Showing posts with label Science. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Science. Show all posts

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sacerdotus Is (Even More) Stupid (Than Previously Thought) Pt. 1


Author's note: I know I just wrote that I'd be spending more time writing about social issues and lay off atheism for a bit, but a recent attempt to rebut my blog post on why I'm an atheist got my attention and prompted me to make a response. I'll get back to social issues when this is done.


A supposed "philosopher" who challenged me on my post Why I'm An Atheist, wrote a follow up to my follow up, and in it he claims again, that's he's refuted me and that I'm ignorant of science and philosophy. The exact opposite is true and I can easily show why. His arguments are so bad, they are laughable. And I don't mean this to be facetious, I mean this with all seriousness. He makes so many common argumentative mistakes and factual errors that I cannot take him seriously that he has a degree in philosophy and science. If he does have a degree, he should get a refund, because he apparently learned no serious critical thinking skills because of it. His arguments are on the caliber of the same old tired internet apologist, like the many wannabe William Lane Craig clones out there. Only he's at the low end of the spectrum.

The supposed philosopher's pen name is Sacerdotus and he accuses me of nothing more than ad hominem attacks. This is false, and a common misunderstanding of what an ad hominem attack is. An ad hominem attack is when you attack your opponent instead of attacking their arguments. I attacked his arguments, quite successfully, in addition to attacking his character. So I made no ad hominem attacks because I addressed his sad excuses for an argument, quite successfully. The reason why I call him stupid in most post (aside from being accurate, is because he calls atheism stupid. I'm giving him a taste of his own medicine, and he calls it an ad hominem! The irony.

I'm going to refute his attempt at refuting my refutation to show how he still just doesn't get it, and is making the same mistakes over and over. His words will appear in block quotes. In the beginning of his post he writes,

As Socrates said, "When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser."  Well, we now see the loser show his/her face via ad hominem, so to speak.  He even calls me "gay," which shows he clearly is the losing party.

I called him gay because he is gay, not because it is a slander, and he's a Catholic who defends the church. I find that relevant. If you're going to defend a church that for centuries tried to destroy your existence, that is telling and relevant. If he's not actually gay, then I apologize.

Notice how his replies are just a restatement of his/her previous errors already refuted and how he/she avoids addressing my refutation directly.  I will once again re-refute his/her nonsense and show how they are false when vetted against science, philosophy, and theology just as I have before.  

The point is he didn't actually refute my original arguments. And so what I did was I just explained them further with more insight into why his responses didn't refute them. My arguments mostly went right over his head because they're too sophisticated for him, despite his supposed (and apparently useless) degree in philosophy. My arguments are the culmination of years and years debating theism and they are not entry-level arguments. They rely on a deep understanding of science and philosophy, like a deep understanding of special relativity, which Sacerdotus clearly doesn't have because he doesn't understand at all what special relativity implies for our understanding of time and causality.

So let me refute his attempt at a rebuttal one by one to show (very easily) how his arguments all completely fail. This will be done over several parts throughout this week. Starting with my first argument:

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sacerdotus Is Stupid



A gay theist (gaytheist?) on the internet attempted to refute my recent post explaining why I'm an atheist. He claims it was "easy" and that I show a lack of understanding of science and philosophy! Ha! Nothing can be further from the truth. It's he who lacks in-depth understanding of physics, philosophy, religion, and atheism, and a refutation of his "refutation" was really easy for me, albeit just time consuming.

But since I'm off work for the next few days and I'm bored at home (it's freezing outside!) let me for the record refute his pathetic attempt at a refutation.

Here's his attempt at a refutation of my argument number 1. My original arguments can be read here.

1) The traditional notion of god isn't coherent


He responds:

The author here runs on a strawman argument. He simply does not understand the concept of God. The author assumes that God is subject to his terms or the terms of the understandings of man; that is to say, how we perceive and understand everything. He claims that theists resort to special pleading to address what he claims to be contradictions. However, he is doing exactly that. He argues that change requires times and fails to back this up. We know from cosmology that there was no time prior to cosmic inflation. Time is a product that came into existence after the "big bang." Despite this, a change did take place. If change did not take place, there would have been no "big bang" event. Moreover, the author fails to understand that God is a being, not a mere concept. This being is beyond all, transcends all. No theist, no atheist, no theologian or pope can ever truly understand God or explain Him. St. Augustine tried and experienced a vision of his angel as a young boy who was at the shore trying to put the ocean in a small hole in the sand. The boy went to and fro collecting water in a shell until St. Augustine stopped him and inquired as to what the boy was trying to do. The boy said he was trying to put the entire ocean in the hole he dug. St. Augustine brushed it off as a something that came out of a babe's mouth and explained that it was not possible for the ocean to be poured into a small hole. The boy replied that neither can he put the entirety of God into his mind.

