Take atheism for a test drive!

Posted on January 6, 2016 By

It’s time to take atheism for a test drive…a spin around the block!

Contrary to common atheist rhetoric, the Christian Bible encourages people to logically scrutinize everything, rather than to accept things based upon blind faith. As 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (in the Christian Bible) puts it, “Test all things; hold fast to that which is good.

And, as 1 Peter 3:15 puts it, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

The misperception that atheism is based upon logic, and that Christianity is based upon blind faith, is the result of a deceptive definition of faith. Specifically, atheists frequently portray Christian faith as blind faith, as opposed to well reasoned faith. Atheists try to shield their faith from logical scrutiny by portraying Christianity as blind faith, but atheism as non-faith. But this is just a smokescreen. As the Christian apologist and Oxford University mathematician John Lennox puts it:

“Faith is not a leap in the dark; it’s the exact opposite. It’s a commitment based on evidence… It is irrational to reduce all faith to blind faith and then subject it to ridicule. That provides a very anti-intellectual and convenient way of avoiding intelligent discussion.”

In fact, it is impossible to live without faith. It is just a question of what one chooses to place their faith in. For example, no person can know for certain that their employer will continue to provide a paycheck. And yet, the vast majority of people who have jobs continue to go to work based upon the well reasoned faith that their employers will continue to pay them. No person who fails to make this leap of faith will keep their job for very long.

Atheism is based upon the faith that everything can be explained in terms of matter….such as atoms and molecules. This is the philosophical view known as materialism. Conversely, theism is based upon the faith that everything can be explained in terms of a creative mind (God).*

The real world is the testing ground for worldviews

In order to determine which of these faiths is the more well reasoned faith, one needs to subject both faiths to some testing. And when it comes to testing worldviews, it is the real world which serves as the testing ground. 

As it turns out, materialism fails to explain several crucial aspects of reality:

If materialism is true, you don’t exist!

Philosophers Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro cite the concept of what constitutes a person held by two of the most prominent atheist figures of the last 50 years, the astronomer Carl Sagan and the biologist Francis Crick, in their book Naturalism. 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)

Crick (as cited in Goetz and Taliaferro) holds a virtually identical view of what constitutes a person:

“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 behavior 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).

Please note how Crick places the word You in quotation marks in order to highlight his belief that human persons do not really exist in any meaningful sense, because humans are really nothing more than complex bundles of matter. According to atheist biologist Richard Dawkins, 

“We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment.” 

But how could a “survival machine” determine truth? Making a truth judgement is a voluntary mental process, not a chemical or mechanical process such as digestion or a bodily reflex. Regarding this point, Nancy Pearcey writes in her book Finding Truth:

“Materialism reduces thinking to biochemical processes in the brain, akin to the chemical reactions in digestion. But digestion is not something that can be true or false. It is just a biological fact. If thinking is reduced to brain processes, then our ideas are not true or false either. But in that case, how can the materialist know that materialism is true? The philosophy is self-refuting.”

Materialism cannot explain private, first person experience

If one stops to think, what is truly astonishing is that anyone could accept a concept of human persons as absurd as that endorsed by atheists such as Crick, Sagan, and Dawkins. 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)? As Oxford University philosopher Colin McGinn deftly puts it:

“The problem with materialism is that it tries to construct the mind out of properties that refuse to add up to mentality.”

Michael Egnor elaborates on how it is absurd to suggest that a bundle of molecules can have a private, subjective experience:

“Restricted access means that I, and only I, experience my thoughts first-hand. I can choose to describe them to others, and others may be able to explain better than I some of the ramifications of my thoughts, but only I experience them. Even a lie-detector machine or a functional MRI doesn’t permit other people to experience my thoughts; they are merely material expressions of my brain activity, akin to speech. This is entirely unlike matter. I know the brain anatomy (matter) of my patients much better (usually) than they do. I know what their brains look like, whereas they have never actually seen them. Yet I have no first-hand experience of their thoughts, no matter how well I know their brain. We each have absolute restricted access to the experience of our own thoughts. Matter does not have this property, and therefore matter cannot be the entire cause of our thoughts.”

J.W. Wartick explains skillfully explains the absurdity of the belief that a material thing (a bundle of molecules) can add up to a person:

“On what basis can a materialist affirm that I, J.W., am the same subject now as I was 20 years ago? All my matter has been replaced. There is no material component of me which is the same as it was back then. Yet my experience tells me that I am the same subject.

How can materialists account for this?

One possibility is that they can simply point out that I am numerically identical to my past self. Although the individual pieces of matter which comprise me are not the same as they were 20 years ago, they were replaced only in portions, during which my body endured as a totality.

The difficulty with this scenario is that it only serves to underscore the problems with materialism. Imagine a mad scientist, who, over the course of a day, cuts my brain into 24 pieces. Each hour, he removes one piece of my brain and places it into another body, which has no brain. He simultaneously replaces the piece of brain with an exact molecular copy. After the day, there is a body which has my brain in it, and my body, which has a copy of my brain in it. Which is me? And, if that question can be answered on materialism (which I doubt), when did my body/brain cease being me and transfer to the other body/brain?

Materialism simply cannot answer these questions. The worldview is baffled by them. Yet in order for something to be a subject, it must endure through time. On materialism, I have not endured through time at all. My entire being–from my fingers to the hairs on my head to my brain–is material, and has been replaced by new material. Where am ‘I’”?

Philosopher J.P. Moreland explains how the mind cannot be explained as a lump of matter (the human brain), because mental states have several characteristics which are not shared by matter, in his book The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why It Matters:

(1) there is a raw qualitative feel or a “what it is like” to having a mental state such as a pain (e.g., we can easily tell a pain from a feeling of joy, since the two experiences are qualitatively different);

(2) many mental states have *intentionality—of-ness or about-ness directed towards an object (e.g., I can have a thought about a cat or of a lake);

(3) mental states are inner, private, and immediate to the subject having them;

(4) mental states require a subjective ontology—that is, mental states are necessarily owned by the first-person subjects who have them (only I can possess my thoughts; no one else can);

(5) mental states fail to have crucial features (e.g., spatial extension, location, being composed of parts) that characterize physical states and, in general, cannot be described using physical language (my thoughts have no physical dimensions, no physical location, and aren’t made of simpler building blocks).

Materialists cannot live as if materialism is true

Although they often declare otherwise, atheists clearly believe in objective morals such as “it is wrong to commit genocide” or “it is wrong commit rape.” An atheist may try to deny objective morality, but, for example, one would be hard pressed to find an atheist who doesn’t think that the statement, “I have the right to freely choose my own beliefs, rather than having them imposed upon me by a state sponsored church” is objectively true.  Philosopher William Lane Craig explains why materialism cannot account for morality:

“…if there isn’t any God to issue commandments to us, then why think that we have any moral duties? On the atheistic view, human being don’t seem to have any moral obligations to one another. For example, in the animal kingdom, if lion kills a zebra, it kills the zebra but it doesn’t murder the zebra. If a great white shark copulates forcibly with a female, it forcibly copulates with the female, but it doesn’t rape the female, for there is no moral dimension to these actions. None of these things is prohibited or commanded; they are neither forbidden nor obligatory. So if God doesn’t exist, why think that we have any moral obligations? Who or what imposes such prohibitions or obligations upon us? Where do they come from? It is hard to see why moral duties would be anything more than the illusory by-products of social and parental conditioning.

So, admittedly, certain actions like incest and rape have become taboo in the course of human evolution, but on atheism that does absolutely nothing to show that such actions are really wrong. Activity that looks like rape and incest goes on all the time in the animal kingdom. So the rapist who chooses to flout the herd morality is really on atheism doing nothing more than acting unfashionably; he is like the man who violates the social conventions by belching loudly at the dinner table. If there isn’t any moral law giver then there isn’t any moral law that imposes itself upon us.”

George Orwell coined the term “doublethink” in his novel Nineteen Eighty Four to describe the practice of accepting two contradictory beliefs as both correct. An article by faithdefenders.com elaborates on how materialists cannot live as if atheism is true, and therefore engage in what amounts to doublethink:

“Materialists cannot logically believe in ‘love,’ yet they fall in love and marry. They cannot believe in ‘mind,’ yet they cannot avoid using ‘mind’ terminology in their speech when referring to themselves or others. They believe that man is a random swarm of non-rational atoms no different than stones, yet they value people and relationships—they do not treat their children or mates as random atoms. What they say in the classroom is therefore contradicted by how they live in the home. They experience the mystery and beauty of this world and man while denying that such things exist.”

Materialism cannot account for truth itself

If nothing exists but inanimate matter, as atheism insists, then there can be no such thing as truth. This is because a truth is immaterial and abstract, not material. Material things like molecules and rocks can neither be true nor false. Philosopher Douglas Groothuis deftly explains:

“Materialism is the worldview of American elites, especially in education and the sciences. Materialism melts under scrutiny, however—just like the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz. Consider one reality it cannot explain: truth.

What is a statement in the philosophical sense? A statement affirms or denies something to be the case. John Coltrane played saxophone indicates a state or affairs; thus, it is a statement. However, Did John Coltrane play saxophone? is a question and not an affirmative statement. John Coltrane played the saxophone may be uttered in French or Arabic; it may be written in English or Albanian; it may be thought by you right now or by me right now; it could be communicated through sign language or through Morse Code. But how can the same idea be cognitively expressed in so many ways when those means of expression differ so dramatically? The sound of John Coltrane played saxophone in English is vastly different from that statement in Amharic [a language spoken in Ethiopia]. Nevertheless, all these acoustic blasts, inscriptions, and thoughts mean the same thing. How could that be?

The answer is that there is more to a statement than its physical or mental expression. Every statement affirms a proposition, which is the meaning of the statement. Only this reality of propositions can explain the unity of meaning in the diversity of forms of presentation. Since a proposition is not identical to any statement for which it is the meaning, propositions are not material, spatial objects. In fact, they are called abstract objects in the philosophical literature.

…Materialism cannot abide abstract objects, since they are not material.”

