount of being nice to each other or believing in the correct things is going to change its trajectory. Morality was originated by humans to allow us to live together and cooperate with each other.

      .”..that came into being from literally nothing material” You don’t know this. Nobody does. We have no information on what “preceded” the universe, and no way of getting any information at this time. Perhaps there was something else. Perhaps our universe was caused by something that happened in another universe. Perhaps there was actually “nothing” but maybe “nothing” is unstable and always decays into “something”. We don’t have any way of checking any of this out yet, so your assertions are as much of a guess as anybody else’s guesses. If there is some sort of “cause” for the universe, it’s a huge unwarranted leap to assume that the cause was a “who” and not a “what”.

      “…infinite in dimension” – is vague. Do you mean that the universe just extends forever, because that’s not our current best information. Or are you talking about mathematical dimensions, like spatial dimensions or time? Your “for all we know” reads like “we have a gap in our information”, and “god of the gaps” is a very weak argument.

      When I read your whole paragraph, what I see is the usual “Look at our big complicated universe, therefore there has to be an even bigger more complicated conscious mind behind it all”. No, there doesn’t. This is not “tonnes of evidence”, this is the “first cause” argument.

      • Hausdorff says :

        Well put Ubi :)

      • thesauros says :

        Christians say “Look at our big complicated universe, therefore there has to be an even bigger more complicated conscious mind behind it all”.

        Please note that what I am saying comes from ATHEIST physicists and cosmologists. It is not from a Christian saying what you assume we always say. As well, I’m not suggesting that YOU should believe in God. My point in all my replies is that for you to be a hard atheist, you do not have the evidence. Now someone here said something like, “evidence is not important. This is preposterous. Evidence is all important. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, the EVIDENCE of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

        In a desperate search for ways to avoid the Big Bang Creation Event, and it’s distasteful metaphysical implications, atheists have devolved into creating Origin Of The Universe Mythologies:
        . Oscillating universe –
        . Baby universes –
        . Multi verses –
        . The Cyclic Ekpyrotic Scenario –
        . The Chaotic Inflationary universe –
        . Brane-cosmology –
        . Inflationary multi-verse –
        . Bubble universes floating in a sea of false vacuum –
        . The many worlds hypothesis –
        . The black hole hypothesis –
        . Quantum gravity models –
        . Vacuum fluctuation models –
        . Imaginary time and imaginary space -

        Every single one of these have proven unworkable yet on they go in an attempt to avoid a universe with a beginning.

        Here are the scientific facts: Borde, Guth and Vilenkin – ATHEISTS TO A MAN – have been able to extend their conclusion of the past-incomplete cyclic universe to the each of the above hypotheses. The conclusion they reached is that ANY model of an expanding universe, be it theoretical like the ones just mentioned or real, such as our own, is geodesically incomplete, or past-incomplete without a past finite space / time boundary.

        The phrase, “past-incomplete implies the need for an initial singularity. That means that ANY model of an expanding universe cannot be past-eternal.

        Can you understand this? This is science speaking. Ignoring science just because it doesn’t support your belief in materialism does not fit with those who hold themselves out as the most logical and rational among us.

        Now, it used to be the case that those atheists who were rightly terrified of the implications of a universe with a beginning could, like you attempt to do, hide behind our ignorance of pre Planck time events. In fact, those who remain ignorant regarding this theorem continue to say, as you do, “We just don’t know,” as though that somehow absolves them of their ignorance.

        It does not.

        The Borde-Guth-Vilenkin Theorem does not depend upon ANY physical description or knowledge of the pre Plank time era. This theorem rids atheists of any hope of avoiding a singularity, a beginning, a Big Bang Creation Event of matter / energy, space / time. This is true PARTICULARLY for Dawkins’ favourite myth, the eternal inflationary multi-verse.

        Because atheists are even willing to disregard the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics and say that our universe is the one exception to that Law, I give you with the words of Vilenkin himself.

        “It is said that an Argument is what convinces reasonable men, and a Proof is what it takes to convince an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of the cosmic beginning.”
        Alex Vilenkin, “Many Worlds In One – The Search for Other Universes,” 11

        At this point, some atheists call out “Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.” It’s unclear why they appeal to this principle since all it describes is our inability to simultaneously predict the location and speed of subatomic particles. It has absolutely nothing to do with something, let alone EVERYTHING coming from nothing. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle isn’t saying that the movement of particles is uncaused – it isn’t. It’s describing our inability to predict their location and speed.

        Hence the rush to QM and the lack of understanding regarding -nothing.

        First, quantum mechanics is not going to save the atheist here. In QM, virtual particles come into being IN A VACUUM. The vacuum is not NOTHING. In fact it is a sea of fluctuating energy. The energy is endowed with a rich structure and subject to physical laws.

        Second, the vacuum in which QE’s are studied is sparked BY A SCIENTIST. There is only one possible Being that could have existed prior to or outside of BB and it wasn’t a scientist.

        Third, The particles that exist in a Quantum Event do so for a period of time INVERSELY PROPORTIONAL TO THEIR MASS. So much for the 14 billion year old universe being a Quantum Event.

        Fourth, In the case of the big bang, there wasn’t even a vacuum – THERE WAS NOTHING. No scientist, No particles – Nothing.

        Fifth, As stated above, the universe is far too massive to last 14 billion years as a virtual particle.

        Sixth, While it’s well known that atheists as a group are easily confused, it is wrong to confuse causality with predictability. Just because the Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle describes our inability to predict the location and speed of subatomic particles, i.e., where an electron will appear, that is not a case of an electron appearing out of nothing.

        There is no QM model that involves a true origination ex nihilo.

        Finally, atheists will say that the big bang is speculative physics that could change at any moment. Reality is, the ongoing and ever increasing trend or pattern of evidence is in favour of an absolute beginning out of nothing.