Every time I'm told that a person has "refuted" atheism I'm sadly disappointed. This is one of those times. Here I'm clearly saying god is subject to logic. As I clearly wrote in the post, "god cannot do the logically impossible or be the logically impossible." These aren't my terms and conditions, or the limitations of human intellect, this is our ability to be logical. Deny this, and you throw all of logic out the window. That includes your ability to logically "prove" atheism false - or anything else. That change requires time is obvious and certain. To change requires two states of being that cannot exist at the same time, otherwise you'd get a contradiction: A = ¬A. This is logically impossible. That this guy doesn't understand that means he fails logic 101, and that means his assessment of the rest of the argument fails. This is why I like to get all theists to agree beforehand that god is not beyond logic. I do this because - exactly as I predict - theists resort to special pleading to explain away god's inconsistence. When he says god "is beyond all, transcends all. No theist, no atheist, no theologian or pope can ever truly understand God or explain Him," he is resorting to special pleading. If you can't coherently explain god, you can't coherently say god exists. This guy fails to do that. His response to argument 1 completely fails and did exactly what I predicted.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Why I'm An Atheist - 13 Reasons & Arguments For Atheism



More than three years ago I wrote a post entitled Why I'm An Atheist, where I briefly explained some of the reasons why I don't believe in god. That post, which was long over due at the time, needs an update. With each passing year I get much better at understanding the arguments for and against the existence of god, and since that post came out I've created several new arguments of my own. Rather than write it in essay form, which I did in the original post, I'll instead outline the main reasons and arguments briefly, one by one. So here we go.

I'm an atheist because....

1) The traditional notion of god isn't coherent


In order to even consider the possibility that a god exists, we first need a coherent concept of god. The traditional notion of god in classical theism is that of a timeless, changeless, immaterial mind, who also must be infinitely good, infinitely wise, and can do anything logically possible. There are some variations on this concept, but almost all traditional or classical theistic gods have these basic characteristics. The problem is that a timeless, changeless being by definition cannot do anything; it's necessarily causally impotent and nonfunctional. Change requires time, and time requires change. This is logically certain. And to create something, one must do something. Doing requires a change, regardless of whether that change is mental or physical. A being that cannot do anything cannot be omnipotent. As a result, the traditional notion of god is self contradictory. The theist's only resort here is special pleading. That's why I like to get all theists to agree beforehand that god is not beyond logic. That is, god cannot do the logically impossible or be the logically impossible. Once a theist agrees with this, they've cut themselves off from special pleading as an option. Some theists think god is atemporal before creating the universe, and temporal after creating the universe. But it isn't logically possible to exist timelessly and then suddenly jolt yourself into time out of your own will, because your will was timeless and frozen. It couldn't change into the state to want to change.

Given the necessary rules of logic the traditional attributes of god are incoherent:

P1. It is logically impossible to do something without doing something.
P2. It is logically impossible to do something without change (even if everything is immaterial).
P3. It is logically impossible for change to exist without time.
C. As such, a timeless, changeless being cannot do anything.

The failure of theists to come up with a coherent description of god is enough by itself to warrant atheism, but there's many more reasons to think no gods exist.

Learn Special Relativity Online For Free!



I can't believe I haven't blogged about this yet.

A few years ago physicist Brian Greene created WorldScienceU, a free online classroom to teach science. The first course in physics is on Special Relativity, taught by Greene himself.

There are two versions of the course: the simple math-free version that allows you to understand the theory from a conceptual framework, and the full version which goes into all of the math. I've taken both courses, though I did skip most of the heavier math. There are several interactive features that allow you to play with spacetime diagrams and time dilation and length contraction to understand the ontology of the theory. If you complete the math course you basically understand the full theory, which is relatively easy. Ha!

Register now!



