Fairytales – belief or non-belief? 4


crabnebula.articleKashif is blogging once again and so I’m motivated today to respond to his latest posting on the HuffPo.

He is of course burdened by the deep need to promote a specific belief, and I in turn will simply examine his religious claim (briefly) to see if there is anything new on offer. Perhaps he has a new argument, or some actual evidence for his claims (hint: don’t hold your breath).

He starts as follows …

I recently wrote a blog post demonstrating no conflict exists between science and faith. The perceived conflict exists only in the minds of those who misunderstand one or the other. 

He might indeed assert that claim, but it really does not withstand any critical analysis. Clearly he can and does indeed cherry-pick vague poetical phrases out of context and crowbar in a claim within that other article that the Quran describes our modern understanding. If you read it yourself, then what you actually find are quite accurate reflections of ancient Mesopotamian creation myths. There is much that is poetical metaphor, but to then declare that these ancient myths do not conflict with our modern understanding is simply not factual.  The cosmology within the Quran is quite clearly a flat-earth one, and so taking vague metaphors and interpreting them to then claim no conflict truly does stretch any sense of credibility.

I was falsely accused of proselytizing and kicked out of a couple of the atheist forums I shared these views on.

… writes the guy who was promoting ancient religious texts as modern scientific truth.

So the meat of his latest article is this …

I start by posing a simple question. Think about a random chocolate bar. How do you think it came into being?

A. Through the help of an external force or agency. Isn’t that common sense? 
B. Magically appeared out of “nothing”. Ever watch Disney cartoons? 
C. It could either have come into existence through an external force or have appeared “out of thin air”. We can never be wholly sure since we did not witness the exact moment when the bar came into existence.

You know immediately of course that he is not actually talking about the “mysterious” appearance of chocolate bars, but rather is promoting a “god did it” religious claim …

What was the spark that triggered this Big Bang?

Was an external force or agency involved, or did we magically begin to exist out of “nothingness” by sheer chance? Or as in the question of the chocolate bar, would we never be sure since we did not witness this exact moment of our cosmic birth?

More relevant to this discussion, which is the real fairytale? Believing a force or agency must be involved (as is the rule with everything), or to insist in a magical birth “out of thin air” without an external influence. In other words, did the Universe come about ex-nihilo (out of nothing) “Disney cartoon” style or ex-nihilo through an agency?

OK, so let’s deploy the exact same logic to his “god did it claim”, and so using his own words …

I start by posing a simple question. Think about god. How do you think god came into being?

A. Through the help of an external force or agency. Isn’t that common sense?
B. Magically appeared out of “nothing”. Ever watch Disney cartoons?
C. God could either have come into existence through an external force or have appeared “out of thin air”. We can never be wholly sure since we did not witness the exact moment when god came into existence.

Impressed?

No, neither am I. He anticipates this and so does the usual religious thing …

cause-effect is a concept that only applies to space-time and the laws of physics

… and so the rule of cause-and-effect that he applied to claim “god did it” does not apply. Nope, that is called ‘special pleading‘, and so on the basis of exactly zero data, we end up with a convoluted belief. You can just as easily point out that if indeed the laws of cause and effect don’t apply to the embryonic singularity, then you can simply eliminate this entire layer of pointless religious complexity and do away with this god fantasy.

Shifting the Burden of Proof

He also does this …

This is the point where my atheist friends ask me to provide empirical evidence of such an outside agency. They probably don’t realize that the burden of proof lies on the one making an extraordinary claim, not the one assuming the obvious, based on scientific observation. Why should I have to prove that an external force was responsible for the existence of the chocolate bar just because I did not witness its coming into being?

Yes, you can roll your eyes now. Nope, sorry, the claimed “external agency” is his and so the burden of proof is also his, the default position is the null hypothesis and not magic. Attempting to dishonestly shift the burden of proof like this is another rather common religious ploy, so it is not really a surprise to find it in play.

He has a Stephen Hawking Quote

He points out …

even Stephen Hawking himself said:

“You cannot understand the glories of the universe without believing there is some Supreme Power behind it.”

Well … if indeed he wishes to appeal to Stephen Hawking as an authority, then he needs take into account the actual views of Stephen Hawking, and not a quote cherry-picked out of the context. A more honest reflection of the views of Mr Hawking would be this quote …

“Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.” – Stephen Hawking

So how exactly did the universe come into existence?

