Twenty Arguments for God – Two – The Argument from Efficient Causality

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 2:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#2

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

2. The Argument from Efficient Causality

We notice that some things cause other things to be (to begin to be, to continue to be, or both). For example, a man playing the piano is causing the music that we hear. If he stops, so does the music.
Now ask yourself: Are all things caused to exist by other things right now? Suppose they are. That is, suppose there is no Uncaused Being, no God. Then nothing could exist right now. For remember, on the no-God hypothesis, all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist. So right now, all things, including all those things which are causing things to be, need a cause. They can give being only so long as they are given being. Everything that exists, therefore, on this hypothesis, stands in need of being caused to exist.
But caused by what? Beyond everything that is, there can only be nothing. But that is absurd: all of reality dependent—but dependent on nothing! The hypothesis that all being is caused, that there is no Uncaused Being, is absurd. So there must be something uncaused, something on which all things that need an efficient cause of being are dependent.
Existence is like a gift given from cause to effect. If there is no one who has the gift, the gift cannot be passed down the chain of receivers, however long or short the chain may be. If everyone has to borrow a certain book, but no one actually has it, then no one will ever get it. If there is no God who has existence by his own eternal nature, then the gift of existence cannot be passed down the chain of creatures and we can never get it. But we do get it; we exist. Therefore there must exist a God: an Uncaused Being who does not have to receive existence like us—and like every other link in the chain of receivers.
Question 1: Why do we need an uncaused cause? Why could there not simply be an endless series of things mutually keeping each other in being?
Reply: This is an attractive hypothesis. Think of a single drunk. He could probably not stand up alone. But a group of drunks, all of them mutually supporting each other, might stand. They might even make their way along the street. But notice: Given so many drunks, and given the steady ground beneath them, we can understand how their stumblings might cancel each other out, and how the group of them could remain (relatively) upright. We could not understand their remaining upright if the ground did not support them—if, for example, they were all suspended several feet above it. And of course, if there were no actual drunks, there would be nothing to understand.
This brings us to our argument. Things have got to exist in order to be mutually dependent; they cannot depend upon each other for their entire being, for then they would have to be, simultaneously, cause and effect of each other. A causes B, B causes C, and C causes A. That is absurd. The argument is trying to show why a world of caused causes can be given—or can be there—at all. And it simply points out: If this thing can exist only because something else is giving it existence, then there must exist something whose being is not a gift. Otherwise everything would need at the same time to be given being, but nothing (in addition to “everything”) could exist to give it. And that means nothing would actually be.
Question 2: Why not have an endless series of caused causes stretching backward into the past? Then everything would be made actual and would actually be—even though their causes might no longer exist.
Reply: First, if the kalam argument (argument 6) is right, there could not exist an endless series of causes stretching backward into the past. But suppose that such a series could exist. The argument is not concerned about the past, and would work whether the past is finite or infinite. It is concerned with what exists right now.
Even as you read this, you are dependent on other things; you could not, right now, exist without them. Suppose there are seven such things. If these seven things did not exist, neither would you. Now suppose that all seven of them depend for their existence right now on still other things. Without these, the seven you now depend on would not exist—and neither would you. Imagine that the entire universe consists of you and the seven sustaining you. If there is nothing besides that universe of changing, dependent things, then the universe—and you as part of it—could not be. For everything that is would right now need to be given being but there would be nothing capable of giving it. And yet you are and it is. So there must in that case exist something besides the universe of dependent things—something not dependent as they are.
And if it must exist in that case, it must exist in this one. In our world there are surely more than seven things that need, right now, to be given being. But that need is not diminished by there being more than seven. As we imagine more and more of them—even an infinite number, if that were possible—we are simply expanding the set of beings that stand in need. And this need—for being, for existence—cannot be met from within the imagined set. But obviously it has been met, since contingent beings exist. Therefore there is a source of being on which our material universe right now depends.

I hope I’m not the only person who read that and thought ‘This is just a rephrasing of no1 with the focus on existing rather than changing.’. I can see this series getting tedious and boring very quickly. Especially now that I know that no6 (Kalam) is coming and this seemed like a basic version of that.