Saturday, October 21, 2017

Quote Of The Day: Why Denying Eternalism Forces You To Accept Brute Facts



A few years ago when I was completely obsessed with the philosophy of time I read many papers for and against presentism and eternalism. In one paper called Presentism and Relativity philosopher Yuri Balashov and physicist Michel Janssen write that in order to maintain presentism one has to lose the explanatory power of the "space-time interpretation" or B-theory (which is eternalism). Lorentz invariance becomes an accidental property "shared by all laws effectively governing systems in Newtonian space and time." I've written in the past that without eternalism length contraction in special relativity becomes inexplicable. It "just is" that way with no apparent explanation. Balashov and Janssen argue it's not the only thing that becomes inexplicable.

In the neo-Lorentzian interpretation it is, in the final analysis, an unexplained coincidence that the laws effectively governing different sorts of matter all share the property of Lorentz invariance, which originally appeared to be nothing but a peculiarity of the laws governing electromagnetic fields. In the space-time interpretation this coincidence is explained by tracing the Lorentz invariance of all these different laws to a common origin: the space-time structure posited in this interpretation (Janssen 1995, 2002).[22]
The argument can be made in different ways. Einstein made it in the opening paragraph of the 1905 paper with the help of his famous magnet-conductor example: for the current measured in the conductor only the relative motion of magnet and conductor matters, but in Lorentz’s theory the case with the magnet at rest is very different from the case with the conductor at rest. No matter how the argument is made, the point is that there are brute facts in the neo-Lorentzian interpretation that are explained in the space-time interpretation. As Craig (p. 101) writes (in a different context): “if what is simply a brute fact in one theory can be given an explanation in another theory, then we have an increase in intelligibility that counts in favor of the second theory.” We just presented such an argument in the case of the space-time interpretation versus the neo-Lorentzian interpretation. The argument is not iron-clad and may still be outweighed by the needs of theology or quantum mechanics. But it is on a par with, say, the argument for preferring Darwinian evolution over special creation. That is good enough for us. (emphasis mine)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Quote Of The Day: Sean Carroll On The Big Bang


Later on this year, probably in December, I'm going to be giving a talk at a Long Island Atheists event on how atheists can better answer some of the most common challenges they face. It's going to be called Make Atheism Great Again, and will be a preview of my talk at The Atheist Conference.

While making the PowerPoint presentation I made a slide featuring physicist Sean Carroll with a quote from his debate with William Lane Craig on God and Cosmology. It mentions the problem most people have with understanding the big bang — particularly Craig, who I think knows better, and yet continues to claim that on atheism the universe just "pops" into existence. Carroll sets the record straight, but don't expect Craig et al. to learn from it. Their job requires they deny this.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

"But Many Great Scientists Believed In God!"


Time for one quick counter-argument—

When debating the social effects of religion and atheism an inevitable argument coming from the religious will be something like, "But many great scientists were believers in God: Newton, Galileo, Faraday..."

OK. We atheists hear this a lot. Sometimes it's made by theists making the general claim that belief in god is compatible with science, sometimes it's made by theists making the specific claim that Christianity is compatible with science.


Regardless of the specifics here's my response:

Yes it is true that many great scientists have been believers in god, but it is also the case that prior to the late 1800s in Western culture you pretty much had to openly profess a belief in god. There were, for example, laws on the books in European countries that made it illegal to deny the existence of god or the truth of the Christian religion, and the penalties could be severe. Until the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Act 1677 the death penalty was applied for atheism in England. And throughout all of Europe, from the time the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as it's official religion, the Catholic Church (and then later the Protestant churches after the reformation) had a monopoly on academic institutions.

What all this means is that until fairly recently there were no secular institutions of higher learning in the West. And by law, you had to profess belief in god, usually the right version of god, in order to maintain your freedom, social status, and job — and in some cases your life. So to say that Newton and Gallileo were believers in god, or were Christians and were brilliant scientists ignores that point. During their time they had no ability to be otherwise. And even during the post-Enlightenment period when the punishments for disbelief and blasphemy stopped being enforced (even though in many cases they remained on the books into the 20th century) there was still a tremendous amount of social pressure to believe in the religious orthodoxy, just as there is now in the more religious parts of the US, and in the Islamic world.

