Showing posts with label Evil. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Evil. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Randy Replies

Almost every theist I've encountered and almost every theist I've heard defending their faith recognizes the problem of suffering as a real problem for theism. That is to say, they recognize that an omnibenevolent deity is incompatible with the existence of gratuitous suffering. That's why so many theists spend so much time trying to argue that gratuitous suffering doesn't really exist, but only seems apparent. The theist will find themselves is an arduous position if they try and defend this in light of evolution. That is because the evolutionary process requires suffering and death in order to work, and any god who would contingently chose to use evolution as the means to create one particular species when it could have done so by other less tormenting means needs to have a very good reason why - especially since it is argued that god cannot perform immoral or evil acts and can only choose morally good actions.

One theist who doesn't think there is a good reason to think gratuitous suffering and omnibenevolence are incompatible is Randy Everist. Recently we got into a bout on this very issue and he has made his case why he thinks they are compatible. My last post was a critic of our debate over on his blog, and he wrote a post further articulating his views. So here I'm going to critique his defense that there is no good reason to think that an omnibenevolent deity and gratuitous suffering are incompatible.

The first thing I noticed in his response to me as well as in our debate, is that he never defends or even claims the position that gratuitous suffering doesn't exist. Maybe he does, but he hasn't made this known in our dialogue. From the start, he tries to break down the logic of my argument so I will critique his claims line by line.

First he states the two propositions that are part of my argument, but not exactly in the way I would phrase them. Nonetheless, I will use his interpretation of my argument verbatim.

1. There is an omnibenevolent God.
2. There is gratuitous suffering.

He states that it's not clear why they are contradictory, even though it seems that the vast majority of his fellow theists recognize a problem. He further claims that I made no argument defending their incompatibility. I made an argument, and I posted that argument in my last post, but Randy's predicted response is always, "But why think this?" followed by a bad explanation. He tries to restate my argument saying:

3. If (1) and (2) are compatible, then it is indistinguishable from evil.*

Then he makes a fuss claiming that I wasn't clear as to what "it" means, saying it "has never been very clear". But I beg to differ. It's very obvious from what I wrote that I meant omnibenevolence. I wrote, "If omnibenevolence is compatible with the intentional creation of suffering that serves no purpose, well then how can we distinguish it from evil?" It's very obvious what "it" meant, but apparently it confused Randy and so he tries guessing "it" meant gratuitous suffering. Really? Would it really make any sense if I asked, "If omnibenevolence is compatible with the intentional creation of suffering that serves no purpose, well then how can we distinguish gratuitous suffering from evil?" Gratuitous suffering and evil are fully compatible; it needs no explanation. In fact, many people define evil as the infliction of gratuitous suffering.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Theist Who Just Won't Understand

The logical incompatibility of an omnibenevolent god with gratuitous suffering is very easy to understand for most people, yet over on the Possible Worlds blog, smug theist Randy Everist just could not grasp why there is any such conflict between the two. I suspect that he really does indeed recognize that this is an unsolvable problem and that it logically entails that the god of classical theism is impossible. But to avoid this becoming apparent, I think he's feigning ignorance, misunderstanding, and that there is any logical problem here at all. There are no plausible explanations to this problem. I know because I've refuted pretty much all of them. It's possible there are other theodicies that I haven't heard yet, but this is exactly why I like to challenge theists - I want to hear their best explanation.

I thought Randy Everist would be a good candidate as he is well familiar with the arguments for god but he subtly admitted that he doesn't really have an explanation. All he did was try really hard to play defense and falsely claim that I have not properly made the case that there is any logical conflict between gratuitous suffering and omnibenevolence. You can read our debate using the link above to be the judge.

Many atheists know that debating with theists is like talking to a brick wall. Randy is no exception. He exemplifies the core of what I think the problem with theism is. When cornered by a good argument, they special plead, or they'll claim that not having an answer doesn't mean the atheist is right by default, even if the problem is logical. Well, if that is so, then the same thing works for the atheist who may not be able to fully explain the origin of the universe. The atheist not having an answer doesn't mean the theist is right by default. I think we all understand this is correct.

I made my argument as easy to understand as one possibly can. I even made it into several different logical arguments. For example:

1. Omni-benevolence is incompatible with gratuitous suffering,
2. gratuitous suffering exists via evolution, 
3. therefore the god of classical theism cannot exist.