Out of nothing, or via an external force, or perhaps via some other alternative way beyond our current ability to comprehend?

The only viable honest answer is rather simple – We don’t know.

Neither does he; being religious he simply pretends that he does, but the reality is that he also does not actually know.


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4 thoughts on “Fairytales – belief or non-belief?

  • Chrispy

    Mmm actually you haven’t thought of the core of the argument. At its core the question is “Does matter transcend time?” (or, is matter timeless?).

    But it goes even deeper than that. Is time caused? The problem is that we see matter effected by time and time by matter (isn’t time really just a measurement of actions matter causes anyway?)

    And so if time is caused, than our starting point must transcend it.the deist theorizes that there is Something out there that has made these “boundaries”, so it’s logical that if this thing exists, it is the timeless, uncaused thing.”

    So the argument is more over “what is the first cause?” And “how was that thing there that made the first cause happen?” The question itself contains a something naturalism cannot rationally answer, and since matter doesn’t make sense, we theorize Something that transcends causes (which must be higher than matter)

    And it’s not special pleading unless the God theory really does face the same flaw as Naturalism in the Origins argument.

    I feel the naturalist does better to say “I don’t know, but I still believe there to be a natural cause we don’t know yet”
    Than to say “I don’t know but the God theory is out of the question”

    And actually yes there are secular scientists who believe in “Ex Nihlio”

    That’s like taking a Sunni stance on an issue and saying “All Muslims believe this”

    • Daniel

      //At its core the question is “Does matter transcend time?” (or, is matter timeless?)

      What does it even mean to say “transcends time” or “timeless”? What does it mean to say something exists timelessly? The concept of existence depends directly on time and space. We say something exists during a certain period of time and at a certain location. If you take time and space out of the concept of existence, you render the word meaningless. You can’t make sound arguments using meaningless statements.

      //Is time caused?

      What does it mean to say time is caused? Cause is defined as a relationship between two events in time where the first event is responsible for the occurence of the second. How can something happened before time, in time, so it will later cause time? How can something happen in the first place, if there is no time? And it wouldn’t happen “before”, since “before” is a concept within time, not outside of it. Again, it’s not that nothing happened before the Big Bang. It’s that “before the Big Bang” doesn’t exist. In the same way as It’s not that there is no Unicorn leaving north of the North Pole. It’s the north of the North Pole that doesn’t exist.

      //our starting point must transcend it

      Again with the transcendence. But the major problem is that there is no “starting point”. A boundary in space-time is not a starting point. It’s a point in space-time like any other. Just like the North Pole is a point in the surface of the Earth, just like any other point. But there is no north of the North Pole just as there is no past at the Big Bang. Once you reach the North Pole, you can only go south. Once you reach the Big Bang, you can only go to the future. In before you say “but you can reach the North Pole and go up”, in the analogy, that would be a direction in space, not in time: you would still be at the moment of the Big Bang, if you could go “up”, not before it.

      //so it’s logical that if this thing exists, it is the timeless, uncaused thing

      How can “logical” and “exists timeless” be in the same sentence? There is nothing logical in timeless existence, because it contradicts the very concept of existence.

      //what is the first cause?

      There will only be a first cause, if you make a special pleading. Period. Give me reason to make a special pleading, or else this is pointless.

      //how was that thing there that made the first cause happen?

      So the first cause has a cause? Once you get into the meaningless zone, contradicting yourself is very easy.

      //The question itself contains a something naturalism cannot rationally answer

      I’ll give you that. No rationality here.

      //and since matter doesn’t make sense, we theorize Something that transcends causes

      I think this sentence is in the dictionary entry for “argument from ignorance”. If not, it should be. I had never seen such an outstanding example of that argument.

      //And it’s not special pleading unless the God theory really does face the same flaw as Naturalism in the Origins argument.

      So it’s not special pleading if god is special? Also, you give god whatever power god needs to have so it will be untouchtable by reasoning. That’s called moving the goalpost.

      //“I don’t know but the God theory is out of the question”

      First of all, there is no “God Theory”. You have a hypothesis. We all have hypothesis here, not theories. Theory is something that has withstood empirical analysis and experiment. There is no empirical evidence or experiment to test this god hypothesis and, so ,unless someone can come up with some, it will never become a theory.