        “It can be said with absolute confidence that no cosmogonic model has been:
        . As repeatedly verified in its predictions, As corroborated by attempts at its falsification,
        . As concordant with empirical discoveries, and
        . As philosophically coherent as the Standard Big Bang Creation Event Model.”

        Yet, because of the metaphysical implications of a universe that came from literally nothing, atheists find themselves rejecting the findings of science.

        I’ll respond to your other comments later.

  10. thesauros says :

    “but we invented the math part”

    That’s ridiculous. The laws of mathematics, physics / science and logic, we’re in place at Planck time. They are discovered, not invented. Without these laws being in place the universe would not have formed.

    There is nothing here to support a belief in materialism. Yet you believe it just as though you do have the evidence.
    =====
    “Try quantum theory and chaos theory.”

    I addressed this in my last reply but I’ll let physicist Stephen Barr explain further. “When examined carefully, scientific accounts of natural processes are never really about order emerging from mere chaos, or form emerging from mere formlessness. On the contrary, they are always about the unfolding of an order that was already implicit in the nature of things, although often in a secret or hidden way. When we see situations that appear haphazard, or things that appear amorphous, automatically or spontaneously “arranging themselves” into orderly patterns, what we find in every cause is that what appeared to be haphazard actually had a great deal of order built into it.

    There is nothing here to support a belief in materialism. Yet you believe in materialism just as though you do have the evidence.
    =====
    “…material” – as opposed to what?

    Nothing. What does a radius of zero mean to you? There is no know means by which matter can create itself yet you hold to atheism just as though matter can create itself.

    There is nothing here to support a belief in materialism. Yet you believe in materialism just as though you do have the evidence.
    =====
    “…life supporting” – most of the universe is overwhelmingly and alarmingly hostile to life.

    How much life do it require before this becomes a life-supporting universe? There is either the existence of life or there isn’t. What’s more, many of those in your belief-system state that there is life, even as we speak on billions and billions of planets. No evidence of course, just a statement based upon blind faith, but still . . . Even hard evolutionary scientists (those who state, again with zero evidence, that inanimate and inorganic gases EVOLVED into life) say that the universe needs to be exactly this large for there to be enough “star dust” if you will, for intelligent life to arise on this planet.

    There is nothing here to support a belief in materialism. Yet you believe in materialism just as though you do have the evidence.
    ====
    “Children get cancer, hurricanes flatten the homes of philanthropists and criminals just the same,”

    Yes, and we have no problem calling these things wrong and bad. In fact, wherever possible, we try to fix these things. When someone does something wrong to you, you don’t have to think for even one second if what they did was according to community or social standards. You know they’ve done wrong and you know it immediately. Objective morals, values and duties exist.

    There is nothing here to support a belief in materialism. Yet you believe in materialism just as though you do have the evidence.
    =====
    We have no information on what “preceded” the universe,

    Again, dealt with in my previous reply. Whether matter began with this universe or a trillion universes ago, matter, space and time had a beginning. As for your description of “nothing” (again rejecting science itself) it’s depressing how atheists seem to not know the difference between something and nothing any more than they know the difference between life and non life.

    There is nothing here to support a belief in materialism. Yet you believe in materialism just as though you do have the evidence.
    ======
    “it’s a huge unwarranted leap to assume that the cause was a “who” and not a “what”.”

    Until the singularity, there was no material what.
    . Either matter is eternal (and we know that it isn’t) or
    . The immaterial creator of matter is eternal.
    If you think this is a false dichotomy, this would be a good place to state the other options upon which you base your belief in materialism.

    And because it’s even more depressing to hear atheists ask the next questions, I state them here for you. To ask:
    When did this eternal Being begin to exist? OR
    What caused this eternal Being to begin to exist?
    Is absurd, incoherent and profoundly illogical.
    =====
    “…infinite in dimension” – is vague.
    Fine, scratch it. It’s not important.

    Finally, as to your comment that Christian refer to the cosmos as complicated and therefore draw a conclusion of Creator, to look at the Fine Tuning and draw a conclusion of “we’re just really, really, really luck,” is to me, far more ridiculous? Just one example. Scientists have described the Fine Tuning of the cosmological constant this way.

    Imagine an aircraft carrier weighing 100,000 tonnes. If the weight of the ship was balanced to 10 ^ 1,230 it could not be off by more than billionth of a trillionth of the mass of a single ELECTRON on one side or the other, or the ship would capsize.

    I have no problem suggesting a Mind over luck any day.

  11. Hausdorff says :

    Thesauros,

    Are you actually interesting in having conversations with people? you seem to know some of these things with more detail than me, and some of what you say contradicts my understanding of things. For example, my understanding is that we know that there was a beginning to our universe, but we really have no idea if there was something the preceded that, or if that even makes sense as time was created at that flash point as well. Perhaps our universe is all there is and ever was, perhaps there is a multi verse, or perhaps something else. But there really is no way to know.

    You say “Every single one of these have proven unworkable yet on they go in an attempt to avoid a universe with a beginning.”

    I’m curious how you justify that, if you can point me to something I can read to see how you came to that conclusion.

    There are a few other things you said that seem to be in conflict with things I’ve seen elsewhere. I think a deeper conversation getting into these things with you could potentially be interesting, I’m always interesting in seeing a different perspective.

    But your writing is completely hostile and full of things like this

    “While it’s well known that atheists as a group are easily confused”

    Why do you include stuff like that? What is your goal? Are you just trying to piss people off? Are you just angry and venting? What’s going on man?

    Based on your apparent knowledge, I think we could have an interesting conversation, but the vitriol just makes me want to close my browser.

    • ubi dubium says :

      I just did some checking, and at least one of his replies above (the one about Borde, Guth and Vilenkin) is a cut and paste of a blog post he wrote back in 2009 (http://makarios-makarios.blogspot.com/2009/10/atheists-cant-or-wont-understand.html ). Which was, as far as I can tell, based off of William Lane Craig’s misunderstanding of a high-level physics paper about the mathematics of inflationary models. I was suspicious, because his response was refuting things I didn’t say, as well as being generally insulting,

      I don’t think Thesauros is really wanting to engage in a serious conversation here, I think he’s just preaching. I’ve had my say on this subject now, I don’t think I want to engage Thesauros any further. I’ll sign off.

