God Evidence Background
May
30

Atheism and the Denial of the Soul

By: Scott Youngren


Spark of Genius
Profile of a man's head and a translucent brain with an inner glow

“You’re asking me to believe in sentient meat?”

“I’m not asking you, I’m telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in the sector and they’re made of meat.”

…“No brain?”

“Oh, there is a brain all right. It’s just that the brain is made out of meat.”

“So…what does the thinking?”

“You’re not understanding, are you? The brain does the thinking. The meat.”

“Thinking meat! You’re asking me to believe in thinking meat?!”

“Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you beginning to get the picture, or do I have to start all over?”

–The above is an excerpt from a short science fiction story by Terry Bisson, which UCLA Research Professor of Psychiatry Jeffrey M. Schwartz cites in his book The Mind & The Brain to humorously highlight the absurdity of the belief that we do not have an immaterial soul which exists independent of our brain.

—————-

I’m sorry to ruin your day, but if you are reading this, you are nothing but a mindless robot made of meat. How do I know this? Atheists told me so. (And, up to this point, you thought you were a person with a soul…HA!) What you refer to as “me” is really nothing but “a survival machine….a robot vehicle blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes,” in the words of the renowned atheist biologist Richard Dawkins from his book The Selfish Gene.

Atheism MUST deny the existence of the immaterial self (the soul) because if consciousness can exist independent of matter (referring, of course, to the matter that makes up the human brain), then there is no reason to disbelieve in an immaterial, disembodied conscious being such as God.

Regarding atheism’s denial of the existence of the human soul, philosophers Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro cite two of the most prominent atheist figures of the last 50 years in their book Naturalism…the astronomer Carl Sagan and the biologist Francis Crick. Sagan writes:

“I am a collection of water, calcium, and organic molecules called Carl Sagan. You are a collection of almost identical molecules with a different collective label. But is that all? Is there nothing in here but molecules? Some people find this idea somehow demeaning to human dignity. For myself, I find it elevating that our universe permits the evolution of molecular machines as intricate and subtle as we are. But the essence of life is not so much the atoms and simple molecules that make us up as the way in which they are put together.” (Sagan 1980, 105)

In a similar vein, Crick (as cited in Goetz and Taliaferro) writes:

“The Astonishing Hypothesis is that ‘You,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour or a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice [in Wonderland] may have phrased it: ‘You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.’ This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people alive today that it can be truly called astonishing.” (Crick 1994, 3).

But, if one stops to think, what is truly “astonishing” is that anyone could believe such nonsense. How can a “collection of water, calcium, and organic molecules” (in Sagan’s words) be an experiencer of an experience (or, put another way, the subject of a first-person, subjective experience)? Why would one arrangement of “water, calcium, and organic molecules” produce a first-person, subjective experience…whereas another such arrangement does not? Further how can “a pack of neurons” have a “sense of identity and free will” (in Crick’s words)?

The view that we are really just robots made of meat (with no free will) is known as determinism, since our behaviours are alleged to be pre-determined by natural laws. What bone-to-pick do atheists have with the existence of free will, thus causing them to endorse determinism? As I detail in my essay If the Evidence of God Is So Strong, Why Are So Many Smart People Unconvinced?, atheism is most often motivated by a distaste for the idea of having to answer to a higher power for one’s actions. What could be more comforting to persons with such a psychological motivation than the idea that one is not responsible for one’s actions, since one’s actions are pre-determined by natural laws?

But as Montreal Neurological Institute neuroscientist Mario Beauregard points out in his book The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul, determinism is impossible in light of the discoveries of modern physics:

 “There is a principle…called the Heisenberg Uncertainty (indeterminacy) principle. It says that subatomic particles do not occupy definite positions in space or time; we can find out where they are only as a series of probabilities about where they might be (we must decide what we want to know).”

“This area of physics, quantum physics, is the study of the behavior of matter energy at the subatomic level of our universe. Briefly, the synapses, the spaces between neurons of the brain, conduct signals using parts of atoms called ions. The ions function according to the rules of quantum physics, not of classical physics.”

“What difference does it make if quantum physics governs the brain? Well, one thing we can dispose of right away is determinism, the idea that everything in the universe has been or can be predetermined. The basic level of our universe is a cloud of probabilities, not of laws. In the human brain, this means that our brains are not driven to process a given decision; what we really experience is a ‘smear’ of possibilities. But how do we decide between them?”