Very few theists disagree with premise 1, but Randy seemed to be saying that this wasn't so. He responded:

Why should we think that's true? Where have you defended the premise that an omnibenevolent God is incompatible? Where have you shown a premise set that is logically incoherent, and defended why?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

What Is It With Christian Bloggers?

There's a recurring theme I've noticed on many Christian blogs: they're a bunch of pussies when it comes to debate. They like to assert claims about the existence of god without liking to defend them. They employ strict comment policies with gestapo-like authority and throw up defenses laced with esoteric terminology designed as a smoke screen to avoid having to address your challenges. Case in point, Randy Everest over on his Possible Worlds blog. I got into a debate with him over the Craig/Carroll debate and my evolutionary argument against god came up. He denied that it was even a problem and he denied that a perfect omni-benevolent being as god would be incompatible with the unnecessary suffering of evolution. And after several days of going back and forth and dealing with his smug attitude, he has still not made a reasonable case why. It is obvious to me, and I think anyone who reads our "debate" that he is trying to avoid that obvious conclusion in my argument with a smoke screen. I think he's afraid he will lose this debate badly, and so he's avoiding it at all costs by trying to throw up technicalities.

Christian debaters are wussies when they've got a real atheist to deal with. They want some naive kid who hasn't spent years studying Christian apologetics as I have.

I am actively searching for a theistic blogger who will debate me either here on my blog or anywhere else. I want a smart, knowledgeable theist who knows their religion, philosophy and science and who is as passionate about debate as I am. So this is a call out to any theists out there who want to debate me. Just comment here or tweet me @atheismnthecity and we can set it up.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Skeptical Theism: A Few Thoughts

Skeptical theism is view that we are not in a position to know god's reasons for acting or refraining from acting in particular situations. It is often invoked in response to the problem of evil, whereby it is argued that god has morally sufficient reasons for permitting or allowing moral evil or even causing suffering, but we are not in a position to know why.

There are several problems that many atheists have brought up to the skeptical theistic position. For example, if we are in no position to tell why god has allowed evil and suffering, then if someone were to see a person suffering, it's possible for one to reason that it's all part of god's plan that in the end will make sense and that they should not interfere. This, as we can imagine, could lead to indifference toward's human moral evil and suffering. Why should I stop a murderer, or help prevent suffering, if god is using it as a means to an end? The skeptical theist who says that we should never think in these terms, or that the purpose of the other person's plight was to motivate you to help or prevent it, presumes to know what god wants us to do in a particular situation, which is inconsistent with skeptical theism.

So why should we prevent suffering and evil? Wouldn't this thwart god's plan to draw people closer to him? And if we are to prevent suffering, as some theists argue we have a duty to do, it seems to have a long term affect of secularizing the population and increasing the number of atheists and agnostics. A look around the world at the richest and most advanced countries with the highest standards of living shows a correlation with decreased religious belief and worship. This further supports the view that if we grant the skeptical theistic approach, it could be argued that we are not in the position to know we have the duty to prevent suffering in particular instances; it could be part of god's plan.

It looks like this:

Skeptical Theist: God uses/allows suffering and evil to draw people closer to him.

Atheist: Then we shouldn't prevent suffering and evil.

Skeptical Theist: Oh no we should. It is a duty from god.

Atheist: Then it thwarts god's plan. And if we prevent it, it will help turn people away from god.

Skeptical Theist: God uses you to prevent the evil and suffering he allowed.

Atheist: It doesn't make sense. God uses suffering to draw people towards him, and that's his plan, but when I prevent the suffering, his plan is to inspire me to prevent it? It's as if god's plan changes on the fly.

Since suffering is the one of the most common reasons why people turn away from god, I'm not sure it even makes sense for the theist to argue that god uses suffering to drawn people towards him. I personally think skeptical theism is a one-size-fits-all excuse out of any situation or fact inconvenient to theism. The theist doesn't have to justify it with any data. All they have to do is insist that god has morally sufficient reasons for doing or allowing what he does. This is partly why I developed my evolutionary argument against god. It circumvents the usual skeptical theistic approach to human moral evil and suffering.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Does God Permit Natural Evils?

If I had the time or the will power, I'd refute every one of W.L. Craig's Question and Answer segments. A few weeks ago a theistic writer wrote in asking Dr. Craig whether god causes or permits natural evil. Craig's answer was that god permits natural evil, but "that God is not the sole cause of natural evil."

I beg to differ.

