Podcast: I try poetry

I was inspired to try poetry. Why? Well I did do a lot of it during my teen years, mostly prompted by angst. But this year I had a different motivation.

I heard the apologist Glen Scrivener (https://christthetruth.net/about-2/) deliver his own poem about a fictional conversation with an atheist. You can read it here:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ex8GvfVysyZW4qde6WT83anCr9qQYSgwipUGJCe4jXo/edit

Though I do understand you can watch a delivery on YouTube if you ask google the right question.

My version is a fictional dialog with a Christian, written in a similar style to Glen’s. It is currently audio only, you can listen below.

https://anchor.fm/still-unbelievable/episodes/Episode-16-The-Still-Unbelievable–Poem-e4k9ic/a-air3ut

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Podcast: Episode 18 – Ask An Atheist Day Question show special – part 3 of 3

Part three of the monster Ask An Atheist Day question show special is now live.

If you want to ask us a question, you can do so using this handy voice link: https://anchor.fm/reasonpress/message

https://anchor.fm/reasonpress/embed/episodes/Episode-18—Ask-An-Atheist-Day-Question-show-special—part-3-of-3-e3pv6u

 

Podcast: Episode 15: Easter Round Table with Skeptics and Seekers

https://anchor.fm/reasonpress/episodes/Episode-15-Easter-Round-Table-with-Skeptics-and-Seekers-e3o0ab/a-ad5lhg

It’s time for another Round Table episode; Andrew and Matthew are joined by Dale and David from the Skeptics and Seekers podcast for another of their regular round tables. This time fielding questions about Easter.

Find out more about Skeptics and Seekers at https://skepticsandseekers.wordpress.com/

 

 

Podcast: Episode 14 – Ask An Atheist Day Question show special – part 1 of 3

There’s going to be a flurry of podcast posts in the upcoming weeks. I have two in the queue waiting for me to hit the publish button, and I have 3 more in the edit process. I never wanted to publish more than one a week, but I don’t think I can avoid it right now. Today is Ask An Atheist Day and I recorded a four hour session answering various questions. Due to the length I have decided to split the recording into three parts, the first hour is available at the link below. The next two parts will follow, plus I have an Easter special episode to publish.

https://anchor.fm/reasonpress/episodes/Episode-14—Ask-An-Atheist-Day-Question-show-special—part-1-of-3-e3p327/a-adbbc2

This first part of the Ask An Atheist Day special covers the fire at Notre Dame, deconverting Christians, giving up beliefs, sex and marriage, and monkeys throwing poop! Have a giggle with us.

Podcast: Episode 13: The Burden of Proof, Bayes Theorem, and Molinism

https://anchor.fm/reasonpress/episodes/Episode-13-The-Burden-of-Proof–Bayes-Theorem–and-Molinism-e3n57p/a-ad1cgl

Another of my podcast episodes has gone live, this time Andrew and I are in discussion with Dale from the Skeptics and Seekers podcast (https://anchor.fm/skeptics-and-seekers)

The conversation is supposed to be about who holds the burden of proof for what, but there is a segment where Andrew and Dale get a little stuck on Bayes, don’t worry though, it doesn’t dominate the episode.

As always, comments and discussion are welcome, or join in at the the Skeptics and Seekers site: https://skepticsandseekers.wordpress.com/2019/04/09/ask-an-atheist-anything-when-does-the-atheist-bear-the-burden-of-proof-dale-guest-stars/

 

Ask An Atheist Day, April 18

Ask An Atheist Day is a thing, Apparently, and this year it falls on April 18th.

To support this, the podcast I co host, Ask An Atheist Anything, is going to do a questions episode. In this episode we’ll field a bunch of questions and give brief answers. This will be a change from most episodes where we have tended to focus on a single question.

So, what question would you like to ask an atheist?

Or, if you’re atheist, what question would you like to be asked?

Or, if you’ve seen an interesting question or set of questions elsewhere, paste in the link.