UCLA Professor or Research Psychiatry Jeffrey M. Schwartz echoes Beauregard’s points about the impossibility of determinism in light of modern physics, in his book The Mind & The Brain:

 “Though you would hardly know it from the arguments of those who appeal to physics to assert that all mental phenomena can be reduced to the electrochemical activity of neurons, physics has progressed from its classical Newtonian form and found itself in the strange land of the quantum. Once, physics dealt only with tangible objects: planets, balls, molecules, and atoms. Today, in the form of quantum mechanics, it describes a very different world, one built out of what [University of California, Berkeley physicist Henry] Stapp calls ‘a new kind of stuff,’ with properties of both the physical and the mental.”

“…What we now know about quantum physics gives us reason to believe that conscious thoughts and volitions can, and do, play a powerful causal role in the world, including influencing the activity of the brain. Mind and matter, in other words, can interact.”

Schwartz’s above comments call attention to the fact that one of atheism’s worst nightmares has come true: Modern physics has demonstrated that consciousness (mind) DOES exist independent of matter, and that there is therefore no scientific basis for denying the existence of immaterial, conscious beings such as God and human souls. (Please read Henry Stapp’s book Mindful Universe, Johns Hopkins University physicist Richard Conn Henry’s article Mental Universe, and my essay God Is Real: Why Modern Physics Has Discredited Atheism for a more in-depth exploration of this topic).

Further, Stapp’s research has shown that, since mental activity precedes brain function, the mind and the brain cannot be said to be one-in-the-same. Rather, immaterial consciousness (the mind or soul) causes brain states. Schwartz notes how this conclusion dovetails neatly with his own research:

“In fact, Stapp’s work suggests that there is no fully defined brain state until attention is focused. That physical activity within the brain follows the focus of attention offers the clearest explanation to date of how my hypothesized mental force can alter brain activity. The choice made by a patient—or, indeed, anyone—causes one physical brain state to be activated rather than another. A century after the birth of quantum mechanics, it may at last be time to take seriously its most unsettling idea: that the observer and the way he directs his attention are intrinsic and unavoidable parts of reality.”

Philosopher J.P. Moreland lucidly comments on the absurdity of suggesting that a “collection of molecules” or a “pack of neurons” can be the experiencer of an experience (the first-person subject of a subjective experience) in his book The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why it Matters. (Moreland utilizes the term “physicalism” to refer to the belief that the mind and brain are one-in-the-same, and that therefore human beings do not have souls independent of the brain):

“Physicalists are committed to the claim that alleged mental entities—substances, properties, events/states—are really identical to physical entities, such as brain states, properties of the brain, overt bodily behavior, and dispositions to behave (for example, pain is just the tendency to shout ‘Ouch!’ when stuck by a pin, instead of pain being a certain mental feel of hurtfulness). If physicalism is true, then everything true of the brain (and its properties, states, and dispositions) is true of the mind (and its properties, states, and dispositions) and vice versa. If we can find one thing true, or even possibly true, of the mind and not of the brain, or vice versa, then dualism [a soul independent of the brain] is established. Then the mind or its properties and states is not the brain or its properties and states.”

Moreland continues by elaborating on specifically how the mind and brain cannot be the same since mental states are NOT identical with physical (brain) states:

 “Mental states are characterized by their intrinsic, subjective, inner, private, qualitative feel, made present to a subject by first-person introspection. For example, a pain is a certain felt hurtfulness. The intrinsic nature of mental states cannot be described by physical language, even if, through study of the brain, one can discover the causal/functional relations between mental and brain states. In general, mental states have some or all of the following features, none of which is a physical feature of anything: Mental states like pains have an intrinsic, raw, conscious feel. There is a ‘what-it-is-like’ to a pain. But there isn’t a similar ‘what-it-is-like’ to physical states like boiling at a certain temperature or existing as a liquid. Most, if not all, mental states have intentionality—they are of or about things. But no physical state is of or about something. A thunderstorm, for example, isn’t about or of anything.”