I came across this wonderful argument a while back that argues pretty decisively that if god existed, then he would indeed be the sole cause of natural disasters. The argument goes like this:

(1) God (an omnipotent, omniscience, omni-benevolent being) exists.
(2) Natural evil exists.
(3) God is the creator and designer of the physical universe, including the laws that govern it.
(4) Natural disasters, and the evil they cause, are a direct byproduct of the laws that govern our universe.

I don't think Craig would deny premises 1-3, although he might challenge premise 2. In the Q&A he wrote:

For what is bad about natural evils is not simply the occurrence of certain natural events themselves. There is nothing evil, for example, about one continental plate’s slipping under another, nor about the earth’s trembling as a result. Such natural events are themselves ethically neutral; morality doesn’t apply to rocks and rain and wind. Rather if there is something bad about such events, it’s that human beings get caught in them.

I would agree but go a step further that it is not just people getting caught up in natural disasters that make them evil under theism, but any conscious animal that can suffer as well. That would mean that the millions of years of non-human suffering as the result of natural disasters would be evil under a theistic worldview. So given Craig's response above, I don't think he would object to premise 2.

Premise 4 is actually what Craig would seem to object to, and his first option out of god being responsible for natural evil is an appeal to quantum indeterminacy. He writes:

...if quantum indeterminacy is ontic, God could not cause an earthquake to occur at a specific time and place just by setting up the natural laws and initial conditions of the universe. If an earthquake does occur, it is only because God did not intervene to stop it. That is to say, He permitted it. Problem solved.

But god would have designed the physical universe, including the laws that govern it and would have chosen to make the universe inherently random at a fundamental level. Furthermore, god's foreknowledge would allow him to know exactly when every natural disaster would occur, even with quantum indeterminacy. I'm simply not buying the case that god creates a universe and then is shocked at how much natural suffering it causes. And Craig doesn't seem to be making that case either. He seems to be trying to argue that if quantum indeterminacy is real, then god does not directly cause every natural disaster. The beauty of the above argument I'm defending is that is god would still ultimately be responsible for natural disasters, at least indirectly, because he is still the one calling the shots on how the universe will operate and he has foreknowledge. So the problem is not solved.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Christian Responses To The Problem Of Suffering

To me, one of the strongest pieces of evidence against theism is the fact that the evolution of life on earth involved millions of years of conscious suffering and numerous mass extinctions for no logically necessary reason, and looks like a haphazard, undirected process driven by chance, and not design. For the educated theist who rejects a literal interpretation of Genesis, reconciling the suffering required by the evolutionary process with the perfect god of Christianity is quite a challenge. Stepping up to the plate to try and make sense of this dilemma, the BioLogos foundation, which serves to encourage Christians to embrace evolution, has offered several answers which I will critique below.

The following is taken from a 4 part series of posts on the BioLogos site called Death and Pain in the Created Order by Keith Miller. In the series, Miller produces 5 common theodicies that Christians have came up with over the years to try and reconcile their faith in a divinely created universe with the millions of years of suffering required by evolution, and then he offers us his personal theodicy.

1. Creation Corrupted by an Angelic Fall

I've actually debated this theodicy once with a theist (see here). What this explanation of suffering tries to do is say that somehow an angel fell "before" god created the universe (which means before god "created" time) and rebelled against god and so god decided then to create a world with millions of years of suffering. It's utterly preposterous and even Miller admits this is an inadequate explanation. It can also lead to ludicrous conclusions. Within this theodicy some believe that the devil and his minions made the evolutionary process give rise to things like disease and predation which lead to much of the suffering. But mind you, it is this very process of death and suffering that lead to human evolution. If it didn't happen, we wouldn't have evolved. To take this position is to say that the devil caused our evolution and that we wouldn't have evolved without the devil's interference! It also flies in the face of standard Christian orthodoxy that god and god alone single handedly resided over creation. Thus this position is untenable to the Christian theist.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Brilliant Parody Making Fun Of Ray Comfort

This YouTuber named CultOfDusty is growing on me. He's got some funny shit. Check out this hilarious parody he made making fun of the irreducibly stupid creatard Ray Comfort.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Saving Silverman

Obligatory David Silverman meme
I'm not a huge fan of American Atheists president David Silverman, but in general I like the guy. I like, for example, his style of firebrand atheism that I think is needed to balance out the accommodationists. I also like that he's really great at pointing out how ridiculous and harmful a lot of religious beliefs are, especial those of the Abrahamic strain. But the man has some major flaws that I think he would be wise to correct.

