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Monday, July 16, 2012

The Unmoved Mover and Quantum Physics

There aren't many philosophically sound arguments for the existence of God. If there were, there'd be a lot more theists by now and a lot less of everything else.

However, Doug Benscoter, at Fides et Ratio, believes that the cosmological argument of the Unmoved Mover is not only sound, but is even consistent with modern physics.

His formulation of the argument is:

1. Evident to the senses is motion. (Premise)

2. Everything in motion has its motion sustained by another. (Premise)

3. Either an Unmoved Mover exists, or else there is an infinite regress of sustaining movers. (Implied by 1 and 2)

4. There cannot be an infinite regress of sustaining movers. (Premise)

5. Therefore, an Unmoved Mover exists. (From 3 and 4)

He then goes on to briefly address a few issues that may arise with the second premise and explains how objections can be resolved by rewording the premise. A full explanation can be found HERE.

The only other objection I could see being raised is to premise 4, only because it comes close to begging the question. If there cannot be an infinite regress, then there must be a First Cause. Why would we even bother with the other premises?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Evidence Against Young-Earth Creationism

I am a theist, and a Christian, but I am not a fan of believing in claims that appear to be more than demonstrably false. To believe in a claim that is proven false absolutely requires that the adherent willfully closes their mind to truth. If there is a God, then that is certainly not what he intended for us.

One of these claims which, in my uneducated opinion, is more than demonstrably false is Young-Earth Creationism (YEC). I don't mean to offend anyone who may believe in Young-Earth Creationism, but to my mind, I can't imagine why He would do that.

To create the Earth in one week, 6,000 years ago, would require pretty significant, and frequent, violations of known laws of physics. If He could accelerate the Creation process in such a way, then why did it take a week? If He is capable of performing such huge violations of the laws of physics, then why not just snap your fingers and have it all be there? I don't know that there is a coherent answer.

In addition, if He did create it in one week, 6,000 years ago, then why would He also create huge amounts of physical evidence that it took much longer? Literally everything in the universe, from coral and tree rings, to the time it takes starlight to reach us, testifies that the universe has been here for much more than 6,000 years.

The more insightful among you may say that He did that in order to mask his presence, such as in an old refutation to the Argument from Non-Belief. He needs only those who are prepared to know of His existence in order to protect the unprepared. But that doesn't quite fit. No matter how God created the Earth, He could have masked His existence. Old-Earth Creationism doesn't bring us any further to proving his existence. In fact, wouldn't Old-Earth Creationism be the more reasonable model, if He were trying to hide His influence, since it looks much more like the natural process?

A bigger problem is that if God did leave such evidence as fossils and such in order to throw us off, it would be closer to deception than masking his existence. In other words, it would not simply be the absence of positive evidence, it would be the presentation of negative evidence. God would be telling a lie, rather than simply not saying anything at all, and according to Christian canon, God cannot lie.

In other words, no matter how you choose to interpret the first few chapters of Genesis, it difficult to see Young-Earth Creationism as not conflicting with the rest of the Bible and how we conceive of God, in addition to simply leaving many, many questions unanswered, and contradicting the many signs to the contrary.

D Rizdek on Fine Tuning

A user over at Debunking Christianity, named D Rizdek, made a comment on the Fine-Tuning which was noteworthy enough to be made into it's own post. He said,
"Fine tuning only makes sense if there is no god. If there is no god, then it is quite remarkable that all the universal constants seem to be "just so" such that matter/energy comes together in atoms, then molecules, that gravity is "just right" so that planets and suns form that give off light that nurtures life, blah blah. But that's only remarkable if there's no god. But of course that indicates there's no god.  
If there IS a god, then it's all mundane. It's all arbitrary. Matter and energy can behave anyway this god wants it to. There need be no universal constants at all, or they can be ANYTHING this god desires, because,well, it's god. God can design things any it want's to. Life need not have a planet it live on IF god designed it otherwise. Matter/energy need not come together to form atoms, planets and stars. What would be the point if life doesn't need them. Besides, if god wanted atoms, planets or start, they'd just appear without any constants. Because that's what gods do. It's only after applying human limitations on god that one can use the argument from fine tuning. The reasoning is that because WE are limited in how we must interact with the immutable physical universe, somehow the theist becomes ingrained in thinking their god must also be thus limited. They believe he must come up with "just so" constants otherwise nothing would work."
Rizdek says that Fine-Tuning only works if there is no God because if there is no God, then it is remarkable that all these constants line up in a way that allows life to form. If there is a God, then it is not remarkable, it's to be expected.

