God in Society: An Atheism-Theism Debate

June 27, 2008 at 12:17 am 59 comments

The Political Inquirer will be hosting a three round debate between “M” of the group blog ATHEISM IS DEAD and Leo Pardus of DE-CONVERSION. The “thesis questions” of this debate are these, “Is Atheism beneficial or dangerous to society?” and similarly, “Is Theism beneficial or dangerous to society?”

The debate is moderated by Brian LePort, a Political Inquirer contributor.

Entry filed under: ~Other. Tags: , , , , , .

Experience God….Really? Atheistic Spirituality: A Personal Note

59 Comments Add your own

  • 1. The de-Convert  |  June 27, 2008 at 12:34 am

    Go Leo!!!!

  • 2. scaryreasoner  |  June 27, 2008 at 12:54 am

    “Is Atheism beneficial or dangerous to society?” and similarly, “Is Theism beneficial or dangerous to society?”

    These are the wrong questions. Implicit in them, either way, is an appeal to consequences, which is a logical fallacy.

    It what you want to know is what is true, what is the correct answer to the question, “are there any gods?”, it doesn’t matter if atheism has good or bad consequences, or whether theism has good or bad consequences.

    The questions are loaded from the get go.

  • 3. Quester  |  June 27, 2008 at 1:06 am

    Best of luck, Leo.

    I agree with Scary Reasoner- these questions are loaded and based on fallacy in and of themselves. I don’t envy you your participation in this debate.

  • 4. crimsonmai  |  June 27, 2008 at 1:35 am

    I’m sure Leo will do fine, but nevertheless as we say here in Japan がんばって! Meaning, good luck!

  • 5. edwinhere  |  June 27, 2008 at 8:26 am

    Hello, please check out my plagiarized arguments against God here: http://meinwords.wordpress.com/arguments-against-the-existence-of-god/

  • 6. TheNerd  |  June 27, 2008 at 9:14 am

    Of course the questions are loaded! How else would you expect them to fish for readers – by being fair-minded and moderate?

  • 7. Obi  |  June 27, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Expect Stalin and Mao.

  • 8. laboratorian  |  June 27, 2008 at 11:05 am

    The whole theist/atheist debate is an appeal to consequences.

  • 9. Obi  |  June 27, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Indeed, but hopefully they aren’t attempting to draw some type of truth value from it. Add Pol Pot, the Inquisition, the Crusades, and heretic burnings to my list of predictions.

  • 10. bleport  |  June 27, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    de-conversion readers,

    I have enjoyed the critical feedback regarding the debate that I have found here. While I confess that there is a major flaw on focusing on the consequences/results of a belief system over against whether or not it is actually “true”, please consider the content and readership of Political Inquirer. It is a politics and society blog; not a philosophy and theology blog.

    That being said, I am open to you sending any questions that you would like to see asked to the debaters in round three to brianleport@gmail.com. Round two has already been sent to the debaters, and is essentially a varient on round one asking similar questions from the opposite angle. But the final round, and its contents, have no yet been decided. So please weigh in.

  • 11. endingrediculum  |  June 27, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    Atheism is a religion and theism is a religion, both factor out the relationship with a higher order and boil it down to what ever man thinks. Theism got dangerous simply because man was motivated down to his base instincts in the name of God. Atheism, the same thing, only Atheism dosen`t try to implant a moral hirarchy, it just believes it is moral. Both are dilusions.

  • 12. Quester  |  June 27, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    Bleport, Scary Reasoner has a problem with the focus on consequences. I agree that is a problem, but my main problem is that the premise of the debate sets up atheism as a system of beliefs. It isn’t. Atheism is not a thing. It is a lack of a thing (or, as some might say, the recognition of a lack of a thing). It can not be compared to theism as equal and opposite. We’re not talking up or down, here, we’re talking drunk or sober. Sober is not actually a condition, it’s just the absence of drunkenness.

  • 13. Obi  |  June 27, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    endingrediculum said, “Atheism is a religion and theism is a religion, both factor out the relationship with a higher order and boil it down to what ever man thinks. Theism got dangerous simply because man was motivated down to his base instincts in the name of God. Atheism, the same thing, only Atheism dosen`t try to implant a moral hirarchy, it just believes it is moral. Both are dilusions.”

    Haha, what?

  • 14. LeoPardus  |  June 27, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    Methinks the readers of the debate will be a bit surprised, if not a bit nonplussed. It seems M and I have similar backgrounds and similarly moderate views of the whole matter. So the two of us won’t be chumming the waters much.

    Regarding the argument to consequences concern. Neither M nor I make any effort to conclude whether Theism or Atheism is true. We are simply providing our differing perspectives on whether or not they are generally beneficial or detrimental to society. Readers of the debate will no doubt seek to sidetrack onto a true/untrue debate, but that just does not concern me (nor M as far as I can tell so far).

