Showing posts with label Fine Tuning Argument. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fine Tuning Argument. Show all posts

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.

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.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Response To Craig On Fine Tuning

On a question of the week over on the Reasonable Faith site a questioner asks Dr. Craig about Sean Carroll's response to the fine tuning argument he made during their debate on God and Cosmology back in 2014. Craig wrote a lengthy response to Carroll's rebuttal and I want to examine his response and show why I think it's wrong.

At one point during Carroll's rebuttal, Carroll argued that god doesn't need fine tuning; it's a necessity only on naturalism since only material beings could live under the right physical conditions but that god would be able to create life without physical fine tuning (like through perpetual miracles), very similar to what I wrote earlier this year in my short rebuttal to the fine tuning argument.

Initially, Craig is confused as to what Carroll's argument is an objection to. He doesn't know if it's supposed to defend physical necessity or chance, which are the only other options Craig says that exist, other than design. Craig writes,

Of course, the theist thinks that God could have miraculously sustained life or perhaps created a universe operating according to different laws of nature which were not fine-tuned. But how does that do anything to subvert the argument? When it is said that were the values of the constants and quantities found in nature to be altered, life would not exist, one is implicitly assuming ceteris paribus conditions—“all else being equal,” that is to say, assuming no miraculous interventions take place. This is, after all, an argument aimed at showing the explanatory inadequacy of naturalism, not at showing that God could have created the universe in only one way.

It's not really supposed to defend either physical necessity or chance. It's supposed to show the vacuousness of theism as an explanation of fine tuning. It's offensive, not defensive. The argument that god could have created a universe that wasn't fine tuned for life, yet still had life in it would literally be a miracle, and that would be good evidence for god since physical science wouldn't be able to explain how life could exist under such inhospitable conditions. On naturalism it's not an option that life exist without the right physical conditions for it, it's a necessity that it does. But a god wouldn't need to do this. God is not constrained by the laws of physics. If god wanted to leave us good evidence he exists, he had the option of creating life via some kind of perpetual miracle, inexplicable in principle to the natural sciences.

As far as assuming ceteris paribus conditions, doing so assumes that god isn't doing the very thing he could do to show naturalism is false: give us proof life is a miracle. And because debates of theism involve the potentiality of a miracle as an explanation, in this instant it's not wise to assume ceteris paribus conditions.

Contrary to what Craig writes, this inclusion of god's ability to create life via miracles does indeed help the naturalist's case because this would have been the best option for god to show us he exists because it would rule out all possible naturalistic means to explain life. That would potentially be a knock-down argument for theism. Instead, the theist is basically saying god chose to create a universe with life in the one way it would have to exist if naturalism was true: physical life forms dependent on the right physical conditions for them to exist.

Why would a god do this? Well, perhaps god had no choice. Since free will is logically incoherent, that applies to god as well. Being all knowing and all powerful does not get you out of the logical dilemma that libertarian free will necessitates. And since a timeless being must have a mind that never changes, god's decision to create our world would have to have existed eternally, with no other option being possible. So on theism here we are! No other world was technically possible. It just is.

Theism fails to have any explanatory power over naturalism.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

"The Only Two Good Arguments for Atheism"

Over on the Catholic website the National Catholic Register a columnist wrote a piece on "The Only Two Good Arguments for Atheism" where in it, he criticizes atheism, by arguing that the New Atheists have no good arguments. Bare in mind now that New Atheism doesn't equal atheism. So whatever flaws the New Atheists have made in their reasoning or arguments doesn't necessarily say anything about atheism simpliciter. I've even said over and over that the New Atheists have not made the sharpest arguments for atheism.

But this piece is just terrible. As someone who's studied atheism, religion, philosophy, science, and the arguments in the god debate, it's so easy for me to spot ridiculous criticisms of atheism. Some people can fall for this stuff. I can't see why. I guess they're preaching to the choir mostly. I decided to leave a comment — just some quick thoughts on how wrong the piece is. I've included them below.

All the New Atheist need do is hope that his reader won't inquire too deeply into just how he arrives at certitude about what "good" or "evil" is without smuggling in all sorts of transcendent categories from a supernatural worldview.

Quite the opposite. All the New Atheist needs to do is inquire deeply into just how the theist arrives at certitude about what "good" or "evil" is without smuggling in all sorts of consequential and deontological categories. Most theists cannot even define what they mean by "goodness." They will see that if they use anything having to do with secular morality to define this (consequentialism, deontology, virtue ethics) they will be saying goodness is a secular concept. And making a circular argument that God is goodness and goodness is God obviously is a non-starter.

The problem is this: Trying to derive a moral universe -- any moral universe at all -- of Should from a purely materialistic universe of Is turns out to be impossible. The perfectly just outrage of a Hitchens at some crime by a theist turns out -- if you grant the New Atheists' materialism -- to be just one more biochemical reaction. And privileging a biochemical reaction merely because it is a lot more complex than, say, combustion is as crude a mystification as bowing down to a rock because it's really really big.

That "crime" by a theist that Hitchens was often pointing out was a mandated religious prescription, like circumcision, the subjugation of women, or the discrimination and/or killing of homosexuals, apostates, or atheists. So what do we do when just outrage conflicts with religious law and custom? Or is Hitchens's outrage in these situations not just? What determines what is just and what isn't? Citing a religious holy book like the Bible is going to open up problems for the theist.