 

 

Can atheism explain Consciouness?

 

The latest episode of my Ask An Atheist Anything podcast went live over the weekend. Listen to it at the link below or wherever you get your podcasts.

https://anchor.fm/reasonpress/episodes/Episode-12—Can-atheism-explain-Consciousness-e3fr5q

The conversation that Andrew and I have with Ernest is delightful and there is a lot of genuine laughter. Ernest’s enthusiasm for life is infectious and the world does need more people like him.

The blog post that prompted the discussion and eventual recording of the episode is here: https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Unbelievable-blog/How-consciousness-demolished-my-atheism-and-saved-my-faith

Comments are no longer visible or possible on the blog post, which I think is a massive shame. It was only through the ability to comment that I was able to make contact with the author and to organise the live conversation. Shutting down comments kills the ability for dialogue to spread.

I am hopeful that there will be a follow up episode, so any thoughts, feedback, or follow up questions will be welcomed and appreciated.

Twenty Arguments for God – Eight – The Argument from the World as an Interacting Whole

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 8:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#8
If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

8. The Argument from the World as an Interacting Whole

Norris Clarke, who taught metaphysics and philosophy of religion for many years at Fordham, has circulated privately an intriguing version of the design argument. We present it here, slightly abridged and revised; for your reflection.
Starting point. This world is given to us as a dynamic, ordered system of many active component elements. Their natures (natural properties) are ordered to interact with each other in stable, reciprocal relationships which we call physical laws. For example, every hydrogen atom in our universe is ordered to combine with every oxygen atom in the proportion of 2:1 (which implies that every oxygen atom is reciprocally ordered to combine with every hydrogen atom in the proportion of 1:2). So it is with the chemical valences of all the basic elements. So too all particles with mass are ordered to move toward every other according to the fixed proportions of the law of gravity.
In such an interconnected, interlocking, dynamic system, the active nature of each component is defined by its relation with others, and so presupposes the others for its own intelligibility and ability to act. Contemporary science reveals to us that our world-system is not merely an aggregate of many separate, unrelated laws, but rather a tightly interlocking whole, where relationship to the whole structures and determines the parts. The parts can no longer be understood apart from the whole; its influence permeates them all.
Argument. In any such system as the above (like our world) no component part or active element can be self-sufficient or self-explanatory. For any part presupposes all the other parts—the whole system already in place—to match its own relational properties. It can’t act unless the others are there to interact reciprocally with it. Any one part could be self-sufficient only if it were the cause of the whole rest of the system—which is impossible, since no part can act except in collaboration with the others.
Nor can the system as a whole explain its own existence, since it is made up of the component parts and is not a separate being, on its own, independent of them. So neither the parts nor the whole are self-sufficient; neither can explain the actual existence of this dynamically interactive system.
Three Conclusions
Since the parts make sense only within the whole, and neither the whole nor the parts can explain their own existence, then such a system as our world requires a unifying efficient cause to posit it in existence as a unified whole.
Any such cause must be an intelligent cause, one that brings the system into being according to a unifying idea. For the unity of the whole—and of each one of the overarching, cosmic-wide, physical laws uniting elements under themselves—is what determines and correlates the parts. Hence it must be somehow actually present as an effective organizing factor. But the unity, the wholeness, of the whole transcends any one part, and therefore cannot be contained in any one part. To be actually present all at once as a whole this unity can only be the unity of an organizing unifying idea. For only an idea can hold together many different elements at once without destroying or fusing their distinctness. That is almost the definition of an idea. Since the actual parts are spread out over space and time, the only way they can be together at once as an intelligible unity is within an idea. Hence the system of the world as a whole must live first within the unity of an idea.
Now a real idea cannot actually exist and be effectively operative save in a real mind, which has the creative power to bring such a system into real existence. Hence the sufficient reason for our ordered world-system must ultimately be a creative ordering Mind. A cosmic-wide order requires a cosmic-wide Orderer, which can only be a Mind.
Such an ordering Mind must be independent of the system itself, that is, transcendent; not dependent on the system for its own existence and operation. For if it were dependent on—or part of—the system, it would have to presuppose the latter as already existing in order to operate, and would thus have to both precede and follow itself. But this is absurd. Hence it must exist and be able to operate prior to and independent of the system.
Thus our material universe necessarily requires, as the sufficient reason for its actual existence as an operating whole, a Transcendent Creative Mind.

