Sunday, June 30, 2019

Stupid Atheist Arguments Part 2

Stupid Atheist Arguments part 2
Glenn R. Morton, December 2019

I am sorry this installment has been so delayed. I am a terminal cancer patient and for the first 9 months of this year, I spent 2-3 days per week on experimental drugs at M. D. Anderson, so, this kind of fell by the wayside.  Anyway, here it is:

Since the universe is eternal no god could not have created it

You will, of course, notice the double negative in the above caption. This is what is on The Thinker's web page on Dec 23, 2019 when I accessed it, a double negative (at least until he changes it). I found this so funny that I captured it along with the link to prove that this is what he wrote:

This was proposed by a blog whose author's name is not easy to find, so I won't try.  He calls himself The Thinker, an obvious overreach from what I have read on his site, which was named one of the top atheist sites on the web (How? I am utterly amazed). 

The Thinker wrote: "Since god is considered the creator and sustainer of the universe, it's helpful to point out that the universe doesn't need a creator or sustainer because it's eternal" source

Is this for real or a troll?  It seems to me that something must be eternal; it must be the universe(or a physical precursor to the universe) or it must be a God/Immaterial being.  So what this genius does is commit the logical fallacy of assuming the consequence, which is a fancy way of saying, if you can't prove your case assume it to be true and hope no one else will notice.  The problem for one and all is can an eternal universe be proven? Can an eternal God be proven.  As an atheist friend once wrote, nothing is proven except in mathematics and logic. Proof doesn't apply to things apart from deductive systems.  The nature of this world is NOT a deductive system.

Free will doesn't exist.

Again The Thinker from above presents an incredibly silly argument against Free Will.  Free will is important for Christian theology. Here is his argument:

Libertarian free will is incoherent

Libertarian free will requires at least 3 things: (1) We are in control of our will; (2) Our mind is causally effective; (3) In the same situation we could have done otherwise. But logically that's impossible, because:

P1: Our thoughts (mind or will) is either caused or uncaused, no other option is available
P2: If our thoughts (or whatever caused them) are caused we cannot be in control of them
P3: If our thoughts (or whatever caused them) are uncaused we cannot be in control of them
P4: It is logically impossible to choose our thoughts
P5: Being in control of our thoughts (mind or will or whatever caused them) is a requirement of libertarian free will
C: Therefore libertarian free will is logically impossible

Note above in premise 1, he equates thoughts with Mind or Will by use of parentheses, then he uses a different definition of thoughts in the rest of the argument.  The above is what is called an equivocation, which means, that two different meanings of the word 'thoughts' is used. This is a quick way to invalidate any argument.  Premise 1 I can go along with. Our minds or wills are either caused or not.  But the causation of my mind doesn't mean my individual thoughts are caused by someone other than me.  Thus, after premise 1 this author changes the meaning of 'thoughts'  to mean individual thoughts which we supposedly can't control. Thus this argument is, by sleight of hand, equivocating Mind and Thoughts as one and the same.  They are not.  My mind/will contains much more than thoughts. It contains sensations, experiences, tastes, smells, tactile feeling etc. He hopes you won't notice the change in meaning and swallow his argument. 

 Secondly, He fails to prove that there is only one cause of thoughts.  If God created my mind, but then after that,  I autonomously create the thoughts I have, then there is no reason I can't control them. Even if occasionally a divine being inserts a thought into my mind, this does not mean that every single thought I have is from that being.  This argument leaves me flat.

Euthyphro's dilemma

"Starting with the Euthyphro dilemma we can ask, "Is something good because god commands it, or does god command it because it's good?" If something is good because god commands it, then god’s commands can be arbitrary. God could command genocide and slavery, and they would be morally good merely because god commanded it. And if god commands it because it’s good, that means there’s a standard of good that exists independently of god. Either way, the theist has a problem. Either morality is arbitrarily decided by god, or morality exists objectively and independently of god. The theists is in a dilemma."Source

No, the theist doesn't have a problem, this author has a problem doing sufficient research to look for counter arguments. In this case, he need have looked no further than Wiki to find a solution to this 'oh-so-devastating-argument' against theism. Euthryphro was in one of Plato's Dialogues and thus the background for that discussion was the Greek Pantheon of gods, who were subject to the proclamations of higher Gods.  The difference between Greek gods and the Christian God is that the Christian God is not subject to other laws.  Wiki writes, quoting Philosopher Edward Feser:

"Again, the Euthyphro dilemma is a false one; the third option that it fails to consider is that what is morally obligatory is what God commands in accordance with a non-arbitrary and unchanging standard of goodness that is not independent of Him... He is not under the moral law precisely because He is the moral law." Feser, Edward. "God, obligation, and the Euthyphro dilemma".