      • Hausdorff says :

        Thanks for the reference Ubi,

        I went to check it out, but scanning it, it seems to have the same level of vitriol throughout. I’m going to skip it, although I will try to find a different source and check out that borde, guth, and vilenkin theorem. I’m curious what it actually says

    • thesauros says :

      “But your writing is completely hostile and full of things like this “While it’s well known that atheists as a group are easily confused” Why do you include stuff like that? What is your goal? Are you just trying to piss people off? Are you just angry and venting? What’s going on man?”

      You’re right. I realised as soon as I clicked send and headed off to my meeting (I’m a retired marriage counsellor but still do 5-6 pro bono sessions per week) that you are not one of those atheists who say, “I don’t believe anything unless it’s been proven by science.” That kind of bs just drives me. Again, I haven’t heard you say such foolishness. I’ll try not to confuse you with other posters here.

      As to us having a conversation, sure, although I doubt that I know much more than you.

      As to the person who alluded to a cut and paste, I see no reason why everything I say has to be original. If I’ve written something previously that I still agree with, I’ll repeat it.
      =====

      You say “Every single one of these have proven unworkable yet on they go in an attempt to avoid a universe with a beginning.””

      Well, if any one of them was workable, that would be the end of it. But it isn’t, so they come up with another one and then another one and then another one. Every single one of which is an attempt to prove that matter / energy, space and time are eternal. You can bet your life that if a theory comes along that proves Big Bang cosmology is wrong, that will be the last you’ll hear of Big Bang. On the other hand, even though the Steady State model has been soundly refuted, that in essence is what atheist scientists are still trying to prove; i.e. Carl Sagan’s steady state, “The cosmos is all that has or ever will exist.”

      Astronomer Arthur Eddington – “The concept of the Big Bang is preposterous, incredible, repugnant.”

      Physicist Philip Morrison – “I find it hard to accept the Big Bang theory. I would like to reject it.”

      Physicist Victor Stenger – “The universe may be uncaused and may have emerged from nothing.”

      On the “Bright” side David Hume stated, “I have never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without cause.” Well, back in his day, when atheists were still hopeful that their faith system would prevail, that might have been possible for him to say. It is my belief that if Hume had known that Christianity would prove so resistant to destruction, he would have joined today’s atheist scientists in throwing off all restraints, put his integrity on the shelf, proposed ever more ridiculous scenarios and in that manner he would have increased his intellectual stature among the atheist crowd.

      A universe with a beginning is disconcerting for atheist scientists because what existed before the Big Bang can’t be detected by observation or by the laws of physics. In fact the very concept of “before” is incoherent regarding the Big Bang because there wasn’t any such thing. Until the Big Bang, there wasn’t any time, or space, or matter or laws of physics to govern that matter. Whatever produced The Big Bang, produced those laws. As stated, if the universe came into being without using the laws of physics, more than that, before the laws of physics were even in place, then that is the working definition of a miracle. Miracles as we all know are not allowed into the vocabulary of an atheist.

      Admittedly, some scientists feel compelled to tentatively acknowledge the obvious.
      Arthur Eddington – “The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look at it as frankly supernatural.”

      Nobel prize winner Arno Penzias – “The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, and the Bible as a whole.”

      Physicist Freeman Dyson – ‘The more I examine the universe and study the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known we were coming.”

      Stephen Hawking – “It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us.”

      Anthony Flew – The fine tuning of the universe at every level is simply too perfect to be the result of chance. Flew’s lifelong commitment “to go where the evidence leads” compelled him to become a believer in God.

      • ubi dubium says :

        Thesauros,

        Cut and paste is fine if your original post is completely relevant to the discussion at hand. In this case it wasn’t, because you posted a wall of text rebutting an assertion that no-one here had made.

        And if you are going to re-post a previous blog post, it’s a good idea to mention that you are doing that (and give the link), so people will understand if there’s something off-topic in your response. Or careful editing could also be useful in that regard.

        As to your insults, a very wise man (Richard Wade) has said “If you want to help someone see more clearly, it’s best not to start by poking him in the eye”. Wise words. The nasty and condescending attitude your response had makes it unlikely that I’ll want to read anything additional you may write.

      • Hausdorff says :

        “Well, if any one of them was workable, that would be the end of it. But it isn’t, so they come up with another one and then another one and then another one.”

        I disagree with this idea. Above you have 13 ideas as to how the universe could have come into being. You claim that none of them are workable, and that is why there are so many. Someone comes up with idea A, it doesn’t work so they come up with idea B etc. I’d like to present an alternative, that idea A isn’t complete. It doesn’t explain everything. It doesn’t mean it is no good, complete garbage, nonsense. What it means is that it doesn’t answer everything and so people come up with other possible ideas. The simple fact that we have a second idea doesn’t necessarily mean that first isn’t good.

        Even when we have theories that work, we still come up with new ideas, other possible ways that things might work. Just look at gravity. We had Newtons ideas that work quite well, but Einstein came along later and had a different idea that explains more in different situations. The presence of alternate ideas doesn’t mean the first is bad, more likely it is incomplete.

        Plus, coming up with alternate ideas is fun. I imagine some of the ideas originated at lunch on a university campus. Some professors throwing out ideas while they eat, something sound plausible, the math could work, so they write it up. It doesn’t mean they are claiming it IS what happened, just that it is a possibility.

        “back in his day, when atheists were still hopeful that their faith system would prevail”

        What exactly do you mean by an atheist’s “faith system”? As far as I can tell we have wide agreement on little except that we don’t believe in Gods.

        “A universe with a beginning is disconcerting for atheist scientists because what existed before the Big Bang can’t be detected by observation or by the laws of physics.”