It was not really until Darwin's time in the second half of the 1800s that we began to see the emergence of any sort of real social acceptability of agnosticism or atheism. It was only once you got past the turn of the 20th century to the time of Einstein, Popper, and Freud that atheism became acceptable in the sciences and philosophy. And once it became socially acceptable what did we see? We saw the floodgates open of atheists in the sciences, and today most of the best scientists are atheists or agnostics. In other words, once it became socially acceptable to be an atheist in the sciences, atheism quickly became the dominant view.

So the main reason why many great scientists (as well as philosophers, thinkers, and inventors) were believers in god, was because years ago you had to be, and religious institutions held a monopoly on higher learning.

Now of course today there are many great living scientists who are believers in god. Francis Collins, head of the human genome project, Don Page, physicist and cosmologist, Francisco Ayala, evolutionary biologist and philosopher, to name a few. But if you look at the many reasons why contemporary scientists and thinkers believe in god, it rarely, if ever, is inspired by their scientific views. It is usually based on some emotional epiphany or the popular notion that god is required to have morality. In Francis Collins's case for example, he was hiking in the Cascade mountains when he saw a frozen waterfall split in three and upon seeing this, dropped to his knees and accepted Jesus Christ as his lord and savior.

Yeah.

Furthermore, we humans are very good are compartmentalizing beliefs. We can hold contradictory beliefs quite easily. So just because a scientist is a Christian, a Muslim, or another religion, it doesn't mean science is compatible with those religions.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Quote Of The Day: Free Will And Eternalism


A friend of mine linked me to a Business Insider video where professor Dean Buonomano at UCLA talks about neuroscience, free will, and eternalism.



Here's a transcript from the video:


It seems that everything in the universe has already happened under eternalism.

In the context of physics, there’s two general views of the nature of time. One we can think of is "presentism," which only the present is real. And the second, we can think of as "eternalism" in which the past, present, future are equally real. And under this view, now is to time as here is to space. In other words, just as I happen to be here now, it’s perfectly acceptable to me that there are other points in space I could be. Similarly, just as I am here now, under eternalism, there’s plenty of other points in time, the past and future, where perhaps other versions of myself or other parts of my world line exist and are as real as I am.

Under eternalism, the question of free will and determinism becomes much less clear because it seems that everything in the universe has already happened under eternalism. It’s called the "block universe" view in physics — in which everything has, in a sense, a manner of speaking, already happened. And this would mean that what we think of as free will is, in a sense, an illusion. But I think part of the challenge there is coming to terms of what free will means. I think in reality from a neuroscience basis, what we should think of free will is simply a subjective feeling of your unconscious brain making decisions. Pain might be a sense of what happens when somebody steps on our toe. Free will is the subjective sense — the feeling we get when the unconscious brain makes the decision giving us the impression that it was the conscious mind that just made that decision. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Is Mental Causation verifiable?


Whenever I debate a theist on the topic of mental causation—which almost every theists believes in—I almost always hear the claim that if mental causation exists you wouldn't be able to tell scientifically; the mind is non-material. This strikes me as odd. Why would this be the case? Anything that can affect physical matter is in principle verifiable and open to science. So I thought of this dialogue to show why this view makes no sense:


Person A: The ghost is moving the cup across the table.

Person B: There's no way to tell if the ghost moved the cup across the table because the ghost is non-material.

Person A: What are you talking about? We can see the cup moving across the table with nothing touching it.

Person B: No, it's impossible to tell if a non-material thing affects a physical thing.

Person A: Are you insane? The cup is moving right now and nothing we can see is moving it.

Person B: No, it's impossible to tell if a non-material thing affects a physical thing.

Person A: It's moving! We can see the ghost affecting physical matter, and we've scientifically ruled out all other possibilities.

Person B: No, it's impossible to tell if a non-material thing affects a physical thing.

Person A:

Friday, June 23, 2017

Quote Of The Day: Gotta Have Faith!


I'm still super busy and have little time to write good detailed blog posts, so here's a quickie. Many theists love to point to god-believing scientists as a way to validate their faith. "Look, here's a super smart scientist who believes in god, this proves religion is compatible with science."

Um, no it doesn't. Case in point: Aron Wall. He's a physicist that many theists have cited before because he is critical of some cosmological models that do not have an absolute beginning. But if you look into the guy, you can see that his belief is really grounded not good science or evidence—but in faith. Read it from his own blog:

Our belief that God is the Creator does not depend on the vicissitudes of scientific progress, the swinging back and forth of the tire swing (or is it accelerating?) It doesn't matter, because in this case we have a more certain source of knowledge than Science.