  • 15. The de-Convert  |  June 27, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    Quester,

    We’re not talking up or down, here, we’re talking drunk or sober. Sober is not actually a condition, it’s just the absence of drunkenness.

    Great explanation.

    Paul

  • 16. Brian LePort  |  June 28, 2008 at 2:48 am

    Quester,

    I believe your definition of Atheism still allows for the type of questions being asked in the debate. We can simply frame it as does believing this or does having the absence of belief in this (this = God) make someone a better citizen and does it lead to a better society?

  • 17. lively100  |  June 28, 2008 at 8:19 am

    Theism is a rather primitive philosophy, but there is absolutelly no doubt about importance of religion in human life. Theism has valuble side-effects and thats why is still is so prominent in peoples lives. Most people need to believe in something anyway.
    I’am much more interested to know if it is possible to reject theism
    (which I believe is nonsensical) and still celebrate Christmas as very pleasent time and have warm fuzzy feeling of well-being. Is it utterly hypocritical to aknowledge benefits of belief and rejecting the source of these benefits at the same time?

    But if we accept that most humans need love, hope and help as integral part of what it means to be a human than surely we are creating a religion.

    Animals don’t believe in god because they are not as intelligent as people and don’t have complex and high emotional needs. Basically we know that less intelligent beings on earth didn’t have religion, than there is “us” and the real question is whether we will evolve into more intelligent beings who will not require any sort of belief system. Things just will be. Will such “people” have emotions as we know it?

    Finally – it is far too simplistc to say that believing (and for that matter not believing) makes a better or worse person and citizen. We know this can not possibly be true, however I think that theism can be a hinderence in general progress.

    Simillarly to athiest benefiting from achievements of believers, they in-turn benefit from progress, which in many circumstances was rejected, opposed, fought over etc. by them and their zealous forefathers.

    Stay open-minded and love one another. Amen :)

  • 18. The de-Convert  |  June 28, 2008 at 11:57 am

    Amen.

  • 19. Samuel Skinner  |  June 28, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    Actually, all the health benefits given by religion can be replicated by pet ownership… which is why people get so attached to their pets. Have you ever seen the cat v dog heresy wars?

    In addition, these needs can be meet just as easily by family or a sense of purpose- a fact that many countries have shown.

    Love, hope and help are not a religion- these concepts are technically stages in humanist psychology. See Maslow’s hiearchy of needs.

    Animals don’t believe in God because they don’t have a need to create explanations.

    Believing can be said to make a person worse because belief requires faith and faith IS bad. Faith is nothing short of controled insanity.

  • 20. M  |  June 29, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Samuel,

    Do you honestly have the nerve to call me and others insane? I mean, really. Yes, we have “faith”, but we do not consider it unjustified faith in the least, neither do I believe thinking that there are foundational, self-evident truths a matter of “insanity”.

    I think your comment is just a tad hateful and bigoted.

  • 21. Obi  |  July 19, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    I find it amazing that M was criticizing someone a little under a month ago for being “hateful and bigoted” when he himself is the epitome of such vices. It’s disgustingly hypocritical.

  • 22. LeoPardus  |  July 19, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    I was a bit surprised at his tone. My limited observations of him have shown him pretty reasonable.

    Of course I have been known to grow fangs and talons myself more than once, so I don’t have scads of room to condemn.

    Maybe you pressed one of his buttons. We all have them.

    I dunno, just a maybe.

  • 23. Obi  |  July 19, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    Aye, perhaps you’re right. Everyone has “off” days, and judging someone by a single encounter isn’t very good, but on the other hand, good first impressions are rather important when creating a mental description of someone.

  • 24. marlene  |  September 4, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    I only want to say that both believing in God and believing that the universe and everything in it came from nothing are both hard to imagine. I am smart enough to know that something can never, never come from nothing. So someone had to create all of this. Given a choice, I am believing in the obvious. There is a g reat and powerful God who created everything. No one knows everything about why God is the way He is. But if we would follow the Bible’s teachings the world would be in a lot better shape.

    Thank you

    M Walters

  • 25. Paige  |  September 5, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Marlene,

    Isn’t a big portion of the world’s population, past and present already following the Bible’s teachings? How’s that working so far?

  • 26. orDover  |  September 5, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    I am smart enough to know that something can never, never come from nothing. So someone had to create all of this. Given a choice, I am believing in the obvious. There is a g reat and powerful God who created everything.

    If something can never, never come from nothing, then where does God come from?