First, Silverman knows next to nothing about cosmology or biology, and in the debates I've seen him in (like his horrible debate with Frank Turek recently) he claims total ignorance on how the universe or life got started. Now I don't expect him to be a genius in either field, heck I'm not, but shrugging your shoulders and basically saying, "I don't know" isn't going to cut it if you're going to fashion yourself as a public face for atheism and make your rounds in the debate circuit. I mean, at least learn a few of the theories out there (e.g. quantum fluctuations as described by physicists like Lawrence Krauss, or learn about the B-theory of time, or RNA world models - something.) You cannot jump in the atheism/theism debate arena and be totally ignorant on cosmology and biology - it's unacceptable. Silverman is making a fool out of himself every time he does so and he's making a fool out of atheism in the process.

Second, Silverman knows next to nothing about ethics and seems to support a kind of total moral nihilism. Then, he accuses the god of the Bible of being evil! As you can imagine he gets called out on this over and over again, and rightly so. He needs to define what he means by "evil" (which is actually quite easy to do - lacking empathy or compassion) and he needs to define what meta-ethical theory he is subscribing to as an alternative to divine command theory. In the debates I've seen of him, Silverman simply just announces that morality is relative and just keeps repeating that over and over again. But relative to what? What ethical theory does he espouse? He offers us nothing! Silverman needs to sit down with a philosopher, someone like Massimo Pigliucci, or maybe A.C. Grayling, and learn a few of the basics about ethics so that he doesn't continue to look like a damn fool and make atheists look bad. Atheism does not entail moral nihilism, but Silverman is doing a great job making it look that way.

That being said, I think his recent speech at the Oxford Union debate, Religion Harms Society, was pretty decent. See below:

Monday, November 11, 2013

Even The Bible Is Inconsistent On Why There Is Suffering

Prof. Bart Ehrman gives a lecture on the Bible's many explanations why suffering exists. In doing so, he shows it isn't exactly consistent. (Surprise!) Some books in the Bible (like Amos) say that suffering comes from god's punishment for disobeying him, others (like the Book of Daniel) say that there are evil forces in the world that tempt you to do evil and disobey god, and these forces cause suffering, and yet others (like Ecclesiastes) say that we should live with the focus on our current life and enjoy it as much as we can since there is nothing after this.

Wow, talk about being all over the map.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Few Of The Evil Deeds Done By Protestants

A Christian linked me to a blog in order to provide arguments that the Spanish Inquisition was not really all that bad, but what caught my attention was that it contained a list of some of the evil deeds done by Protestants that I was not aware of. Now I don't blame religion on all of the world's problems, and I don't think that every conflict between two groups of people who are of different religions or religious denominations is always entirely a religious conflict. But I do think that whenever there is a conflict between two groups of people, if they differ in religion, the problem is almost always made worse.

Take the 17th century English military leader Oliver Cromwell for example. After he rose through the ranks during the English Civil war, he invaded Ireland to help spread Protestantism after some of the Irish Catholics there killed some Protestants, and in effect lead to the deaths or exile of anywhere between a quarter to a third of the Irish population. Was it religion or was it politics? There's no doubt that even if given the most charitable assessment, there's a religious component that made the situation worse. Cromwell believed his military campaign in Ireland was a judgement from god, as he thought pretty much everything that happened was. And to this, I'm reminded of the words of Christopher Hitchens who asked, when you sincerely believe you've got god on your side, what amount of violence are you not capable of accomplishing?

  • John Calvin not only banished dissenters from Geneva, some were tortured and/or executed (e.g. Jacques Gouet and Michael Servetus).
  • The Protestant Council of Zurich decided to put Anabaptists to death by drowning.
  • On the advice of Philip Melancthon, three Anabaptists who refused to recant under torture were executed.
  • Henry VIII, the original English Reformer, executed 72,000 people.
  • Henry VIII’s Protestant daughter, Elizabeth I, executed more than the Spanish and Roman Inquisitions combined.
  • Oliver Cromwell killed or exiled between 1/4 and 1/3 of the population of Ireland in an attempt to establish Presbyterianism. In one massacre alone he had 3,500 people (including women and children) murdered in a church.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Why Ted Haggard's Sexuality Is Symbolic Of The Relationship Between Christianity And Facts

Back in 2006, we all got to witness the spectacular decline of conservative anti-gay Christian pastor Ted Haggard, who it turned out was secretly paying a man for gay sex. I remember what a ride that one was to watch. Watching religious hypocrites fall from grace is first class entertainment for atheists. I mean, what atheist wouldn't want to hear about some ridiculous religious figure turning out to be doing the very thing they spent so much time railing against in the name of their god?