By faith!

He goes onto define faith as "confidence about what we hope for, but do not see."

That's usually what it comes down to. William Lane Craig comes to the same ultimate conclusion. All this talk of evidence is really just to reinforce his faith, that is to say what he hopes is true. And in case you want to test your faith in the decency of humanity, watch Limp Bizkit cover the George Michael original:

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Quote Of The Day: How Length Contraction Entails Eternalism


Vesselin Petkov is a philosopher of physics who has written relentlessly on the reality of spacetime. He's one of the founders of the Minkowski Institute, an organization dedicated to (among other things) changing "the present situation in fundamental physics and lead[ing] the research on the major open questions," and is the current director. I emailed him a year ago to comment on my logical argument for eternalism and in response he said it "looks correct" and sent me a link to a short PDF that makes some additional arguments for the same conclusion.

The PDF, entitled The Ultimate Judge: Time does not Flow since it is the Fourth Dimension of the Real World, describes how the empirical evidence of time dilation and length contraction necessarily entail eternalism. Unless you want to deny your senses and empirical evidence as if they're an illusion forged on us by some unknown aspect of nature, the conclusion of eternalism necessarily follows. That is the only way to deny it. 

Below is an excerpt from one part of the PDF that makes an argument that the length contraction of a meter stick would be impossible if the meter stick existed only as a three-dimensional body, and not as a worldtube in 4 dimensional spacetime (which is what it is on eternalism).


It should be stressed that if the worldtube of the meter stick were an abstract geometric construction and what existed were a single three-dimensional meter stick (which constitutes a single class of simultaneous events), both observers would measure the same three-dimensional meter stick of the same length, i.e. the same class of simultaneous events, which means that simultaneity would be absolute and there would be no length contraction. So, if the meter stick were a three-dimensional object, neither relativity of simultaneity nor length contraction would exists, which means that all experiments mentioned above (that repeatedly confirmed these relativistic effects) would be impossible. This conclusion can be easily generalized - as a three-dimensional world is defined as everything that exists simultaneously at the present moment (as a single class of simultaneous events), if reality were a three-dimensional world evolving in time, then at every moment all observers would share this single three-dimensional world (since nothing else exists); therefore they would share the same single class of simultaneous events, which means that relativity of simultaneity would be impossible in contradiction with the experimental evidence.

This thought experiment clearly demonstrates that length contraction of a meter stick would be impossible if the meter stick existed as a three-dimensional body (not as a worldtube). An ordinary three-dimensional meter stick at rest with respect to an observer A is shown in fig. 1. What we see in the figure is what we perceive and take for granted that it is what really exists. According to Minkowski, however, the meter stick exists equally at all moments of its history and what is ultimately real is the worldtube of the meter stick as shown in fig. 2 (only part of the worldtube is displayed in the figure).

Assume that another meter stick at rest in another observer’s (observer B’s) reference frame moves relative to the first one at a distance 1 mm above it. Let us assume that at the event M the middle point of B’s meter stick (the mark “50 cm”) is instantaneously above the middle point of A’s meter stick. Lights are installed at every point inside A’s meter stick, which can change their color simultaneously at every instant in A’s frame. At the event of the meeting M all lights are red in A’s frame. At all previous moments all lights were green. At all moments after the meeting all lights will be blue. When A and B meet at event M this and only this event is present for both of them. At that moment all lights of A’s meter stick will be simultaneously red for A. In other words, at M the present meter stick for A is red (that is, all parts of A’s meter stick, which exist simultaneously for A at M, are red). All moments before M, when all lights of the meter were green, are past for A, whereas all moments when the meter stick will be blue are in A’s future. Imagine that B’s meter stick contains cameras, instead of lights, at every point along its length. At the event of the meeting M all cameras take snapshots of the parts of A’s meter stick which the cameras face. At event M all snapshots are taken simultaneously in B’s reference frame. Even without looking at the pictures taken by the cameras it is clear that not all pictures will show a red part of A’s meter stick, because what is simultaneous for A is not simultaneous for B.
When the picture of A’s meter stick is assembled from the pictures of all cameras it would show two things as shown in fig. 3 - (i) A’s meter stick photographed by B is shorter, and (ii) only the middle part of the picture of A’s meter stick (as measured, i.e., photographed by B) is red; half is green and the other half is blue. So what is past (green), present (red), and future (blue) for A, exists simultaneously as present for B. But this is only possible if the meter stick is the worldtube as shown in fig. 4.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Here's What You Have To Believe In Order To Deny Eternalism


I've recently gotten marred down in another debate over eternalism vs presentism via private email. It's a debate I generally like having because it's one I know I can win. Plus it's a great way to get to know Special Relativity, one of the coolest and most fascinating scientific theories. What I want to emphasize here is what one has to deny in order to deny eternalism and hold to either presentism or possibilism, because it's not always apparent to those who do so.