This argument reads like it’s a subtle variation of others already addressed. I really am getting the feeling that these 20 arguments are varying shades of grey and that the whole block set does not actually represent 20 distinct and separate arguments. To make things worse, this one seems worded to obfuscate rather than to clarify. Which is itself unhelpful.

That said, the argument starts with the claim that the world (did he actually mean universe?) is dynamic and ordered. Chaos theory and the laws of thermodynamics might have something to say about that. Critically, what is meant by ordered is not defined.

The description of hydrogen and oxygen combining is misleading and over simplistic (intentionally so?). The structure of the hydrogen atom is such that it can only form one bond, irrespective of what it is bonding to. The structure of oxygen is such that it can form two bonds, irrespective of what it is bonding to. This means that where oxygen and hydrogen bond, you will always and only get the 2:1 ratio described. The reason is down to the nature of atoms, each atom is different and bonds accordingly. That we get a pair of atoms that bond 2:1 is to be expected, there is nothing special or miraculous about that relationship.

each component is defined by its relation with others, and so presupposes the others for its own intelligibility and ability to act

Presupposes!

Note how once again the assumption is made, with no support, we’re supposed to accept that without question.

Things interact in nature, that they do does not mean that they were made for each other. It just means that they interact. It is as absurd as saying that a hole presupposes that there will be a puddle to fit it.

Contemporary science reveals to us that our world-system is not merely an aggregate of many separate, unrelated laws, but rather a tightly interlocking whole, where relationship to the whole structures and determines the parts. The parts can no longer be understood apart from the whole; its influence permeates them all.

Claims without reference again. This is also a pretty meaningless snippet, it’s the sort of faux wonder you’d expect from a New Age healing pamphlet. Yes, the particles interact, yes the whole often helps us to understand the parts, that’s due to the nature of the interactions. So why the odd wording and the blatant avoidance of references to what it is that science has revealed?

Talking of new Age, the author makes the amazingly bold claim that there is a cosmic-wide Mind (note the capitol M) which must have created and ordered everything. Well, a mind can’t exist without a physical brain so where is the Brain (capitol B required) in which the Mind must live? Erp, we’ve fallen foul of the X requires Y of the previous argument. If the Mind requires the Brain, then where is the stuff that the Brain depends on. It seems the author was a bit sloppy in putting this one together.

Lets jump to the conclusions.

Atoms join up, make something bigger, it’s all amazing which means that there is….

a unifying efficient cause

which

must be an intelligent cause

therefore

it must be somehow actually present as an effective organizing factor.

Note how there is not a single justification, explanation or reference to why this must be so. It is because the author says so.

Twenty Arguments for God – Seven – The Argument from Contingency

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 7:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#7
If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