Put briefly, you propose a huge metaphysical hypothesis that Absolutely Everything popped into existence 13 billion years ago with the help of Nobody, but loaves and fishes cannot pop into existence 2,000 years ago with the help of Jesus of Nazareth, despite the eyewitnesses who inexplicably chose to die in torments proclaiming He did. The trick to establishing this hypothesis as dogma -- when the odds currently stand at 10^137 to 1 against the fine tuning of the universe -- is to take a particular methodology that, by its nature, only looks at time, space, matter, and energy and have thousands of people repeat "Only what our methodology can measure is real!" for two centuries over millions of loudspeakers. Voila!

Thinking the world popped into existence out of nothing is not required for the atheist. In fact, science tells us the universe is eternal in what we call a block universe from special relativity. It didn't "pop" into existence because it always existed. And scientism is not required either. Logic can tell us that there is no time before spacetime, so the universe didn't "come from" nothing—as if nothing is a place where things can come from. Simply put, there is a first moment to the universe and nothing before it just like there is nothing north of the north pole. Or, the universe (or multiverse) can have an infinite past. No handwaving is required for a multiverse. It is implied by scientific hypothesis and theories - that's where the evidence is.

There are certainly more than two good arguments for atheism. There are plenty. Consider this bibliography on arguments for atheism from Secular Outpost. And consider some of the arguments I made in my post Why I'm an Atheist.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Short Rebuttal To The Fine Tuning Argument

On atheism fine tuning is expected because only universes that can sustain life will have life capable of observing it. On theism however, a god could create life in a universe that had laws that were not capable of sustaining life, and keep that life alive through a perpetual miracle. If we had discovered that the laws and parameters of the universe were inhospitable for sustaining life, and yet life somehow existed in a way that was completely inexplicable by natural means, then that would actually be evidence of design, since atheism or naturalism could never account for that. The existence of life in such a case would literally be a miracle in the traditional Humean sense of a supernatural violation of the laws of nature in a way science could never explain.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

An Atheist Reviews The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism (Chapter 3 Getting Medieval)

Feser starts chapter 3 lauding Aquinas' lifelong chastity and devotion to god, as if that's supposed to impress us. Religious obsessions with chastity always reminds me of how masochistic it is. There's also something about serious Catholics that I really don't like. I've always hated Catholicism, but it's hard to hate most Catholics today because most of them are so non-religious that they act almost indistinguishable from your average secular atheist. But the ones who take their religion seriously, like Feser, get me agitated. Feser is convinced his religion is true and wants the world to conform to it, and that's dangerous. I suppose then that it's a good thing he doesn't get much traction.

It's in chapter 3, called Getting Medieval, that Feser lays out his argument for god. He starts by making several insults about the New Atheists and their apparent failure to address the "greatest philosopher of the Middle Ages," especially Richard Dawkins, who is arguably the most famous atheist in the world. As a reminder once again, I haven't fully read The God Delusion, and so I unfortunately cannot speak on Dawkins' behalf. But, from what I did read, Dawkins does make a lot of common sense arguments against the belief in a theistic intervening god - the kind who ensures you have parking space at Walmart while he ignores the prayers of millions of kids starving to death. Hitchens' God is Not Great is really a critique of religion, specifically the Abrahamic ones. He doesn't really try and refute the existence of god per se. Perhaps this is a weakness, but I think his criticisms against Abrahamic theism are strong enough that no argument anyone can make could establish the probabilistic existence of Yahweh. The biblical god and the religions that derive from him are just too absurd to be taken seriously, even when Aquinas' arguments are met head on, as we're about to see.

Feser makes a big deal about the New Atheist's criticisms of William Paley's popular design argument. The reason why so many atheists mention Paley's argument is because it's a very popular argument that a lot of theists make. It's also a very simple argument; one doesn't need to learn complex, esoteric metaphysics like one has to do in order to understand Aquinas. That's why Paley's argument keeps coming up again and again, and the New Atheists (and atheists in general) have to make it a point to address it. Aquinas' arguments are generally too complex and require too much philosophical knowledge for your average wannabe apologist to successfully make. It's much easier for them to memorize the simple premises of the cosmological argument, or remember the scene involved in Paley's watchmaker analogy. It's fair to say that it isn't a straw man to attack design arguments of the Paley variety as Feser thinks on page 81. It's a legitimate argument for god, albeit a really bad one. No, a more proper straw man is like what Feser did in his opening chapter when he says your average secularist thinks strangling infants or fucking corpses or goats is perfectly normal in order to show how secularism is "irrational, immoral, and indeed insane," without even defining what he means by "secularism."

Feser's attitude seems to be that none of the New Atheist's arguments mean anything, until they refute Aquinas. And to be fair, the New Atheists have, by and large, not taken up Aquinas. Feser accuses secularists of swallowing "anything their gurus shovel at them." (80) But he must realize how absurd it is for him to make such a claim, when everyone knows it's organized religion that brainwashes its masses and requires its adherents make statements of faith, usually starting at childhood. And the Catholic Church is about as organized as organized religion can get.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Does The Fine Tuning Argument Make God Responsible For Natural Evil?