If Haggard's initial fall from grace wasn't enough, we were all further given an encore not long after when it was announced that he was declared "completely heterosexual" after being "cured" of his homosexuality through counseling. It was hilarious because any educated person knows that sexuality cannot be cured or repaired by mere counseling or therapy. Sexuality is innate. All ex-gay therapy can do is teach a gay person how to repress their desires and live in dissonance with themselves. That's all the evidence has ever shown it capable of doing. (See here.)

Ted Haggard's cognitive dissonance on his sexuality forced by his Christian belief that being gay is a sin is symbolic of the kind of cognitive dissonance Christians in general must endure in order to maintain their religious faith with the constant sting of the secular sciences and politics challenging them. Suppressing scientific facts and the moral atrocities of god in order to maintain the faith is a lot like gay Christians suppressing their sexuality. I debate with Christians all the time online and I'm always entertained by the kind of cognitive acrobatics they must deploy in order to maintain that the Bible is the word of god, and that their god is good. I've dealt with so many Christians for example who will deny the evidence for evolution at all costs to the point where they will compromise logic and sanity in order to do so.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Is God A Consequentialist?

Whenever I come up dry for material for this blog I can always turn to William Lane Craig bashing for inspiration. I get such great pleasure from deflating his dubious arguments. His new Q and A has him arguing that god isn't a consequentialist, when the record clearly indicates that he is. You can see the question here, I will focus on his answer below.

Craig starts out making a point he often makes in his writings and in his debates:

... on my view God has no moral duties to fulfill. Moral duties arise in response to imperatives issued by God. Since God does not issue commands to Himself, God has no moral duties. Rather God’s acts must simply be consistent with His perfectly good nature. So consequentialism cannot apply to God, having as He does no moral duties. His actions, such as permitting some evils in view of overriding goods, must simply be consistent with His being all-loving, punishing evil, etc.

If god's actions must be "
consistent with His perfectly good nature," and god's nature is perfect goodness, then why is god admittedly jealous and wrathful? Why can he essentially do what he wants and cause suffering and take life as he pleases? It seems to me that theists like Craig admit that their god is a god who can do whatever he wants because he "does not issue commands to Himself." In that case, if god's actions can violate his own commandments to us - commandments which are supposed to reflect his "perfectly good nature," then god cannot logically be perfectly good and all-loving. In other words, if my commandments are perfect, and I violate my own commandments, I cannot be perfect.

This upends the core of divine command theory since according to Craig, "it grounds objective moral values in God as the paradigm and source of moral goodness." If this supposed source of all moral goodness can act in ways contrary to his own commands of perfect moral goodness, the source cannot be perfectly good. Hence god plays a sort of "do as I say, not as I do" ethic. 

But it seems Craig fails to get this. He says:

God’s having no moral duties does not imply that He can do just anything; rather His actions must be consistent with His own nature.

Let's see what god can do. He can command child sacrifice, genocide, slavery, the killing of adulterers, witches and homosexuals, and he can take his anger out on people for not worshiping him properly and for offering inadequate sacrifices. Sounds to me like god can pretty much "do just anything." If all those things I mentioned above are consistent with "good nature," then I'd hate to see what bad nature is.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Christianity As A Social Disease

I cannot help but notice that the worldview Christianity paints, really is one in which we are all born sick and commanded to be "perfect." And since we cannot meet this standard of perfection, we are to be sent to a place to be punished forever.

But there is a cure offered, and that of course, is Christianity.

So in order for Christianity to work, we need to be infected with the disease first. We first need to be convinced that we're sick, that we're sinners, that we're inherently wicked, immoral, and undeserving, and only then, once we've been sufficiently convinced that we're diseased, can the Christian offer us the cure for our new illness. But it doesn't end there. No, we're then instructed to go out and infect others with this disease by convincing them that they're also wretched, flawed, immoral beings, and then afterwards offer them the cure. And they are to spread the disease to others, and on and on until the whole world is infected.

In other words, Christianity is a social disease. It's a dangerous psychological meme that has to be spread from person to person, until the entire world is infected. That's its goal.