        This I find confusing. I hear atheists talk about big bang all the time. I don’t see them to be disconcerted, I see them fascinated.

        One final thing, I wondering what the source of that Stephen Hawking quote is. It is inconsistent with what (little) I know of him.

  12. thesauros says :

    Ya, well, I’m still rubbing my eye from things like:

    “believers seem to fall back on “The universe is really complicated and we don’t understand it, I have an ancient book that’s better than all the other ancient books because it says so, . . .”

    The rest of what you write, like “Or, the stars could rearrange every so often to spell out Qu’ran verses” is simply not worth responding to.

    I’m addressing the idea that there is enough evidence to support strong atheism and I think that what I wrote is entirely relevant to that topic.

    Besides, didn’t you already promise to be gone, or to at least be quiet re: me?

  13. unkleE says :

    “UnkleE, you’re nitpicking to avoid the general point I am making. It doesn’t really matter whether there are 41,000, 30,000 or 10,000 varieties of christianity.”

    Ubi, Sorry to be delayed, but I was away from my computer for 3 days. But you are mistaken. I am not nit-picking and I wasn’t avoiding your main point – I said at the start I would let you continue that discussion. I simply wanted to
    address that one point.

    You see, there are a lot of myths out there on the internet, and you just referenced one, and I thought that was worth pointing out. For your facts were not correct, as I think you now realise. There are not 30,000 sects or denominations out there, there are 30,000 organisations. The Lower Slobovia Methodist church is not a different sect or denomination from the Upper Slobovia Methodist church, just a different organisation.

    If you check out the figures in a little more detail, you’ll find the vast bulk of the “sects” are African independent churches, mostly with pretty similar (Pentecostal) doctrine, but all independent “franchises”. Your statement is a bit like saying that because there are 40,000 different clubs in the England FA, the sport is highly divided! You’ve got to do a bit more work than that to make such an argument!

    “The point is that there are A LOT of different versions of christianity, just as there are A LOT of different non-christian religions in the world. ? Why all this disagreement?”

    And this was why I raised the matter. Instead of asking the question, why don’t you actually try to make an argument? It would go something like this, I would think:

    1. If there was a christian God, all christians would believe and behave the same.
    2. Christians don’t all believe and behave the same.
    3. Therefore there is no christian God.

    As soon as it is written out, it is obvious that #1 is very dodgy. Why should we all think and behave the same? There is a lot of diversity in our universe, and world, and a lot among people, so how would you justify #1?

    To make this an argument rather than a throw-away line would require quite a lot of work to analyse exactly how much christians disagree and whether this is integral to the faith or just welcome diversity. I have tried to look at that question, and in my opinion there’s not as much difference in important things as we might think.

    Now let me be clear, I think the way many christians behave and separate from each other is a scandal, but it is often over trivial things and it shows up human nature more than it shows up God. if you think otherwise, I think you need to actually make the argument, which you haven’t done.

    And that was why I asked my original question. Thanks for the opportunity.

    • ubi dubium says :

      UnkleE, I certainly would not suggest that all christians should act in the same way. But it is telling that there is disagreement on the basic understandings of what their god is, and what he wants.

      For instance, is god judgmental or benevolent? Is god involved in the day-to-day details of human life or not? To do god’s will is clergy required (catholicism), recommended (protestantism) or unnecessary (quakers)? Is belief alone enough, or are good works also required, or are certain rituals also required? Does god speak only through prophets, and have there been any new prophets in the last 2,000 years (mormons)? Does god speak to just one person (like a Pope)? Or does god speak to anybody who is listening? Is using violence to spread faith sometimes OK (catholic history) or never OK (quakers)? Can a book or a person be an infallible source for answers about these questions, or no?

      This is the kind of understanding about god that one would think would be uniform, if there was actually a god that cared whether we understood such things. But there is no single “christian” answer to any of the above questions.

      (A good source for some research and analysis on the judgmental/benevolent and involved/distant questions is the book “America’s Four Gods”, which looks at the large differences of opinion on these questions that exist even among members of the same denomination.)

  14. thesauros says :

    “I disagree with this idea.”

    Okay.
    =====
    “What it means is that it doesn’t answer everything and so people come up with other possible ideas.”

    Perhaps. As you know, I don’t think it’s that innocent. As I’ve said, I think it means that for those who want to believe this is a material universe only, there is a desperate need for a universe without a beginning, a beginning that Big Bang cosmology points to directly. What’s more, especially for strong atheists is that the evidence of Big Bang suggests that they’re wrong.
    =====
    “I imagine some of the ideas originated at lunch on a university campus.”

    You might be right. I happen to think that following the evidence is a lot more fun than trying to invent new “evidence”; evidence which we stand no chance of ever observing eg. a multi-verse.
    ======
    “It doesn’t mean they are claiming it IS what happened,”

    Except that they DO claim this is what happened. Hawking got so excited over his imaginary time proposal (because the numbers “worked”) that he had to be reminded that he was dealing with the imaginary. That’s how desperately this atheist first / scientist second wants matter to be eternal.
    =====
    “What exactly do you mean by an atheist’s “faith system”?

    Our beliefs don’t happen in isolation. There are direct implications for atheism. For example, if materialism is true, then there are no objective moral, values and duties. On materialism we are nothing but chemical exchanges and fireing neurons and “determinism” rules our actions re: what we falsely believe are right and wrong. On materialism the “I” and consciousness do not exist. They’re just an illusion. Another implication of materialism is that humans do not possess inherent value. In a materialist universe if you claim to have one unit of value and your neighbour says you have no value, your neighbour is just as correct as you are. Another, and I’ll stop here is that on materialism, life does not possess ultimate meaning and purpose. Those things have to be invented and they are spectacularly temporary. I could go on but reality is, materialism develops into a SYSTEM of beliefs IF the person wants to live a consistent life of atheism. Which most do not. Instead atheists borrow heavily from the Christian paradigm which is also a belief-system based upon the idea of the existence of Creator God and the implications that flow directly from that belief.
    ======
    “This I find confusing. I hear atheists talk about big bang all the time. I don’t see them to be disconcerted, I see them fascinated.”