The Thinker concludes this section saying:

"So the Euthyphro dilemma really is just a starting point that terminates in a trilemma for the theist. The theist cannot attempt to ground morality in god without hitting this trilemma:
  1. Show that morality is arbitrarily decided by god.
  2. Show that morality exists independently of god.
  3. Make a circular argument." Source

Or, we could do as Feser suggests, holding that "what God commands [is] in accordance with a non-arbitrary and unchanging standard of goodness that is not independent of Him.", thus invalidating this whole nonsensical, and anachronistic argument.

Other reasons The Thinker gives for Atheism being true include:

Religious belief is product of the brain (GRM: which is another assuming the consequence, he doesn't prove that assertion is true; he just assumes it)

Brute facts are unavoidable (a truly incoherent passage). His argument depends on this statement asserting that God is 'unchanging'.  The Thinker writes:
"All of god's will and desires must exist timelessly and eternally in an unchanging, frozen state."

This is easily disproven by citing Genesis 6:6, "The Lord was sorry that He had made man..." This doesn't sound like a frozen God.

Or how about Jonah 3:10 where God changed his mind about destroying Ninevah? "And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not."
Clearly The Thinker has not actually read and thought about what the Bible actually says.
After a whole lot of junk like this this awthor (awful author) concludes: "Combine that with arguments 2-13 and you have what I see as an irrefutable case that there is no god, and that naturalism is true."

With argumentation this bad, I am utterly embarrassed that I seriously considered becoming an atheist for about 10 years. This is truly abysmal junk.

Does Pi=3?
Occasionally one will see this argument from atheists.  It is a weak argument and more knowledgeable atheists discourage its use, but never the less it pops up every now and then.

In I Kings 7:23 the Bible says:
And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.

Using these values one would derive a value of 3 for Pi.

This verse bothers even Christians and is used occasionally by atheists, although many atheists are now aware of the problems with this criticism.  From a Christian site:

"I believe a Christian should be honest. And if it is honest to say that there is an inaccuracy in the Bible, I would do so, and not pretend it is not there. There is 1 Kings 7:23 at least, because it is mathematically inaccurate (actually I do not doubt its inspiration, only its scientific accuracy). Let us focus on this one verse (it only takes one inaccurate verse to disprove a claim that the whole bible is scientifically accurate):is 2.1 feet(1 foot=1.5 cubits)
If a math or science student answered such a calculation with 30 cubits, they would be marked wrong, no doubt.
A tolerance of 2.1 feet is too large by any good engineering standard, and too large to be a rounding error (rounding gives us 31 cubits, not 30).
The author of Scripture (not God, in this particular case, because it is in error, but whoever recorded the incorrect value of 30 cubits) either did not care about the scientific accuracy, or was reporting their actual calculation which was erroneously calculated because they did not know the value of PI to sufficient accuracy. Either way, this is a clear example of the Bible being scientifically inaccurate,

This criticism is rather silly in two forms. First the Hebrews didn't have a concept of real numbers. These are numbers that can be expressed as 1.5634... They had the tithe, but it was a case of counting up to 10 and taking one and giving it to God. It wasn't written as 0.1 as we would do.  Thus, given their mathematical system 3 is as close as they could get to Pi.   Secondly,  3.14 is not much better an approximation for Pi than is 3, 3.1 or 3.14 or 3.1415926, and no matter how far one takes pi out to, there is an infinitude of digits left off of that approximation.  Thirdly, it illustrates why people should not take a stand on what the English words in the English translations say. The origin of a Hebrew word may give the key to this riddle anyway.  Let's look at the wider passage:

23 And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about. 24 And under the brim of it round about there were knops compassing it, ten in a cubit, compassing the sea round about: the knops were cast in two rows, when it was cast. 25 It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east: and the sea was set above upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward. 26 And it was an hand breadth thick, and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies:[1]

A more modern interpretation translates the bolded part as:
"It was a handbreadth thick, and its brim was made like the brim of a cup, as a lily blossom;"[2]

The meaning of the Hebrew word translated as 'lilly' depends largely on whether one derives the word from Egyptian or from Akkadian.  The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says:

"Related to sshšn, which means “big flower” or “water lily” in Egyptian. Some derive it from Akkadian shushshu “six-sided,” referring to the six leaves of this lily. It appears mainly in poetic material as a symbol of beauty."[3]

Thus, it is quite possible that the last sentence in the description of this bowl should read:

and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, six-sided with flowers.


and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, with flowers six-sided.