 Regarding this point, please also see R.P. Ritchies’s post titled The Single Best Argument Against Philosophical Materialism.

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*Stephen C. Meyer holds a PhD in the history and philosophy of science from Cambridge University. He explains this difference in faith (or worldview) between atheism and theism in his book Signature in the Cell:

“Since the time of the ancient Greeks, there have been two basic pictures of ultimate reality among Western intellectuals, what Germans call a Weltanschauung, or worldview. According to one worldview, mind is the primary or ultimate reality. On this view, material reality either issues from a preexisting mind, or it is shaped by a preexistent intelligence, or both…This view of reality is often called idealism to indicate that ideas come first and matter comes later. Theism is the version of idealism that holds that God is the source of the ideas that gave rise to and shaped the material world.”

“The opposite view holds that the physical universe or nature is the ultimate reality. In this view, either matter or energy (or both) are the things from which everything else comes. They are self-existent and do not need to be created or shaped by mind….In this view matter comes first, and conscious mind arrives on the scene much later and only then as a by-product of material processes and undirected evolutionary change. This worldview is called naturalism or materialism.”

 

 


20 comments


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    Matt Smith says:

    Just as the atheist doesn’t simply get to redefine Christianity for his or her convenience, neither does the theist have that option with regards atheism. There are various schools of thought in atheism just as there are within Christianity (Unitarianism vs Trinitarianism for example), and we have to be careful where we place the burden of proof, based on the specific claims being made.

    If I say, “I don’t believe in the Invisible Pink Unicorn”, do I have a burden of proof? What exactly do I have to prove – that the entity doesn’t exist, or that I hold a certain opinion with respect to that entity? In the former case, it might be possible to infer inductively that the entity does not likely exist, depending on its properties. Obviously, more information than its name would be necessary to do even this. But if the idea turned out to be logically coherent, how could you conclusively, scientifically that such an entity does not exist?

    You seem to be painting yourself into a corner whereby you’d have to prove that Odin, Allah, Krishna, Ra, Quetzalcoatl, The Dagda, Amaterasu, Karora, Mawu, Epona etc., all don’t exist. Indeed, if we include the Hindus in our list it could take you quite a while, since some claim they have about 320 million Gods. Are you quite sure that saying you don’t believe in those Gods is a meaningless statement? Are you quite sure that people we can define as atheists don’t say, “I don’t believe in any Gods”?


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 43 ) says:

      Matt,

      You are using very confused reasoning here. Specifically, you confuse and conflate God (the infinite being), on one hand, with limited human concepts of God, on the other hand. These are two vastly different things, and you commit a clear Fallacy of Equivocation when you speak of them in equivocal terms.

      Just to illustrate what the Fallacy of Equivocation means, below is an equivocation (from a joke by Groucho Marx) which uses two different definitions of the term institution in an equivocal fashion:

      “Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?”

      In the first usage of the term “institution,” the definition being used is “an established law or custom.” But, in the second usage, Marx is referring to a mental institution.

      You commit a Fallacy of Equivocation when you speak of human concepts of God as if they were the same thing as the infinite being. They are not the same thing:

      There can only be one infinite being just as there can only be one infinity. Think of it this way: Infinity times two (or infinity times 22, for that matter) still equals infinity. Yes, there are a multitude of different human concepts of God. However, this no more invalidates the reality of God than the existence of a multitude of different human concepts of what happened on the day of the JFK assassination invalidates the reality of the JFK assassination.

      So it is not so much a question of which God is the true God. A better way to phrase the question is, “Which human concept of God provides the best representation of God as God actually is?”

      You mention the Hindus. You might be surprised to hear me say that the Hindus got a lot right…. such as their belief in one supreme being and their belief that God is “beyond time, space, and causation and cannot be adequately portrayed by speech.”

      By the way, you refer to the Hindu “gods” (plural). But, like Christianity and Judaism, Hinduism is actually monotheistic. Please read this article to see what I mean. Key excerpt:

      “But in reality Hinduism is monotheistic. As it says, it is only one god who has manifested and taken many forms like one body with many different parts. Each part plays its own role though it is part of one supreme being. All the little Gods in Hinduism are representations of one Supreme God.”

      “In short, Hinduism is monotheistic, with one supreme being. One cannot really describe this supreme being because as it has no form, it is beyond time, space, and causation and cannot be adequately portrayed by speech. God is neither male of female, or is both and beyond.”

      Regarding polytheistic belief systems such as Shinto and ancient Greek and Norse mythology (and polytheistic gods such as Odin, Krishna, Ra, Quetzalcoatl, The Dagda, Amaterasu, Karora, Mawu, Epona etc.,) Nancy Pearcey writes in her book Finding Truth:

      “…in polytheism, the personal gods and goddesses are not the ultimate reality because they derive from some pre-existing primordial substance— and that is what actually functions as the divine (even if the term is not used).

      For example, in ancient Greek mythology where did the gods come from? The essential story line is that the universe began as a divine primeval substance called chaos— an undefined, unbounded nothingness. Out of this initial state arose the first gods. The earth goddess (Gaia) mated with the sky god (Uranus) to produce the Titans, and from the mating of two Titans came the gods of Mount Olympus— Zeus, Apollo, Athena, Poseidon, and all the rest.”

      Under polytheistic belief systems, the universe produces the gods and not vice-versa. Therefore, comparing monotheistic concepts of God (the infinite being who is the ground of everything) with polytheistic gods (which are the product, rather than the cause of the universe) is uninformed and confused reasoning.


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        Matt Smith says:

        Hi Scott,

        I made a couple of points in my previous post which you seem to have skipped in order to discuss a relatively unimportant (in terms of the argument) issue. I know almost nothing about the Hindu Gods and don’t pretend to, all I said was that ‘some claim they have 320 million Gods’, which is something easy to verify. Those people may be mistaken or they may not, I’d have to check with a few experts on that.

        The point was this: there are a lot of other God claims, are you saying they can all be dismissed as ‘polytheistic belief systems’? I know for certain that is not a fact. For one thing, other cultures in history have or have had monotheistic ideas. For another, some of these polytheistic beliefs can indeed be compared to Christianity in the sense that they do include one ‘creator God’ who preceded the rest of the pantheon. Besides, in the Christian tradition (depending on who you ask) in a sense there are three Gods, albeit they are somehow also ‘one and the same entity’, or something of that nature. Where’s the equivocation?

        Do you concede that my other points as follows:

        1) Atheism naturally includes those who simply claim no belief in God or Gods

        2) The burden of proof does not lie with the ‘Invisible Pink Unicorn unbeliever’

        are valid?


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          Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 43 ) says:

          Matt,

          The Fallacy of Equivocation in your last comment was very clear. Your comment confused and conflated human concepts of God, on the one hand, with the infinite being (God), on the other hand. You seem to be arguing that lack of belief in the various human concepts of God provides a rational ground for rejecting belief in God. This would be like arguing that lack of belief in the various human concepts of what happened on the day of the JFK assassination provides rational ground for rejecting belief that the JFK assassination happened. Your reasoning is patently fallacious.

          Am I misrepresenting your argument? If so, I apologize, and I ask that you clarify the argument that you made in your previous comment.

          A non-belief can neither be true nor false. If your atheism is merely a non-belief in God, then it can neither be true nor false. Only truth claims such as, “There is no such thing as God” can be true or false. And all truth claims require evidence and rational arguments to support them.

          Andy Bannister humorously highlights the absurdity of the idea that atheism does not need to be defended because it is merely a “non-belief” by telling a story about a guy who denies the existence of the nation of Sweden:

          “You think that my denial of Sweden is an actual claim of some kind, that it’s a belief. But it isn’t. It’s a non-belief. There’s nothing I need to explain – rather, I’m talking about something I lack, namely a belief in Sweden, so I don’t need to give any evidence for it.”

          “Come again?” I said. “Yes,” he continued, warming to his theme, “I don’t have to provide evidence for my non-belief in Atlantis, El Dorado, Shangri-La or the Customer Support Department at American Airlines, and nor need I for my non-belief in Sweden. I’m not making a claim of any kind – in fact, quite the opposite: I’m claiming nothing. I’m merely rejecting one of your beliefs, your belief in Sweden.”

          The point is that all truth claims (including atheism) need to be logically defended…even the ones that portray themselves as merely “non-belief.” And if atheism is not a truth claim, then it cannot be true or false. Andy Bannister continues:

          The problem is that only beliefs or claims can be true or false. For example, it makes perfect sense to ask whether a statement such as “It is raining today” or “The Maple Leafs lost at hockey again” are true. Those are claims, they are beliefs, and they have what philosophers call a “truth value”. They are either true or false.

          On the other hand, it is utterly meaningless to ask whether the color blue, a small off-duty Slovakian traffic warden, or Richard Dawkins’s left foot is “true”. That would be a bizarre category error. These things are not claims or beliefs and thus do not possess any kind of truth value. They simply are.

          So what about atheism? Well, as far as I can make out, I think my atheist friends are claiming that their belief is true; that they really, really believe it to be true that there is no God. Well, if that’s the case, then it makes atheism a positive claim and claims must be defended, evidence martialled, and reasons given. Otherwise, if atheism is not a claim, it cannot be true or false. It simply is, and to say “I am an atheist” is up there with saying “Wibble, wibble, wibble”.

          If the statement, “There is no God” is not a truth claim, than it cannot be true. Something which is not a truth claim cannot be true (or false).

          Comparing belief in God to belief in an “invisible pink unicorn” is the logical fallacy of assuming what you intend to prove. Whoever (or whatever) created the universe created space, matter, energy, and time. Since nothing can cause itself, the cause of the universe must be spaceless, timeless, without matter, and energy-less. An invisible pink unicorn is not such a cause.

          I’m glad you brought up unicorns. Bo Jinn writes in Illogical Atheism:

          It is not enough to refuse the evidence given in support of the hypothesis, the atheist must substitute a hypothesis of his own and give evidence for it as well. To illustrate this point, let us assume the case of an atheist favorite; the unicorn:  

          …The myth of the unicorn first came about when ancient nomadic people of Europe discovered strange objects washed up along their shores. These objects were long, pointed, conical and had the weight and texture of bone. So, the nomads inferred that they must have been the horn of some kind of animal. The only animals they knew of with horns were land animals like the antelope and the elk. But these horns looked like they could not belong to either. The ancient nomads would have proposed the best possible explanation for what animal the horns might have belonged to by observing their own surroundings and reasoning things out.