  • 27. Cooper  |  September 5, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    God has always been. He is the one who created the sphere of time and is outside of it. Our finite concept always has beginnings and endings. But the one who created those beginnings and endings is not confined by the same dimensions we are.

  • 28. Obi  |  September 5, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Stop saying that the Universe ‘came from nothing’.

    Seriously, it irritates me to hell whenever I see a theist claim that “someone” (who, no one knows) believes that the Universe was birthed out of nothing. Not a single cosmologist, astronomer, astrophysicist, or any other scientist will tell you that there is any reason at all to believe that the Universe “came from nothing”, because that’s quite clearly impossible. In fact, it’s theists who claim that the Universe “came from nothing”, not anyone with a rational thought in their head.

    So stop using that argument, thanks.
    :D

  • 29. Rover  |  September 5, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    Cooper,

    You didn’t actually answer the question “where did God come from?” He is too complex to have simply formed over eternity therefore He must have been created. Afterall anything that appears to have been designed must have a designer. God is clearly more complex then a watch or a man. Also, if God is outside of time then can the human experience actually take place in time? If so then God, being outside of time, must have the world eternally before Him. Do you see what I mean. We would then be in an eternal loop in the eyes of eternal God. If he is outside of time then this experience we are having cannot be contained within a period of God’s existence. Yesterday, today and tomorrow exist in the same dimension for God. We are confined by time, but God is not.

  • 30. ordover  |  September 5, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    God has always been.

    But where did he come from?

    (Cooper, I know you’re trying to answer questions to the best of your ability, but you are aware that all of us here know these pat answer like the back of our hands?)

  • 31. SnugglyBuffalo  |  September 5, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Obi put it very well; no one who understands the issues at hand believes the universe just appeared one day. To claim this is the case belies a clear lack of comprehension.

    Naturalistic explanations of the universe are no more absurd than ones involving God, and I would argue that they are much less so since they don’t have to invoke supernatural “magic” at any point.

  • 32. Cooper  |  September 5, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    You didn’t actually answer the question “where did God come from?” He is too complex to have simply formed over eternity therefore He must have been created.
    :) You are asking that question from a finite mind located in a finite existence. God did not “form” over eternity, neither was he created. He has always been, is, and will always be. We cannot grasp that concept (it throws our minds into “fits”) because we are finite. We are within a “created” realm, and therefore EXPECT everything to behave as it behaves in OUR realm of existence. God is the Creator–he is not restricted by our “confines” of space and time–in fact, some scientists already believe there are at least 10 dimensions. They don’t know exactly what those dimensions are, but are fairly certain they exist. If God exists—and I know he does—-he can exist in all of those dimensions simultaneously.

    http://www.ccmr.cornell.edu/education/ask/index.html?quid=961

  • 33. Paige  |  September 5, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    Cooper,

    Do you know if hell exists?

  • 34. Cooper  |  September 5, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    Obi put it very well; no one who understands the issues at hand believes the universe just appeared one day. To claim this is the case belies a clear lack of comprehension.

    Yes—scientists believe the Universe is about 14 billion years old and may have “blasted” out of a massively compressed piece of matter–the “big bang”. The problem is where did that super-compressed piece of matter come from? What existed before the Universe? You have to acknowledge that the matter itself might be eternal—”always there”—-just taking different forms. Believing in eternal matter is no more ridiculous than believing there is someone who created it all.

  • 35. Cooper  |  September 5, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    Believing in eternal matter is no more ridiculous than believing there is someone who created it all.

    Actually though the concept of “eternal matter” which has been, is, and always will be (though in different forms) is a far more ridiculous concept than one that says that that matter was created by an infinite being without beginning or ending.

  • 36. Rover  |  September 5, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    Cooper,

    You say we have finite minds not able to understand the concept of eternity, yet you say we are beginning to grasp the idea of 10 dimensions.
    Is the life you are living a point in time from God’s perspective? It could not possibly be. In God’s concept of time everything has already taken place. There is no past or present. God is the great “I am”. When John was taken to the “last days” for his vision of the end do you think he was literally taken to that time? Certainly he could have been, because God existed there as well. The end had already happened in God’s reality. In fact the end “always is” in His perspective.
    If God always existed and had no beginning then the question still persists how did He come to be?

  • 37. ordover  |  September 5, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    Actually though the concept of “eternal matter” which has been, is, and always will be (though in different forms) is a far more ridiculous concept than one that says that that matter was created by an infinite being without beginning or ending.

    Back this up. You’re making claims that require evidence. Why is that more ridiculous than believing that a God has always been, and created matter, even though there is no trace of any “intelligent design” in the universe? If you think matter needs a creator, why doesn’t the creator need a creator?

    You still haven’t answered the question “WHERE DID GOD COME FROM.”