If this bowl is six-sided, a hexagon, then the ratio of the bowl's  circumference divided by the distance across would be exactly 3.  The atheist argument totally depends on this bowl being round rather than hexagonal.  Why a word that could mean six-sided is included in the description of the bowl is never discussed by the atheists. One must also remember that Abraham came from the Akkadian Empire and would have spoken that language, not Egyptian. He would have passed that language, with changes, on to his children.  To me this Hebrew word is far more likely to be related to Akkadian than to Egyptian. (Source­)

Is Atheism natural?

Sam Wickstrom is a smart guy but he presents a couple of stupid arguments against Christianity and religion in general.  In a review of Dawkin's The God Illusion, Wickstrom is struck by the argument that the natural state of man is atheism. This is easily refutable both in light of how we talk and in light of new psychological studies. Wickstrom wrote:

"Atheism is completely natural. A primary tool of critical thought is to remember that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. When someone tells you that they saw a velociraptor in the forest, you're going to need evidence to believe them. Their claim is pretty extraordinary and so you would require some outstanding evidence for their claim. Religion is treated the exact same way. If a Muslim man tries to convert you to Islam, you're going to need some evidence for his claims about the truth of his religion. That's an important point about religion, that the burden of proof is on them to prove their fanciful ideas. The only reason people are convinced so easily about the madness of religion is that their parents or friends tell them about it, and they trust those people. I believed in Christianity for a long time, and when I had the strongest doubts, I would remember that my parents, friends, fellow church-goers, and extended family wouldn't lie to me about something so important. Atheism is instinctual, but so is trust." Source

We don't talk like we believe we are material. Euan Squire points this out when speaking of the philosophy of Dualism:

"All this is the complete opposite of materialism. We have moved from the idea that I am a physical object to the idea that I am independent of any physical object. Again, but of course for different reasons, the idea is very appealing. It is how we most naturally think of ourselves.  I speak of my leg, my heart, my body, etc; none of these things do I naturally regard as being me. Dualism allows a clear statement of who is conscious; certainly it is in no doubt about the fact that wholly physical things (machines) cannot be conscious. "  Euan Squires Conscious Mind in the Physical World, (New York: Adam Hilger, 1990), p.83-84

Recent psychological studies show precisely that even materialists subconsciously believe our consciousness is not material. From May 30, 2019 New Scientist:

"Belief in the supernatural is still alive and kicking, even among people who don’t believe in a god.  Research on atheists and agnostics around the world has revealed that almost nobody can claim to completely reject irrational beliefs such as life after death, astrology, and the existence of a universal life-force.
The UK-based Understanding Unbelief project interviewed thousands of self-identified atheists and agnostics from six countries – Brazil, China, Denmark, Japan, US and UK. It found that despite their godlessness, a majority believe in at least one supernatural phenomenon or entity.
Among atheists in the UK, for example, about 12 per cent believe in reincarnation and nearly 20 per cent life after death. All told, 71 per cent of atheists hold one or more such beliefs; for agnostics the figure is 92 per cent. Atheists and agnostics comprise about 37 per cent of the UK population, so when combined with religious people, that means a large majority of the general population believe in the supernatural. "Most atheists believe in the supernatural, despite trusting science," Source: New Scientist

Furthermore, an earlier New Scientist article points out that it is religion that comes naturally, not atheism and education doesn't automatically lead to a secular view.