This argument makes sense on a superficial level, in that things don’t suddenly pop into existence before our eyes. Stuff is generally created from other stuff. Offspring come from parents and the chain never loops back to the start. The argument extrapolates from that to the point that everything within the universe must ultimately be caused by the universe at the start of the chain and therefore the universe has a cause that must be outside the universe. The logic makes sense at face value, but philosophy runs into difficulty when it addresses these questions. This is because the physicists who have spent time working on the very problem of how the universe came into existence say that the laws of physics break down when we rewind to a point very soon after the universe came into being. We currently have no way of explaining beyond that point, but it is being worked on. The argument presented above ignores the hard facts of science and jumps to it’s conclusion with no method of demonstrating its workings. One of the biggest issues with trying to find a cause to the universe is that matter and time are intrinsically related, how we experience time is related to the matter around us (and our velocity with respect to the speed of light, but that’s not relevant to this specific item so I’ll not mention it again in this post). This means that time, as we know and experience it, started at the point that the universe started, which means that it is possible to have a universe that has existed since the dawn of time. It also means that trying to find something that caused the universe, and therefore existed before time began, is pretty much an impossible task. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give it a go and thankfully scientists are giving it a go, bit by bit we’re gathering new information to try and make some sense of this conundrum. As such, the suggestion that there is a cause of the universe is somewhat presumptuous, especially when there is no current way of confirming that. The premise of the argument works within the confines of our known universe; stuff comes from other stuff, we know this because we can scientifically explain the parent ‘stuff’. Unfortunately, like the laws of physics, this argument falls apart when you get to that critical point close to the big bang. The argument tries to resolve that challenge by claiming there must be a god but posits no way to of detecting that god, we should just accept that it must exist.

We have in this item, the same mistakes and presuppositions as in item one, that there must exist the Christian god who created everything. The argument is worded simplistically and skips over the challenges of reality and ignores what is known to science in a desperate bit to make the desired god be the only available conclusion.

 

Not Enough Evidence – A Response

The second of the Saints and Sceptics short series addressing what it calls popular atheist arguments is Not Enough Evidence (http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/three-popular-atheist-arguments-part-2/)

My response to the first post is here: https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/the-presumption-of-atheism-a-response/ . There is a third post in the series but I’m unlikely to make a response to that one.

This second post makes reference to Bertrand Russell and his apparent refrain of ‘Not enough evidence God! Not enough evidence!’ The source of this attribution would appear to be in this article, http://www.unz.org/Pub/SaturdayRev-1974feb23-00025, where in response to the question of what he’d say if faced with God, Mr Russell replied “I probably would ask, ‘Sir, why did you not give me better evidence?’ ”

Personally, I prefer Stephen Fry’s response, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-suvkwNYSQo.

That’s not the point of this post though, the question at hand is on the evidence while we’re alive, not the hypothetical.

The Saints and Sceptics item opens by setting the scene that the atheist case is that in the absence of evidence the default position is non-acceptance, in other words, no evidence for god means atheism is the starting point and the case must be made for a god in order for that position to become considered. Okay so far. Saints and Sceptics calls this the presumption of atheism. Reference is made to the first item in the series with the conclusion that:

So, even if the insufficient evidence objection is accepted, it doesn’t provide a good reason to accept atheism

And if you read my response to the first item you’ll see that there is a mismatch in the understanding of atheism. Atheism is the non adherence of theism. That is no belief in god. Like in the first item, Saints and Sceptics has gone for the far end of atheism and used that to define all atheism. I won’t repeat my response to that.

Moving on, we get to:

For example, if the only kind of evidence that can be considered for the existence of an entity is direct detection with the five senses, then there would be no evidence for God.

Good, this is why I have no belief in any god.

However, this is completely inadequate as an account of evidence, even within science.

Uh oh!

If evidence is understood more plausibly in terms of facts that are better explained by one hypothesis than its rivals, then there could well be evidence for God.

Bet you didn’t see that coming!

Hypotheses need testing before they get accepted.