    Well, and here is where I made a statement that you took as an insult but was said simply as stating a fact. Atheists seem easily confused. Same with not understanding the implications of a materialist world-view stated above. If the atheists that you refer to understood the metaphysical implications of Big Bang cosmology, they would be far more alarmed than fascinated. That is why those who do understand Big Bang say things like:
    “The concept of the Big Bang is preposterous, incredible, repugnant.”
    “I find it hard to accept the Big Bang theory. I would like to reject it.”
    They understand that either:
    . Matter created itself (not) OR
    . Matter is eternal (science has shown that it isn’t) OR
    . The Creator of matter is eternal
    For the atheist, there is nothing fascinating about that.
    =====
    “One final thing, I wondering what the source of that Stephen Hawking quote is. It is inconsistent with what (little) I know of him.”

    Oh, I don’t know; that is an old, old quote. If I had to guess, I would say it came from “A Brief History Of Time.”

    Don’t get me wrong. Because he’s an atheist first and scientist second immediately after stating a correct intuition (only God fits the evidence of why there is something rather than nothing), Hawking goes on to make a case for why God is not required. In his last book Hawking says “God is not required for this universe to exist” because, he says, this universe came from a previous universe. In so doing, he completely sidesteps the FACT that whether it was this universe or a bzillion universes prior, matter had a beginning out of literally nothing.

    Because this is said in print, I want you to know that none of this was said in anger or hostility. Just stating what I believe and why.

    • hausdorff says :

      “there is a desperate need for a universe without a beginning”

      This is something I have just never seen. People like to talk about other possibilities, partly because it could be true, and partly because it is fun, but I generally see people also discuss the possibility that the universe is all there is. Look at Lawrence Krauss for example, his stuff certainly seems to include the possibility that we our universe is all there is.

  15. thesauros says :

    When I say, “If the atheists that you refer to understood the metaphysical implications of Big Bang cosmology, they would be far more alarmed than fascinated,” do you understand why I say that?

    I know of Krauss and what he says. But what he’s describing is the Steady State model of cosmology. The question then arises, why would he attempt to resurrect something that science has already refuted? I doubt that he’s doing it for the sake of personal amusement or the enjoyment of gentle conversation. I’d say he has some serious and warranted existential issues with a material universe that has a beginning out of literally nothing material.

    You say that you have “never seen” people with an issue re: beginnings. If you mean personally I can’t argue with that. If you mean in general, I’ve given you several example and you just mentioned another in Krauss. When a scientist ignores science to make h/his case, you can bet there is something much deeper going on at a personal level.

    • hausdorff says :

      “When I say, “If the atheists that you refer to understood the metaphysical implications of Big Bang cosmology, they would be far more alarmed than fascinated,” do you understand why I say that?”

      No, not really. What implications exactly are you referring to?

      As far as Krauss, I certainly don’t see any hint of existential issues in his talk. Perhaps he’s just good at hiding it. It’s hard to speculate about such things. As to the specifics, it’s hard to argue as I’m certainly no expert on cosmology or anything, but I’m honestly doubtful when you say “science has already refuted” this idea. We know that science gets things wrong and has to self correct, of course we want our best people revisiting ideas. Perhaps it is too much to get in to, but on what do you base the statement that it has been refuted?

      With respect to the quotes you have provided, quite frankly I don’t trust them. I can’t help but focus in on the quote from Hawking, which implies that he believes God is the only rational explanation for the universe. And yet I know he’s said basically the opposite, that now we can explain the universe without God. I’m guessing your quote is either old and he’s changed his opinion, or it is out of context, or something. I see that, and then I look at a quote you provide from someone I’m less familiar with and I ask myself “Why should I trust that this is a representative statement from this person?” I don’t say this to be insulting, but that is what comes to mind when you tell me you have provided examples.

  16. unkleE says :

    I didn’t think Krauss was describing the Steady State model. I thought he was arguing that the universe could have arisen spontaneously from a quantum vacuum, and then pretended that the quantum vacuum was “nothing” (or has he recently changed his ideas?).

    But most physicists know it is a con – see for example Luke Barnes, who as far as I can tell is an agnostic about God. And while I don’t necessarily agree with MGB about all atheists having a “desperate need for a universe without a beginning”, I think Krauss is actually one who seems to be acting this way. Why else would he try to pretend a quantum vacuum is “nothing”?

  17. unkleE says :

    “But it is telling that there is disagreement on the basic understandings of what their god is, and what he wants.”

    Hi again ubi dubium. Thanks for your reply. Let me bookend any further comments by two statements (one in your favour, one in mine):

    1. The statement about 30,000 “sects” or “denominations” is misleading and cannot of itself form a strong basis for any argument. This was my main point.
    2. Christians disagree far too much, and this makes it harder to believe what they say is true.

    I accept both of those statements, and I’m wondering if you now do too?

    So the disagreements you point to are telling, I agree, but what do they tell us?
    I think two conclusions are clearer than the one you draw:

    (i) People disagree. People have agendas. Hopefully believing in Jesus’ teachings makes them better, but christians don’t always follow his teachings. But if a politician is corrupt, this doesn’t mean there is something wrong with democracy. Likewise, if a christian is disagreeable this doesn’t mean there is something wrong with Jesus.

    (ii) God is “bigger” than us and loves diversity (obviously – look at the universe). We can’t fully understand him, so statements about him can only be partial, and nuances and differences in belief are to be expected. He reveals himself in different ways to different people at different times. Christians can mistake their own understanding for a full and complete understanding. God is more interested in relationship than mere information. Hence I wouldn’t expect uniformity of belief.

    So I wonder if we can agree on this? There is an argument based on the differences among christians, but it requires better data than “30,000 sects”, a much more detailed explanation of all the factors. I think it is an interesting question, and I intend to research it some more. Thanks.