7. The Argument from Contingency

The basic form of this argument is simple.
If something exists, there must exist what it takes for that thing to exist.
The universe—the collection of beings in space and time—exists.
Therefore, there must exist what it takes for the universe to exist.
What it takes for the universe to exist cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time.
Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist must transcend both space and time.
Suppose you deny the first premise. Then if X exists, there need not exist what it takes for X to exist. But “what it takes for X to exist” means the immediate condition(s) for X’s existence. You mean that X exists only if Y. Without Y, there can be no X. So the denial of premise 1 amounts to this: X exists; X can only exist if Y exists; and Y does not exist. This is absurd. So there must exist what it takes for the universe to exist. But what does it take?
We spoke of the universe as “the collection of beings in space and time.” Consider one such being: yourself. You exist, and you are, in part at least, material. This means that you are a finite, limited and changing being, you know that right now, as you read this book, you are dependent for your existence on beings outside you. Not your parents or grandparents. They may no longer be alive, but you exist now. And right now you depend on many things in order to exist—for example, on the air you breathe. To be dependent in this way is to be contingent. You exist if something else right now exists.
But not everything can be like this. For then everything would need to be given being, but there would be nothing capable of giving it. There would not exist what it takes for anything to exist. So there must be something that does not exist conditionally; something which does not exist only if something else exists; something which exists in itself. What it takes for this thing to exist could only be this thing itself. Unlike changing material reality, there would be no distance, so to speak, between what this thing is and that it is. Obviously the collection of beings changing in space and time cannot be such a thing. Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist cannot be identical with the universe itself or with a part of the universe.
Question 1: But why should we call this cause “God”? Maybe there is something unknown that grounds the universe of change we live in.
Reply: True. And this “unknown” is God. What we humans know directly is this sensible changing world. We also know that there must exist whatever it takes for something to exist. Therefore, we know that neither this changing universe as a whole nor any part of it can be itself what it takes for the universe to exist. But we have now such direct knowledge of the cause of changing things. We know that there must exist a cause; we know that this cause cannot be finite or material—that it must transcend such limitations. But what this ultimate cause is in itself remains, so far, a mystery.
There is more to be said by reason; and there is very much more God has made known about himself through revelation. But the proofs have given us some real knowledge as well: knowledge that the universe is created; knowledge that right now it is kept in being by a cause unbounded by any material limit, that transcends the kind of being we humans directly know. And that is surely knowledge worth having. We might figure out that someone’s death was murder and no accident, without figuring out exactly who did it and why, and this might leave us frustrated and unsatisfied. But at least we would know what path of questioning to pursue; at least we would know that someone did it.
So it is with the proofs. They let us know that at every moment the being of the universe is the creative act of a Giver—A Giver transcending all material and spiritual limitations. Beyond that, they do not tell us much about what or who this Giver is—but they point in a very definite direction. We know that this Ultimate Reality—the Giver of being—cannot be material. And we know the gift which is given includes personal being: intelligence, will and spirit. The infinite transcendent cause of these things cannot be less than they are, but must be infinitely more. How and in what way we do not know. To some extent this Giver must always remain unknown to human reason. We should never expect otherwise. But reason can at least let us know that “someone did it.” And that is of great value.

Here is another of those arguments which boils down to ‘stuff, therefore god’. I wonder why the author went to so much effort to essentially repeat the same fallacious argument using slightly different words and titles.

The logic starts off okay.

If something exists, there must exist what it takes for that thing to exist.
The universe—the collection of beings in space and time—exists.
Therefore, there must exist what it takes for the universe to exist.

I’m okay with this so far (I’m ignoring the oddly phrased ‘collection of beings’), it does really need some evidential backup to support the premise though. It shouldn’t be assumed to be true just because I agree that it seems reasonable. One should make adequate steps to confirm what one assumes is true before making further assumptions based on it. I’m not even halfway through this list and how many times has that been said?

What it takes for the universe to exist cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time.

This is where it starts to wobble. It seems a reasonable statement on the face of it, but it needs experimental confirmation before it can be asserted as a truth. The bounded by space and time is the critical part. We already know that the time that we experience depends on the matter in the universe. However, the phrasing of that sentence suggests to me that the author thinks that is not the case and that time (and space) may exist outside of the universe, there is some clarity missing. Making more assumptions based on unclear explanations will only lead to greater errors and more confusion.

The argument also assumes that there is indeed something outside of the universe on which the universe depends. Well, more accurately it’s trying to argue that that is indeed the case. Physics hasn’t been able to identify anything that is not within the universe. Our knowledge of how the universe came about is incomplete. All we can be certain of is that the laws that govern matter within the universe do not apply to the inception of the universe and if there is indeed an ‘outside the universe’ those laws certainly will not apply. Yet this argument seems to ignore all of that and carry on with its own conclusions based on arguments that can be observed within the universe. This is a basic error.