          So, they concluded that the best explanation was that the horns must have belonged to a large and powerful species of horse that roamed some far away land. If one considers the position of the ancient nomad, one might appreciate that this is hardly an illogical explanation. A horse was a land creature, it was large enough and strong enough to bare the weight of the big horn and since the horns were found washed up on shore one may assume the nomads would have thought that these large horses died at sea, their bodies were devoured by sea beasts and that the horns floated to their coastal waters. And that is how the myth of the unicorn came about.  

          Now, it is entirely beside the point whether this theory is actually true or not. We only need notice two things:   First; the unicorn was not thought up randomly by the nomads to fulfill some secret natural inclination to believe in mythological creatures. The unicorn was an explanatory hypothesis for a set of facts. Secondly, the unicorn hypothesis was not refuted simply by saying “I need more evidence that these unicorns exist.” Rather, the unicorn hypothesis was refuted, because many years later it was discovered that the horns were not horns, but tusks; belonging to a small whale we know today as the ‘narwhal’. The more evidence was brought against the unicorn hypothesis, the more the unicorn myth faded into obscurity. Notice, also, that the nomads were not completely wrong with their hypothesis. The horns did belong to an animal, also a mammal, which died at sea, just as they had thought! It just so happens that the animal was not precisely the kind of animal they had imagined.  

          Rational intuition never completely succeeds, but it seldom completely fails either. The point of the metaphor is that atheists have yet to find their narwhal. They do not have a substitute explanation for the existence of the universe which removes from any of the attributes by which theists have traditionally come to understand God. There has been no evidence that some other possible explanation exists.  

          But it gets even worse than that. Atheists are not only claiming that the unicorn does not exist, they are saying that nothing at all like the unicorn exists and that in fact the horns require no explanation at all! The only two alternatives left to atheism are the most bizarre explanations one could imagine: “The horns popped out of nothing” and/ or “The horns were there from eternity.” Now, if you were an ancient nomad and one of your fellow tribesmen came along and suggested these two possibilities, you would likely think that he had lost his mind. And you would be justified in doing so, for the reason that we simply have no examples in nature or our immediate experience of anything existing eternally, or popping into existence out of nothing. To concede this would be to acknowledge the possibility of something more incredible than a miracle.


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            Matt Smith says:

            Hi Scott,

            I find it incredible that a theist would categorise the two hypotheses, “The horns popped out of nothing” and/ or “The horns were there from eternity” as “the most bizarre explanations one could imagine”, since almost these two exact arguments are used in support of certain popular deities. The difference being, of course, that the horns in question are actual physical, visible horns, and therefore it does perhaps make more sense to be arguing over their origin than an invisible, immaterial being.

            Something else which caught my eye in your last message was, “Comparing belief in God to belief in an “invisible pink unicorn” is the logical fallacy of assuming what you intend to prove.” Whoever (or whatever) created the universe created space, matter, energy, and time. Since nothing can [I assume you meant cannot] cause itself, the cause of the universe must be spaceless, timeless, without matter, and energy-less. An invisible pink unicorn is not such a cause.”

            Firstly, what have I assumed? You keep accusing me of different logical fallacies, but not quite nailing any examples down. What exactly have I assumed in my comparison? How would you know what properties an Invisible Pink Unicorn would have? You have made two more deeply flawed assumptions:

            a) The Universe has a cause
            b) Something spaceless, timeless, without matter, and energy-less can exist

            For myself, I can’t really see the difference between your ‘something’ in b) and what others would call ‘nothing’. Is there any difference you can elucidate?

            You’ve also strawmanned my position yet again when you imply I said, “There is no God.” I did not say that, and would agree it’s a truth claim. My position, and that of all the atheists I’ve spoken to (not to say that means ALL atheists) is to say “I lack belief in any Gods”. If they do exist, and you wish to convince the non-believer, the burden of proof is on you. To those who disagree with that I’d say, assuming they are rational people: provide me with the proof that the Invisible Pink Unicorn does not exist, then and only then, I’ll disprove your God.

            (To be fair, the Invisible Pink Unicorn has not really been well-defined. It’s much easier a task to disprove specific God claims. Then again, many theists are not all that fair in their argumentation. Case in point is this exchange. ‘Fairness’ as far as I can see would be honestly representing the opposing argument prior to arguing against it.)


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              Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 43 ) says:

              Matt,

              Let’s look at what you consider two “deeply flawed assumptions”:

              a) The Universe has a cause

              Everything with a beginning requires a cause. This is the Law of Causation, without which, science would be impossible. Physicist George Stanciu and philosopher Robert Augros provide an excellent nutshell explanation of why the atheistic worldview is not scientifically or philosophically supportable 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.”

              b) Something spaceless, timeless, without matter, and energy-less can exist

              Here, you make an utterly transparent truth claim which betrays the fact that your stance is not merely a “lack of belief,” as you try to deceptively characterize it. Specifically, you are making the truth claim that something beyond time, space, matter and energy cannot exist.

              Matt, there are some very easily recognizable examples of things which are not comprised of matter and/or energy and exist outside of space and time. Concepts for example, are immaterial, spaceless, energyless, and timeless.

              Take for example, a mathematical concept such as the number seven. There are various material representations of the number seven, such as if you were to write it on a piece of paper, but the number seven is a mathematical concept that exists independent of any physical representations we could make of it.

              Further, modern physics has conclusively demonstrated that the material world does not even exist independent of an immaterial conscious mind. Max Planck, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who founded quantum physics writes:

              “As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”

              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 are mine)

              I highly recommend that you read my essay titled God Is Real…Why Modern Physics Has Discredited Atheism to deepen your understanding of this subject matter. A final citation from that essay:

              Physicist Richard Conn Henry from Johns Hopkins University 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.”]

              You say that you are not arguing that God does not exist, and that your stance is merely that you “lack belief in any Gods.” I don’t think that you are fooling anybody with this, Matt, and it would be very advisable to drop this stance. One does not come to a website and post comments in order to promote a “lack of belief” in something, because a lack of belief can be neither true nor false.

              Lack of belief that God created the universe, for example, can only come from the vantage point of some other belief about why the universe exists (it popped out of nothing without a cause, it is eternal, etc…).

              You are trying to protect your stance from rational scrutiny by concealing it behind the disguise of “lack of belief,” but a “lack of belief” is not a stance because it cannot be true or false. It is precisely because your stance cannot withstand logical scrutiny that you try to disguise it behind the mask of “lack of belief in any Gods.”

              If you are not making a truth claim, then what are you doing at this website arguing, for example, that something beyond space, time, matter, and energy cannot exist?! You are clearly making a positive set of truth claims and then trying to disguise your truth claims behind the mask of “I merely lack belief in any Gods.” I assure you that absolutely nobody is fooled by this.

              Again, a “lack of belief” can neither be true nor false, just as the chair you are sitting in can neither be true nor false. Only a truth claim can be true or false. It is impossible to make an argument in support of something that can be neither true nor false. You are committing a bizarre category error by trying to characterize your stance as a mere “lack of belief in any Gods.”

              Further, again, you betray the fallacy of your “lack of belief” characterization by trying to make a positive claim that something immaterial (etc.) can exist….even though modern physics has conclusively proven your stance to be wrong.

              If you would like to make an argument that an Invisible Pink Unicorn created the universe, then please go ahead and do so. But, I’m sorry, I have to call attention to another logical fallacy you have committed: The logical fallacy of Appeal to Ridicule (reductio ad ridiculum).

              An excerpt from the above link about the logical fallacy of Appeal to Ridicule:

              Appeal to Ridicule

              (also known as: appeal to mockery, the horse laugh)

              Description: Presenting the argument in such a way that makes the argument look ridiculous, usually by misrepresenting the argument or the use of exaggeration.

              Logical Form:

              Person 1 claims that X is true.
              Person 2 makes X look ridiculous, by misrepresenting X.
              Therefore, X is false.
              Example #1:

              It takes faith to believe in God just like it takes faith to believe in the Easter bunny — but at least the Easter bunny is based on a creature that actually exists!

              Explanation: Comparing the belief in God to belief in the Easter bunny is an attempt at ridicule, and not a good argument. In fact, this type of fallacy usually shows desperation in the one committing the fallacy.

              Matt, you have used “Invisible Pink Unicorn” in place of the Easter Bunny in your reductio ad ridiculum logical fallacy.


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                Matt Smith says:

                Hi Scott,

                I really must insist that – assuming you wish to have a sensible discussion – you should read what I’ve said and address that, as opposed to a blatant misrepresentation of my points.

                With regards to my points a) and b) you’re attempting to argue against, you should really have noticed the wording (which indeed you quoted correctly). What I was saying was, regardless of the truth or otherwise of these claims, they are ‘flawed assumptions’. Said another way: it is a flaw to assume them!

                I did not claim the statements themselves were either true nor false, merely that one shouldn’t simply assume either being the case.

                Let’s take a) first. Why should we not simply assume the Universe has a cause? You say, “Everything which has a beginning has a cause”. To start with, that assumes the Universe is a ‘thing’. On closer examination that doesn’t appear a fair assumption. A man, a tree, a car, a banana, a computer :- these are ‘things’ that exist within the Universe. Can we automatically, without justification, place ‘The Universe’ in this list of other ‘things’?

                All those other ‘things’ indeed have causes – material causes. Some would argue the case that all things for which we currently have a good explanation, indeed have material causes. These things, existing within the Universe, have causes within time. Your other flawed assumption, if time presumably began at the ‘beginning’ of the Universe, is that the word ’cause’ can be correctly applied to something occurring ‘outside time’. It also assumes that events can actually be said to ‘occur’ without time.