A reference is made to a previous post called The Evidence For God (http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/the-evidence-for-god/), oddly, it contains no evidence, only assertions. Ho hum.

Even if it is granted that there might be some evidence for God, it might still be objected that it is insufficient, but how are we to decide? How much evidence is needed and how convincing does it need to be?

Two very good questions.

In answer we get an index link titled Evidence Of God (http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/articles/existence-of-god/) featuring links to a few arguments that are very familiar, Fine Tuning, Maths, Big Bang; you know, the usual fair. The links are all well known reasons, or arguments, that Christians will use to justify their belief. However, arguments are not evidence so the title is misleading. Arguments should have supporting evidence, which these ones are lacking. There’s a theme emerging here.

We wouldn’t claim that the evidence logically proves God’s existence

Thank goodness for that! Odd use of the word logically though. No one says that gravity is logically proven.

Interestingly, since Russell’s death in 1970, powerful new scientific evidence concerning the fine-tuning of a range of physical constants that are necessary for intelligent life has provided an interesting twist on the design argument. Is this evidence sufficient? If not, why not? And perhaps more importantly, what kind of evidence would be needed?

Suddenly it’s the penultimate paragraph and no actuall evidence has been discussed, what is this post about then?

Is this evidence sufficient? The author asks. What evidence? I wonder.

If not, why not? The Author asks. Because there isn’t any is the best I can muster.

And perhaps more importantly, what kind of evidence would be needed?

A great question, and pertinent too. I’ll answer it.

Evidence that can be used to create a testable hypothesis. That way a set of repeatable and reliable tests for god can be performed and the case for god properly examined. That is the standard and if the theist wants their god idea to be taken seriously, that is what they must submit to.

Regrettably, for some atheists it has become little more than a slogan, a way of avoiding the need to consider the evidence seriously. And it would be an unfortunate irony if a statement which at face value emphasizes the importance of evidence is actually used as a strategy for avoiding it.

Great pithy ending, such a shame that in their decrying of the atheist’s frustratingly consistent demand for evidence, Saints and Sceptics has forgotten to include any. Now that’s irony!

A Skeptics(!) Takes a Look at Science Part II

I read a few blogs whose authors clearly disagree with my worldview. I think it’s good to do that. This isn’t the first time I’ve made a post that’s commenting on the particular blog I’m responding to and I doubt it’ll be the last. It’s a veritable goldmine of potential posts, made all the more easier for the lack of a comments section.
You’ll need to read this to understand all of my comments below.
1) Science is based on observation and experimentation. ‘String theory’ doesn’t have much (any?) supporting evidence and is not widely accepted, or even seriously considered. The sentence “they spend an inordinate amount time and money chasing, trying to convince us  that they are truthful” isn’t true for string theory . Its a bad example. A good example would be the Higgs Boson, theorised, fits the models, generally accepted, expensive experiment built, tested and confirmed. Note ‘confrimed’, shown to be real, cost justified!

Then the author jumps to evolution. Why do theists so often do that? Start with something ‘out there’ and suddenly dive to evolution! Two completely different disciplines. It’s like they’re trying to taint the water or something.

Anyway, the reason why the evolutionary process is still being tested and experimented on is not to look for an elusive proof, but to learn. Each feature, behaviour and mutation has a different selective pressure and some are easier to explain than others. Learning is good. To sit back and think the job is done and we know it all is the utmost arrogance.

2) Scientists accept we all have biases, that’s why peer review exists. Even that isn’t perfect and sometimes fails us. Mistakes happen, but crucially, mistakes also get found out and corrected. It would be better to not have the mistakes and that’s the ideal, but bias means those will happen. No one should claim there is no bias in science. Though the scientific method itself, should be bias free and the process designed to eliminate bias.

To place any god into the science lab would be to introduce deep bias with presupposition. Excluding god isn’t bias, its the null hypothesis at work, it’s not specifically god that is excluded, but ALL presuppositions that should and must be excluded each and every single time, always and forever. When an experiment reliably and predictably indicates a god, then that god can come and play with the Bunsen burner, until then the cosmic waiting room is the best it can hope for.