I just had a idea. I was thinking about the fine tuning argument which tends to be fairly popular among internet apologists and whether or not that causes problems for the problem of suffering. Natural evil is an evil for which "no non-divine agent can be held morally responsible for its occurrence." Floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, forest fires, droughts, meteor impacts, and diseases that cause sentient beings to suffer or die and for which no human being is responsible are examples of natural evil.

Classical theists have acknowledged that the problem of natural evil is a big one, and have tried to come up with many solutions, or theodocies, in trying to explain why an infinitely good deity would allow them. But the question I want to ask here, is whether god merely "allows" such evils or is the ultimate cause of them. Some theists maintain this claim that god allows these evils, but doesn't cause them. And some theists for example, claim that god has nothing to do with natural evil, and that they are caused by agents other than god, like demons.

I think there is a possible contradiction between theists who take these views on natural evil, and who hold to the fine tuning argument. Basically, if god fine tuned the universe, how is he not also responsible for all the natural evil in it? In other words, how is this:

A1. The fine tuning of the universe is either due to physical necessity, chance or design.
A2. Fine tuning is not due to either physical necessity or chance.
A3. Therefore, it is due to design.

Compatible with this, such that god isn't responsible for natural evil?:

B1. God (an omnipotent, omniscience, omni-benevolent being) exists.
B2. Natural evil exists.
B3. God is the creator and designer of the physical universe, including the laws that govern it.
B4. Natural disasters, and the evil they cause, are a direct byproduct of the laws that govern our universe.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

My Rebuttal Of The Fine Tuning Argument From My Debate With A Theist

A few months ago I was challenged by a theist to a formal written debate on the existence of god over on a theological website called theologyweb. I accepted. We agreed that he would make the opening arguments and make a positive case first and that we'd be debating the existence of a theistic god and not merely a deistic one (because theists have this tendency to retreat into deism when the going gets tough and I hate that). After my response back in June he never got back to me, eventually saying that he was busy with work and other things. So the debate is just sitting there, now closed, with only our initial opening arguments. I took the time in my opener to rebut my opponent's arguments. This is how I like to debate since atheists are often accused of not addressing their opponent's arguments, and in the hundreds of god debates I've watched, there is some truth to this.

My opponent, who on the website goes by the name of "LaplacesDemon" (LD for short), used the fine tuning argument as part of his case for god. And I just noticed that I have not written about the fine tuning argument as much as I should have. So below I have my response to LD rebutting the fine tuning argument. You can see the whole debate here, but you might need to log onto the site for access.

The FTA (fine tuning argument) is in my opinion the only halfway decent argument for god. But even if granted, it doesn’t lead one to conclude the existence that theism is true any more than deism, or that the universe is a computer simulation. In fact, if the universe is fine tuned, those two options are overwhelmingly more probable than theism. And I will argue why. 
I’m not going to dispute the parameters LD mentioned even though a few of them are a bit off because almost all scientists agree that the life permitting range for those values is very narrow. What I will instead argue is that the apparent fine tuning is better supportive of atheism, not theism.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

20 Questions Atheists Struggle To Answer (Extremely Short Answers)

These questions were floated around to atheists over the years and I'd thought I'd take a quick crack at them. These are my (extremely short) answers to them.

1. What caused the universe to exist?

The universe may not need a cause, especially if the B-theory of time is true. All causes in the universe are (a) temporal and (b) material, showing that our notion of causality doesn't necessarily apply to the origin of the universe, if it is the beginning of space and time.

2. What explains the fine tuning of the universe?

Chance. The same way that our planet is just the right distance from our sun to allow life to exist, so is our universe.

3.Why is the universe rational?

Because logical impossibilities are in fact, impossible.

4. How did DNA and amino acids arise?

Well we know amino acids can spontaneously arise naturally as the Miller-Urey experiments showed us, and as the building blocks of DNA, amino acids probably evolved from simpler molecules as in the RNA hypothesis. If "God did it" is your explanation, then you would be saying that scientists should stop doing all their research in molecular biology and close all their institutions, thus proving that faith is opposed to science.

5. Where did the genetic code come from?

It most likely evolved through many years and attempts from simple molecules to more complex ones.

6. How do irreducibly complex enzyme chains evolve?
There are no real irreducibly complex parts of biological systems, there is simply our current ignorance to how some of them formed, and there is a whole lot more ignorance by creationists who use things like the bacterial flagellum as an example of IC when it has been clearly refuted.

7. How do we account for the origin of 116 distinct language families?

Languages evolved over tens of thousands of years all over the world. There is zero evidence that the biblical story of the Tower of Babel explains the origin of language, and most Christians today it seems even reject such an absurd story.

8. Why did cities suddenly appear all over the world between 3,000 and 1,000 BC?

It was due to the invention or agriculture around 10,000 BC that lead to the first towns and cities being developed. When humans stopped hunting and gathering and began farming and domesticating animals, they had a reason to stay in one place permanently.

9. How is independent thought possible in a world ruled by chance and necessity?

I'm not sure what independent thought means here, but if it is implying free will, there is no evidence of free will.

10. How do we account for self-awareness?


11. How is free will possible in a material universe?

Given the laws of physics that we have which are deterministic, there is no free will.

12. How do we account for conscience?

Through extremely complex interactions between neurons and chemicals the exact mechanism by which we don't yet understand. We do know that mind is a product of the brain and there is zero evidence that the mind controls physical brain states.