                On to b) now. Remember, I did not make a truth claim here, except to point out that merely assuming the truth or falsehood of the statement itself would constitute flawed reasoning. I do think you are mistaken when you say concepts exist outside of space, time and material etc. Concepts certainly exist within minds which, as far as we know, only exist within the material Universe. The things those concepts refer to, like the concept of ‘seven-ness’ for example, also exist in the material world.

                You may have noticed I don’t address a lot of the material in your responses, the simple reason being that you are committing the fallacy of argument from authority in some cases, and are quote mining in others. As if Dawkins actually acknowledges that DNA had to have been created by an intelligence! I suggest that if his opinion were relevant, we should look at what his actual arguments are, rather than just misrepresenting them.

                Now, not all atheists are scientists, indeed I’m not, so I’m not a recognised authority on all the issues we’ve discussed. However, I do have a science degree or two, one specifically being in Physics and Astronomy, so if you find your own style of argumentation and reasoning to be acceptable, I’m sure I could ‘prove’ to you that your assertion that, “…modern physics has conclusively demonstrated that the material world does not even exist independent of an immaterial conscious mind.” is false.

                Finally, I’d like to point out another flaw in your reasoning throughout our discussion, the idea that simple ‘lack of belief’ could cause a person to do (or not do perhaps) anything. During summer, I need to wear sun block most days. I do not believe that during winter, the sun’s rays will be intense enough to necessitate wearing any protection. When walking in the forest, I often pass a stream from which I drink. I do not believe the stream is polluted, so therefore I do not process the water – instead I just drink it directly upon collection. I do not believe in spirits of any kind, so I don’t take any superstitious precautions when walking near the cemetery at night. I also do not chose the words I use based on the idea of offending or praising any particular Gods. Do I need to provide more examples? There are plenty more!

                Your objection to the Invisible Pink Unicorn, which I find rather useful, is a textbook example of the ‘fallacy fallacy’, or argument from fallacy, which is the formal fallacy of analysing an argument and inferring that, since it contains a fallacy, its conclusion must be false. Let’s be honest here, when discussing concepts which are themselves a bit ridiculous, it’s hard to completely avoid a little bit of ridicule now and then.


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                  Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 43 ) says:

                  Matt,

                  Time, space, matter, and energy all came into existence at “the Big Bang”? Are you denying this? The universe has only existed for a finite amount of time.

                  No, the cause of the material universe cannot be a material cause…that is precisely one of my points. But to suggest that something requires no cause whatsoever because it cannot have a material cause is a complete non sequitur (does not follow). You are committing circular reasoning here. Below is a layout of your circular reasoning:

                  Premise 1) All that exists is the material universe.
                  Premise 2) Therefore, all causes are material causes.
                  Premise 3) Therefore, anything without a material cause has no cause whatsoever.
                  Premise 4) Therefore, the material universe exists without a cause independent of the material universe.
                  Conclusion: All that exists is material universe.

                  Matt, even the extremely prominent atheist philosopher David Hume admitted that he regretted making the claim that something can begin to exist without a cause. Hume wrote, “But allow me to tell you that I never asserted so absurd a Proposition as that that anything might arise without a cause.”

                  Every time you try to claim that my arguments are wrong, you just keep digging yourself into a deeper hole by continuing to assert that your stance is merely a “lack of belief in any gods” and that your stance does not contain any truth claims. It it completely transparent that what you have is really an alternate set of beliefs, and not a mere “lack of belief in any gods.”

                  For example, is your argument that it is not accurate to characterize the universe as a “thing” not a truth claim? This is not only a truth claim, but it is a bizarre truth claim. Is your stance that concepts cannot exist independent of matter not a truth claim? Who do you think you are fooling by continuing to suggest that your stance is merely a non-belief?

                  Modern physics conclusively shows that material things cannot even exist without a conscious observer. You can see this by reviewing the famous double slit experiment (click here). Physicist Amit Goswami writes:

                  “First let’s discuss how the idea that consciousness is the ground of being is forced upon us by quantum physics. Take the idea that conscious choice affects the quantum possibility wave of an object by collapsing it into an actual event of our experience, into a “particle,” so to speak. This idea seems dualistic at first. Why? Because consciousness has to be nonmaterial to effect collapse. To see this, suppose, as materialist biologists believe, that consciousness is a brain epiphenomenon. But undoubtedly the brain is a conglomerate of elementary particles, quantum possibilities, so it must itself also consist of quantum possibilities. Ditto for any epiphenomenon associated with it.”

                  “Now do you see why consciousness, to effect collapse, must be nonmaterial? A material consciousness arising in the brain is only a possibility wave. A possibility wave acting on a possibility wave just makes a bigger possibility wave. No actuality ever comes out of such an interaction (von Neumann 1955).”

                  “You may not have noticed, but we can see paradox in the observer effect in another way. The observer chooses, out of the quantum possibilities presented by the object, the actual event of experience. But before the collapse of the possibilities, the observer himself (or herself) consists of possibilities and is not manifest. So we can posit the paradox as a circularity: An observer is needed for collapsing the quantum possibility wave of an object; but collapse is needed for manifesting the observer. More succinctly, no collapse without an observer; but no observer without a collapse. If we stay in the material level, the paradox is unsolvable. The consciousness solution works only because we posit that consciousness collapses the possibility waves of both the observer (that is, his or her brain) and the object simultaneously from the transcendent reality of the ground of being that consciousness represents.”

                  Further, once again, if you are not making any truth claims, then your stance cannot be true (or false). Only truth claims can be true or false. A non-belief in God cannot be true or false any more than the shoes on your feet can be true or false. To suggest otherwise would be a bizarre category error, because non-beliefs, much like inanimate material objects, do not belong to a category of things which can be said to be true or false.

                  Recall the example from Andy Bannister (which I cited earlier in this comment chain) about the guy who “lacks belief” in the nation of Sweden. A person who “lacks belief” in Sweden necessarily believes that there is some other explanation for why Sweden is on every map of the world, and why the United States has a Swedish embassy, etc.. Maybe, for example, Sweden is the product of a secret U.S. government conspiracy of deception, etc.

                  Similarly, you can “lack belief” that God exists, but this necessarily implies that you have some other belief about why the universe exists. You also must have some other belief about how life came into existence, and how personal and intelligent agents such as ourselves came into existence. If you “lack belief” that the universe was caused by a personal and intelligent agent, then you necessarily believe that it was caused by impersonal and unintelligent cause, or that it was not caused at all, etc..

                  Citing a non-conscious cause for consciousness, an unintelligent cause for intelligence, an impersonal cause for personhood, or a non-rational cause for reason, (etc.) is impossible to philosophically justify because, as Edwar Feser puts it The Last Superstition, “a cause cannot give to its effect what it does not have to give.” Feser skillfully elaborates:

                  …the cause of a fire might itself be on fire, as when a torch is used to start a brushfire, or it may instead have the power to produce fire, as a cigarette lighter has even when it is not being used.

                  The traditional way of making this distinction is to say that a cause has the feature that it generates in the effect “formally” in the first sort of case (e.g. when both the cause and the effect are on fire) and “eminently” in the second sort of case (e.g. when the cause is not itself on fire, but has an inherent power to produce fire). If a cause didn’t contain all the features of its effect either formally or eminently, there would be no way to account for how the effect came about in just the way it did. Again, a cause cannot give to its effect what it does not have to give.”

                  Material things such as atoms and rocks do not contain (either formally or eminently) many of the features we as humans possess…such as consciousness, intelligence, personhood, reason, morality, love, etc. Keith Ward, a member of the Council of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, makes the same point as Feser in his book Doubting Dawkins: Why There Almost Certainly is a God.

                  “…there is force in the classical philosophical axiom that, for a truly explanatory cause to be intelligible, it must contain its effects potentially in itself. As the classical philosophers put it, the cause must contain more reality than its effects.”

                  The implication of this philosophical axiom cited by Feser and Ward is that the cause of conscious, intelligent, and personal (etc.) beings such as ourselves must necessarily have the effects of consciousness, intelligence and personhood contained potentially in itself. A cigarette lighter contains the effect of fire potentially in itself (even when not being used), but inanimate material things such as atoms and rocks do not contain the effects of consciousness, intelligence, or personhood potentially in themselves. This is why the only logical option is to cite a conscious, personal, and intelligent cause (read: God) for conscious, personal, and intelligent agents such as ourselves.

                  Which came first, intelligent mind (read: God’s mind), or matter? Did God’s mind produce matter, or did intelligent mind only first emerge after human brains evolved as a result of unintelligent processes working on mindless matter? Keith Ward continues:

                  “Is intelligent mind an ultimate and irreducible feature of reality? Indeed, is it the ultimate nature of reality? Or is mind and consciousness an unforeseen and unintended product of basically material processes of evolution?”

                  “If you look at the history of philosophy, it soon becomes clear that almost all the great classical philosophers took the first of these views. Plato, Aristotle, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley, Kant, Hegel—they all argued that the ultimate reality, often hidden under the appearances of the material world or time and space, is mind or spirit.”

                  Although it is a mind-bending concept for many people who live in a society with a deeply entrenched tradition of materialism (the philosophical view that matter comes first, and that consciousness is the eventual product of mindless material processes of evolution), it is important to note that, (as the logical argument by physicist Amit Goswami cited above demonstrates) modern physics has verified what the classical philosophers long ago concluded: Conscious mind (read: God’s mind) comes first, and matter is a product of conscious mind. As Max Planck, the Nobel Prize winning physicist who founded quantum physics, 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.”

                  Princeton University quantum physicist Freeman Dyson, who is among the most distinguished of living scientists, echoes Planck’s above comments:

                  “Atoms are weird stuff, behaving like active agents rather than inert substances. They make unpredictable choices between alternative possibilities according to the laws of quantum mechanics. It appears that mind, as manifested by the capacity to make choices, is to some extent inherent in every atom. The universe is also weird, with its laws of nature that make it hospitable to the growth of mind. I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it passes beyond the scale of our comprehension.”

                  Please also see my earlier citations of the knighted physicist and mathematical Sir James Jeans, and physicists Richard Conn Henry from Johns Hopkins University.