For the few remaining meatheads (pardon the pun) who stubbornly insist that immaterial conscious beings such as God and human souls do not exist, I conclude by citing the Harvard University neuroscientist Eben Alexander from his book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey to the Afterlife in which he encountered God after a brain infection caused the complete cessation of activity within his brain:

 “During my coma my brain wasn’t working improperly–it wasn’t working at all….In my case, the neocortex was out of the picture. I was encountering the reality of a world of consciousness that existed completely free of the limitations of my physical brain.” [italics are his]

“Mine was in some ways a perfect storm of near-death experiences. As a practicing neurosurgeon with decades of research and hands-on work in the operating room behind me, I was in a better-than-average position to judge not only the reality but also the implications of what happened to me.”

“Those implications are tremendous beyond description. My experience showed me that the death of the body and the brain are not the end of consciousness, that human experience continues beyond the grave. More important, it continues under the gaze of a God who loves and cares about each one of us and about where the universe itself and all the beings within it are ultimately going.”

9 thoughts on Atheism and the Denial of the Soul

    • Excellent article, but wanted to point out in Carl Sagan’s comment “For myself, I find it elevating that our universe permits the evolution of molecular machines as intricate and subtle as we are. But the essence of life is not so much the atoms and simple molecules that make us up as the way in which they are put together. Notice how he can’t help but hint at design “…our universe permits the evolution of molecular machines as intricate and subtle as we are.” The UNIVERSE PERMITS – they can’t even get away with invoking another intelligence, the act of permitting is not done by physics, its done by an intelligence. I have noticed these slips in many of their pseudo-scientific arguments against a GOD. How arrogant and narcissistic can you get? They know as scientists that they can’t disprove a God, yet they give personal philosophies out freely and attach it to their science…why?? Because they know they have a crappy hand of cards. Also, Richard Dawkins is not a scientist or philosopher in my mind, he would have made a great death camp coordinator, etc. But his books are fluff and simply an excuse to bash and humiliate believers – incredibly childish, and not at all the language of a Scientist.

  1. I’m not necessarily defending Crick and Sagan, but I’m pretty sure what they meant is that you’re a lot smaller than you think you are. I mean, for all your beliefs and experiences, (as Pink Floyd famously states) you’re just another brick in the wall.

    Take for example, yourself, Mr. Youngren. You wake up, go to work, and write this blog, enlightening people that God really exists. I support all of your arguments, and yet despite the fact that you and I are so different on life and philosophy, we’re just two humans out of 7 billion or so.

    I don’t deny the existence of the soul, I’m just saying that at the most basic level, we’re just tiny specks on a tiny speck of dust in a vast universe, and being able to experience it with a consciousness is both humbling and a gift.

    • Grayson,

      I have no objections whatsoever to the idea that we humans are cosmically insignificant. This view is entirely consistent with a biblical worldview. The Bible uses terms such as “dust” and “grass that withers away” to refer to humans.

      What Crick and Sagan are endorsing is something entirely different from the view that we are cosmically insignificant…another brick in the wall.

      Sagan, as cited in this essay, refers to humans as “molecular machines.” Crick, as cited in this essay, comes right out and says “You are nothing but a pack of neurons.”

      The most famous atheist of the current day, the Oxford University biologist Richard Dawkins, refers to a human being as, “a survival machine….a robot vehicle blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.”

      Being cosmically insignificant, on one hand, and being a machine without a soul or free will, on the other hand…are two vastly different concepts.

      Scott

  2. Quite a few errors in this article:

    1. Its true that most atheists think that nature (consisting of time, space, matter and energy) comes first. But the denial of soul is not a logical consequence of this. But, immaterial things can have their own existence, they are just static (don’t change over time).
    2. That it is impossible for a pure natural being to have a subjective point of view is logical very wrong. That I have a subjective point of view quite different from yours lie in the fact that I am not you – I see the world from a different point of view. Some knowledge depends on the point of the observer in space and time, and there can be only one at one point in spacetime. So I MUST have a different perspective, different experiences, a subjective view. It is clearly logical impossible not having a subjective view.
    3. All evidence points to the fact that our subjective view depends on the material state of the brain. Of course, from my own perspective, this looks quite different to me than to you. In this case mind and brain are not the same, and it is a logical error to conclude that therefore dualism must be true. It is like seeing a cube from two different perspectives and concluding that because we see them different they must be two different cubes.
    4. I’m an atheist AND an indeterminist at the same time. I think atheism might be easier to defend if you think that determinism is true. The evidence (quantum physics) points to an indeterministic universe, that is all I need. I could even argue that if god exists, determinism must be true, so if the universe is non-deterministic, god cannot exist. I won’t elaborate on that.
    5. None of your arguments is valid. Some of them are of the worst kind, that is, something must be true because the consequences would be bad otherwise. This is a delusional way of thinking. “I want free will because, otherwise, there would be no moral responsibility, therefore, free will exists”. You can argue even the opposite way: If there is free will, there will be no moral responsibility. Clearly, if you know anything about that debate, it is impossible to draw any definite conclusion whatsoever.