13. On what basis can we make moral judgements?

We usually assess whether our actions will benefit us and others and whether they will increase harm. We certainly don't use the Bible to make moral judgements, or else we'd actually increase harm and likely end up in jail.

14. Why does suffering matter?

Suffering matters because we recognize that it is a state we don't want ourselves and others to be in.

15. Why do human beings matter?

Because we have the most highly evolved cognitive faculties that allows us to make rational decisions as well as suffer to the highest extent of all other species.

16. Why care about justice?

Because we naturally care about fairness, and justice requires fairness.

17. How do we account for the almost universal belief in the supernatural?

Because it was evolutionarily beneficial for our ancestors to believe in false positives (believing in things that weren't there) and this lead to the belief in angels, demons, spirits and gods.

18. How do we know the supernatural does not exist?

For several reasons. (1) because of the reason I gave for number 17 which shows that evolution would have lead to our belief in the supernatural even if it didn't exist; (2) because we have no evidence for it, even though the supernatural is in principle verifiable since it is said to interact with the physical world; (3) assuming that the supernatural exists makes no sense when critically examined. For these reasons we can be reasonably confident the supernatural doesn't exist.

19. How can we know if there is conscious existence after death?

We can and already do know that consciousness is fully dependent on the physical brain and so when the brain goes, consciousness goes. There are also too many unexplained questions about consciousness and the soul for which no dualist has any satisfactory answers.

20. What accounts for the empty tomb, resurrection appearances and growth of the church?

It is not an established fact that there was an empty tomb and resurrection appearances. They may have all been made up by the writers of Mark and Matthew, who wrote 40-50 years after the supposed events and were not eyewitnesses. Paul never mentions an empty tomb. See Four facts that aren't really facts.

As you can see, many of these questions probe the "God of the gaps" territory, and some, like the question about languages, are so bad even most Christians wouldn't recognize them as tough questions for the atheist.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Multiverse Seen As More Likely

For the past week the major news coming from science was that faint gravitational waves from the earliest moments of the universe were detected by the BICEP2 observatory near the south pole. The findings, if correct, would confirm a prediction made by Einstein nearly 100 years ago in General Relativity, as well as in inflationary theory developed by Alan Guth in 1980.

"It's hard to build models of inflation that don't lead to a multiverse," says Guth, quoted from a recent Huffington Post article. Since most models of inflation lead to a multiverse, and the recent finding corroborates predictions made by inflation theory, then it seems that the multiverse just got a big boost in credibility. For years the critics were saying that the multiverse was pure speculation, tantamount to an atheistic version of god as an explanatory force. We may or may not ever have direct confirmation of another universe, but if the data holds up and is confirmed by additional tests (of which there are several pending) then the predictions made in inflation theory that other universes are likely will move it closer to physics from metaphysics.

The multiverse does offer us an explanation for many of the current puzzles in science, like why the values of the physical constants are in the life permitting range. So if we have good evidence that the multiverse is true, there goes the fine tuning argument - which I consider the only decent argument theism has. And if the fine tuning argument implodes, then theism is really going to be in trouble in the future. Take away the cosmological argument and the fine tuning argument for example, (which I think there are already good refutations for) and theism really has nothing left to stand on. There is nothing within the universe that really needs god as an explanation that isn't better served by science and philosophy. 

So what's left for theism? What will the nature of apologetics look like in 2050 when we might have discovered quantum gravity and when an inflation model with multiverse predictions becomes the cosmological paradigm rendering the fine tuning argument a total dud? I wonder what debates about the existence of god will be like then. 

Presumably the atheist will have a much larger arsenal of data to draw from, as has always been the case when new scientific discoveries are made. I am optimistic that within this century, theism will become the minority position in the West, because it's explanatory power will fail to compete with the rigor of naturalistic science, and because many of the social functions that religion has played will be replaced by secular alternatives.  

Monday, February 24, 2014

I Think Carroll Won The Debate

It was a very intense debate Friday night at the Greer Heard Forum between Sean Carroll and William Lane Craig and I have to say I think Carroll decisively won. This isn't due to any sort of atheistic bias on my part, as I think Craig has "won" several of his debates on style and deliverance, but this is due to the fact that Carroll addressed nearly all of Craig's arguments and handsomely refuted them.

The debate relied on a lot of high end physics and cosmology that the average layperson simply does not understand. Thankfully I've become increasingly more knowledgeable about physics and cosmology over the years in large part as a result of debating theists. A frequent topic that came up was the concept of Boltzmann Brains - living physical brains that can spontaneously arise out of the quantum vacuum whose initial entropy states appear to be more likely than the initial low entropy state that our universe had. To refute the issue of the Boltzmann Brain dilemma, one has to have a serious understanding of the science behind it and its philosophical implications - something I think your average atheistic debater has no idea how to address or refute. I know that Dr. Carroll has written extensively on the Boltzmann Brain problem in his scientific papers and other works and he is well equipped to handle accusations that its a defeater for the multiverse.

(On a side note, I just recently signed up for free online classes from the World Science Festival on relativity that will be taught by Brian Greene (see here for details). I would certainly like to have a deeper understanding of the science behind relativity and quantum mechanics, even if it means I may have to face my crippling fear of math. You should check it out.)