3) theists regularly confuse lack of religion for another religion and this is an example of the nonsense that follows.

4) still rambling about religion. Oh if only we all lacked bias!

5) I have a dream! I have a dream that there is enough money going round for all the good science to get all that it needs every time it needs it.

Still going on about religion and invoked Bodwin’s Law, tut tut!

and finally

6) Science has discovered and described the easy stuff and is now onto the harder stuff. It’s only to be expected that as technology improves we’ll get to discover stuff that has previously evaded us. That’s why it took 100 years to discover gravitational waves. This is neither a shocking nor a ground-breaking suggestion.

As for physics having got to the end? Poppycock! With each new thing we learn we find more things that we now need to learn about. Any scholar that claims this for physics or biology isn’t well versed in physics or biology!

The Arrogance of Science

This week I found myself in a conversation concerning the possibility of life elsewhere in our galaxy, so reference was made to the Fermi Paradox (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox).

The conversation then rapidly moved onto detecting other forms of life and how would we, with our technology, be able to detect signs of a far superior civilisation and if their technologies were so different to ours, how would they recognise our signature?

All good questions.

My answer was that a far superior civilisation would still have needed to use technologies and methods similar to ours at some point in its history and so would be able to recognise the difference between natural and manufactured elements.

“What if the maths they use is different? or what if their planet has different natural elements that we don’t even know of?”

My answer was that just because the symbols and language they use to describe maths is different, the calculations to determine things like the effects of gravity or the methods used to determine the elements in the atmosphere of a distant planet remain the same. The distance from here to there is the same despite you measuring it in kilometres and me measuring it in miles.

The elements question is interesting. However, despite not having been to every planet in the galaxy, we can say with very high confidence that we can describe all the elements that are found naturally in planets because we’ve been experimenting on the natural elements for a very long time. Scientists know so much about the natural elements that they can describe which ones work well together and which ones don’t, which ones are stable and which ones aren’t and a whole host of other characteristics.

Scientists also know enough about how planets form that a sole planet in a distant solar system is not likely to be the only place an unknown elements resides. If there was such an element, we would expect it to exist in other objects that were formed from the same source material as the planet, the source of the material would possibly be from a supernova and so the element would be spread about locally (locally being a relative term, the distance spread would actually be large). Also, because we now have good knowledge of what is formed in a supernova we’d not expect a supernova to generate an element that we’ve not seen yet. So another equally dramatic but poorly understood event would be required. Dramatic events like that would not go unnoticed.

It was at this point than the charge came.

“Science is so arrogant that it thinks it can say things like that about objects it hasn’t even seen. How can it possibly say it’s not possible for a new element to exist on another planet on the other side of the galaxy?”

“Did you listen to what I said?”

“Yes, and it’s still arrogant to say you know that.”

Sigh.

“We know that because for decades and centuries scientists have been experimenting with these things and the confidence is high. You can’t just think up a hypothetical element and then accuse science of being arrogant for saying it doesn’t exist.”

So the conversation ended and while I did my best to explain why science knows things and can be confident about other things, people will still mistake this for arrogance and invent impossible scenarios to try and demonstrate that.

What was odd about the conversation is I was once on the other side and I recognised so much about my former self that I really don’t miss. I hope I made a good impression on my conversation partners.

For the interested, one was a Christian and the other an atheist. Yet they both shared the same view that science can be arrogant. A view that, in this specific case, can be shattered with good knowledge that isn’t difficult to find.

I had a bigger chuckle yesterday as I was thinking up this blog post because this appeared in my feed: http://pseudoastro.wordpress.com/2014/12/05/how-to-not-understand-science-and-use-that-to-say-science-is-wrong/

If you have even a passing interest in things astronomy and don’t already follow Stuart’s blog and podcast, I highly recommend that you start.

Vegetarian Carnivores

One element of creationist theology that I never made my mind up about was the idea that there was no death before the fall and all animals lived in harmony together. The conclusion from this is that predator animals, like Lions, did not eat meat. Instead all animals ate the available fruit and vegetable matter. I guess that eating an apple or grass doesn’t count as death.