But there is another cure for this social disease: skepticism. That's right. A healthy dose of skepticism can inoculate one beforehand and prevent them from ever falling prey to the disease spreaders. It worked for me. Since I was fascinated by science as a kid, I learned of the naturalistic explanations before I heard the book of Genesis. That safeguarded me against its baseless and inaccurate claims, and it prevented me from getting infected. Thus, skepticism and scientific literacy are like a protective condom against the rampant spread of social diseases like Christianity.

Now a Christian might say that spreading skepticism is itself a social disease. But here's the difference: I'm not telling anyone that they're inherently miserable, wretched, immoral sinners who don't deserve the life that they didn't even ask for, Christianity is. They may attempt to use kinder words so as to not show Christianity's true colors, but that is really what the religion teaches.  

Get inoculated.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Time To Talk About Ecomonics

Aside from theocratic religious fundamentalists, the next people I consider the biggest threat to the free world are corporate elitists. I'm talking about bankers, venture capitalists, corporate managers and CEOs, hedge fund managers and market manipulators. Yeah, not all of them are evil, but a great many of them exist only to get as rich as possible, while not giving two shits if it ruins the environment or the middle class. And what's even worse than merely not caring, is that there are bankers for example, who literally sit in boardrooms and think of ways to fuck over hard working middle class people with convoluted schemes to trick them out of their money.

It's sickening.

When it comes to economics, I'm pretty solidly left. I'm an unapologetic populist. I'm a compassionate capitalist, who believes in free markets—but with regulations. Over the years, my economic views have been shaped by a number of people. Back about 5 or 6 years ago, I started getting into Lou Dobbs, who then was host of the show Lou Dobbs Tonight on CNN. I liked his style. Every episode highlighted how the country's economic policies were destroying the middle class. Lou was relentless in his fight.

I went out and bought a few of his books. His views on corporate America out-sourcing middle class jobs, and our failing education system touched me profoundly. He was a self-described "independent populist" who held liberal social views on gay marriage and abortion, liberal economic views, but also had conservative republican views on immigration. He got a lot of flack for his hard right views on immigration, which I didn't always agree with, and he eventually got fired from CNN back in 2009. Since then he's moved over to Fox News where he's moved back to the right on economics, and my interest in him waned.

Then I caught on to MSNBC's Ed Shultz a few years ago. He was also a relentless populist who championed the middle class the same way Dobbs did, but was solidly democratic. And then his nightly show also got canceled and he was moved to a weekend time slot when pretty much no one watches TV.

All these populists seemed to be getting axed one by one. What gives? Well. Populism is a dangerous idea. The real blasphemy in America today is criticizing corporate America's tactics, not religion. The reason why is obvious: Every TV channel in the US is owned by a corporation. Getting on TV and criticizing the plutocratic system that we have is like being a kid and criticizing your parents too harshly — you're going to end up silenced and punished.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

William Lane Craig: Evolution Is Evidence For The Existence Of God!

If you ever find yourself in a debate with William Lane Craig and try to use evolution as evidence for naturalism, you can expect him to make the following counter argument below. He's made it in several debates now and it's become one of his all-too-often repeated talking points. This one is transcribed from his debate with Peter Atkins from way back in the 90s:

In their book, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Barrow and Tipler lay out 10 steps necessary to the course of human evolution, each of which, each of which is so improbable, that before it would occur the sun would have ceased to be a main sequence star and would have burned up the earth. Now it seems to me that if evolution did occur, then it would have had to been a miracle. In other words evolution is literally evidence for the existence of god!

That's right creationists, evolution now is evidence for the existence of god, so stop denying it and embrace full on macroevolution. (Sigh) Craig wants to be able to deny Darwinian evolution and instead support a sort of hybrid old earth creationism/theistic evolution, but just in case that becomes too much of an untenable position, he's carefully made naturalistic macroevolution safe for Christians because it's a "miracle."

So I wonder, is Craig blissfully unaware that everything that happens in our universe is improbable? Every single person born is improbable if we were to try to calculate the mathematical odds of any of us being born. For example, the average man will make about 4.3 trillion sperm cells in his life (200 million per day on average for ~60 years). The only way you could have been born is by a single sperm cell from your father, and a single egg from your mother. Right there the odds of you being born are at least 4.3 trillion to one, or 1 in 4.3 x 1012.