Anyway, as far as the debate went, I wish that there was another round of rebuttals and I wish that there was a cross examination period so they could've gone head to head. I think Carroll really could've pressed Craig on some of his misuse of science to support his case for theism, and he could have pressed Craig on the B-theory of time (which Craig actually brought up!) as it is a knock-down argument against the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

Craig also made a lot of noise, as he always does, over the idea that the universe "popped" into existence from nothing that he thinks the atheist must believe. Even if one grants the A-theory of time, the universe doesn't really pop into being. The reason why is that this presumes that you somehow have absolute nothing - and then - the universe inexplicably "pops" into existence. But this is not how it works because it presumes time exists prior to the universe. Since time is intertwined with space, from the very first moment of t=0 you have a universe. There is no moment when nothing exists prior to the universe. Therefore, you start with a universe; it doesn't pop into being. It's the same way how you cannot rewind a DVD passed 00:00:00. There is no such time as -00:00:01 on a DVD player. From the moment the DVD starts at 00:00:00 you have a movie. Carroll brought this up during the Q & A but they were not allowed to go back and forth on it.

Overall, it was a very good debate and I think Craig got hammered pretty hard from a physicist who knows the science much better than he does. I wish Sean would engage in many more debates like this one as it turns out he's one of the best debaters on behalf of atheism.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Further Thoughts On Brute Facts

I've been dry on material lately. I wanted to write a good blog post today but I don't think that's going to happen. There are a few issues on my list of topics to write about. If I could list a few of the political issues that come to mind that are most important to me, they would be church/state issues and secularism, income inequality, college affordability, climate change, and social justice. All of these issues are dear to my heart. I was considering a possible new direction for this blog, away from the emphasis on counter-apologetics and towards something more political, or perhaps more personal, whereby I'd be focusing a lot more on social/political issues as it relates to my life. This is a possibility, and by no means a certainty. The main problem with this is that I don't deal with people in my life that regularly oppose my viewpoints. I never encounter religious fundamentalists, and most of the people around where I live are liberal or left-leaning.

For now I want to refocus on the idea of brute facts once again. If you're an atheist, you take the position that the universe, multiverse, or existence itself, is pretty much a brute fact. Existence exists, and that's just the way it is. The universe just is. We just are. There is no further meaning or answer or purpose available. I can certainly see from the point of view of the philosopher, how this conclusion leaves one yearning for more. The "why is there something rather than nothing" question may be the greatest in all of philosophy, and believe me I don't come to the conclusion of brute facts lightly. I too feel the need to explain our existence with some greater exegetical power than we just are.

First, we know how we got here. We have a great understanding of the cosmic and biological evolution that has resulted in our existence. But is it possible that there is an underlying reason why this process occurred? I'm not necessarily alluding to the classical gods of religion, but might there be an impersonal conscious force that can supply the why question with satisfaction? It seems to me that the answer to the ultimate of questions will be either that there is some kind of deistic god that exists, or there is no god or gods at all and that atheism is true. Theism to me is not on the table, because I feel that all notions of theism fail to make any logical sense, especially given the evidence we have available to us. So it seems to me that either deism or atheism is true. But it is possible that they're both wrong, and there is a third option that is not deism, atheism or theism, that would be in Donald Rumsfeld lingo, an "unknown unknown." That is to say, it is an option that we don't even know about that may or may not be right. That to me is definitely on the table, but it seems very likely that atheism or deism are our two most plausible candidates.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

William Lane Craig's Christmas "Gift" To Atheists

What can I say, the man never tires in his quest to evangelize the world into the Christian faith.

In William Lane Craig's recent op-ed on, he rolls out the same 5 tired old arguments for god's existence that he's been using for decades as a "gift" to atheists. It's not like as if many atheists will be on anyway. Most of us non-believers regard Fox News and everything that it does to be a charade, exemplified by their phony annual "War on Christmas," their bending over backwards for the religious right, and their outright lies and manipulations - to name a few. I can't see how any intelligent person, atheist or not, would take Fox News as a serious news organization.

But perhaps that makes it perfect for a person like William Lane Craig. I mean after all, he's first and foremost an apologist, and an apologist is a propagandist, who must lie and distort the facts in order to make their case convincing - in a way just like Fox News! So in Craig's piece, he challenges atheists who he claims "have no good reasons for their disbelief." Um, excuse me? We have plenty of good reasons for our disbelief, and I've recently outlined some of them in my post Why I'm An Atheist. But hey, Craig was only offering us his "experience." I will at least give him some credit that there has been a failure of many public atheists in communicating arguments for atheism properly. This is something atheists need to improve on. But for a person obsessed with atheism, William Lane Craig should have undoubtedly heard all the arguments by now and he's been called out several times on abysmal failures to refute arguments for atheism (like his failed attempt to claim animals do not consciously suffer). I suspect he really just wants to reassure his readers (who haven't researched into the arguments for atheism) that atheists don't have any good arguments in the hope they'll just take his word for it.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Why I'm An Atheist

I've been feeling a bit compelled recently to write about why exactly it is that I'm an atheist and what reasons I have for being one. While I feel that this post was long overdue, an adequate justification for my atheism has been the product of a learning curve several years in the making. I know many others have written posts explaining why they aren't a Christian or why they aren't a Mormon, or a Muslim, etc., but technically I can't write a post like that because I was never myself a member of any religion. What I can do, is justify why I'm an atheist and why I think the naturalistic worldview best describes reality, and so here I want to put into a single post the main reasons why I personally am an atheist, and why I think you should be one too if you aren't already. I apologize for the length.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013 Is Full Of Lies!