I may be mistaken, but his argument seems to be:
  • If God exists, then the universe would allow life to exist.
  • The universe allows life to exist.
  • This isn't particularly impressive.
  • God does not exist.
In addition, the post that came from this comment stated that:
"The burden of proof would be on the theist to show why God would want to produce a world which was naturalistically sustained and so on rather than one supported supernaturalistically."
Here is a response to that:

Argument from Non-Belief

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dawkins, Darwin, and the Holocaust

In Richard Dawkins book, The Greatest Show on Earth, Dawkins write an exceedingly long footnote attempting to deny Hitler's connection to Darwin. This connection has long been used by Christians to assert the destructive potential of science, and to try to discredit the theory of evolution. Dawkins writes,
"The popular canard about Hitler being inspired by Darwin comes partly from the fact that both Hitler and Darwin were impressed by something that everybody has known for centuries: you can breed animals for desired qualities. Hitler aspired to turn this common knowledge to the human species. Darwin didn't. His inspiration took him in a much more interesting and original direction. Darwin's great insight was that you don't need a breeding agent at all: nature--raw survival or differential reproductive success--can play the role of the breeder. As for Hitler's 'Social Darwinism'--his belief in a struggle between races--that is actually very un-Darwinian. For Darwin, the struggle for existence was a struggle between individuals within a species, not between species, races or other groups. Don't be misled by the ill-chosen and unfortunate subtitle of Darwin's great book: The preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. It is abundantly clear from the text itself that Darwin didn't mean races in the sense of 'A group of people, animals, or plants, connected by common descent or origin' (Oxford English Dictionary, definition 6.1). Rather, he intended something more like the OED's definition 6.II: 'A group or class of people, animals, or things, having some common feature or features'. An example of sense 6.II would be 'All those individuals (regardless of their geographical race) who have blue eyes'. In the technical jargon of modern genetics, which was not available to Darwin, we would express the sense of 'race' in his subtitle as 'All those individuals who possess a certain allele.' The misunderstanding of the Darwinian struggle for existence as a struggle between groups of individuals--the so-called 'group selection' fallacy--is unfortunately not confined to Hilerian racism. It constantly resurfaces in amateur misinterpretations of Darwinism, and even among some professional biologists who should know better."
As a theist, and a Christian, I can tell you that, when it comes to Hitler's atrocities being inspired by the ideas of Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins as absolutely, undeniably correct.

Weren't expecting that, were you? That's right, Dawkins is correct. Hitler was not likely inspired by Darwin. However, in the quote above, Dawkins falls back on his old habit of dodging a question rather than answering in a way that actually resolves the issue. If I were to answer the question in an exceedingly long footnote, "Was Hitler's holocaust inspired by the writings of Darwin?" I would do it like this:
"The popular canard about Hitler being inspired by Darwin comes partly from the fact that Darwin's Origin of Species did have a link further back in the causal chain leading to the Holocaust. Darwin did inspire a few family members and friends, such as Charles Davenport, who became major proponents of eugenics and a major force behind its implementation in numerous countries. It is fairly well-known that Hitler and the Nazis were inspired by American policies in eugenics. Darwin inspired eugenics and eugenics inspired Hitler. Does this mean that Darwin inspired Hitler? Absolutely not. Eugenics was an unethical corruption of a scientific truth and is not at all what Darwin intended. It has little or nothing to do with Darwinian evolution by natural selection. The Holocaust was not the fault of science. If Christians are going to try to say that the Crusades are not the fault of Christianity because it was the result of a perversion of the doctrine, then they must apply the same reasoning here, or they are guilty of a double-standard. In addition, the Holocaust cannot be blamed on any single cause. As with all historically significant events, it was an extremely complex series of events which led up to it. The Holocaust likely would have happened regardless of what Darwin wrote, or whether he wrote anything at all. Saying that Darwin inspired the Holocaust shows an ignorant and short-sighted view of history. If Christians are going to try to say that 9/11 was not solely caused by religion, but was the culmination of many other forces, then they must apply the same reasoning here, or they are guilty of a double-standard. Darwin did not inspire Hitler or cause the Holocaust. The Holocaust cannot be blamed on science. Deal with it."

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Book of Mormon and Rev. 22:18

I sometimes hear it said, or see it written, that The Book of Mormon must be false because it is an addition to the Bible, and God has commanded us not to add to, or subtract from, the Bible. The Book of Mormon is an addition, therefore it must be false.