    And saying that God has just always been there is a cop out. It much more intellectually honest to admit that you don’t know, just as scientists admit that they don’t know where matter came from. [Insert God of the Gaps argument here.] But regardless, not knowing doesn’t make it okay to immediately say “ETERNAL.”

    Imagine you are a primitive human wondering about the origins of the earth. Because you have no knowledge of it’s origins, wouldn’t it be safe to assume that it has just always been there? You can’t comprehend its beginning, but you’re still wrong.

  • 38. Cooper  |  September 5, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    If God always existed and had no beginning then the question still persists how did He come to be?

    Rover—

    Seriously—you are making no sense. You are talking about people inside of time being transported, and going being in all time at one time—that is true—he is NOT PART OF IT. You are looking at God from YOUR perspective and asking how he came to be. You need to start as the beginning—before the world, before time, before anything was. There was no SUCH THING as time at that point. He created the very CONCEPT of time. There are no beginnings or endings with God. Somehow you are trying to get answers from a finite perspective for an infinite being.

  • 39. Rover  |  September 5, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    Actually, as a christian, I am looking at time and God biblically and I am asking if it fits reality. Can an eternal God exist outside of time. It’s sound like a “high” concept, but can it be logically true?
    Can the infinit inhabit the finite and still be infinite? You need to really think about it. It is not a ridiculous question. I didn’t understand the concept either unit I started to think about the inplications of such a concept. But there is no need for me to press the point.

  • 40. Rover  |  September 5, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    And I understand the irony of asking how something that always existed can “begin to exist”, but you certainly understand that we, as theists , are in no better position then the atheist.

  • 41. Cooper  |  September 5, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    You still haven’t answered the question “WHERE DID GOD COME FROM.”

    orDover—- I am telling you that he didn’t come from anywhere—-he has always been. I am purposing that God is just there–he created time and existence. He created the matter that is 14 billion years old. You are trying to understand that in your finite mind and trying to grasp it and cannot—neither can I—but I believe it is the case.

    You though are willing to accept that matter ITSELF has always been–no creator, nothing—-it is just there. 14 billion years ago it just blasted into our present Universe out of something else. You don’t care what that something else was, or how it got there. I am willing to believe there is a being who is “just there” and you are willing to believe there is matter that is “just there”—-what’s the difference?

  • 42. Cooper  |  September 5, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    Can an eternal God exist outside of time. It’s sound like a “high” concept, but can it be logically true?

    Rover—

    No—-it cannot be “logically” true most likely. But can one understand an infinite being using logic? How can the eternal God through the Holy Spirit live inside of believers? The infinite inside of the finite? That is absolutely illogical. But that is because we are tyring to understand the infinite from a finite perspective—we are starting with US and proceeding to try to understand God—-rather than starting with GOD and trying to understand us. When we start with US we think of time, of beginnings and endings, of logical courses of nature, etc, etc. –but when we start with God we see he was BEFORE any of what we know existed—he created the very concepts we live in—time, space, etc.—how can we explain his infinite existence using the finite concepts we live in?

    It is impossible. That’s why he said “my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor my ways your ways—as the heavens are high above the earth, so are my ways above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts”.

  • 43. ordover  |  September 5, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    You though are willing to accept that matter ITSELF has always been–no creator, nothing—-it is just there. 14 billion years ago it just blasted into our present Universe out of something else. You don’t care what that something else was, or how it got there. I am willing to believe there is a being who is “just there” and you are willing to believe there is matter that is “just there”—-what’s the difference?

    You are so wrong! I do not accept that matter has just been, or is eternal. I have the intellectual honesty to say “I don’t know where matter comes from.” I don’t believe anything about matter. It is simply beyond our current comprehension. But I, unlike you, do not attempt to jump to some sort of conclusion because of my current lack of information. You don’t understand God, or his origins, so you make something up that sounds nice and seems to explain it. I’m not doing that. I’m just saying, “I don’t know.” It isn’t that I don’t care, it is that I have the humility to realize that I don’t UNDERSTAND or have knowledge of the state of matter before the Big Bang.

    The difference is that I don’t “believe” in anything. I don’t believe that matter was always there because I don’t have proof of that. I don’t have proof that it was created by god either, so I also don’t believe in that.

    You are taking something that you do not understand and subscribing an arbitrary belief to it without evidence (Bible doesn’t count) and logic to back it up.

  • 44. Rover  |  September 5, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    I suppose then I must accept that God is illogical and that we cannot reason together.

  • 45. Cooper  |  September 5, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    I have the intellectual honesty to say “I don’t know where matter comes from.”

    orDover—

    Thanks for admitting that. But can you really stop there with your thinking. Seriously? “Oh, the Universe is 14 billion years old, exploding most likely out of an almost infinitely compressed piece of matter. How that matter got there I don’t know. What was before it I don’t know. It had to start somewhere right? Or has it always been? Oh well, can’t answer that, but I’m pretty positive there is no God”.