                  Matt, you have to actually produce an argument to support your stance. Please pay attention to the crucial distinction between a logically constructed argument, on one hand, and an assertion, on the other hand.

                  For example, you write, “I do have a science degree or two, one specifically being in Physics and Astronomy, so if you find your own style of argumentation and reasoning to be acceptable, I’m sure I could ‘prove’ to you that your assertion that, “…modern physics has conclusively demonstrated that the material world does not even exist independent of an immaterial conscious mind.” is false.

                  I am very extremely curious to hear your rebuttal of my points. Please actually present this rebuttal rather than trying to adopt a posture of having a logical rebuttal.

                  Matt, this is empty posturing and nothing more. I assure you that absolutely nobody is fooled by this. If you would like to construct a logical argument to counteract my stance, then please do so. Merely asserting that you can produce a logical argument is one thing, and actually doing so is another thing entirely.

                  Next, you write, “You may have noticed I don’t address a lot of the material in your responses, the simple reason being that you are committing the fallacy of argument from authority in some cases, and are quote mining in others. As if Dawkins actually acknowledges that DNA had to have been created by an intelligence! I suggest that if his opinion were relevant, we should look at what his actual arguments are, rather than just misrepresenting them.”

                  It appears that you do not understand what the logical fallacy of Argument from Authority is. This fallacy occurs when a person cites an authority in order to compensate for a lack of a logical argument, such as when you appeal to your authority as a person who has “a science degree or two, one specifically in Physics and Astronomy” without also presenting a logical argument. This fallacy, however, does not occur when a person merely cites authorities to buttress and undergird a logical argument. For example, I present the logical argument that the universe must have a cause because the universe (including time, space, matter, and energy) all began to exist at the Big Bang. The Law of Causation dictates that everything which has a finite existence must have a cause, and since something cannot cause itself, the cause of the universe must be timeless, spaceless, immaterial and energy less. The universe, according to astronomers, is about 14.5 billion years old (although this number may have changed), and therefore has a finite existence. In order to buttress my argument, I provide the following citations from astronomers:

                  Hugh Ross, a former post-doctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology observes (in his book The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God) that:

                  “Astronomers who do not draw theistic or deistic conclusions are becoming rare, and even the few dissenters hint that the tide is against them. Geoffrey Burbidge, of the University of California at San Diego, complains that his fellow astronomers are rushing off to join ‘The First Church of Christ of the Big Bang.’”

                  For those not familiar with “the Big Bang,” this cosmological event, now almost unanimously regarded as fact in the scientific community, constituted the beginning of the universe about 14 or 15 billion years ago, and bears eerie similarity to the biblical account of the universe’s creation. As Arno Penzias, the 1978 Nobel Prize recipient in physics, stated to the New York Times on March 12, 1978:

                  “The best data we have (concerning the Big Bang) are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole.”

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

                  “Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment of time, in a flash of light and energy.”

                  Matt, please notice how I use these citations in order to supplement (buttress) my argument. I do not use them to compensate for my lack of an argument, as you do when you cite your own authority (as someone with a physics and astronomy degree) to compensate for your lack of an argument. It is only when the opinion of an authority is used to compensate for a lack of an argument that the logical fallacy of Appeal to Authority occurs. Please note that the citation of authorities is a routine part of rational discourse. If you don’t believe me, just check any scholarly journal.

                  And, regarding physics, I cite the famous double slit experiment, which shows that material things do not even exist independent of a conscious observer. My citations from physicists such as the founder of quantum physics himself (Max Planck) are only provided to buttress my argument.

                  Lastly, what exactly is “quote mining”? As I mentioned earlier, citing authorities is a routine part of rational discourse. If you don’t believe me, just check any scholarly journal. By complaining about “quote mining,” you appear to be complaining, “No fair! You cannot cite authorities who contradict my beliefs.”


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                    Matt Smith says:

                    Hi Scott,

                    Rather than using my own studies as an argument from authority, the reference to them was actually intended as gentle motivation to get you to avoid using misinterpretations of science, and scientific ‘opinion’ rather than evidence in a misguided attempt to bolster your arguments. For example, your assertion that, “Modern physics conclusively shows that material things cannot even exist without a conscious observer”, is flat wrong. Not only is it flat wrong, it’s also a rather silly remark to make in the context of this discussion: don’t you think I’d already be fully aware of the ‘truth’ of this fact if it were so, given I have a degree in (modern!) Physics?!

                    Why is that idea flat wrong? Well for starters, it’s based on the so-called Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics. Within this type of interpretation there are plenty of disagreements (feel free to Google them!), so the idea of ‘conclusively shows’ goes out of the window right there. If it didn’t, you should be aware that there are several other interpretations of quantum mechanics that are antithetical to those Copenhagen views, quantum decoherence to give one specific example. In addition, even if we accept the Copenhagen interpretation, siting God as the necessary conscious observer is missing three rather essential points. One is, if we posit an omni-present, omniscient God as our observer, this means experiments such as the double-slit you mentioned wouldn’t actually work in the first place. The particle/wave duality we find would only make sense if we assume God ‘looks the other way’ or doesn’t always know where the photon is going.

                    The second point is it’s a false assumption that the quantum wave function ‘needs’ to collapse prior to the existence of human (or extraterrestrial) minds. There is nothing in this kind of quantum theory that dictates the Universe could not exist as a grand, simultaneous superposition of quantum states until such point as a conscious observer came along. We may not like that idea much perhaps, but that has no bearing on the truth or otherwise of the matter. The final point to make here is that inserting ‘conscious’ in with ‘observer’ is a leap of logic, and demonstrably false. Taking our double-slit experiment again, all that’s actually needed is some kind of ‘measuring apparatus’. Try it yourself – do the results differ when you’re physically present, watching the experiment take place, from those when you’re off behind closed doors?

                    Schlosshauer, Kofler, and Zeilinger published a poll conducted at a quantum mechanics conference, of physicists, philosophers, and mathematicians in 2013, which showed that 6% of the participants indicated they believed the observer “plays a distinguished physical role (for example, a consciousness causing wave-function collapse)”. They additionally make the points that, “Popular accounts have sometimes suggested that the Copenhagen interpretation attributes such a role to consciousness. In our view, this is to misunderstand the Copenhagen interpretation”, and “despite new developments, the interpretation of the theory remains controversial.” Empty posturing, or are my arguments a sound rebuttal of the assertion I quoted at the beginning of this post?

                    Modern Physics, far from conclusively showing that any conscious observer is a necessary condition of a material Universe, rather gives us testable, acausal explanatory models, which don’t necessitate a ‘beginning’ even if we granted your idea that the Universe is a ‘thing’ in the first place. Take Das and Bhaduri, whose 2014 paper entitled ‘Dark matter and dark energy from Bose-Einstein condensate’ contains a term correctly predicting the magnitude of dark energy currently detected experimentally. Their findings also imply that the initial big bang-like event is pushed back to negative infinity. This means that as you go back in time, the universe gets asymptotically smaller but never reaches a singularity.

                    I’m not claiming to be an expert in this field, and I can’t say for certain if this agrees with another (more established) model, that of the Hartle–Hawking state. The concept of ‘negative infinity’ is perhaps analogous to what Hawking expresses as imaginary time. It is, however, another model which disagrees with your idea that the, “cause of the material universe cannot be a material cause”, since in that view the Universe has no initial boundaries in space and time (no beginning, no cause!) If that sounds implausible to anybody I’d suggest they go look for the ’cause’ of a radioactive decay event, something readily observed in nature.

                    Finally, comparing God with Sweden is committing one of the fallacies of which I’ve been accused in this dialogue. My Invisible Pink Unicorn idea is much more apt, can you work out why?


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                      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 43 ) says:

                      Matt,

                      You write, “One is, if we posit an omni-present, omniscient God as our observer, this means experiments such as the double-slit you mentioned wouldn’t actually work in the first place. The particle/wave duality we find would only make sense if we assume God ‘looks the other way’ or doesn’t always know where the photon is going.”

                      Please elaborate on this since it does not make any sense. A conscious observer is necessary to collapse the wave function…no immaterial conscious observer, no wave function collapse. You try to get around this by saying that, “Taking our double-slit experiment again, all that’s actually needed is some kind of ‘measuring apparatus’”. But this completely ignores the points which physicist Amit Goswami made in the citation I provided earlier. Specifically, a material thing like a measuring apparatus needs a wave function collapse in order to manifest. A material thing like a measuring apparatus (or an observer which is only material in nature) is only a possibility wave. As Goswami puts it, “A possibility wave acting on a possibility wave only makes a bigger possibility wave.” That citation from Goswami again:

                      “First let’s discuss how the idea that consciousness is the ground of being is forced upon us by quantum physics. Take the idea that conscious choice affects the quantum possibility wave of an object by collapsing it into an actual event of our experience, into a “particle,” so to speak. This idea seems dualistic at first. Why? Because consciousness has to be nonmaterial to effect collapse. To see this, suppose, as materialist biologists believe, that consciousness is a brain epiphenomenon. But undoubtedly the brain is a conglomerate of elementary particles, quantum possibilities, so it must itself also consist of quantum possibilities. Ditto for any epiphenomenon associated with it.”

                      “Now do you see why consciousness, to effect collapse, must be nonmaterial? A material consciousness arising in the brain is only a possibility wave. A possibility wave acting on a possibility wave just makes a bigger possibility wave. No actuality ever comes out of such an interaction (von Neumann 1955).”

                      “You may not have noticed, but we can see paradox in the observer effect in another way. The observer chooses, out of the quantum possibilities presented by the object, the actual event of experience. But before the collapse of the possibilities, the observer himself (or herself) consists of possibilities and is not manifest. So we can posit the paradox as a circularity: An observer is needed for collapsing the quantum possibility wave of an object; but collapse is needed for manifesting the observer. More succinctly, no collapse without an observer; but no observer without a collapse. If we stay in the material level, the paradox is unsolvable. The consciousness solution works only because we posit that consciousness collapses the possibility waves of both the observer (that is, his or her brain) and the object simultaneously from the transcendent reality of the ground of being that consciousness represents.”