I stumbled upon this site called recently. It's another Christian propaganda site trying to target young students. It's filled with the usual arguments from design and first causes and on one of its pages titled, "Is There A God?" I came across some really bad arguments and couldn't resist refuting some of them since these kinds of sites do reach a number of kids and young adults who probably don't know any better. 

"God himself took on the form of man and accepted the punishment for our sin on our behalf. Sounds ludicrous? Perhaps, but many loving fathers would gladly trade places with their child in a cancer ward if they could."

Yeah but you know what? Loving fathers who were all-powerful and who could wipe out cancer instantly just by thinking about it would do that instead of trade places with their child. Likewise, god could have created a world where we don't all go to hell by default, where there is no original sin, or where we were not designed as sinners and then punished for our very nature. (He could have also created a world with no cancer) These are all logically possible worlds god could have chosen to create if he exists and is indeed all-powerful. But god knowingly chose to create the world where we'd sin and deserve to go to the hell that he created for us, where he'd have to impregnate an underage virgin girl to give birth to himself to be sacrificed to himself in order to redeem the world and save us all, from himself. Sound Ludicrous? Yes.

"What proof did Jesus give for claiming to be divine? He did what people can't do. Jesus performed miracles. He healed people...blind, crippled, deaf, even raised a couple of people from the dead."

Yeah, according to the Bible! - which is completely unreliable. We have no other evidence that any of these supposed events ever occurred. Christians seem to take for granted that the Bible is accurate and telling the truth, and are blissfully unaware that non-Christians do not assume this by default.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Questions For Atheists - Part 5 (God, Disbelief in God, The Bible)

In part 5 we get to the good stuff: god himself. Because after all, that's what this is all about and that's what this is all leading up to. Let's see if Phil's questions can rattle my atheism.

1. If you ARE God’s creation, isn't it true your present attitude is unfair to Him? Insulting, actually? And you thus have very good reason to deny His existence because you deserve punishment for your utter disregard? 

So let's say the Christian god is real, like it was empirically proven to me. I'd be fucking pissed. It would mean that I'd have to live under a celestial tyrant who is so insecure about himself that he demands constant admiration, devotion and worship. Yet he's somehow perfect. I would not be able to deny this truth. Why would me being god's creation make it required to worship him forever? Honestly, even if god did exist, I would not be able to bring myself to love him. Love cannot be forced, it must come natural. The only possible way that I'd respect god, would be to avoid his wrath, but then I would technically only be doing it for my own selfish purposes. And why should I deserve punishment for my disdain of god's personality? Am I not entitled to my own opinion under his rule? If not, then god is a tyrant as I said before. 

2. Are you willing to follow the evidence where it leads, and consider the “cumulative case” for God’s existence? If not, why?

I suppose the "cumulative case" for god's existence are the cosmological, teleological, moral and ontological arguments. If so, then yes I am willing to follow the evidence, and it has lead my right where I started off - atheism. The cumulative case for god amounts to nothing more than the "leaky bucket" approach. Each of these arguments are saddled with holes and so no matter how many you pile onto one another, they still amount to a bunch of leaky buckets that cannot hold any water.

3. Are you right about God? How do you know?

I am confidently sure that the god of the Bible - or better yet - the god of Abraham does not exist. How do I know? Because that god is logically impossible. Now could I be wrong? Perhaps. Could I be wrong that some other god cannot exist? Yes, there might be some sort of deistic god, or an evil god. But without any good evidence, I have no reason to believe in any of them.

4. If you are not right about God, do you know how to GET right with God?

It depends on the god. But why should I assume the Christian god is more real than the god of Islam? What evidence is the Christian offering me that's better than what the Muslim is offering me? Both gods are taken on articles of faith that requires huge leaps of logic and reason. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Alvin Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN) Part 2

The Gist Of It

Mathematically, Plantinga's argument looks like this P(R/N&E) where P is the probability of (R) the reliability of our beliefs, divided by (N) naturalism & (E) evolution. Plantinga's calculation of the P puts the probability of unguided evolution to favor true beliefs to be most likely very low. But why think it should be low?

It doesn't take an evolutionary biologist to see how under evolutionary theory, species that evolved sentience and could assess their environments would be favored for their survival advantage. And the more accurate the level of sentience, the greater the evolutionary advantage. There are two aspects to our beliefs. The first aspect are the cognitive faculties that we use to understand the world around us, such as our neurophysiology, sense of sight, hearing, and sense of touch etc. And the other aspect are our beliefs themselves that are dependent on the senses and the brain. Since it seems obvious that evolution would select for accurate senses, like for example the eagle's keen sense of sight, or the bear's keen sense of smell, then we have no reason to believe that the five senses humans have shouldn't accurately interpret the world around us. Our very evolution and survival depended on them being accurate for finding food and avoiding predators and danger.