So there must be something that does not exist conditionally; something which does not exist only if something else exists; something which exists in itself.

Please tell me you saw that bit coming. It should have been obvious. The author is a Christian, so of course the non conditional existing thing is the Christian god, nothing else would be accepted. This really is a case of framing the argument around the already assumed but unevidenced conclusion. Why can’t the non conditional existing thing be the universe or the bigger god that created the Christian god? Both of those suggestions fit the logic. The author would reject those two options because they don’t result in the Christian god. The Christian god is the X that needs no Y and no other option will be discussed or considered.

Twenty Arguments for God – Six – The Kalam Argument

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 6:
http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#6
If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

6. The Kalam Argument

The Arabic word kalam literally means “speech,” but came to denote a certain type of philosophical theology—a type containing demonstrations that the world could not be infinitely old and must therefore have been created by God. This sort of demonstration has had a long and wide appeal among both Christians and Muslims. Its form is simple and straightforward.
Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being.
The universe began to exist.
Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being.
Grant the first premise. (Most people—outside of asylums and graduate schools would consider it not only true, but certainly and obviously true.)
Is the second premise true? Did the universe—the collection of all things bounded by space and time—begin to exist? This premise has recently received powerful support from natural science—from so-called Big Bang Cosmology. But there are philosophical arguments in its favor as well. Can an infinite task ever be done or completed? If, in order to reach a certain end, infinitely many steps had to precede it, could the end ever be reached? Of course not—not even in an infinite time. For an infinite time would be unending, just as the steps would be. In other words, no end would ever be reached. The task would—could—never be completed.
But what about the step just before the end? Could that point ever be reached? Well, if the task is really infinite, then an infinity of steps must also have preceded it. And therefore the step just before the end could also never be reached. But then neither could the step just before that one. In fact, no step in the sequence could be reached, because an infinity of steps must always have preceded any step; must always have been gone through one by one before it. The problem comes from supposing that an infinite sequence could ever reach, by temporal succession, any point at all.
Now if the universe never began, then it always was. If it always was, then it is infinitely old. If it is infinitely old, then an infinite amount of time would have to have elapsed before (say) today. And so an infinite number of days must have been completed—one day succeeding another, one bit of time being added to what went before—in order for the present day to arrive. But this exactly parallels the problem of an infinite task. If the present day has been reached, then the actually infinite sequence of history has reached this present point: in fact, has been completed up to this point—for at any present point the whole past must already have happened. But an infinite sequence of steps could never have reached this present point—or any point before it.
So, either the present day has not been reached, or the process of reaching it was not infinite. But obviously the present day has been reached. So the process of reaching it was not infinite. In other words, the universe began to exist. Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being, a Creator.
Question 1: Christians believe they are going to live forever with God. So they believe the future will be endless. How come the past cannot also be endless?
Reply: The question really answers itself. Christians believe that their life with God will never end. That means it will never form an actually completed infinite series. In more technical language: an endless future is potentially—but never actually—infinite. This means that although the future will never cease to expand and increase, still its actual extent will always be finite. But that can only be true if all of created reality had a beginning.
Question 2: How do we know that the cause of the universe still exists? Maybe it started the universe going and then ceased to be.
Reply: Remember that we are seeking for a cause of spatio-temporal being. This cause created the entire universe of space and time. And space and time themselves must be part of that creation. So the cause cannot be another spatio-temporal being. (If it were, all the problems about infinite duration would arise once again.) It must somehow stand outside the limitations and constraints of space and time.
It is hard to understand how such a being could “cease” to be. We know how a being within the universe ceases to be: it comes in time to be fatally affected by some agency external to it. But this picture is proper to us, and to all beings limited in some way by space and time. A being not limited in these ways cannot “come” to be or “cease” to be. If it exists at all, it must exist eternally.
Question 3: But is this cause God—a he and not a mere it?
Reply: Suppose the cause of the universe has existed eternally. Suppose further that this cause is not personal: that it has given rise to the universe, not through any choice, but simply through its being. In that case it is hard to see how the universe could be anything but infinitely old, since all the conditions needed for the being of the universe would exist from all eternity. But the kalam argument has shown that the universe cannot be infinitely old. So the hypothesis of an eternal impersonal cause seems to lead to an inconsistency.
Is there a way out? Yes, if the universe is the result of a free personal choice. Then at least we have some way of seeing how an eternal cause could give rise to a temporally limited effect. Of course, the kalam argument does not prove everything Christians believe about God, but what proof does? Less than everything, however, is far from nothing. And the kalam argument proves something central to the Christian belief in God: that the universe is not eternal and without beginning; that there is a Maker of heaven and earth. And in doing so, it disproves the picture of the universe most atheists wish to maintain: self-sustaining matter, endlessly changing in endless time.