  • 46. ordover  |  September 5, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    It wasn’t the first time I had “admitted” that, you just weren’t reading me closely.

    But can you really stop there with your thinking.

    I can theorize all I want. I can create hypotheses and myths and stories. But the bottom line is that right now, give current technology and understanding of physics, I can never really know for sure. I can’t even test my hypotheses, so they become worthless. That doesn’t stop me from wondering, or even hypothesizing, but it does stop me from “accepting” or “believing” anything that is unknowable. Accepting or believing an unverifiable hypothesis takes nothing but blind faith. So when I said “I don’t know,” I really mean that. I haven’t even an educated guess. I just don’t know.

    But admitting that I currently am completely clueless about something doesn’t mean that it is forever unknowable. Some sciences have theorized that there might have been some difference physical laws at work before the Big Bang. Maybe someday we will figure out what physics was like pre-physics-as-we-know-it, and we will be able to answer a lot of questions that were impossible before.

    Remember that analogy I had to a primitive person making up a myth about the earth–that the earth is eternal? They had no way of being able to understand the origin of the earth because of their lack of technology. They couldn’t have even imagined that the earth was formed by the effects of gravity. We were once primitive in our knowledge of the origin of earth, but now we understand. We are now primitive in our knowledge of the state of matter pre-Big Bang, but it might not always be that way.

  • 47. Obi  |  September 5, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    Cooper –

    You’re wrong. :)

    So, you say that the idea of eternally existing matter is more ridiculous than an eternally existing being who created matter? You see, proposing that matter and only matter is eternally existing is (1) More parsimonious (simpler) and thus more favoured than the eternal God explanation and (2) It doesn’t violate any Universal laws. In contrast, stating that an eternally existing God created the Universe is not only (1) A much more complex explanation (and thus less favoured) but it also (2) Breaks the law of conservation of mass-energy, which states that mass-energy cannot be created or destroyed.
    ;)

  • 48. M  |  September 17, 2008 at 1:36 am

    Obi,

    Once again, I find that you misunderstand and are rather ignorant on the subject you’re talking about.

    If in fact, matter has been eternal then there is no reason to suspect that it would change. Matter is contingent on something so as to organize itself. It is not self-organizing. The concept of an eternal existing thing is that it is immutable, meaning that it never changes. Because, if it changes, then we must pressupose a cause for that change.

    Unless of course you wish to hold to a rather absurd doctrine of effects without causes, which I don’t believe can be rationally supported.

    The Theists, on the other hand (and some Atheists in circles other than your own) postulate an ever existing thing that never changes. There is nothing more simple than that.

    Now, you could counter with the belief that matter is the eternal immutable thing, but I don’t believe we’ve ever seen an isntance where matter causes itself. The more rational position to take, based on observation then, is that matter is not its own cause, much less the First Cause.

    Now, if you wish to get into an argument regarding infinite regress then be my guest. I will meet you on that playing field as well, but as far as I’m concerned your current argument against God being a plausible explanation rests on foundations of sand and a premature venture into what we constitute as logical analysis.

    As an example, your belief that “eternal matter” not violating Universal Laws is absurd insomuch as you believe matter changed itself. In this sense, matter therefore DID violate previous laws because it was responsible for them to begin with, unless you wish to postulate that those laws are eternally material as well, which, once again, goes against our observations of change (contingency). So it would be more rational to oppose your argument by assuming something not as limited as material objects as being the cause of those objects.

    Now, you could object by stating that God causing the universe to exist is a change in and of itself, but this would not assume a change in substance, rather, that the First Cause is free from limitations, which we do not see in material objects. In another counter, you may say that the material objects existing outside our universe occupy different rules or are such rules, but then you need to explain how then we can refer to them as “material” in the same light that we view our material universe.

    You also need to explain how intelligence, rationality, and design that comes from human beings orginated out of thin air, since you believe such properties don’t exist in the cause of our Universe. And noting that something must come from something and not nothing, it would be absurd for you to believe that such things are only within ourselves.

    Unless of course you wish to argue that rationality, intelligence, and the like are mere determined illusions set forth by the material realm and that are material themselves…but then this conversation would be pointless because you and I are then just dancing to the chemicals inside our brains and the words I’m presenting to you now hold no real meaning.

    We’re like two soda cans after being shook up.

    How delightful to bring rational discourse down to such a level. If you admit to this then I only applaud you insomuch that you have justified my reasons to believe that Theism is far more rational, since rationality doesn’t really exist in your universe.