                      Matt, Goswami’s above points apply equally to a measuring apparatus, as to an observer which is merely material in nature. A wave function collapse is necessary for manifesting a measuring apparatus. Before the collapse of the possibilities, the measuring apparatus consists of possibilities and is not manifest.

                      Furthermore, the idea that the collapse of the wave function can be performed by a measurement device was completely debunked by the Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser experiment. Go to about 6:10 into the video titled Quantum Physics Debunks Materialism by Inspiring Philosophy (on YouTube):

                      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4C5pq7W5yRM

                      Please read the following paper about this experiment :http://www.bottomlayer.com/bottom/kim-scully/kim-scully-web.htm

                      A copy and paste of a crucial excerpt from this paper:

                      “Comment: This is key. There is no which-path information for the signal photons when they initially arrive at D0. Which-path information for those signal photons is obtained only later, when the twin idler photon is later detected at D3 or D4 (and not obtained if the twin idler photon is detected at D1 or D2).”

                      “As discussed below, the experimental setup ensures that this which-path information for the signal photons is obtained or erased only after the signal photon has been detected and the information is winging its way toward the Coincidence Circuit.”

                      Another crucial excerpt (basically the last two paragraphs from the paper):

                      “Time 6. Upon accessing the information gathered by the Coincidence Circuit, we the observer are shocked to learn that the pattern shown by the positions registered at D0 at Time 2 depends entirely on the information gathered later at Time 4 and available to us at the conclusion of the experiment.”

                      “The position of a photon at detector D0 has been registered and scanned. Yet the actual position of the photon arriving at D0 will be at one place if we later learn more information; and the actual position will be at another place if we do not.”

                      Matt, please pay particular attention to the last sentence above: The measuring apparatus cannot be responsible for the collapse of the wave function because “the actual position of the photon arriving at D0 will be at one place if we later learn more information; and the actual position will be at another place if we do not.” Only an OBSERVATION OF A CONSCIOUS OBSERVER can learn information…not the presence of a measuring apparatus.

                      You write, “Schlosshauer, Kofler, and Zeilinger published a poll conducted at a quantum mechanics conference, of physicists, philosophers, and mathematicians in 2013, which showed that 6% of the participants indicated they believed the observer “plays a distinguished physical role (for example, a consciousness causing wave-function collapse)”. They additionally make the points that, “Popular accounts have sometimes suggested that the Copenhagen interpretation attributes such a role to consciousness. In our view, this is to misunderstand the Copenhagen interpretation”, and “despite new developments, the interpretation of the theory remains controversial.”

                      Matt, expert opinion can be used to buttress a logical argument, but you need to explain how something other than a conscious observer can cause the collapse of a wave function in light of the points made by Goswami and the conclusions of the Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser experiment…which debunk the notion that a material thing like a measuring apparatus can collapse a wave function.

                      Polls of expert opinion are of no value whatsoever because expert opinion is often shaped by ideological and cultural factors. As the late great Harvard University paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science Stephen J. Gould put it:

                      “Unconscious or dimly perceived finagling is probably endemic in science, since scientists are human beings rooted in cultural contexts, not automatons directed toward external truth.”

                      Or as biologist Lynn Margulis (winner of the U.S. Presidential Medal for Science) put it:

                      “…people are always more loyal to their tribal group than to any abstract notion of ‘truth’ – scientists especially. If not they are unemployable. It is professional suicide to continually contradict one’s teachers or social leaders.”

                      Let’s go back in time and look at what some other polls of scientific opinion produced: It you were to poll the opinion of scientists in the 19th century, you would be virtually unable to find a scientist who did not believe that “luminiferous ether” is the medium through which light waves travel. I give several examples of where scientific consensus proved to be wrong in The Mythology of Atheism. An excerpt from The Mythology of Atheism:

                      Those with a short-sighted view of the history of science are prone to overlook the fact that alchemy (which believed that metals such as lead could be turned into gold) and astrology were once considered scientifically respectable. In fact…. the scientific consensus of one age usually becomes the myth or superstition of the next age. Elite physicists Paul Davies and John Gribbin cite examples of this trend among scientific theories in their book The Matter Myth:

                      “A classic example concerns the ‘luminiferous ether.’ When James Clerk Maxwell showed that light is an electromagnetic wave, it seemed obvious that this wave had to have a medium of some sort through which to propagate. After all, other known waves travel through something. Sound waves, for example, travel through the air; water waves travel across the surface of lakes and oceans. Because light, which Maxwell discovered is a form of electromagnetic wave, can reach us from the Sun and stars, across seemingly empty space, it was proposed that space is actually filled with an intangible substance, the ether, in which these waves could travel.

                      So sure were physicists of the existence of the ether that ambitious experiments were mounted to measure the speed with which the Earth moves through it. Alas, the experiments showed conclusively that the ether does not exist.

                      …For nineteenth-century physicists, however, the ether was still very real.”

                      Consensus scientific opinion has been wrong in many more cases than just alchemy and luminiferous ether. In his landmark work on the psychology and sociology of science titled The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn cites the examples of Aristotelian dynamics (which was superseded by Newtonian physics), phlogistic chemistry (which said that a fire-like element called phlogiston is contained within combustible bodies and released during combustion), and caloric thermodynamics (which said that heat is really a self-repellent fluid called caloric that flows from hotter bodies to colder bodies). (Click here for many more examples).

                      Next, you write, “Take Das and Bhaduri, whose 2014 paper entitled ‘Dark matter and dark energy from Bose-Einstein condensate’ contains a term correctly predicting the magnitude of dark energy currently detected experimentally. Their findings also imply that the initial big bang-like event is pushed back to negative infinity. This means that as you go back in time, the universe gets asymptotically smaller but never reaches a singularity.
                      I’m not claiming to be an expert in this field, and I can’t say for certain if this agrees with another (more established) model, that of the Hartle–Hawking state. The concept of ‘negative infinity’ is perhaps analogous to what Hawking expresses as imaginary time. It is, however, another model which disagrees with your idea that the, “cause of the material universe cannot be a material cause”, since in that view the Universe has no initial boundaries in space and time (no beginning, no cause!) If that sounds implausible to anybody I’d suggest they go look for the ’cause’ of a radioactive decay event, something readily observed in nature.”

                      “Imaginary time” is physically unintelligible and therefore just a mathematical trick.

                      Let’s discuss this in terms of Hawking’s “no-boundary model.” Hawking says that there is nothing south of the south pole. The no boundary model rounds off time like the south pole.

                      The south pole is represented to be both the beginning of time and the universe.

                      Hawking thinks that you can get around the question of what caused the universe by pointing out that it is meaningless to ask what happened before the beginning of the universe. But this is nonsensical because the real question is “What caused the universe to begin to exist?”

                      The universe still has an absolute temporal beginning… even with a no-boundary model.

                      Hawking and Mlodinov advocate a “top down approach” to the question of why there is something rather than nothing.

                      Hawking and Mlodinov claim that the universe “appeared spontaneously from nothing.” But how does this follow from the “top down model”? The “top down approach” calculates the probability of our universe GIVEN the no-boundary condition. The “top down approach” doesn’t calculate the probability that the no-boundary condition should exist in the first place. It just takes it for granted. Such a condition, however, is not physically or metaphysically necessary. Physics only begins at the south pole in the no-boundary model. There isn’t anything in the model that implies that that point (the south pole) came into being without a cause. The idea that being could arise from non-being without a cause is metaphysically absurd.

                      If the universe came into existence from non-being, it could have any spatio-temporal configuration.

                      Hawking argues that atheism must be true because there is no time at which God could have created the universe since time began at the big bang. This is a terrible argument because it just assumes causes must precede their effects in time. But philosophers point out that this is nonsense. God’s creating the universe was co-incident with the universe coming into existence….at the south pole.

                      According to Hawking, “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.” However, this “nothing” is space filled with vacuum energy, and does not exist south of the south pole in the model. “Nothing” doesn’t have the traditional definition of “non-being,” but rather space filled with vacuum energy (the “quantum vacuum”). EQUIVOCATION!!

                      Hawking and Mlodinov’s equivocation is PAINFULLY evident in their interview with Larry King on Larry King Live:

                      Hawking: “Gravity and quantum theory cause universes to be created spontaneously out of nothing.”

                      King: “Who created the nothing? Where did the nothing come from?”

                      Mlodinov: “According to quantum theory, there is no such thing as nothingness.”

                      In this ridiculous exchange, Hawking is using “nothing” to refer to the quantum vacuum, whereas Mlodinov uses “nothing” in the traditional definition of nothing as “non-being.”


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                      Matt Smith says:

                      Hi Scott,

                      It won’t let me reply to your latest reply in order, so I’ll try here.
                      I’m not going to tackle all your points here, but this one:

                      a) “A conscious observer is necessary to collapse the wave function…no immaterial conscious observer, no wave function collapse.”

                      Is crucial, and one of the two tangled webs you’ve made, which you’ll now have a lot of trouble unraveling. The double-slit experiment you claim to understand shows the wave/particle duality as follows:

                      1. No ‘observer’ (measurement) :- light is seen as a wave.

                      2. With an ‘observer’ :- light is seen as a particle.

                      How can you explain the results in condition 1. in light of your statement in a) above?
                      If there is an ‘immaterial, omniscient, timeless, spaceless mind’, how can the wave function ever not collapse? As I said, on your view, does ‘God’ look away, or does he actually not know what the photons are doing at all times?

                      Now, there is another problem with your latest response, in that it implies that I am God, or at least I am the creator of the Universe. On your view, causes do not necessarily precede effects in time, and I am a necessary and sufficient cause of wave function collapse. Therefore we can say that my ‘immaterial consciousness’, observing myself, as in, “I think:- I am”, could be the cause of my material manifestation. It can also be the cause of all the things I have observed, or will observe. I can take it from that that one day I will certainly visit Sweden!

                      Now please please please, pretty please, stop trying to use ‘scientific opinion’ in your replies, as you say it’s no help, unless it comes with some evidence. Evidence, for example, like: are there any scientific, peer-reviewed (!) publications by Amit Goswami you are aware of?