One of the main justifications for this claim is Revelation 22:18-19, which reads,
"For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."
John says that we are not to add to, or take away from, 'the book of this prophesy", or God will send plagues our way and remove us from the Book of Life.

But what does he refer to when he says, "the book of this prophesy?" It is commonly assumed that he refers to the Bible. The argument even depends on that assumption, but what is the Book of this Prophesy?

It is unlikely that it refers to the Bible, because the Bible didn't exist at that point. It is generally accepted that The Book of Revelation was written in about 95 AD. The Bible didn't exist until around the 4th century AD.When John speaks of "the book of this prophesy," he could not have been referring to The Bible. It didn't exist yet.

The only book in existence at the time of his writing, which contained "this prophesy" was the book he was writing, The Revelation.

This interpretation is further supported by the fact that this injunction against adding to the word of God had been given before. An often quoted instance is Deut. 12:32
"What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it."
If it were true that this referred to all of God's word, rather than the specific book or section in which it is found, then every sacred writing after this point would then be false. In attempting to disprove Mormonism, the argument effectively disproves Christianity and most of Judaism.

This command is also repeated in Proverbs 30:6, but if the injunction in Deuteronomy referred to the collected works up to that point, then this command, as well as the instance in Revelation, is also invalid because it an addition to scripture.

In addition, even the Bible seems to disagree with this interpretation. Among other things, Revelation describes to individuals in the Last Days who are specifically referred to as extra-biblical "prophets". Revelation 11:10 says,
"And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth."
If we apply the interpretation that revelation is finished, then we now have the Bible testifying of future prophets who will somehow prophesy without receiving the word of God. Prophets who don't prophesy.

The history of these churches also testifies that this interpretation is wrong. Early church fathers added to, and subtracted from, canon all the time. There is literally not a church in existence today which has not done it. Even the formation of the original Bible would have been a violation.

Scripture was added to collections previously recognized as the word of God countless times during the development of the Old Testament, and during the development of the New Testament. Church leaders and founders took existing, recognized canon and added whole books, or took books away. Clearly they did not interpret this as it is read today.

Critics of the Book of Mormon also sometimes say that the argument that the command refers to a specific book, or section of a book, rather than the Bible as a whole, still discredits Joseph Smith because his Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible did just that.

However, that reasoning clearly doesn't hold water because countless "true" Christians have come out with their own translations of the Bible, each of which has numerous alterations to the text, and yet none of these fall under this criticism.

The Book of Mormon cannot be criticized on the grounds of violating the warning in Rev. 22:18. If this criticism were valid, then most of the Bible would then be invalidated. In addition, the Bible clearly speaks of prophets other than those in the Bible, thus revelation must continue after Bible times, otherwise, the Bible is invalidated. Finally, numerous church fathers in history have added or omitted entire books from canon and modern Christians routinely make alterations without criticism.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Atheist Blogger Goes Catholic

Leah Libresco,
author of Unequally Yoked

Leah Libresco, author of the atheist blog Unequally Yoked, used to write about an atheistic view of ethics and religion. However, about two weeks ago, on June 18, she wrote a post called This is my last post for the Patheos Atheist Portal. In it, she announced that she aparently believes in God and intends, at least for the time being, to join the Catholic church.

She said that a debate with a friend led to realization that she believed  "that the Moral Law wasn’t just a Platonic truth, abstract and distant.  It turns out I actually believed it was some kind of Person, as well as Truth.  And there was one religion that seemed like the most promising way to reach back to that living Truth."

This realization was followed by "hugs and playing Mumford and Sons really, really loudly."

Libresco said that she met "smart Christians for the first time in college" and “was ready to cross-examine them,” but found there were “some big gaps in my defense of my own positions.” She used her blog as a way to seek out people who would ask the tough questions which would force her to refine her personal philosophy.

Regarding that blog, she wrote, "That left me with the question of what to do about my atheism blog.  My solution was to just not write anything I disagreed with." She then went on to explain that she has been writing with her new perspective for about a month and a half, so readers have already had a preview to the new content and material. This material is similar enough to her old work that it didn't quite cause a stir. Nevertheless, as of June 19, the blog moved to the Patheos Catholic channel.

Her final post on Patheos Atheist ended with a reassuring note.
"...Over all, I feel a bit like Valentine in this speech from Arcadia. 'It makes me so happy… A door like this has cracked open five or six times since we got up on our hind legs. It’s the best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong.'"
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