    Hope you think about it for awhile. Perhaps a few Philosophy courses may help as well. I truly mean that. Science buffs tend to understand more and be more open minded when they’ve actually thought beyond the telescope and microscope. It’s worth a shot at least.

    Take care.

  • 49. Quester  |  September 17, 2008 at 3:03 am

    M,

    Matter is contingent on something so as to organize itself. It is not self-organizing.

    What do you mean by this, and where do you get this idea from?

    The concept of an eternal existing thing is that it is immutable, meaning that it never changes.

    And because it never changes, it can never do anything. It can only be. To act requires the ability to move in time, which is to change.

    Unless of course you wish to hold to a rather absurd doctrine of effects without causes, which I don’t believe can be rationally supported.

    Except if you were to posit something that was not conditioned by time (or, in other words, eternal).

    The Theists, on the other hand (and some Atheists in circles other than your own) postulate an ever existing thing that never changes. There is nothing more simple than that.

    Except, of course, for a complete absense of that thing; unless there is some reason to assume the existence of such a thing is in any way necessary.

    Now, you could counter with the belief that matter is the eternal immutable thing, but I don’t believe we’ve ever seen an isntance where matter causes itself.

    Well, matter could become energy, which could become matter. In this way matter would not be immutable, and thus not eternal, but it could be without beginning or end. Many people confuse “eternal” and “everlasting”, but outside of this vocabulary quibble, Obi’s argument can stand.

    Now, if you wish to get into an argument regarding infinite regress then be my guest.

    Unnecessary. Once we have regressed to an initial singularity, we can ask what existed before. Some may choose at this point to posit a first cause. Others might point out that before there was anything, there was no time for anything to be in. Without time, the law of cause and effect no longer applies. Thus, whatever there was or wasn’t need not have been a cause in any sense we can understand. Perhaps in your philosophy classes you can contemplate what other options there could be, but a couple science classes might get you further.

    As an example, your belief that “eternal matter” not violating Universal Laws is absurd insomuch as you believe matter changed itself. In this sense, matter therefore DID violate previous laws because it was responsible for them to begin with

    What are natural laws if not the interactions of matter and energy?

    So it would be more rational to oppose your argument by assuming something not as limited as material objects as being the cause of those objects.

    I have yet to see why you believe this.

    Now, you could object by stating that God causing the universe to exist is a change in and of itself, but this would not assume a change in substance, rather, that the First Cause is free from limitations, which we do not see in material objects.

    What, exactly, is an immaterial substance?

    In another counter, you may say that the material objects existing outside our universe occupy different rules or are such rules, but then you need to explain how then we can refer to them as “material” in the same light that we view our material universe.

    Whether we call material outside of our universe “material”, “energy” or come up with a third name to describe an eternal state, why do we need to “explain how then we can refer to them as ‘material’ in the same light that we view our material universe”? Why should anyone need to explain how material as we don’t (yet) understand it needs to be understood in the same way as material as we are currently striving to understand it?

    You also need to explain how intelligence, rationality, and design that comes from human beings orginated out of thin air, since you believe such properties don’t exist in the cause of our Universe.

    When choosing science classes, take a few about evolution. Find out how life formed on this planet, and how life got complicated enough that it could not only respond to its environment, but choose its response. With your philosophical background, you should be able to take it from there on your own.

  • 50. Quester  |  September 17, 2008 at 3:06 am

    Obi,

    Don’t let M’s gibbering turn you off from philosophy. When I was getting my Bachelor’s, I took a few philosophy classes for fun, including a great one on the development of morals and ethics in human history. My professor was an atheist, but I tried not to hold that against him.

  • 51. M  |  September 18, 2008 at 4:00 am

    Quester,

    In response to your last statement I have learned quite a bit about Evolution enough to understand it. I fail to see how this would change my perception on the human person related to the First Cause, unless of course you believe that more complex things (not related to parts, but ability) would necessarily have to come from lesser things.

    Of course, this calls into question the Laws of the Universe themselves, being that they must necessarily be more complex (in ability, power, etc.) than what is inside this Universe in order to organize those things to begin with.

    You have to pressupose a foundation for lesser things gradually becoming something more complex, yet, if you’re approaching this the way I think you are then I think you’re begging the question.

  • 52. silentj  |  September 21, 2008 at 9:06 am

    M,

    You’re making assumptions about matter and existence with, seemingly, little knowledge of physics or the formulas that describe reality. We’ve observed that quantum material does not behave in the way that larger matter does. So, the laws that apply to big things don’t necessarily apply to very small things. Not to mention, we know very little of dark matter, dark energy, or anti-matter, which could explain a lot about the singularity that turned into our universe.