In order to deny eternalism, one has to deny one or both of the following. They have to either:
  1. Deny that the speed of light travels at constant speed regardless of the speed of the light source.
  2. Deny that we can accurately measure two non-parallel distances as being of equal length with any physical instrument, such as a ruler or tape measurer, or even sense in any way that they are equal or unequal.
The denier of eternalism must accept one or both; there is no logical way to deny at least one and still deny eternalism.

The reason why is because logic demands it.

If... 
(1) the speed of light is constant for all observers and isn't changed depending on whether or not the light source is moving,
And...
(2) we are able to physically measure two perpendicular distances accurately using any device such as a ruler or tape measurer,
Then...
(3) if two beams of light travel an equal distance to a single point and arrive at the same time, they must have been emitted at the same time and the events that emitted them must have been ontologically simultaneous. 
And...
(4) if two beams of light travel an equal distance to a single point and arrive at different times, they must have been emitted at different times and the events that emitted them must have not been ontologically simultaneous.
In order to deny (3) and (4) you must deny either (1) or (2) or both (1) and (2). There is no other logically possible way to do so.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Quote Of The Day: Hitchens On The Fine Tuning Argument


As I've said before, I don't look to Christopher Hitchens if I want to hear the most sophisticated arguments for or against god, but he did have a snappy comeback in a debate about the apparent fine tuning of the universe with Rabbi Wolpe years ago. Wolpe challenges Hitchens, saying, "The odds that the universe would actually be constituted are .0000 to the billion power, because all these various astronomical constants have to be exactly right, balanced on a knife edge in order for there to be a world. So that's the first piece of evidence that the world knew we were coming."



Unimpressed, Hitch responds,

Now to this knife edge point, why are people so impressed that it so nearly didn't happen? Some designer. I might mention on the knife edge point, knife edge is exactly the right metaphor as it turns out, just in the little far off suburban slum of our tiny solar system—that's a detail in the cosmos—just the one we know, we know the following: that of the other planets, all of them are either much too hot or much too cold to support any kind of life at all. If they ever did they don't any longer and will never do so again. And that is true a very large tracts of our own planet. They're either the too hot or too cold and it's on a climatic knife edge as it is and is waiting for the Sun swell up into a red dwarf, boil the oceans, and have done with the whole business, and we even know roughly the date on which that will occur. That's just in our suburb; it's in our hood. So we may have a lot of a little bit of something this now but there's a great deal of nothingness headed our way. Some design, huh?

He continues, showing the absurdity of thinking the whole of the cosmos, including all of its mass extinctions, was all a preparation for us.

They were waiting for us? It was waiting for us to occur? For you and me to arrive? 98.9 percent of every species has ever been on earth has already become extinct. So if there's a creator or designer—and I can't prove there isn't—who wanted that, this designer must be either very capricious, very cruel, very incompetent, or very indifferent. Grant him and you must grant all that. You can't say "Ah, what a welcome. What a table was spread for us to dine on." 

And then of course the crowd laughs and claps.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Atheism In A Nutshell? Wrong


This is what the majority of theists think atheism requires you to believe:


There was nothing, and then, *poof* there was something. This gets the atheist view completely wrong. Well, I hate to say there is an "atheist view" on cosmogony, but no atheist has to accept this gross misconception that most theists think we have to adhere to.

The logic is completely wrong. Think about it. If there was nothing, how could you then have a moment later? It presupposes time exists, since you have before and after notions. But time is something—it's not nothing. Many atheists unfortunately fail to understand this, including Lawrence Krauss, who constantly refers to something as nothing, conflating the two, and bringing upon himself much justified criticism.