I’ve noticed this one is favoured by those who elevate philosophical ideas above what can be evidentially demonstrated. They are a hard bunch to argue with, not because of the soundness of their arguments, but because of their imperviousness to facts. Also, his majesty WLC loves this one and anything he says must be true!

Because of it’s popularity, there are many pages on the internet that address this argument, one I found which was spoken well of is this one http://spot.colorado.edu/~morristo/wes2craig1.pdf. At time of writing I’ve only partially read it, I do intend to complete it but I’ll not be making any reference to it in this post.

Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being.

This sounds fair on the face of it. However, definitions are required for ‘whatever’, ‘begins’, ‘exist’, ’cause’ and ‘being’. As it stands, the sentence is a vague bit of tautological faux-profundity that actually means nothing.

The universe began to exist.

That premise needs demonstrating. As I’ve mentioned in response to another item, time is dependent on matter because without matter there is no time to be experienced and the universe, being made up of matter, is the envelope in which we experience time. No universe, no time and no before. The universe beginning to exist is a claim missing many verification steps.

Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being.

Doesn’t follow because the preceding requirements are inadequately defined and not demonstrated. A conclusion based on undemonstrated premises is not safe.

To be perfectly honest, this argument does not impress me and I am so very glad that I never got into it as a Christian. I am constantly amazed by how much store is placed upon it.

A good example of why this sort of Christian apologetics leaves me cold and unamused is this:

the universe has a cause for its coming into being, a Creator.

Like everything else so far in this item, a claim is made with no definition of terms and zero supporting evidence and it’s expected to be accepted as truth. Also notice how ’cause’ has suddenly become ‘a Creator’, with a capital C. In other words, cause is the Christian god. I wonder if I should hit the bait and switch alarm again.

the kalam argument has shown that the universe cannot be infinitely old.

The author has too much confidence. The universe having a finite age is provided by the science of cosmology not philosophical flim flam.

if the universe is the result of a free personal choice. Then at least we have some way of seeing how an eternal cause could give rise to a temporally limited effect.

I’ll avoid asking what the hell the second sentence means because before that even becomes relevant the first needs to be demonstrated. Assuming it is true and running with it is dishonest, but then what else should we expect from Christian apologetics?

the kalam argument proves something central to the Christian belief in God: that the universe is not eternal and without beginning; that there is a Maker of heaven and earth. And in doing so, it disproves the picture of the universe most atheists wish to maintain: self-sustaining matter, endlessly changing in endless time.

Repeat after me, “Arguments are not proof!” For proof one needs supporting evidence for the arguments and additional evidence showing other options are false. The evidence needs to be demonstrable and the collection process repeatable otherwise the proof claim is highly suspect. This argument brings no evidence, instead it asserts that it is correct and arrogantly marches on.

As for that final sentence, do most atheists wish to maintain that? I’m not aware that’s the case, it’s certainly not true for me, so I’ll claim that as a flat out lie! Lying for the kingdom must be the apologists’ favourite pastime.