    Consider this: at virtually every limit to scientific understanding, a god has been posited, as if the bookend to all possible knowledge. Yet, we continue to push God further and further back as we understand more and more about the universe. At this point, the only thing left to explain is this First Cause, assuming there is a First Cause.

    Infinite existence is a hard thing to grapple with, just as you pointed out when talk about an initial infinite being, or God. However, it’s a mistake to assume an initial being just because we don’t know what happened before the singularity, a similar mistake that has been occurring and proven false for at least a thousand years now.

  • 53. DeeVee  |  September 26, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    This is a summary of the research I’ve found since comparing the religious to Atheists.

    Atheists live longer, are smarter (we knew that), have attained a higher educational level, have less child abuse reported, have less divorces, have less mental illness and drug abuse, and fewer arrest rates.

    Why? Because most Atheists live in the real world, appreciate and seek reality, and when problem solving look for real answers, and not religious magic. Religious magic says that if you have a problem “just turn it over to god” in some kind of magical phenomena and your problems will go away (without you putting forth any effort to solve problems).

    Atheists for the most part live a consequential life, in that they “think” before they act…instead of believing that being religious is like a lucky charm in that anything you do will not have negative consequences, because an imaginary god is going to prevent you from being harmed.

    I found that 95% of people in prison claim to be “christians.” This means, that if they “claim” to be christians, then why do they continue to commit crimes, since christianity is supposed to make one more moral.

    I also found that felons who participated in “faith-based” therapy programs, had a harder time adjusting to prison life than prisoners not exposed to any “faith-based” programs, and lastly, when released from prison, felons involved in faith-based programs had a higher arrest rate.

    Why? Once again, I surmise that a “belief” in religion is like believing in magic, whereby the believer does not engage in reality or critical thought in order to solve problems. Religion is bad for society and has to be removed off this planet.

    DeeVee

  • 54. silentj  |  September 28, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    DeeVee,

    Would you mind posting your sources?

  • 55. hkyson  |  December 10, 2008 at 6:06 am

    Science and Religion

    Science is different from religion. It does not pretend that it knows everything. There are even now deep questions about the origins of the universe that we don’t have answers to now though it is possible we may be able to answer some of them in the future.

    But the inability of science to provide answers to these questions does not prove that religious faith, tradition, or an ancient holy text has the ability to answer them. Science cannot prove that God does not exist, but this in no way establishes that God exists. There are millions of things whose lack of existence cannot be established.

    The philosopher Bertrand Russel had an analogy. Imagine that there is a teapot in orbit around the sun. It is impossible to prove that the teapot does not exist because it is too small to be detected by our telescopes. Nobody but a crazy person would say “Well, I’m prepared to believe in the teapot because I cannot establish that it doesn’t exist.” This means that maybe we have to be technically agnostics, but really we are all atheists about teapots with orbits around the sun.

    But now let us suppose that everybody in our society including our teachers and the sages of our tribes all had faith in a teapot that orbits the sun. Let us also suppose that stories of the teapot have come down to us for many generations as one of the traditions of our own society and there are ancient holy texts about the teapot. In this case people would say that a person who did not believe in the teapot is eccentric or mad.

    There are infinite numbers of things like celestial teapots whose lack of existence we are unable to establish. There are fairies, for example, and there are unicorns and goblins. We cannot prove that any of these creatures of the imagination do not exist in reality. But we don’t believe they exist, just as we don’t believe that the gods of the Scandinavians, for example, have any true existence.

    We are all atheists about almost all of the gods created by societies in the past. Some of us, however, take the ultimate step of believing that the god of the Jews and the Christians, like the gods of the Greeks and the Egyptians, also does not exist.

    Now here’s a version of this text in Interlingua. (For more information about Interlingua, use a search enging to search on the title “Interlingua in interlingua” or go to http://www.interlingua.com.

    Le scientia es differente del religion. Illo non pretende que illo sape toto. Il ha etiam nunc questiones profunde sur le origines del universe al quales nos nunc non ha responsas ben que il es possible que nos potera responder a alicunes de illos in le futuro.

    Ma le incapacitate del scientia de provider responsas a iste questiones non proba que le fide religiose, le tradition, o un texto sancte e ancian pote responder a illos. Le scientia non pote probar que Deo non existe, ma isto non establi de ulle maniera que Deo existe. Il ha milliones de cosas cuje existentia non pote esser establite.

    Le philosopho Bertrand Russell habeva un analogia. Imagina que il ha un theiera in orbita circum le sol. Il es impossibile probar que le theiera non existe proque illo es troppo parve pro esser detegite per nostre telescopios. Nemo excepte un folle dicerea, “Multo ben, io es preparate a creder in le theiera proque io non pote establir que illo non existe.” Isto significa que forsan nos debe esser technicamente agnosticos, ma vermente nos es omnes atheistas sur theieras con orbitas circum le sol.