This brings us now to our beliefs. Even though we may have evolved senses that are capable of accurately interpreting the world around us, that doesn't necessarily mean that every one of our beliefs are true. The truth is, our cognitive faculties aren't fully reliable, and that's exactly why we need science to help us determine what's real from what's imaginary. Recall the scenario in part 1 where I described the increased chance of the hominid's survival if it believed that a rustle in the bushes might be the result of a predator. Even though false positives are favored by evolution, once the rustle in the bushes can be investigated and it turns out to have been just the wind or a harmless animal, there's no logical reason to continue believing that it was a wild predator or the product of some unseen nefarious agent. Parallel this with the way our superstitious beliefs once made us inaccurately believe that naturally explained events in the world were caused by angry gods, and contrast that to how our modern scientific understanding of the world has shown us how the world really behaves. An investigation into the cause of the rustle in the bushes is in a way, tantamount to a modern scientific investigation into the true causes behind the beliefs that our senses hastily trigger.

Now that's the layman's argument.

Stephen Law's assessment of the EAAN exploits the assumption by Plantinga that the content of beliefs being true have no relation to adaptive behavior. "It can do its job of causing adaptive behaviour just as well if it is false as if it is true." Plantinga writes, "It might be true, and it might be false; it doesn’t matter." Law responds to this assumption:

Consider the suggestion that there exist certain conceptual constraints on what content a given belief can, or is likely to, have given its causal relationships to, among other things, behaviour. My claim is that, given the existence of certain conceptual constraints, unguided evolution will then tend to favour true belief.

Law then jumps into an overly convoluted hypothetical involving probability of belief content and its correlation with adaptive behavior, but he concludes by saying:

Suppose that, solely in combination with a very strong desire for water, a certain belief/neural structure typically results in a subject walking five miles to the south. Surely, if there are such conceptual links between behaviour and content, then the property of causing that behaviour in that situation will be among those properties lending, as it were, a considerable number of points towards that belief/neural structure achieving the threshold for having the content that there’s water five miles south. Other things being equal, that belief/neural structure is much more likely to have the content that there’s water five miles south than it is, say, the content that there’s isn’t water five miles south, or that there’s water five miles north, or that there’s a mountain of dung five miles south, or that Paris is the capital of Bolivia. Perhaps the belief/neural structure in question might yet turn out to have one of these other contents. We can know a priori, solely on the basis of conceptual reflection, that, ceteris paribus, the fact that a belief/neural structure causes that behaviour in that situation significantly raises the probability that it has the content there’s water five miles south. Among the various candidates for being the semantic content of the belief/neural structure in question, the content that there’s water five miles south will rank fairly high on the list.

But now notice that, given such conceptual constraints exist, unguided evolution will indeed favour true belief. Consider our thirsty human. He has a strong desire for water. He’ll survive only if he walks five miles south to where the only reachable water is located. He does so and survives. Suppose this adaptive behaviour is caused by a certain belief/neural structure. If there are conceptual constraints on belief content of the sort I envisage, and if a belief/neural structure in that situation typically causes subjects to walk five miles south, then it is quite likely to have the content that there’s water five miles south – a true belief. Were our thirsty human to head off north, on the other hand, as a result of his having a belief/neural structure that, in that situation, typically causes subjects to walk five miles north, then it’s rather more likely that the belief in question is that there’s water five miles north. That’s a false belief. Because it is false, our human will die.

He further adds:

If beliefs are neural structures, then it is at least partly by virtue of its having certain sorts of behavioural consequence that a given neural structure will have the content it does. If such constraints exist, then one cannot, as it were, plug any old belief content into any old neural structure, irrespective of that structure’s behavioural output.

What Law is basically saying is that there are conceptual links between a belief's content and that content's relationship with survival. If your very survival is on the line, you simply cannot entertain false beliefs without the ability to perceive true beliefs because false beliefs can be very costly in an evolutionary sense. So even though nature's tendency to favor false positives exists, it also awarded species accurate senses that can properly discern reality, and this can be used to investigate and falsify those false positives in particularly evolved species like us, in the form of what we call today science. But...even if there weren't any good explanations for why evolution would allow for accurate beliefs, the paltriness of the alternative hypothesis (that I critiqued in part 1) is bad enough when one considers the fact that it can only be justified with tremendous faith on supernatural events like original sin that stand in defiance (and in contradiction) of any serious scientific evidence. The alternative to naturalistic evolution is therefore an entirely faith-based position.

The very idea that evolution merely rewards adaptive behavior and not truthful beliefs actually would show why us religious beliefs are not true. But skepticism is actually not something very well rewarded by evolution, since we know it favors false positives over false negatives. So if Plantinga's account of naturalism is taken superficially, he successfully shows why religious belief isn't true, since that's what evolution would favor in the form of false positives. I think theists and naturalists alike can acknowledge the fact that humans have believed many far-fetched ideas that had little grounding in reality. It's safe to say that most of our beliefs throughout human history were false. The reason why this is so is clear: without science to test and falsify dubious beliefs, we had no way of knowing the truth except with what can be known a priori. Science has done a brilliant job at eradicating the nonsensical, and the triumph of naturalism over the past few hundred years is a testament to the power of science. To date, there isn't a single sufficiently explained phenomenon that has a supernatural cause. And the thing is, science can, in principle, verify the supernatural. All we would need to do is observe and measure a clear violation of the known laws of physics under highly controlled circumstances, in such a way where it would be obvious that intelligence was behind it. But I won't be holding my breath for the day when that happens.