But according to Robin Baker, who wrote the 1996 book, Sperm Wars, only about 1 percent of the sperm cells a man produces actually are involved in fertilizing eggs. These are what he calls, "egg-getters." Most of the other 99 percent of sperm cells are designed to kill off sperm from other men. So if we recalculate, 1 percent of 4.3 trillion is 43 billion. That leaves the odds of you being born from your father at 1 in 43 billion. Not exactly odds you'd want to bet your money on.

For most men the rate of sperm production decreases with age, so let's round that down to about 36 billion egg-getter sperm cells over the average man's lifetime. The average man will have about 2-3 surviving offspring during his lifetime, if we round up to 3, the average chances of you being born are 3 x 1 / 3.6 x 1010  or 1 / 1.2 x 1010.  That's 1 in 12 billion, slightly better than before but remember we're only going back one generation.

If you include two generations, your dad and his dad, the odds of you being born will be 1 /12,000,000,000  x  1 / 12,000,000,000 = 1 / 144,000,000,000,000,000,000  or 1 in 144,000,000,000,000,000,000  or  1 / 1.44 x 1020. That's 1 in 144 quintillion in just two generations.

To calculate the odds for 10 generations that would get you (1 / 1.2 x 1010)10 = 1 / 6 x 10100. That's a 6 with one hundred zeros after it. And we've only gone back 10 generations! To give you a sense of how large that number is, the total number of atoms in the universe is estimated at just 1080 which is far lower that the odds of just you being born going back only 10 generations.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Questions For Atheists - Part 4 (Evil, Morality)

I turn now to the questions on evil and morality. Let's see what they have to challenge atheism.

1. Do you acknowledge the existence of evil (at least in your practice if not in your beliefs)?

Some atheists do not acknowledge evil or even that morality exists at all, I disagree with them. I do acknowledge that evil exists but evil isn't some kind of metaphysical entity like the devil. Evil is simply a term we apply to certain attitudes and behaviors. I define evil in practical terms as lacking empathy and compassion. In every evil situation you can think of it will be described in those terms.

2. When you complain about the problem of evil, aren’t you presupposing God?

No, because as I said evil is simply a descriptive term we use. It would exist irrespective of whether or not there was a deity.

3. If God does NOT exist, can 'good' and 'evil' exist? If yes, by whose ultimate authority and how is each empirically measured? 

By "exist" I think the theist means that good and evil are ontological entities. I don't ground the existence of good or evil in any kind of being, rather good and evil are those intentions and actions that either positively benefit conscious beings or those that negatively harm conscious beings, respectively. I reject notions of 'ultimate authority' because the only authority to me are empirical facts, which would of course cancel out all religions and deities.

1. What is the basis for the common moral values Christians and non-Christians, as a whole, seem to share?

We human beings are a species of warm blooded, social primates, and as such, there will be certain behaviors that benefit us and certain behaviors that will harm us. These behaviors we generally call good and bad, respectively. That's why there exists a very basic set of moral values that are shared among all cultures.  

2. Per the atheist worldview, is society ‘really’ evolving for the better? Why?

Yes. We are generally more compassionate towards one another, to animals, and to nature than we used to. We are less racist, less sexist, and we generally care more about minorities. The rates of violence has been on the decline, as was documented by Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature. Christians will always disagree with this. They think because more people are having sex outside of marriage and homosexuality is open, that we're heading towards Sodom and Gomorrah. But liberal views on sexuality and freedoms do not translate into violence and total societal decay. A healthy compassionate society can thrive with liberal sexual attitudes. That's one of the problems of Christianity - it unfairly and ignorantly labels all non-Christian behavior as evil. That's just like thinking all drugs are equally bad, or that all religions are equally violent. 

3. Would you agree with this statement: “Child pornography is immoral even though morality cannot be proven scientifically in a laboratory experiment?” If so, what is the genetic source of morality if humans have descended from apes?

Yes child pornography is immoral because children are not old enough to consent. It also has an aspect of it that is predatory in nature. Morality is not supposed to be proven in a laboratory, and although there are scientific aspects to morality, ultimately morality is a matter of philosophy. The source of our moral compass in human beings is mainly biological and philosophical. Evolution ingrained within us certain behavioral norms that lay at the foundation of our moral nature, then philosophies and cultures tweeked and customized this. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Questions For Atheists - Part 1 (Truth, Matter in Motion, Afterlife, Supernatural, Miracles)

Phil Fernandes has been a Catholic apologist for over 20 years. He has a site called "I Love Atheists - just not their worldview" which is supposed to be a site that explains Christianity to skeptics and lapsed Catholics. In his debates he basically plagiarizes William Lane Craig's standard mantra for the case for god, and does a great job doing a bad impersonation of him. After I saw a debate on YouTube of him debating Jeff Lowder, I decided to look him up and I came across his website. On it, there's a page called Questions For Atheists, with what I assume are supposed to be challenges for the atheistic worldview. So I decided that I'd take a crack at it, and offer some brief answers from my atheist perspective.