    Ma que nos nunc suppone que omnes in nostre societate includente nostre professores e le sagios de nostre tribos habeva fide in un theiera que orbita le sol. Que nos anque suppone que historias del theiera ha venite usque nos trans multe generationes como un del traditiones de nostre proprie societate e que il ha textos sancte ancian sur le theiera. In iste caso le gente dicerea que un persona qui non credeva in le theiera es eccentric o folle.

    Il ha numeros infinite de cosas como theieras celestial cuje manco de existentia nos non pote establir. Il ha fees, pro exemplo, e il ha unicornios e gnomos. Nos non pote probar que iste creaturas del imagination non existe in le realitate. Ma nos non crede que illos existe exactamente como nos non crede que le deos del Scandinavos, pro exemplo, ha ulle existential ver.

    Nos es omnes atheistas sur quasi omne le deos create per societates in le passato. Alicunes de nos tamen prende le ultime passo de creder que le deo del judaeos e del christianos, como le deos del grecos e le egyptianos, anque non existe.

  • 56. A Free Spirit  |  October 26, 2009 at 9:58 am

    A person wrote me to tell me that I was proffering mere opinion…as distinct from the facts of theologians. Interesting, huh? Well, I posted on the matter.

    Nice post!

  • 57. ghre4hui  |  November 9, 2010 at 1:12 am

    Why the fuck would anyone waste their time debating something so inane? This is basically giving credence to people whose views are nothing short of total crackpot idiocy. What next, debating evolution versus “goddidit”? Debating actual medicine versus “water has a memory”? Ugh.

  • 58. Paige  |  November 12, 2010 at 7:09 am

    #57 – why waste your time commenting?

  • 59. Micky  |  February 8, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Takamas, thank you, I did not mean to include the word ‘not’.If you know those three facts, on what gduonrs would you not expect evolution to happen? What is your objection exactly?I agree that you’ll learn the most about self-awareness by testing it, but the original question was to make sense of the existence of self-awareness without a supernatural force which again, to anyone who understands the theory of Evolution by natural selection and the survival advantages of an organism capable of modeling its environment, Professor Shallit’s paragraph is a fairly comprehensive answer. If your goal is to explain the origins of self-awareness without any assumptions, good luck. In fact, if you’d like to make any statement without some assumptions, good luck. Yes, Professor Shallit may have gotten his doctorate by hard work and brains, or by bribery, or by any of a number of alternative imaginative narratives. All such statements are ‘mights’ they’re all believed by rational people with weighting proportional to the evidence supporting or refuting them. Many years of reading Professor Shallit’s blog has given me the opinion that he is in fact very intelligent, and honest, and that like most people with doctorates in computer science, likely earned his status. But I don’t really know him at all, and I have no evidence that he didn’t cheat to earn his status I only make that assumption because to not do so is to add an extraneous requirement to the observation I am trying to explain.And sure, in reality Professor Shallit really did follow one of our hypothesized paths, and likely knows which one it was, but there is no way for me to know for certain which one it was, I just have to accept that fact and choose which one appears to be most consistent with the evidence I get on some level I simply trust him. If he gave me good reason to distrust him, I might revise these sorts of ideas, but the trend he’s shown over the time I’ve read would require substantial evidence before I’d begin to doubt him on that level.On some level this is true even of your own subjective experiences and memories exactly how something happened always carries an inherent uncertainty that cannot be completely resolved. It is an interesting philosophical discussion, and useful to think about when considering scientific conclusions, but it’s kind of over the top for talking about evolution. Again, evolution is about as likely to be overturned as the approximately spherical Earth model, not because of the simple stripped down arguments I’m making, but because of the mountains of evidence uncovered in labs and in the field.The assumptions I made as far as I can tell are that our radiometric and genetic research is reasonably mature “sound science”. (I suppose implicit is an assumption that reality exists in such a way that our senses can observe it with some threshold reliability.) Please let me know of any assumptions I am failing to pick up on.It is interesting that we can both perceive one another as lacking comprehension in these various important subjects as I should have remembered from the start, your comments seem to indicate you don’t understand evolution, but you say I am failing in rigor. I’m willing to hear you out on that, so I’d appreciate if you could elaborate on where you think my arguments in favor of evolution fall apart, and what assumptions you see that I’m overlooking. I think I can offer a near-bottomless well of patience in trying to understand one another.Getting back on topic: you disagree that Professor Shallit’s statement accounts for the origins of self-awareness, could you provide a hypothetical example of a statement that would account for the origins of self-awareness? (Evolutionary or otherwise.)

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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