The fact of the matter is there never was nothing. The philosopher's "nothing" of the total and complete absence of any thing is a concept in our minds, but not something that has ever existed. Therefore we don't go from "nothing" to "something," you start with something. This meme seems to get that near the bottom. The big bang theory indeed doesn't say the universe came from nothing, because, again, nothing never existed. It says the universe came from a singularity, a point of spacetime of infinite density and energy. There may be more spacetime before the singularity, or it may be literally the first moment of all of spacetime. Either way there never was nothing, and the universe doesn't "come from" nothing. The universe has always existed—every moment—past, present, and future, in one giant spacetime block universe. The burden of proof of the existence of nothingness is on the person making the claim.

I've written a screenplay for a web series on atheism that covers this very important aspect of the origin of the universe that I hope to begin filming next month and have completed editing by the end of spring. It will cover the origin of the universe, morality, and secularism. Oh, and I will be acting in it! A million things can go wrong with it however, so I'm scared this will not ever happen. There are many points of failure, including the other actors, the cameraman, the sound guy, and our schedules. So we'll see.

But the bottom line is this: there was always something. No need for a creator.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Reality Comes In Layers And Containers


I just saw Lawrence Krauss speak about his new book, The Greatest Story Every Told — So Far, with Alan Alda at the New York Public Library. And during the event Krauss reiterated a point I want to drive home here because I think it's really important.

It has to do with how we understand scientific theories and their relationship with one another. Many people have the mistaken impression that each new scientific idea disproves all the previous ideas of a particular area. For example, before Einstein we had Newtonian physics where we had Newton's laws of motion. However, Einstein's Special and General Theory of Relativity superseded Newton's laws of motion, giving us a more accurate mathematical description of the way large objects behave.

But Einstein didn't disprove Newtonian physics, as if to say, Newton's equations fail to give us any predictive power. Newton's equations got us to the moon after all. Einstein's equations just show us where Newton's equations break down. That is, Newton's equations are a close approximation to the more accurate equations Einstein gave us, and they're accurate in a certain regime, but they break down dramatically at really fast speeds, like near the speed of light.

And where Special Relativity breaks down, General Relativity takes over. Special Relativity doesn't take into account accelerating reference frames, nor does it take into account gravity. But General Relativity didn't falsify Special Relativity. Special Relativity is still accurate in it's regime — that is to say, in it's domain of applicability. It's a description of reality at a certain level, within a certain range of circumstances. In other words, we need to think of scientific explanations as containers within other containers. Each theory or explanation is accurate within its container but not accurate outside of it. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the internal containers are false or disproven because a wider ranging theory eclipsed it.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Neil deGrasse Tyson Admits We Have No Free Will


I've been a fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson for years now and had the chance to meet him a few years ago at a bar. One thing I didn't like about him was his ambiguity towards the issue of free will. It wasn't clear that he acknowledged that we don't have it in his many talks. But recently he did acknowledge that we don't have free will and that it's an illusion when talking about time in a video by Vsause3. And he acknowledges the illusion of free will due to eternalism by recognizing that our worldtubes are complete and locked into the block universe! He says this towards the end of the video below. It's definitely worth a watch.



Saturday, March 18, 2017

Does Government Have A Duty To Educate Its Citizens? Part 2


This is a follow up response to my original post a week ago on whether or not government has a duty to educate its citizens. I originally wrote a critique of the speech made by the first speaker, Chuck Braman, and now I'm going to write a line-by-line critique of the arguments the second speaker gave, Roberto Guzman. He writes at the blog Capitalism and Ideas and his blog post, written here, is inspired by his arguments in the debate. So without further ado:

Larry Elder makes the point that government education is similar to an item on a restaurant menu that not even the waitress would order.

Yeah, unless they can't afford private education, especially if a "free market" Republican governor like Scott Walker tries to destroy the teacher's unions.

Roughly 11% of Americans send their kids to private school, but nearly 30% of parents who work in public schools do so. In urban areas such as Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Cincinnati it hovers closer to 40%. To reiterate, these are government education providers choosing to send their kids to the competing private schools.

I couldn't corroborate that 30% claim and Roberto does not include a source. The number I see is 19% of public school teachers send their kids of private schools, though 28% have tried alternatives to public schools at some point. This is definitely higher than the national average, but why are so many public educators sending their kids to private schools, especially in urban centers? Well, it's because many urban schools suck and teachers who work there know this. So if they can afford to send their kids to private schools, they will. The median high school teacher salary is $57,200, for middle school it's $55,860, and for elementary school it's $54,890. But the vast majority of Americans won't be able to afford this option, not when the national average for private school tuition is $10,003 a year. Even if it was half that, most Americans still wouldn't be able to afford it, not with 50% of Americans making less than $30,000 a year.