      Second, the god hypothesis is a bad hypothesis, because god is not a well-defined concept. You can’t hold on to an hypothesis if you don’t define it’s concepts. Going from “first cause” to “god” is a non-sequitur. And goind from god to the god you believe in, that’s a bigger non-sequitur. Come up with a well-defined, non contradiction definition of god, and we can discuss this hypothesis further. Otherwise it will keep on being dismissed.

      //And actually yes there are secular scientists who believe in “Ex Nihlio”

      I didn’t say there aren’t. I’d said “magically coming to being out of nothing” is a strawman because that’s not what the expression “the Universe came into being” means.

      But anyway, tell me which ones believe in ex nihilo? And don’t bring me a biologist, or a mathematician as a “scientist”. No, bring me a cosmologist, someone from the field. And show me their quote on the matter. I”m curious. I think you’ll probably find scientists saying this, but once again, see if they mean “magically coming to being out of nothing”, or something that is not magical at all.

      I would very much like to read someone say something meaningfull about ex-nihilo. All I ever heard was religious people saying their god made the Universe out of nothing with magic.

      Furthermore “believe” and “secular” are not words that go together well, so it seems to me you are making a “atheism is a belief” argument.

      //That’s like taking a Sunni stance on an issue and saying “All Muslims believe this”

      When did I make such a claim? I’ve never said that are no one who endorses ex-nihilo. Please, don’t strawman me. I wish you would quote people and comment on that quote instead of making loose claims like that.

  • Chrispy

    Mr Gamble the argument that if the universe cannot be “Ex Nihlio”, neither can God, is an overused and failed critique.

    The Deist makes no error. His explanation may use supernature while the Naturalist cannot. Just because a universe does not transcend perfect timeless self distinction does not mean a potential diety could not.

    In fact, to believe anything at all about the origins of the universe is a type of faith (whether you want to call that faith rational or probable). You do realize that should a “logical explanation” be given (such as universal expansion. I agree somewhat with the Big Bang just bear with me in reasoning here), than in the end there still is no “must be so”. (To state that without any belief is astronomically impossible)

    And that is why the “well…. You explain how God came to be” counter argument doesn’t actually hold any water, and why secular philosophers won’t touch it -_-

    • Daniel

      //Mr Gamble the argument that if the universe cannot be “Ex Nihlio”, neither can God

      That was not the argument. You are making a strawman.

      First of all, Mr. Kashif is making himself a strawman and a psychological projection when he states that there is an option for the Universe to ‘Magically appeared out of “nothing”‘.

      It’s a strawman because there is no such option. To say that the Universe came into being some 14 billion years ago does not mean it came out of nothing by magic. In reality, it means that the Universe has a boundary in time, just like a chocolate bar has a boundary in space at the tip of the bar. There is no moment when there was nothing an a moment later when there was a Universe. This is so because time itself began at the Big Bang. So it’s meaningless to say “before the Big Bang”, just as it’s meaningless to say “north of the North Pole”. There was no such thing as “nothing”. There was no transition between “nothing” and a Universe. Just as you don’t say that the chocolate bar came into being at its tip. So it’s simply strawmaning to say that’s the option.

      And it’s a psychological projection because it’s actually the claim “god did it” that needs magic to create an Universe out of nothing, not the other way around. It’s this claim that states that a magical being had the power to create a Universe where before there was nothing. ‘Magically appeared out of “nothing”‘ is his claim, not science’s. It shows how dishonest an argument that is.

      But going back to you, the argument is not that the Universe can’t be ex-nihilo and so god can’t either. That’s a misrepresentation of the argument. The point is that you can’t state that everything must follow some rule except the things that are convenient to you. That’s special pleading. If you are ready to accept that god doesn’t need a cause, then why not accept that the Universe doesn’t need a cause either? God might as well exist without a cause, that’s not the problem. The problem is if something can exist without a cause, like god itself, then the mere existence of the Universe doesn’t necessarily suggest the existence of a cause for it’s existence. And therefore the argument breaks: the correct answer to the claim “god created the Universe” is: maybe not.

      So unless there is good evidence to support this claim, the argument is unsound and plagued with falacies.