"IF YOU’RE one of those committed atheists in the Richard Dawkins mould who dreams of ridding the world of religious mumbo-jumbo, prepare yourself for a disappointment: there is no good evidence that education leads to secularisation."
In fact, the more we learn about the “god instinct” and the refusal of religion to fade away under the onslaught of progress, the more the non-religious mindset looks like the odd man out. That is why anthropologists, psychologists and social scientists are now putting irreligion under the microscope in the same way they once did with religious belief (see “Where do atheists come from?”)."
The aim is not to discredit atheism but to understand how so many people can override a way of thinking that seems to come so naturally." Source: New Scientist (my bolding)

Just last month, Graham Lawton wrote:

"RICHARD WAVERLY was a 37-year-old history teacher. One day he was driving to work, tired after a late night and hungry from skipping breakfast. He was also in a bad mood following a row with his wife, who he suspected of having an affair. At a busy junction, he lost control, drove into a telegraph pole and was thrown through the windscreen. The paramedics said he was dead before he hit the pavement.
This story is fictitious, but when psychologist Jesse Bering narrated it to volunteers, he discovered something you probably couldn’t make up. Asked questions such as “do you think Richard knows he is dead?” and “do you think he wishes he had told his wife he loved her before he died?”, large numbers of volunteers answered yes. For many, who had already professed a belief in the afterlife, this was no big surprise. However even people who totally rejected the idea of life after death – so-called extinctivists – also answered yes.
That experiment was done in 2002. Since then, Bering – who is now at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand – and others have confirmed and extended its findings. Confronted with the finality of death, the majority of us, dogged rationalists included, cling on to the belief that it isn’t the end. “Most people believe in life after death,” says psychologist Jamin Halberstadt, also at the University of Otago. “That’s amazing. Science has changed the way we think about almost every aspect of our lives, including death, but through all of that, belief in life after death has remained steadfast.”Grant Lawton, Why almost everyone believes in an afterlife – even atheists," New Scientist, Nov 23, 2019 Source: New Scientist

Maybe Pascal was correct that there is a God-shaped hole in our heart pointing us to his existence.

Religion is Desperation. Source

Isn't it amazingly elitist of him to think this is why people accept religion?  How many people has he interviewed?  His opinion is of no value, yet he spouts it as if it is metaphysical truth.  Are there desperate people in religion?  Of course. Are there desperate atheists?  Of course. But the argument assumes he knows what the nature of reality is. He must assume there is no God in order to claim that this life is all we have. Has he proven that this life is all we have?  No. That is his assumption and nothing more. One could easily invert his argument and say:

I've also noticed this painful truth about atheism. It's made up of people who are intensely afraid of God's rules and the truth about the sinful nature of humans.

Which sentence is correct?  Only data can shed any light on it, but Wickstrum acts as if his side is already proven.  Only a man who died and came back to life could tell us what is on the other side---oh, that already happened.  That man said there was an afterlife. Plus one for us.

Remember that Wickstrum above wrote: "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." This demand he throws at the Christian as if we have to be the only ones to prove our case.

The problem is that the claim that the material universe is the only thing that exists is equally an extraordinary claim in and of itself, which contains implicitly other extraordinary claims. For example, if the universe is all there is, then how did it come into existence? The universe is governed by mathematical rules. How did the logic and math come into existence? Is he claiming that the universe, math and logic is eternally existent? Well, eternal existence is an attribute that is ascribed to gods, not to matter subject to the second law of thermodynamics, where everything runs down eventually. So the observational data argues against his position. Claiming that the universe exists from eternity past to eternity future is an extraordinary claim but one necessitated by the claim that God doesn't exist.

Should Mr. Wickstrum believe in the multiverse, in which our universe is merely one among an infinitude of other universes with different mathematical laws and the existence of the math and logic of our universe is merely due to chance, then he would believe in other unseen heavens, many of which have other unseen beings in them. Why is that claim not an extraordinary claim? We believe in an unseen God in another 'universe' we call heaven. Those who believe in the multiverse equally believe in unseen beings in other universes. To claim that only the Christian must prove our case, how about him proving his extraordinary claims with extraordinary evidence?

Religion is Indoctrination

One I find particularly insipid was one that he got from Dawkins, claiming religion is merely indoctrination.

He writes:

"Dawkins challenges religious people to train their kids in critical thinking instead of in religious tradition. In this way, the child will choose whether or not religion is true and real, rather than being constantly told by trusted friends and family that it is. This is a challenge to religious people because religion continues almost entirely because of the indoctrination of children. Children are easy targets because they trust that the adults around them have life figured out and are vastly more intelligent than them. Dawkins is pointing out that if we train children to think critically rather than indoctrinate them, we'll have an atheist society in a single generation."

What he and Dawkins seem to miss is that critical thinking as a skill is great, but the conclusions one draws is entirely based upon the assumptions one starts with.  Critical thinking alone will not necessarily lead one to atheism.  For instance, if one assumes that there is nothing but matter out there, then one of course is very likely to become an atheist.  But what if one starts with the physical observation that a human mind can change the behavior of small physical particles (no this isn't Urey Geller)?