    I can’t see a single valid argument in this article, which is quite an achievement.

    • Volker,

      I will respond to your comments in the numerical fashion in which you have presented them:

      1) Are you an atheist who thinks that nature (consisting of time, space, matter and energy) came first? If so, I should point out that this is logically not possible. “Big Bang” cosmology has shown that the universe (including time, space, matter and energy) all emerged at the “Big Bang” about 13.8 billion years ago.

      The law of causation (without which, science would be impossible) dictates that everything with a beginning has a cause. Therefore, whatever caused (or began) the universe must be timeless, spaceless, immaterial, and energy-less. (I discuss this subject in Is There A God? What is the Chance that Our World is the Result of Chance?).

      None of these properties (time, space, matter, or energy) could have caused the universe, because they are all part of the universe. Nothing can cause itself. The only remaining property which could have caused the universe is mind.

      Physicist George Stanciu and philosopher Robert Augros explain this point lucidly in their book The New Story of Science:

      “In the New Story of science the whole universe–including matter, energy, space, and time–is a one-time event and had a definite beginning. But something must have always existed; for if ever absolutely nothing existed, then nothing would exist now, since nothing comes from nothing. The material universe cannot be the thing that always existed because matter had a beginning. It is 12 to 20 billion years old. This means that whatever has always existed is non-material. The only non-material reality seems to be mind. If mind is what has always existed, then matter must have been brought into existence by a mind that always was. This points to an intelligent, eternal being who created all things. Such a being is what we mean by the term God.”

      If fact, the view that the material world is the product of an eternally existent conscious mind (theism) is the view most consistent with modern physics, as I demonstrate in God Is Real…Why Modern Physics Has Discredited Atheism. A couple of citations from that essay (just to entice you to read it):

      Johns Hopkins University physicist Richard Conn Henry explains why people (such as atheist biologists) cling to materialism/naturalism despite the fact that it has been completely discredited by modern physics:

      “Why do people cling with such ferocity to belief in a mind-independent reality? It is surely because if there is no such reality, then ultimately (as far as we can know) mind alone exists. And if mind is not a product of real matter, but rather is the creator of the illusion of material reality (which has, in fact, despite the materialists, been known to be the case since the discovery of quantum mechanics in 1925), then a theistic view of our existence becomes the only rational alternative to solipsism.” ["Solipsism" is defined as "the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist."]

      The knighted mathematician, physicist and astronomer Sir James Jeans writes (in his book The Mysterious Universe):

      “There is a wide measure of agreement which, on the physical side of science approaches almost unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter. We are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail mind as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.” (Italics added by me).

      Please review the videos in the above mentioned essay in addition to reading the essay. The insights of the infamous double-slit experiment, for example, demonstrate that the material world is a construct of consciousness (mind). As Max Plank, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who founded quantum theory, put it:

      “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”

      Volker, if you are not one of the atheists who think that nature comes first, then what is your view? What timeless, spaceless, immaterial, and energyless property or entity caused the universe about 13.8 billion years ago? I am extremely curious to hear your reply.

      The denial of the soul is a logical consequence of materialism because, if mindless matter is the “ultimate reality” (or the something-from-which-everything-else-comes), then we have no explanation for consciousness (mind). There is no way to explain how rearrangements of mindless matter and/or energy can produce consciousness. Can you explain how rearrangements of mindless matter and/or energy can produce consciousness?