Finally, Plantinga's own "sophisticated" theology itself has a built-in a defeater to his own argument that our beliefs are true because god guided evolution. When it comes to natural evils Plantinga says, "Satan and his minions, for example—may have been permitted to play a role in the evolution of life on earth, steering it in the direction of predation, waste and pain."* So if theistic evolution is true and if demons can tinker with the evolutionary process while god is powerless to stop them (in order to not violate their free will), then why should we believe our cognitive faculties and beliefs are accurate? Under Plantinga's sophisticated theological hypothesis, malicious demons could surreptitiously be playing tricks on our minds and they could've steered our evolution in such a way that made our beliefs untrue. And with this brilliant piece of theological insight, he destroys his own argument.

Plantinga is not offering a serious argument here if he actually expects the naturalist to entertain the idea that earthquakes, diseases and the evolutionary process itself can literally be caused or influenced by evil demons in order for his EAAN to be plausible. It's ideas like this that make me have to sigh in dismay at what happens when one rejects methodological naturalism in favor of supernatural conjecture. This is exactly why naturalism has been the preferred methodology of science since Darwin.

And lastly, if Plantinga represents one of the pinnacles of sophisticated contemporary theology, then his absurdities speak volumes about the intellectual bankruptcy of theology in general, and its failure to be congruous with actual science.

I am in the midst of developing a counter argument to Plantinga's EAAN. Mine is called the Evolutionary Argument Against God or EAAG, and it's designed to show how evolution is not compatible with the concept of an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good god in the form of a syllogism. Stay tuned.

(Click here for the argument.)


* Plantinga, A, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (2011, Oxford University Press). pp. 58-59

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Boltzmann Brain Dilemma

The multiverse theory is probably the single best argument against the apparent fine tuning of our universe’s physical constants that many theists like William Lane Craig say implies a designer. That means it naturally has its religious critics because they see the existence of a multiverse as an undermining threat to what theists see as something god best explains. 

Since the existence of a potentially infinite number of universes comprising a vast multiverse puts a damper into the argument from fine tuning, let me address the so called “Boltzmann Brain” dilemma rebuttal that theists are using. On his website, William Lane Craig made the following objections to the idea of a multiverse:

If we were just a random member of a World Ensemble, then we ought to be observing a very different universe. Roger Penrose has calculated that the odds of our solar system’s forming instantaneously through the random collision of particles is incomprehensibly more probable that the universe’s being fine-tuned, as it is. So if we were a random member of a World Ensemble, we should be observing a patch of order no larger than our solar system in a sea of chaos. 

In order to be observable the patch of order needn’t be even as large as the solar system. The most probable observable world would be one in which a single brain fluctuates into existence out of the quantum vacuum and observes its otherwise empty world.

On another Question of the week, Craig writes:

Now a similar problem afflicts the contemporary appeal to the multiverse to explain away fine-tuning. Roger Penrose of Oxford University has calculated that the odds of our universe’s low entropy condition obtaining by chance alone are on the order of 1:10^10(123), an inconceivable number. If our universe were but one member of a multiverse of randomly ordered worlds, then it is vastly more probable that we should be observing a much smaller universe. For example, the odds of our solar system’s being formed instantly by the random collision of particles is about 1:10^10(60), a vast number, but inconceivably smaller than 10^10(123).

First, a little background knowledge if you’re not familiar with a Boltzmann Brain.

Boltzmann Brains are a term made by Austrian Physicist Ludwig Boltzmann. In short, he lived in the late 1800s at a time when the steady state theory of the universe prevailed. He and many others believed the universe was timeless and eternal, and Boltzmann, who was an atomist, (a theory still controversial at the time since the atom hadn't yet been discovered) theorized that all the matter and structure in the universe could be the product of a random fluctuation of matter. Although this would be highly improbable, the infinite history of the universe he thought would give it the time necessary to happen. But, an entire universe fluctuating out of random collisions is more improbable than just a single solar system, and just a single brain would be more probable than a solar system. So any sentient being in the universe is much more likely to be just a single conscious brain that suddenly materializes from random particles colliding, rather than be a person with a whole body, living in a vast and orderly universe full of galaxies. Hence the term, Boltzmann Brain.

The Boltzmann Brain concept is interesting and I’m only a little familiar with it. One argument I heard against it goes like this. Imagine estimating the probability that if you were born as a form of life on earth, what would be the chances that you’d be born human. Since the number of insects on earth dwarfs the number of human beings overwhelmingly, there is a much higher probability that we should have been born as insects. There are an estimated 10^18 insects on earth compared to a relatively small 7 billion human beings (up from just 1.5 billion 100 years ago). That means that there are about 150 million insects for every one human being on earth. But you obviously weren’t born as an insect despite the overwhelming odds against it. So just because there is a much greater probability of something, it doesn’t mean that it will happen. Rare events happen all the time. In fact, every single event that ever happens in our universe is a rare event because the chances of that event not happening and some other event happening instead are always probabilistically more likely.

So we know we aren’t Boltzmann Brains given that they exist for a tiny amount of time, look around (with no eyes!) and then disappear back into quantum foam. I suppose chance again can explain this dilemma, in the same way that it does for how our universe’s physical constants could fall in the life permitting range. In the multiverse scenario, eternal inflation involves there being an unlimited number of rolls of the dice, and given an eternal future, a universe like ours is inevitable. Does that mean that hyperspace is littered with Boltzmann Brains amongst the universes? I don’t know, but it seems the chance hypothesis and the multiverse still has a chance.


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