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                      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 43 ) says:

                      Matt,

                      You ask, “1. in light of your statement in a) above?

                      If there is an ‘immaterial, omniscient, timeless, spaceless mind’, how can the wave function ever not collapse? As I said, on your view, does ‘God’ look away, or does he actually not know what the photons are doing at all times?”

                      If God is the ground of all being, then wave function collapses are subject to him, and not vice versa. Why would the creator of the laws of nature be subject to the laws of nature? This is bizarre reasoning. And this brings up another question:

                      If there is no God, then why do material things follow natural laws such as the laws of physics and thermodynamics? (You can substitute the word “law” for “regularity” or whatever other term you prefer). Under no circumstances can atheism ever explain why material things follow natural laws so consistently. To the question of, “Why do material things follow natural laws?,” atheism is stuck with a “they just do” answer. And this just-so storytelling calls attention to one of the fatal explanatory failures of atheism.

                      In the theistic model, it is immediately obvious why matter follows natural laws: The same mind that creates matter (God’s mind) also directs it. As Robert Boyle, the founder of modern chemistry, put it:

                      “The nature of this or that body is but the law of God prescribed to it [and] to speak properly, a law [is] but a notional rule of acting according to the declared will of a superior.”

                      Or, as James Joule, the propounder of the first law of thermodynamics, for whom the thermal unit of the “Joule” was named, put it:

                      “It is evident that an acquaintance with natural laws means no less than an acquaintance with the mind of God therein expressed.”

                      Or, as the knighted mathematician, physicist and astronomer Sir James Jeans put it 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.”

                      Matt, in a previous comment, you wrote, “There is nothing in this kind of quantum theory that dictates the Universe could not exist as a grand, simultaneous superposition of quantum states until such point as a conscious observer came along.”

                      If there is no God, and nothing exists but a universe of “grand, simultaneous superposition of quantum states,” then why do material things so consistently follow natural laws? Further, what is the source of the exquisite order present in the universe? A consciousness (God) which is the ground of being provides an explanation for this ordering, but atheism does not, and cannot.

                      Albert Einstein wrote:

                      “You find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world (to the extent that we are authorized to speak of such a comprehensibility) as a miracle or as an eternal mystery. Well, a priori, one should expect a chaotic world, which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way… the kind of order created by Newton’s theory of gravitation, for example, is wholly different. Even if man proposes the axioms of the theory, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world, and this could not be expected a priori. That is the ‘miracle’ which is constantly reinforced as our knowledge expands.”

                      Matt, what is the source of the “high degree of ordering of the objective world” which Einstein marveled at if there is no God, but only a universe of “grand, simultaneous superposition of quantum states”?

                      Next, you write, “Now, there is another problem with your latest response, in that it implies that I am God, or at least I am the creator of the Universe. On your view, causes do not necessarily precede effects in time, and I am a necessary and sufficient cause of wave function collapse. Therefore we can say that my ‘immaterial consciousness’, observing myself, as in, “I think:- I am”, could be the cause of my material manifestation. It can also be the cause of all the things I have observed, or will observe.”

                      You are here endorsing the “solipsist” view. A copy and paste from the Wikipedia post for solopsism:

                      Solipsism ( from Latin solus, meaning “alone”, and ipse, meaning “self”) is the philosophical idea that only one’s own mind is sure to exist. As an epistemological position, solipsism holds that knowledge of anything outside one’s own mind is unsure; the external world and other minds cannot be known and might not exist outside of the mind. As a metaphysical position, solipsism goes further to the conclusion that the world and other minds do not exist.

                      Matt, if you wanna take the solipsist stance which says that you are the only mind in existence and that other minds (God, other people) are illusions, that is fine with me. But you would be at a loss to explain why you have a limited ability to create.

                      Physicist Richard Conn Henry from Johns Hopkins University explains how the only two possible explanations for quantum mechanics are theism and solipsism. But rebellion from God causes many atheist scientists to vehemently cling to “a mind-independent reality” (materialism), as Henry notes:

                      “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.”

                      Lastly, you write, “Are there any scientific, peer-reviewed (!) publications by Amit Goswami you are aware of?” Matt, Goswami worked at The University of Oregon Institute for Theoretical Physics. One does not get such a position without writing peer-reviewed publications.

                      But that is besides the point. Attacking a person in order to divert attention from your failure to respond to that person’s arguments is the Ad Hominem Logical Fallacy (Latin for “against the man”). A copy and paste from the Wikipedia post for Ad Hominem:

                      Ad hominem (Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”[1]), short for argumentum ad hominem, is a logical fallacy in which an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself.

                      Matt, it is utterly transparent that you have retreated to attacking Goswami himself because you cannot respond to the substance of his arguments.


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                      Matt Smith says:

                      Hi Scott,

                      Again it’s not allowing me to post in order, so I’ll reply here. I’ll try to keep it brief:

                      “Modern physics conclusively shows that material things cannot even exist without a conscious observer”

                      Physics is a branch of science, which like the others relies on evidence and models. Rather than quoting the mere opinions of scientists to me, something you pointed out was a waste of time, are you able to offer any peer-reviewed papers (that can correctly be regarded as ‘modern’ in the field of (quantum) physics) to support this assertion?

                      Now, the last time I asked for a peer-reviewed scientific paper, you falsely claimed it to be an ad-hom attack. Anyone reading this can judge for themselves, but take these two statements:

                      a) Are there any scientific, peer-reviewed (!) publications by Amit Goswami you are aware of?

                      b) Amit Goswami is a Physicist, but far more importantly on this issue, a New Age woo-woo merchant whose mere opinions on consciousness (a field in which he is unqualified) are utterly worthless.

                      To me, a) looks like a simple request for information, b) looks like an attack on the man, albeit possibly a justified one. My request stands, so if you want to quote scientists lets quote from evidence and not opinion. So, does Goswami in fact have any scientific, peer-reviewed papers at all, in his field, that actually support the quotes you gave, or not?

                      My suspicion is that ‘conscious observers’ are likely not discussed in modern (quantum) Physics papers at all, unless it’s to say that they have absolutely nothing to do with the issue whatever. The reason for that is that consciousness is in fact studied by another branch of science entirely, and the idea that ‘conscious observers’ are a necessary part of the Universe is nothing more than wishful thinking on the part of theists.


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                      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 43 ) says:

                      Matt,

                      You might be surprised to learn that I largely agree with you that Goswami is a “woo-woo merchant.” Another atheist commenter called him a “new-age huckster,” and I agreed with that assessment as well. Goswami has monistic conceptions of God that just don’t hold water. Monism says that God and the universe are “one.” This is a philosophy at the heart of the new-age movement, but is actually on the fringes even within Hinduism, where it originated.

                      I very deliberately cite arguments from people with a variety of world views to make my points. Citing scientists and experts from a variety of world views serves to prevent the impression that only Christians support the logic which underlies my arguments. If I only cited scientists who are Christians, some people would assume bias without carefully weighing the arguments.

                      Please recall what an Ad Hominem argument is. A copy and paste from this post about Ad Hominem: “An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument.”

                      Example of an ad hominem fallacy: “After Sally presents an eloquent and compelling case for a more equitable taxation system, Sam asks the audience whether we should believe anything from a woman who isn’t married, was once arrested, and smells a bit weird.”

                      Your statement, “Amit Goswami is a Physicist, but far more importantly on this issue, a New Age woo-woo merchant whose mere opinions on consciousness (a field in which he is unqualified) are utterly worthless,” also commits the ad hominem fallacy.

                      Matt, you can either respond to Goswami’s points or you cannot. Trying to divert attention from your inability to respond to the substance of his arguments is not going to fool anyone.

                      Moreover, I doubt that third-party viewers of this discussion have failed to notice that you have tried to ignore my point about how the Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser experiment debunks your notion that a “measurement apparatus” can cause a wave function collapse. You need to divert attention away from this too…and it has nothing whatsoever to do with Amit Goswami.

                      And diversion is exactly what you are trying to achieve when you write, “Now, the last time I asked for a peer-reviewed scientific paper, you falsely claimed it to be an ad-hom attack. Anyone reading this can judge for themselves, but take these two statements:

                      a) Are there any scientific, peer-reviewed (!) publications by Amit Goswami you are aware of?”

                      Asking for peer-reviewed papers instead of responding to the substance of Goswami’s arguments is what is known as a Red Herring Fallacy (Ignoratio elenchi). A copy and paste from this post about Red Herring Fallacy:

                      (also known as: beside the point, misdirection [form of], changing the subject, false emphasis, the Chewbacca defense, irrelevant conclusion, irrelevant thesis, smokescreen, clouding the issue, ignorance of refutation, judgmental language [form of])

                      Description: Attempting to redirect the argument to another issue that to which the person doing the redirecting can better respond. While it is similar to the avoiding the issue fallacy, the red herring is a deliberate diversion of attention with the intention of trying to abandon the original argument.

                      Logical Form:

                      Argument A is presented by person 1.
                      Person 2 introduces argument B.
                      Argument A is abandoned.
                      Example #1:

                      Mike: It is morally wrong to cheat on your spouse, why on earth would you have done that?

                      Ken: But what is morality exactly?

                      Mike: It’s a code of conduct shared by cultures.

                      Ken: But who creates this code?…

                      Matt, you are committing a Red Herring fallacy when you try to divert attention away from your failure to respond to the substance of Goswami’s arguments by asking if he has produced any peer reviewed papers. An argument is an argument regardless of whether it is produced and presented by Albert Einstein or Bozo the Clown. You can either respond to the substance of the argument or you cannot. Trying to change the subject to credibility issues regarding the person who presented the argument (in order to avoid responding to the argument itself) is transparently diversionary in nature.

                      And again, I do not intend to spend any time looking for peer-reviewed papers produced by Goswami, since he holds a professorship of physics at the University of Oregon. Merely to get a PhD, one needs to produce a peer-reviewed paper known as a Doctoral thesis. You want some materials by some other physicists about the primacy of consciousness? If so, please read The Mental Universe by Johns Hopkins University physicist Richard Conn Henry and Mindful Universe by University of California, Berkeley Physicist Henry Stapp.