      2) You suggest that it is possible for “a pure natural being to have a subjective point of view.” (By “natural,” you apparently mean physical/material). Here, Volker, you have failed to respond to the points made by the philosopher J.P. Moreland (as cited in this essay). Mental entities are very different things than physical entities:

      “Physicalists are committed to the claim that alleged mental entities—substances, properties, events/states—are really identical to physical entities, such as brain states, properties of the brain, overt bodily behavior, and dispositions to behave (for example, pain is just the tendency to shout ‘Ouch!’ when stuck by a pin, instead of pain being a certain mental feel of hurtfulness). If physicalism is true, then everything true of the brain (and its properties, states, and dispositions) is true of the mind (and its properties, states, and dispositions) and vice versa. If we can find one thing true, or even possibly true, of the mind and not of the brain, or vice versa, then dualism [a soul independent of the brain] is established. Then the mind or its properties and states is not the brain or its properties and states.”

      Moreland continues by elaborating on specifically how the mind and brain cannot be the same since mental states are NOT identical with physical (brain) states:

      “Mental states are characterized by their intrinsic, subjective, inner, private, qualitative feel, made present to a subject by first-person introspection. For example, a pain is a certain felt hurtfulness. The intrinsic nature of mental states cannot be described by physical language, even if, through study of the brain, one can discover the causal/functional relations between mental and brain states. In general, mental states have some or all of the following features, none of which is a physical feature of anything: Mental states like pains have an intrinsic, raw, conscious feel. There is a ‘what-it-is-like’ to a pain. But there isn’t a similar ‘what-it-is-like’ to physical states like boiling at a certain temperature or existing as a liquid. Most, if not all, mental states have intentionality—they are of or about things. But no physical state is of or about something. A thunderstorm, for example, isn’t about or of anything.”

      Volker, please respond to these points. Do you believe that we are purely material/physical beings? How can a purely physical/material being have subjective experience? If you do not believe that we are purely material/physical beings, then what reason do you provide to disbelieve in immaterial conscious entities such as God and human souls?

      3) Here, Volker, you are attempting to make an argument by assertion. This is a logical fallacy. You assert that, “All evidence points to the fact that our subjective view depends on the material state of the brain,” without actually providing any evidence. Further, you have simultaneously failed to respond to the points made by J.P. Moreland which I cite above in #2…in the process of making this assertion.

      4) I am surprised to encounter a person who is an indeterminist and atheist simultaneously. If you are an indeterminist, then you believe that our actions are not pre-determined by the laws of nature which govern the interactions of matter and energy, within space and time. Therefore, whatever governs our actions must not be physical/material. And, if this is so, then what immaterial property or entity governs our actions…if not mind (or consciousness)?

      5) Here, Volker, you make a classic straw-man argument. You first misrepresent my view (“I want free will because, otherwise, there would be no moral responsibility, therefore, free will exists”), and then you proceed to attack this misrepresented caricature of my view. In other words, you build a straw-man and then attack it.

      I have made no such argument as you characterize it above. Free will exists because mind (consciousness) is a property completely separate from matter and energy. It is only if mind is the product of matter/energy that our actions can be pre-determined by the laws that govern the interactions of matter and energy. But, I am suggesting that mind is NOT the product of matter/energy. And, as I mention above, modern physics has demonstrated that (quite contrary to materialism, the matter/energy-first worldview), matter is the product of mind…not vice versa.

      Volker, when you use rhetorical language such as “I can’t see a single valid argument in this article, which is quite an achievement,” you have unwittingly revealed the emotional (as opposed to logical) basis for your atheist views. Emotionally laden rhetoric has no place in rational discourse.

      • Scott,

        you piled another load of false arguments on top of already false arguments. This can go on forever.

        Debunking such a lot of claims won’t be possible in a comment. As Vince Ebert said: “Mystics can make in five minutes more claims then a scientist can debunk in his entire life”.

        So I pick just one point out: Can something come from nothing? Can something exist without a cause?

        You contradicted yourself already on the last claim. God, an immaterial being, can of course exist without cause or origin. If it is the case that ghosts exist like time, space, matter and energy, of course. But they don’t exist. And, for example, we can make the case that numbers exist, timeless, eternal. Otherwise, the notion that there is ONE god must have been wrong at some time.

        Something that exists timeless, eternal cannot have a creator, do you agree? That’s just plain logical impossible. Which means, of course, that logic exists timeless and eternal. Otherwise, if god created logic – which is impossible – there must have been a time where god didn’t know about it, so he wasn’t always all-knowing. If he was, logic exists timeless eternal and was no creation of god, just knowledge he always had. And: Without logic, there were no rules like “something cannot come from nothing” or any other kind of rules. Which means, all of your claims are invalid if you don’t claim that an eternal timeless set of logic rules existed since forever, and that no one, not even god, can create something like logic.