1. What or whom do you consider to be YOUR chosen intellectual starting point, your supreme authority for knowledge, your final standard for truth? Why?

Truth lies in the inability to be contradicted. I don't hold onto truth by authority. There are no authorities in science for example. Any scientist can be challenged, and any scientist can be wrong. I certainly don't ground truth in ancient scriptures that are full of contradictions. Evolution has equipped us with accurate senses and cognitive faculties (which I defend here), and so we have to use them to construct the best possible picture of reality we can. We may get some things wrong, as is expected, but aside from certain a priori truths, I rely heavily on science to guide my standard of truth because it is the best method we have for weeding out facts from nonsense.

2. Would you consider turning skepticism on itself and examine your own assumptions?

Of course! Everything should be critically examined, including atheism. But considering how naturally gullible the human mind is for easy answers that on close examination make little to no sense, a healthy dose of skepticism is more than warranted.

3. If God exists, could Christianity be exclusively true?

I have serious doubts that the god of the Bible is logically possible or even coherent. (See here and here) If god is defined as the greatest conceivable being, then all I have to do is conceive of a being greater than Yahweh, and that makes it impossible that Yahweh is god. Thus, the ontological argument can be used to disprove the god of the Bible. So no, even if god did exist, Christianity would almost certainly be false.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Possible Worlds And Divine Options: Another Look At The Problem Of Suffering

When I occasionally debate theists on the problem of suffering they will sometimes say that god had no choice but to create a world in which there is suffering. Or they will say that for every possible world that god could have created, there will always be one that is better, and so no possible world will ever be ideal. Given this constraint, god decides to create whatever world he sees fit. He's motivated, according to some theists, to create the possible world in which the maximum number of people freely enter into a loving relationship with him. Since this is often espoused by the likes of William Lane Craig, I want to add a few thoughts to this concept.

First, when I say "possible world" here I'm simply talking about a possible state of affairs or a possible reality that could exist. So one possible world could be a world where I was ever born, or it could be one where everything is exactly the same but there are no humans, or one where everything is the same but the Nazis won World War II, etc. It's just a possible alternative reality that god hypothetically could have created.

Now given god's omnipotence for all things logically possible, he could have created many other possible worlds if he so desired. So why create the one we live in? Why create man using a long multi-billion year evolutionary process, that required millions of years of conscious suffering? Surely god is not constrained by natural forces to create his objectives. He must have chosen it beforehand for some reason. What that reason is, is open to conjecture on the part of the theist, but if he entertains the notion that god takes pleasure in the evolutionary process unfolding like an artist taking pleasure in the composition, then god would have to take pleasure in watching millions of animals consciously suffer for millions of years.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Evolutionary Argument Against God - Abbreviated/Alternative Versions

The original EAAG that I wrote contains 6 premises and a conclusion and could be considered redundant in some areas. I have below a few alternative versions of it that shorten it out for a more easily digestible format.

In this version below I cut out premises 2-5 and leave in only the bare minimum of what's needed for the argument to drive the nail through:

  1. If God chose to use evolution as the process by which he created human beings and all other forms of life, then God knowingly chose a process that requires suffering that is logically unnecessary.
  2. An all-good, perfectly moral God who is incapable of unwarranted cruelty would not create beings that could consciously suffer in a way that was not logically necessary.
  3. Therefore, a God who is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good does not exist.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

For The Love Of Debate: Exposing Religious Hypocrisy

The way to successfully win a debate is to argue your opponent into a corner, where the only way they can get out of the corner is by contradicting themselves. And once you've made your opponent contradict themselves, you've essentially won the debate.

I've been debating for years in my personal life, but I love getting the opportunity to take it public and in person. Once I find something that I can disagree with about another person's beliefs, I often challenge them on it, and, depending on the context of the environment, I will hold my ground until either they give up or I win. I'm extremely competitive when it comes to debating. I've literally had debates with people that have lasted over 6 hours non-stop. And since I'm not a competitive person when it comes to sports, perhaps my way of competing is to debate


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