                      Please also watch this video titled Quantum Physics Debunks Materialism. In it you will find many peer-reviewed papers to support the meta-scientific stance that consciousness is fundamental. Again, as as the founder of quantum physics himself, the Nobel Prize winning physicist Max Planck, 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.” Source: The Observer (25 January 1931)

                      Not only do I like to cite “woo-woo merchants” to support my arguments, I also like to cite atheists. Cambridge University astrophysicist and mathematician Fred Hoyle, despite being a staunch atheist, writes:

                      “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

                      When pressed as to just who this “super intellect” is, Hoyle responded that it is an “alien mind.”

                      Former Harvard University Research Professor of Astronomy and the History of Science Owen Gingerich, who is now the senior astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, agrees with Hoyle. However, since Gingerich is a Christian, he disagrees as to who this super intellect is. Gingerich writes:

                      “Fred Hoyle and I differ on lots of questions, but on this we agree: a common sense and satisfying interpretation of our world suggests the designing hand of a super intelligence.”

                      Another atheist scientist I like to cite is the Nobel Prize-winning, Harvard University biologist George Wald. Despite being an atheist, he was forced by the weight of the evidence to admit the following in his address to the Quantum Biology Symposium titled Life and Mind in the Universe:

                      “It has occurred to me lately—-I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities—-that both questions [the origin of mind and the origin of life from nonliving matter] might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical universe that breeds life and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art-, and technology-making animals.”

                      A crucial take-away from all of this is that people—as well as large groups of people, such as communities of scientists—believe things for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons are logical and scientific in nature, and some of them are ideological or psychological in nature. We can only get to the bottom of which parts of a scientist’s views (or entire scientific community’s views) are logically based, and which are not, by actually examining the logic. As the late great Harvard University paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science Stephen J. Gould put it:

                      “Unconscious or dimly perceived finagling is probably endemic in science, since scientists are human beings rooted in cultural contexts, not automatons directed toward external truth.”

                      Similarly, in The Altenberg 16: An Expose of the Evolution Industry, Oxford University and University of Massachusetts-Amherst Professor of Biology Lynn Margulis (winner of the U.S. Presidential Medal for Science) discusses the persistence of neo-Darwinian theory, despite its deteriorating scientific basis, with journalist Susan Mazur:

                      Margulis: “If enough favorable mutations occur, was the erroneous extrapolation, a change from one species to another would concurrently occur.”

                      Mazur: “So a certain dishonesty set in?”

                      Margulis: “No. It was not dishonesty. I think it was wish-fulfillment and social momentum. Assumptions, made but not verified, were taught as fact.”

                      Mazur: “But a whole industry grew up.”

                      Margulis: “Yes, but people are always more loyal to their tribal group than to any abstract notion of ‘truth’ – scientists especially. If not they are unemployable. It is professional suicide to continually contradict one’s teachers or social leaders.”


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    Phil says:

    This is a nice article made even better by the reply to the comments made by SKL YJD. I think the reason atheists present their position as a ‘non-belief’ is simply an attempt to avoid being asked to provide evidence for their beliefs, for they know they can’t defend what they really want to say, ‘there is no God’.


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 43 ) says:

      Phil,

      Thanks for the compliment. Regarding the atheist propaganda which says that atheism is merely a “non-belief in God,” the statement that “there is no God” is a truth claim. A non-belief can neither be true nor false. Andy Bannister humorously highlights the absurdity of the idea that atheism does not need to be defended because it is merely a “non-belief” by telling a story about a guy who denies the existence of the nation of Sweden:

      “You think that my denial of Sweden is an actual claim of some kind, that it’s a belief. But it isn’t. It’s a non-belief. There’s nothing I need to explain – rather, I’m talking about something I lack, namely a belief in Sweden, so I don’t need to give any evidence for it.”

      “Come again?” I said. “Yes,” he continued, warming to his theme, “I don’t have to provide evidence for my non-belief in Atlantis, El Dorado, Shangri-La or the Customer Support Department at American Airlines, and nor need I for my non-belief in Sweden. I’m not making a claim of any kind – in fact, quite the opposite: I’m claiming nothing. I’m merely rejecting one of your beliefs, your belief in Sweden.

      The point is that all truth claims (including atheism) need to be logically defended…even the ones that portray themselves as merely “non-belief.” And if atheism is not a truth claim, then it cannot be true or false. Andy Bannister continues:

      The problem is that only beliefs or claims can be true or false. For example, it makes perfect sense to ask whether a statement such as “It is raining today” or “The Maple Leafs lost at hockey again” are true. Those are claims, they are beliefs, and they have what philosophers call a “truth value”. They are either true or false.

      On the other hand, it is utterly meaningless to ask whether the colour blue, a small off-duty Slovakian traffic warden, or Richard Dawkins’s left foot is “true”. That would be a bizarre category error. These things are not claims or beliefs and thus do not possess any kind of truth value. They simply are.

      So what about atheism? Well, as far as I can make out, I think my atheist friends are claiming that their belief is true; that they really, really believe it to be true that there is no God. Well, if that’s the case, then it makes atheism a positive claim and claims must be defended, evidence martialled, and reasons given. Otherwise, if atheism is not a claim, it cannot be true or false. It simply is, and to say “I am an atheist” is up there with saying “Wibble, wibble, wibble”.

      If the statement, “There is no God” is not a truth claim, than it cannot be true. Something which is not a truth claim cannot be true (or false).


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    SKL YJD says:

    Scott I just need to pull you up on a couple of points here. Your faith may be reasoned to the faithful but definitely not to any atheist. If religion was as reasoned as science, we would not need much in the way of science because we could get all the knowledge we need to know from the Bible. Faith is more like it. I can understand you may be frustrated trying to justify faith as something more than just faith, like it was regarded to have scientific evidence perhaps?

    You say: “In fact, it is impossible to live without faith. It is just a question of what one chooses to place their faith in.”

    It is not what you put your faith in, it is what strength and type of faith you require to justify your belief. To say faith in atheism is the same as a religious faith is absolutely ridiculous.

    Again, I will tell you that atheism is the non-belief of any god or deity. Therefore, because we do not believe in anything supernatural this must be a faith like religion, is this what you are saying?
    Real atheists have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow morning and that is the type of faith we have as a non-believing atheist, again, that is no gods or deities exist, never have and never will, your God has no special meaning and is classed alongside Thor and Mercury.

    I believe you are trying to suggest atheism faith verses theist faith, but to use some of your own words this is a category failure of massive proportions, just like comparing a football game with a formula one race.

    You also try to categorise atheists into a world view of materialism but many atheists do not give a passing thought to the beginning of life as they have more important stuff to do. I never thought about it and did not care less how or where life started for over 40 years and if I did the thought soon disappeared. And just because you reject religion and do not believe in anything because you simply “do not know” it cannot detract from your atheism or give you a faith. If you believe a god or deity as much as anything else as the possibility of creation you become a sceptic or agnostic


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 43 ) says:

      SKL YJD,

      You write, “If religion was as reasoned as science, we would not need much in the way of science because we could get all the knowledge we need to know from the Bible.” Here, you again confuse and conflate your atheistic and materialistic worldview with science.

      You speak of science as if it were the same thing as your atheistic worldview. But this is a complete non-sequitur. You also speak of Christianity as a religion, but of atheism as a non-religion. However, atheism fits many of the diverse definitions of religion present in religious scholarship. Atheists have done a good job of convincing people that their worldview is not a religion, but there is no convincing way to label atheism as a non-religion since it makes a set a positive claims about our world.

      Both atheism and theism are meta-scientific stances. Neither view can be proven or disproven by looking under a microscope, or into a telescope, for example. Rather both views come as a result of an analysis of scientific observations, etc…

      You portray atheism as a “non-belief in any God or deity.” But the statement that “there is no God” is a truth claim. A non-belief can neither be true nor false. Andy Bannister humorously highlights the absurdity of the idea that atheism does not need to be defended because it is merely a “non-belief” by telling a story about a guy who denies the existence of the nation of Sweden:

      “You think that my denial of Sweden is an actual claim of some kind, that it’s a belief. But it isn’t. It’s a non-belief. There’s nothing I need to explain – rather, I’m talking about something I lack, namely a belief in Sweden, so I don’t need to give any evidence for it.”

      “Come again?” I said. “Yes,” he continued, warming to his theme, “I don’t have to provide evidence for my non-belief in Atlantis, El Dorado, Shangri-La or the Customer Support Department at American Airlines, and nor need I for my non-belief in Sweden. I’m not making a claim of any kind – in fact, quite the opposite: I’m claiming nothing. I’m merely rejecting one of your beliefs, your belief in Sweden.

      The point, SKL YJD, is that all truth claims (including atheism) need to be logically defended…even the ones that portray themselves as merely “non-belief.” And if atheism is not a truth claim, then it cannot be true or false. Andy Bannister continues:

      The problem is that only beliefs or claims can be true or false. For example, it makes perfect sense to ask whether a statement such as “It is raining today” or “The Maple Leafs lost at hockey again” are true. Those are claims, they are beliefs, and they have what philosophers call a “truth value”. They are either true or false.

      On the other hand, it is utterly meaningless to ask whether the colour blue, a small off-duty Slovakian traffic warden, or Richard Dawkins’s left foot is “true”. That would be a bizarre category error. These things are not claims or beliefs and thus do not possess any kind of truth value. They simply are.

      So what about atheism? Well, as far as I can make out, I think my atheist friends are claiming that their belief is true; that they really, really believe it to be true that there is no God. Well, if that’s the case, then it makes atheism a positive claim and claims must be defended, evidence martialled, and reasons given. Otherwise, if atheism is not a claim, it cannot be true or false. It simply is, and to say “I am an atheist” is up there with saying “Wibble, wibble, wibble”.

      If the statement, “There is no God” is not a truth claim, than it cannot be true. Something which is not a truth claim cannot be true (or false).

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