        Do you agree so far?

        Now we come to the claim “nothing can exist without a cause or an origin” (I added the origin part). This, of course, means that “nothing that consists of matter (or energy, which really is the same as matter) can exist without cause or origin”.

        Now, what do we mean if we say “A caused B”? I think that most Christians never thought about that. We assert the following presuppositions if we say that “A caused B”:

        1. A must exist. If it doesn’t, this is logically identical to “nothing caused B”.
        2. B must exist (in the same space, at the same time). Otherwise, it is logical identical to “A caused nothing”.
        3. A must transfer energy to B to change its state. It presupposes the existence of energy, and therefore, matter.

        Nothing can be “caused to exist”. That’s just pure nonsense! All causation means is that some B changed its state because of some A. If Christians talk about “cause”, they mean that extra-special, not at any time observed “creation”. Causation isn’t creation. If you don’t separate these issues, you will get confused. Confusion is the mother of all gods.

        So we are down to “matter must have a creator”, or an origin. This can be the same, though that is not necessary. Creation out of nothing is that hand-waving magic that is ascribed to god.

        Have we ever observed that something was created out of nothing? Glad you asked – of course we have! See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_energy. This is called vacuum energy. It is very complex to explain, the article isn’t very good. We can observe that at any time, everywhere, matter pops into existence out of nowhere. And, because we can’t speak of causation in this case, it comes into existence UNCAUSED. This is not speculation or something like that, this is an observable phenomenon. See the link to the Casimir effect, for example, same article. This is due to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. It follows right from the mathematical equations. And because logic is the same as mathematics (Gödel proved that), these are timeless eternal laws. That’s just what the laws of nature are: from observation deduced descriptions of the behavior of nature, which are completely independent from the location of the observer in space and time. That is, the laws of nature are equally timeless and eternal and cannot have been created, for reasons I already mentioned.

        There is much more to that.

        If you claim “nothing can come from nothing”, try and define “nothing” without defining it out of existence. Most people will fail miserably on that, because … if there ever was nothing, this had quite a few attributes! For example: If there is no matter, there is no space and no time and no energy. That is a perfect symmetrical state. Like, say, the laws of nature are symmetrical. They describe how something behaves if everything is symmetrical (all existing matter is symmetrical, too). So, if there ever was nothing, every known law of nature can be used to describe what that state was like. You know, laws of nature are independent of any position of any observer in time and space? Which means, that ALL laws of nature have been valid, for every time, in every way, even if there is nothing else to describe. They are not dependent on the existence of something. Why? Because we made them work that way. Why is that possible? Because, nothing created matter. As it always does, that is called vacuum energy. There always was vacuum energy, there never was a state without this energy. Which means, that energy (and therefore matter) cannot have a cause – it never has! – nor an origin, nor an creator.

        And because we have energy out of nothing, everything exists.

        So, now, another related question: How much energy is in the universe? Because, you know, that energy that exists for a very limited period of time will evaporate into nothing very fast. A quantum fluctuation consists of very little energy over a very, very, very short period of time.

        So, where does all the energy came from? But, what energy? There is none at all! The energy of the universe is ZERO. The positive energy of matter is balanced to zero with the negative energy of gravitation. Plus or minus just that amount of energy that is allowed with quantum fluctuation. So, the universe contains the energy of just ONE quantum fluctuation.

        There never, ever was a state without that energy. Energy is timeless and eternal, and if you agree that god does not need a creator himself, then because he is claimed to be timeless and eternal. The same is true for matter. So, not only no god is needed, but if you define god as the creator of matter (and everything else, adding things to this doesn’t change anything), that creator clearly cannot exist.

        And now you know why I am an atheist AND indeterminist. Because, matter can exist without a cause, and this matter can influence the stuff we are made from – without a cause. Normally, because quantum fluctuations are short lived, this won’t do anything at all, but from time to time it does. Because there is no way to predict that, the universe is indeterministic.

        This is all standard physics. If you don’t believe that, you can look it up here:

        Stenger, Victor J. Not by Design : The Origin of the Universe. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1988.
        ———. The Comprehensible Cosmos : Where Do the Laws of Physics Come From? Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2006.
        ———. Timeless Reality : Symmetry, Simplicity, and Multiple Universes. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2000.