I think Christians have long undervalued the support our world view gets from Physics. When dealing with the particles, like electrons, photons etc, experiments have taught us that they can be both waves and particles.  But here is the kicker. Our consciousness decides how they behave, not only in the present but in the past. A non-existent entity should not be able to alter the behavior of matter; yet our souls/consciousnesses do.  This is the toughest section and in part comes from Quantum Soul, but if you make the effort to understand, you will find some very interesting support for our belief that materialism is false.

Let's start with a simple case where a human decision about which equipment to use to observe light from a distant quasar determines whether we see particles going around one side of the individual galaxy or we see waves going on all sides of the intervening galaxy all at once.  Look at the figure below as
"Wheeler noted that it is possible to devise a double slit experiment at the cosmic level using light coming from quasars and a galaxy which operates as a gravitational lens on the way to Earth, bending the light inwardly as it passes by massive objects (as predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity). This light would generate an interference pattern showing that light has travelled as waves. But if a measurement would be performed before the screen on which the interference pattern takes form, the pattern would dissolve and the photons would change from waves into particles. In other words, our choice on how to measure the light coming from a quasar influences the nature of the light emitted 10 billion years ago. According to Wheeler, this experiment would show that ‘retrocausal effects operate at the quantum level." Antonella Vannini e Ulisse Di Corpo, "Quantum Mechanics (QM), Syntropy 2007, 1, pp. 119-129, p. 127 Source

In all other areas of physics, my choice makes no difference to the outcome of the experiment.  Nature determines the outcome. For instance, no choice my observation, my mind, can change how fast a ball falls in a vacuum in a gravitational field.  I can't change what it does like some magician.  But with these tiny particles, my mind, my soul, if you will can change their behavior simply by my choosing what equipment I use to detect them!  Indeed, it gets stranger than that.  In the world of quantum, one's conscious decision of what to do with information one has collected about the path's of these particles can change the past; change how the particles behaved in the past.  These are the delayed choice experiments.  

There is a famous experiment, the double slit experiment.  If you let the particles pass through slits and the observer doesn't collect information about which slit the individual particles pass through, then you get the diffraction pattern, indicating that the particles are acting like waves(the upper half of the first picture).  If you watch to see what slit they go through, the particles act like bullets and the pattern observed is of two zones immediately behind the slits where the bullets pile up.(Lower half of first picture)

Intuition would tell us that it is the slits which are causing the behavior of the electrons, but in fact, it is our consciousness which causes their behavior.  This can be shown by an experiment actually performed in which individual electrons are sent through the slits, information on which slit they went through is collected and then, after the electron has gone through the slit and one would think that the behavior has already been caused by the slits, we then can change what happened at the slit by the decision as to whether or not to keep the information about what slit the particle passed through or not.

Consciousness is deciding how the past behaved. This requires that consciousness/mind/observer is somehow above the laws of physics. Stephen Barr wrote:

"A careful analysis of the logical structure of quantum theory suggests that for quantum theory to make sense it has to posit the existence of observers who lie, at least in part, outside of the description provided by physics." Stephen M. Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003), p. 27-28

And as Peierlman notes:

"The moment at which you can throw away one possibility and keep only the other is when you finally become conscious of the fact that the experiment has given one result .... You see, the quantum mechanical description is in terms of knowledge, and knowledge requires somebody who knows." Rudolf Peierls, in P. C. W. Davies and Julian Brown, The Ghost in the Atom, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993) p.74

The observer/consciousness/soul is above nature, apart from it, telling nature what it must be like. This clearly says the soul exists apart from matter and that it has a special place in creating this world (which has implications to the problem of evil). For a fuller explanation of why knowing is not the same as recording, see "What Constitutes an Observer," in Quantum Soul.

Starting with this as a data point, critical thinking, as advocated by Dawkins, would lead us to think that if one object lies outside of the laws of this universe, then maybe other such entities exist as well, like God. Critical thinking alone doesn't lead one to atheism; critical thinking leads one to conclude what is implicit in his previously accepted assumptions.

[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (1995). (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version., 1 Ki 7:23–26). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (1 Ki 7:26). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[3] Wolf, H. (1999). 2356 שׁוּשַׁן. R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 914). Chicago: Moody Press.

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