What about the government officials themselves? 37% of Representatives send their kids to private school. For US senators, that number is a staggering 45%. President Obama, himself a product of private education, made a big show of vetting DC public schools when he was elected. After all of the hullabaloo, he sent his daughters to the most elite private school in the capital. If government education is so great, why do its biggest advocates avoid it like tap water in Mexico?

Most members of congress are far wealthier than your average American. In 2012 the base salary for all members of the US House and Senate was $174,000 a year. Few than 3% of Americans earn that much. And this doesn't even count additional income from book selling, speeches, and gifts from lobbyists. People will always be able to pay for better private education than what the public system can offer. Nobody denies that. But this is not an argument to privatize all public education.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Visualization Of Quantum Physics (Quantum Mechanics)


I've been busy lately recording projects, and finishing up on a script for a web series on atheism I hope to complete by summer. So I haven't had much time to blog. In the meantime, for you science lovers out there still perplexed by quantum mechanics (as most of us are), here's a nice video I came across that nicely visualizes many of its main components.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Make Atheism Great Again!



As I spend more and more time in the atheist community I've been beginning to notice a fairly common and recurring theme. And that is, sadly, that atheists can be just as close-minded, and dogmatic, and tribalistic, and ignorant on the issues as almost any religious person can.

Atheists have a reputation for being rational, free thinkers—more knowledgeable on religion than the religious are, and more knowledgeable on science than the general public is. There is certainly some truth to that. But there is also certainly some truth to the notion that being an atheist doesn't automatically make you rational. And it should be patently obvious to all that atheism is by no means an inoculation against irrational views.

As someone who's a very thoughtful and intellectual atheist and who's deeply familiar with most of the subjects relevant to atheism, I can say for sure that I encounter irrational views all the time among my fellow atheists, ranging from politics, to science, to a whole spectrum of social issues—and it pains me when I hear atheists say incredibly stupid things. So I'm going to outline a few problems I see in the atheist community and offer some remedies on how atheists can fix them.

1) Stop saying philosophy is dead. The one thing that pisses me off the most that I keep hearing atheists say over and over is that "philosophy is dead because hey, we've got science now!" This is a very popular view among atheists that is also ceaselessly reiterated by some of the most high profile people in the community, most notably Stephen Hawkins and Lawrence Krauss. But they're completely wrong and here's why.

Science can never replace philosophy because they do too different things. Science is an epistemology, it's a series of methods for understanding the world we experience that uses hypotheses, repeatable experiments, and formulating theories that explain facts. But not every fact is best obtained through science, and indeed, science itself has to make philosophical assumptions that it cannot prove. For example, what the scientific method should be  and what science is (and there are disagreements) cannot be resolved by science, it has to be resolved by philosophy. And this means philosophy is more fundamental to science, and covers a wider range of topics.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Quote Of The Day: The Psychological Effects Compulsive Liars Have On Us


It's day four of the Trump regime and the post-truth era. Trump has spent his first few days issuing executive orders reversing Obama's policies, and blatantly lying to the world about the size of his inauguration crowd and that millions of illegals voting cost him the popular vote. It's clear that we're going to have a president completely detached from factual reality who has absolutely no shame lying whatsoever. But what kind of psychological effect can this have on people? Politico has a scary answer:

When we are in an environment headed by someone who lies, so often, something frightening happens: We stop reacting to the liar as a liar. His lying becomes normalized. We might even become more likely to lie ourselves. Trump is creating a highly politicized landscape where everyone is on the defensive: You’re either for me, or against me; if you win, I lose, and vice versa. Fiery Cushman, a moral psychologist at Harvard University, put it this way when I asked him about Trump: “Our moral intuitions are warped by the games we play.” Place us in an environment where it’s zero-sum, dog-eat-dog, party-eats-party, and we become, in game theory terms, “intuitive defectors,” meaning our first instinct is not to cooperate with others but to act in our own self-interest—which could mean disseminating lies ourselves.

Welcome to the post-truth era! Facts, it's been nice knowing ya!

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