  18. thesauros says :

    “When I say, “If the atheists that you refer to understood the metaphysical implications of Big Bang cosmology, they would be far more alarmed than fascinated,” do you understand why I say that?”

    No, not really. What implications exactly are you referring to?”

    Big Bang cosmology points to a universe with a beginning – out of nothing material. Now, if an atheist physicist who says that “nothing” means the universe had a radius of zero isn’t trustworthy to you, I can’t imagine that what I say would be any more trustworthy. I’m nobody. But here is where I’m coming from. If matter / energy, space / time did not exist until the Singularity (Big Bang theory) then, unless one believes that matter can create itself, or that nothing can create matter (I think someone here suggested that “nothing” became unstable – which shows a complete and total lack of understanding nothing) we are left with an immaterial Creator / Cause. A Creator / Cause that is beyond nature, i.e. supernatural. Supernatural is anathema to atheism.

    Are you playing with me? Do you really not understand the flow here? Or are you open to accepting any possibility regardless of how illogical, any possibility except an immaterial Creator? Are you playing with me?

    As to the Hawking quote, I told you that after saying that, Hawking went on to try to explain that God isn’t needed for our universe to exist – because our universe came from a previous universe. No evidence whatsoever for this hypothesis, just a statement of wishful thinking. And, I said that he completely ignores the fact (“fact” meaning based on what we know) that no matter how many universes ago matter began > matter began.

    Simply saying, “I don’t believe it,” when hearing things that contradict one’s beliefs doesn’t seem like a way I’d like to live, but if it works for you, I guess it’s not my place to try to stop you. It just doesn’t seem very rational or logical. Again, I’m may be mistaking you for one of those atheists who says, “I don’t believe anything unless proven by science.”

    • hausdorff says :

      “A Creator / Cause that is beyond nature, i.e. supernatural. Supernatural is anathema to atheism.”

      I guess it really boils down to what you mean by nature and supernatural. If nature is everything in the universe, then anything outside of this universe must be supernatural, right? With this definition, something like a multiverse would be supernatural. In this case, this “supernatural” thing doesn’t have to be so terrible for an atheists to consider as a possibility, it is certainly not something we would call a God.

      But you said that a multiverse can’t work, but I just don’t see how this can be stated so strongly. At the singularity, space and time were created, along with the laws of physics, for all we know there are other universes out there with different laws of physics. How can you state with such certainty that it can’t be true?

      And when you argue that there was a creator, aren’t you essentially arguing for a multiverse of sorts? Didn’t God have to exist in some form, in some place? Even if he’s just a universe unto himself. It seems to me that as soon as you are positing a creator/cause you are talking about a multiverse in a sense. It seems inconsistent to say a multiverse is impossible and also say that there was a supernatural creator/cause.

      And no, I’m not playing with you, it is just easier to talk about these things if you spell out your reasoning.

  19. thesauros says :

    “If nature is everything in the universe, then anything outside of this universe must be supernatural, right.”

    I would change that to “Nature is everything MATERIAL in the universe.” Or, “The universe is everything material.” When I say supernatural, I mean immaterial, spirit, mind, The Greatest Conceivable Being, which we usually call God.
    =====
    “But you said that a multiverse can’t work,”

    Mmm, I hope we don’t have to get into this. It’s really long and drawn out. It has to do with entropy and the expanding properties of dark matter and the inability of a cyclical universe to work etc. etc. My main point is that even if a multiverse exists, everything – EVERYTHING material requires the explanation of how it came into being because matter is not eternal. For me, this beginning is not something that can be ignored just because we can’t definitively answer the questions or how and why. I think that both atheists and theists have enough evidence (exactly the same amount of evidence) to draw a reasoned conclusion and I don’t think that materialists have the evidence to, well, to be materialists – certainly not based upon the science that we presently have.
    =====
    “but I just don’t see how this can be stated so strongly. At the singularity, space and time were created, along with the laws of physics, for all we know there are other universes out there with different laws of physics. How can you state with such certainty that it can’t be true?”

    Because there isn’t any evidence for it. I understand that you’re comfortable with speculation. It is interesting. But I wouldn’t – “I” – wouldn’t chose to live that way. I just need things nailed down a little more precisely.
    =====
    And when you argue that there was a creator, aren’t you essentially arguing for a multiverse of sorts?”

    Absolutely not.

    Again, it seems to me that either:
    Matter is eternal OR
    The Creator of matter is eternal.
    Again, if you think this is a false dichotomy then this would be a good place to list the alternatives.

    Because we cannot traverse the infinite a Creator seems, to me, to be the more logical default. The reason that I would not equate “God” with a material universe is that that would take us back to a material infinite. One of them (Matter or the Creator of matter) is eternal and it’s not matter.

    When I think what a Creator or Greatest Conceivable Being would HAVE to be like, I come up with:
    . Existing outside of time, the Cause of the universe is infinite or Eternal,

    . Existing outside of and “prior to” matter, the Cause is immaterial or Spiritual,

    . Existing as the Cause of time and energy, space, matter and the laws of physics, the Cause is immeasurably more powerful than the mathematically precise universe and its exquisitely Finely Tuned constants and quantities.

    . The Cause cannot be material / natural because neither matter / energy existed until Big Bang, nor did the laws of physics (i.e., the laws that science has observed and identified), have anything material to act upon or govern until Big Bang.

    . Therefore the Cause of the beginning of the universe is not scientific but Personal. The Cause chose to bring the universe into existence.

    . The transcendent Cause of the universe is therefore on the order of a Mind.

    . That Cause is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.

    “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made from what is unseen so that people are without excuse.” From the Bible: Paul in his letter to the Roman Christians.

    I also think that we “know” from observation, testing and verification that:
    . Anything material that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature (Necessary meaning It can’t NOT exist), or in a cause that was / is external to itself.