        Just for a start. Most Christians, of course, will stick to “I don’t know, I don’t care, I don’t comprehend that, therefore god”. I could go on, because I invented an argument against the existence of god that uses just a few of the concepts I explained. Short version: If there is no matter, there is no time. If you have time, matter must exist. If there was no time, god didn’t have time to create time. Therefore, a creator of matter cannot exist.

        • Volker,

          No, I have not contradicted myself. Something which exists eternally (God) does not require a cause. Something with a beginning (the universe), however, does require a cause. This is the law of causation, without which, science would be impossible. There is no contradiction.

          You write: “Have we ever observed that something was created out of nothing? Glad you asked – of course we have!”

          This preceding statement you have made highlights how you use equivocal language to support the logically incoherent stance that something can come from nothing.

          Despite what you apparently think, Dittmar, vacuum energy is something…it is not nothing. To suggest otherwise is an open-and-shut equivocation.

          The following is an excerpt from the book Come Let Us Reason by William Lane Craig, which highlights the absurdity of the idea that nothingness can cause something to happen or to exist:

          Imagine the following dialogue between two people discussing the Second World War:

          Person 1: “Nothing stopped the German advance from sweeping across Belgium.”

          Person 2: “Oh, that’s good. I’m glad they were stopped.”

          Person 1: “But they weren’t stopped!”

          Person 2: “But you said that nothing stopped them.”

          Person 1: “That’s right.”

          Person 2: “So they were stopped.”

          Person 1: “No, nothing stopped them.”

          Person 2: “That’s what I said. They were stopped, and it was nothing which stopped them.”

          Person 1: “No, no, I meant they weren’t stopped by anything.”

          Person 2: “Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place?”

          Volker, the specific equivocation which you commit is speaking of “nothing” and “vacuum energy” in equivocal terms.

          So, I will ask you in bold letters so that you do not evade the question: IS VACUUM ENERGY SOMETHING, OR IS IT NOTHING? I AM VERY EXTREMELY CURIOUS TO HERE YOUR REPLY!

          Regarding the atheist argument that the universe was created by nothing (whereas “nothing” actually refers to quantum vacuum energy), I highly recommend that you read this New York Times book review of A Universe from Nothing by the atheist physicist Lawrence Krauss. The review is written by the eminent physicist and philosopher of physics David Albert (from Columbia University). Krauss makes essentially the same argument for “something from nothing” made by Victor Stenger…the physicist which you cite.

          Regarding the argument made by you (and atheist physicists such as Stenger and Kruass) that “matter pops into existence out of nowhere. And, because we can’t speak of causation in this case, it comes into existence UNCAUSED,” Albert responds in the book review I linked to above:

          “Relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical vacuum states — no less than giraffes or refrigerators or solar systems — are particular arrangements of elementary physical stuff. The true relativistic-quantum-field-­theoretical equivalent to there not being any physical stuff at all isn’t this or that particular arrangement of the fields — what it is (obviously, and ineluctably, and on the contrary) is the simple absence of the fields! The fact that some arrangements of fields happen to correspond to the existence of particles and some don’t is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that some of the possible arrangements of my fingers happen to correspond to the existence of a fist and some don’t. And the fact that particles can pop in and out of existence, over time, as those fields rearrange themselves, is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that fists can pop in and out of existence, over time, as my fingers rearrange themselves. And none of these poppings — if you look at them aright — amount to anything even remotely in the neighborhood of a creation from nothing.”

          As Albert points out above, suggesting that “matter pops into existence out of nowhere” from a quantum vacuum state is EVERY BIT as ridiculous as saying that my fist “pops into existence from nowhere” when I close my fingers together.

          Next, Volker, you write: “There never, ever was a state without that energy. Energy is timeless and eternal, and if you agree that god does not need a creator himself, then because he is claimed to be timeless and eternal. The same is true for matter.”

          This is another patently false statement. Modern cosmology has very conclusively shown that the universe (including time, space, matter, and energy) originated at the cosmological event known as the Big Bang about 13.8 billion years ago. In my essay God is Real…Why Modern Physics Has Discredited Atheism, I cite physicist George Stanciu and philosopher Robert Augros in their book The New Story of Science, that further elucidates the above points:

          “In the New Story of science the whole universe–including matter, energy, space, and time–is a one-time event and had a definite beginning. But something must have always existed; for if ever absolutely nothing existed, then nothing would exist now, since nothing comes from nothing. The material universe cannot be the thing that always existed because matter had a beginning. It is 12 to 20 billion years old. This means that whatever has always existed is non-material. The only non-material reality seems to be mind. If mind is what has always existed, then matter must have been brought into existence by a mind that always was. This points to an intelligent, eternal being who created all things. Such a being is what we mean by the term God.”