    . If the universe (which is not necessary) has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is external to as well as transcendent to the universe / matter.

    • hausdorff says :

      “It has to do with entropy and the expanding properties of dark matter and the inability of a cyclical universe to work etc. etc. My main point is that even if a multiverse exists, everything – EVERYTHING material requires the explanation of how it came into being because matter is not eternal.”

      Entropy is a time dependent thing right? But time itself was created at the big bang. How do you know that time itself doesn’t work differently in a broad multiverse? Perhaps in different universes time’s arrow goes in opposite directions and it cancels itself out. Perhaps there is a broader view that would make our perception of time simplistic. Who knows, but you seem to be arguing that it always has to work how it works here.

      “I understand that you’re comfortable with speculation. It is interesting. But I wouldn’t – “I” – wouldn’t chose to live that way.”

      What? You refuse to speculate about the existence of a multiverse without evidence, but you are fine asserting that God must exist without evidence?

      • thesauros says :

        “but you seem to be arguing that it always has to work how it works here.”

        I have enough trouble managing my time in this universe without worrying what might be happening in a different one :-)

        Beyond that, I’m not certain what point you’re trying to make re: time in other universes.
        =====
        “You refuse to speculate about the existence of a multiverse without evidence, but you are fine asserting that God must exist without evidence?”

        Here is a list of assumptions that I’m making about our conversation. Stop at any point where I’m wrong:

        First of all, we both agree that this universe exists.

        Yes?

        Therefore,
        a) You say – “Another universe brought this one into existence.”
        b) I say, “A Creator brought this one into existence.”

        Yes?

        We are both using the existence of this universe as EVIDENCE for our chosen belief.

        Correct?

        Each of us is saying that the cause of THIS universe is eternal / infinite. It’s never not existed. You’re saying that matter has always existed and I’m saying that the Creator of matter has always existed.

        Yes?

        If these assumptions about our conversation are correct, that leads me to ask, Since we cannot traverse the material infinite > an infinite regress of cause is not workable > Do you ever ask yourself, “When the multiverse began, what Caused it to begin? What kind of beginingless prime mover brought the multiverse (i.e. matter / energy) into existence?”

        Do you ever ask yourself that?

  20. hausdorff says :

    Therefore,
    a) You say – “Another universe brought this one into existence.”
    b) I say, “A Creator brought this one into existence.”

    Not quite, I think that another universe bringing this one into existence is a possibility. I think a multiverse is possible, I think it is possible that there is only one universe in an infinite cycle of big crunch/big bang, I think it is possible that the universe came from nothing, I even think it is possible there is some intelligent creator who set this all in motion. Ultimately I just don’t think we know enough, and I think it is quite possible that we will never know, how the hell are we going to get information about something that is outside our universe?

    My biggest issue is that you are claiming that an infinite regress is impossible. well sorta, you are saying that an infinite regress of material things is impossible, and yet you are fine with an infinite regress as long as somewhere backward in time everything switches to being completely immaterial.

    So let me ask you this, why do you think it is not workable to have an infinite regress, and yet you have no problem with a “beginningless prime mover”? If something could be beginningless, why not have that thing be the multiverse itself? I imagine you will say entropy and I would respond that the laws of physics there don’t have to match what they are here and we will have made a pretty good circle :)

    • thesauros says :

      I even think it is possible there is some intelligent creator who set this all in motion”

      Does that mean that you don’t identify as an atheist? I mean, wouldn’t that be that same being that we Christians call God?
      =====
      “I think it is possible that there is only one universe in an infinite cycle of big crunch/big bang,”

      Well, that’s an easy one. This theory is not workable because of the entropy “problem” and the fact that there isn’t enough matter in the universe for even one cycle. As well, the Borde-Guth-Vilinkin Theorem (again, these are atheists each and every one of them) proves that any expanding universe must have a definitive space / time boundary, a point of beginning, a Singularity, a point of Creation. The expansion property of Dark Matter ensures that the universe will never, nor has ever contracted and oscillated i.e. Cycled. It will always expand faster and faster. The Second Law of Thermodynamics also rules out the possibility of the universe existing from infinity past. Background radiation, as well as known levels of entropy as well as the expanding universe confirm the truth of the 2nd Law > The universe had a beginning. I’m fine with a “regress” of cause, as long as we recognize that at one point there was nothing material and then there was everything material. The cyclical theory is a closed book.
      =====
      “how the hell are we going to get information about something that is outside our universe?”

      Unless something about that Cause has been deliberately been made known to us. Which, one would expect a Cause to do.
      =======
      “My biggest issue is that you are claiming that an infinite regress is impossible. well sorta, you are saying that an infinite regress of material things is impossible, and yet you are fine with an infinite regress as long as somewhere backward in time everything switches to being completely immaterial.”

      Well, the term “Infinite Regress” means that there is no end. The regress of cause goes on for infinity into the past. I’ll explain below what that’s not possible.
      =====
      “So let me ask you this, why do you think it is not workable to have an infinite regress,”

      Ok, well, here is where my lack of ability in explaining myself makes things hard to understand. I’ll do my best but you’re going to have to concentrate.

      . It is physically impossible to have an Actual Infinite Series of Things or Events or even moments of Time preceding our today. Nor can we have an Actual Infinite Collection by adding Things or Events or moments of Time one to another to another in order to reach today. This is why we can say with confidence that matter / universe cannot be infinite and that it hasn’t always existed. To further explain, imagine units of time as individual books filling a book shelf that stretches infinitely into the past. You could imagine an infinitely long street or an infinitely long rope or whatever, but for this example I’ll use a shelf of books.

      While mathematics is able to deal with abstract or theoretical or conceptual or potential infinities, and while our imagination can create an imaginary shelf of books stretching infinitely into the past – sort of – reality holds no such possibility for us.
      . Time is not imaginary.
      . Time is not abstract or theoretical or conceptual.
      . Time is real.
      . Time is measured in real units.
      That’s why we hear things like, “The universe is 14.5 billion years (measurement of time) old.

      In a scenario like this, with the shelf of books (units of time) stretching infinitely into the past you could never actually arrive at today. Here’s why.

      In order to reach the last book (what we call today), you had to have the second to last book or yesterday. In order to have the second to last book you had to have the third to last book. In order to have the third to last book you had to have the fourth to last book and so on and so on.

      In the case of “no beginning,” you could never reach today because you could never reach the “first” day (book) that made possible the second day which made possible the third day . . . .

      Since the past is made up of units of real time, in the case of a beginningless past we would have had to pass through or travel through infinite time in order to reach today and that is physically impossible. To reach today, we have to have had a starting point, a push point, a point of beginning, a point of first cause. If the past were actually infinite, we could never reach today because the past would simply extend infinitely into the past. Neither can we arbitrarily pick a set or group or point in real time and begin counting from there. Of course you can do that, but it proves nothing regarding the beginning of the universe.

      The fact is, we have reached today so we can know not only that the universe had a beginning, but that time itself had a beginning.

      Just as a bookshelf stretching infinitely into the past with no beginning would prohibit our reaching today, neither can there be an infinite regress of causes of the universe (eg. previous universes). That would also prohibit reaching today’s universe.

      So great a problem is this for atheists that people like Stephen Hawking simply ignore the origin of “previous” universes and tries to shore up his atheism by saying that we didn’t need God to have “this” universe. He might fool others and make himself a lot of money selling books, but don’t allow him to make a fool of you.

      . The fact is, the infinite exists only as an idea or as a mathematical concept. It does not exist in material realty.

      • hausdorff says :

        “Does that mean that you don’t identify as an atheist? I mean, wouldn’t that be that same being that we Christians call God?”

        I didn’t say I think it is true, or even that it is likely. I actually think it is very unlikely. It’s just that there are so many unknowns here that I think it is improper to rule out some sort of a God, especially if we are talking about a deist style god.

        “Since the past is made up of units of real time, in the case of a beginningless past we would have had to pass through or travel through infinite time in order to reach today and that is physically impossible.”

        So you are saying that if we assume there is a beginningless past (in other words, there is an infinite amount of time in the past) then an infinite amount of time would have had to pass to get to the current moment. Then you declare this an impossibility with no real reason.

        I’m assuming that this is an argument you have gotten from william lane craig, I’ve discussed in detail in the past why this is a terrible argument. The explanation is quite long, so I don’t want to rehash it all here, but feel free to have a look.

        But screw it, let’s assume you are correct and an infinite past is not possible. How do you reconcile that with an eternal God? If God is eternal then an infinite past is possible. If God is eternal, how has he made it to the current moment?

  21. thesauros says :

    It’s just that there are so many unknowns here,”

    Yep, and this is where I need to apologize. I was looking back through our conversation and realized, too late as usual that whenever I bring up what I think is a critical issue from science, the things that aren’t unknown yet go completely against this being a material only universe, you default to all the “possibilities” (I’m surprised you haven’t suggested aliens), that hold no known answers. I know from experience that this is how it will go on forever.
    =====
    “I’m assuming that this is an argument you have gotten from william lane craig,”

    No actually this philosophical / scientific fact did not originate with him – not by a several millennium
    ====
    “But screw it, let’s assume you are correct and an infinite past is not possible. How do you reconcile that with an eternal God? If God is eternal then an infinite past is possible. If God is eternal, how has he made it to the current moment?”

    No, you’re missing an important word. It’s the “material” infinite that is nothing but a concept. It does not exist in reality i.e. Time.

    The eternal exists outside of time. The eternal is time-less. Therefore, asking questions like:
    When did this eternal Being begin to exist? – OR
    What caused this eternal Being to begin to exist?
    are absurd, illogical and incoherent. They show a complete lack of understanding of “eternal.”

    Look, it’s good for you that you’ve resolved the infinite regress / eternal matter issue so easily in your own mind. But this is where I decide to move on. I have no business trying to push my beliefs on you (preaching as ubi dubi says) when you have already charted your own course. Good luck with that. This conversation has caused me to allow other stuff to pile up and I must be getting back to work.

    • hausdorff says :

      Your argument of time stretching infinitely into the past doesn’t use the “material” assumption at all. Insisting that god is eternal is just special pleading as far as I can tell.

      Anyway, good conversation, but I suppose you are right, it has gone on too long. I’m sure we’ll meet again.

  22. Michael says :

    What I always find so pathetic is this claim that I somehow have a BURDEN to convince you. As if my argument will bring God to life. You can swim around in this pathological dance of self aggrandizing soup for the rest of your life for all I care.

    You have heard the one message that God knows melts the hearts of those who love Him and you reacted to it as if it were poison–so why should any of us perform for you as if our audition will somehow settle the question for all time…like, now you can mark it down somewhere as fact in annuls of humanity.

    All of humanity throughout history has come to the determination that God designed and created the universe. The novel, pathetic and abnormal view is legos just popped out of nothing and assembled this complexity by magic.

    Its not a burden to refute that. Its a burden to believe it. Hence, the tortured everyday grind of reassuring yourself that you haven’t made the biggest mistake a person can possibly make.

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      Okay, I’m going to say this slowly, Michael. I couldn’t give four flying foxes what you believe, or whether you make any effort to persuade me that you’re right. That’s not what this post is about, at all. As you can see, it’s about the level of confidence it’s reasonable to have in stating a negative. It’s there in black and white, right above this.

      But as you raised the subject, believers are desperate to claim that there’s simply bundles of evidence for their favourite brand of deity, and that they have a duty to convert people, because paradise, torment, eternal souls, yadda yadda. Yet you say that you don’t care, and you have nothing to offer, or no interest in offering it – hard to say which. Are you just a really crappy believer, or has everyone else got it wrong? Because honestly, I’d quite like it if I could be sure I wouldn’t get preached at by every religious person I meet.

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