          Similarly, the astronomer, physicist and founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies Robert Jastrow writes:

          “Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover…. That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”

          Volker, the debate between theism and atheism is really a debate about what is known in philosophy as “prime reality” or “ultimate reality.” Prime reality can be simply defined as “the something-from-which-everything-else-comes”. Theism takes the meta-scientific stance that mind (God’s mind) is the prime reality. Conversely, materialism or naturalism (in which atheism is rooted) takes the meta-scientific stance that matter and/or energy is the prime reality.

          As I demonstrate in my essay God is Real…Why Modern Physics Has Discredited Atheism, modern physics has conclusively demonstrated that mind (or consciousness) is the something-from-which-everything-else-comes. A citation from that essay (just to entice you to read it):

          Physicist Richard Conn Henry (from Johns Hopkins University) explains why atheists cling to materialism/naturalism despite the fact that it has been completely discredited by modern physics:

          “Why do people cling with such ferocity to belief in a mind-independent reality? It is surely because if there is no such reality, then ultimately (as far as we can know) mind alone exists. And if mind is not a product of real matter, but rather is the creator of the illusion of material reality (which has, in fact, despite the materialists, been known to be the case since the discovery of quantum mechanics in 1925), then a theistic view of our existence becomes the only rational alternative to solipsism.” ["Solipsism" is defined as "the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist."]

          But, let us ignore the fact that modern physics has debunked materialism/naturalism for a moment. Dittmar, if mindless matter (and/or energy) is the prime reality, then mindless matter must have creative attributes. Are you ascribing creative attributes to mindless matter?

          Mind (consciousness) has creative properties. Mindless matter (and/or energy) does not.

          Lastly, Volker, you write: “And now you know why I am an atheist AND indeterminist. Because, matter can exist without a cause, and this matter can influence the stuff we are made from – without a cause.”

          No, I am sorry, I do not know how you can be an atheist and an indeterminist. Since you are an indeterminist, you do not believe that the laws of physics (which govern the interactions of matter and energy) determine human actions. Then what is is that causes human actions…if it is neither the laws of physics (as with determinism) nor immaterial conscious volition?

          You suggest that “matter can influence the stuff we are made of — without a cause.” But you have not provided a causal mechanism that explains for human actions or human free will. Do we choose our own actions, or are they chosen for us by some sort of natural law or mechanism? And if we choose our own actions, then how do you explain away the existence of immaterial conscious beings such as human souls..and God? Conversely, if we DO NOT choose our own actions, then what is the natural law or mechanism that chooses our actions for us?

          This is unclear from your comments. Please clarify.

          Do our actions occur without a cause? If so, then you have discarded the Law of Causation, without which, science would be impossible. David Hume, who was one of the most influential atheist philosophers of all time, admitted his regret for (at one time) asserting that something could arise without a cause. Hume wrote, “I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that something could arise without a cause.”

    • You are so 1900′s with the brain, everything we perceive is inside our head, consciousness coming before the physical makes much more sense than your material point of view. The cutting edge research into that incredible mystery of consciousness is showing its could very well be a quantum computer. And bleeding edge physics is leaning toward a holographic type nature to the universe.. your arguments are old and tired and boring – every few hundred years the paradigm changes as we look out further or inward into the cell, we see unexplainable complexity and design. We spend Billions on SETI, and if we see the simplest repeating signals we say “Intelligence” even though it may be millions or hundreds of thousands of years ago. But you have the arrogance to look at DNA at the levels we know it now, error correcting, self healing, 3 dimensional code and immediately call it random ONLY to support your worldview, not science. It’s your mind that is trapping your mind. I look so very much forward to the complete collapse of neo-darwinism, because it is a sham built on inference after inference after guess, and it changes every day – it is not science as it set out to prove Darwin right – this is NOT science it is a Religion, and was forced down the publics throats in the name of atheism. You have had your say, time for real scientists that are not wishful thinkers to have there day…

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