Would a tree being felled not have counted as death either? I have yet to see a creationist comment on vegetation dying counting as death in this context. One would guess not and so since they ignore it, I will too.

I do know that in my creationist days I did ponder about animals eating animals before the fall and how fitted in with what we read of the pre fall world. It is a challenge on which the bible says nothing. What creationists believe on the matter is inferred, something that should be done very cautiously.
Answers in Genesis has a post on subject where they confidently state that animals where vegetarians before the fall (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/origin-of-attack-defense-structures). One example this article suggests is:

chameleon tongues could have been used to reach out and grab vegetarian foods

This strikes me as a very inefficient method of getting food that literally hangs there waiting for a passing animal to pick and eat. Some fruit can also be stubbornly difficult to pull off the stalk. Sadly, like all pre fall animals behaviours, there is simply nothing that can be pointed at as evidence to inform this, or any other, suggestion. The creationist throws it out there as a possibility, maybe even a belief. It is almost as if they are challenging the faithful to contradict them.

I can’t find the post now, but on another creationist blog I read, the writer postulated that plants may have had the right nutrients that today’s carnivores didn’t need to eat meat because their dietary needs were satisfied by these plants. Quite why the animals and plant kingdoms had to change so much as a result of the fall is never properly explained.

The justification behind this idea is that Genesis says that there was no death before the fall. Yet, on another literalist blog I see that this idea is called into question (http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2009/06/04/was-there-death-before-adam/). If creationists want to maintain that pre fall animals did not eat meat then the need to come up with something that is more substantial than a loose and questionable reading of Genesis.

This would be a great time for them to take a leaf out of the science handbook and propose a method by which this mechanism can happen and what, if any, evidence might indicate it. When that is done, the evidence can be looked for and the idea tested. Until that happens the suggestion of vegetarian lions is not and can not be taken seriously.

This is another example of how creationism is not only not scientific, it is simply interpreted guess work.

The Geocentric Argument

 

This head shaking story appeared in my news feed recently (http://phys.org/news/2014-02-americans-unaware-earth-circles-sun.html). Like some of the commentators, I would like to know more detail about the nature of the questions and who was asked. Given the small numbers involved (only 2,200) it is possible to create such a set of questions and pick a demographic that skews the result to create whatever headline you wish. I’m not saying that is what happened, just that there is far too little information and the sample size far too small for this to be truly something that can be extrapolated out to cover the whole population of the USA.

However, if you do decide to do a search on geocentrism (the belief that the earth is the centre of our solar system) then some properly head scratching pages do come up; http://www.genesis-creation-proof.com/geocentricity.html being a good example. The beauty of this one is that it shows you precisely why biblical literalism is a bad idea (even dangerous?). The site rings all the same alarms for me that many conspiracy sites ring, that is the lone enthuse with little or no backing from a wider organisation. In other words, a fringe whacko who does not represent the wider majority who are biblical literalists. Another such site is http://www.evidencechart.com/charts/10.

The point that these sites help to make is that for those who wish to base their scientific claims on bible verses is that there will always be problem verses that simply cannot be taken as scientific fact but, equally so, there will also be some enthusiastic individuals who wish to make that claim and fly in the face of hard proof. Thus the blurry line between interpretation and literalism will always exist.

Geocentrism did seem obvious for a while. There was always a problem though; the retrograde motion of the visible planets (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retrograde_and_prograde_motion) throws a hefty spanner into the mix and to stick with a geocentric model of the solar system means one has to come up with some impressive adjustments and gymnastics to account. Seasons also cause a problem because it requires the path of the sun around the earth have a significant wobble; this needs an explanation. These two pieces of evidence are what I would have replied to this blog post had I known about it at the time (http://thonyc.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/we-live-in-a-geocentric-world/).

The kicker for geocentrism, of course, was the telescope. This earth changing invention allowed man to gaze at the stars and see so much more. The planets were shown to have moons of their own, something that clearly didn’t revolve around the earth. Even more amazing, Venus and Mercury showed changing crescents while Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were always full. That needed a very good explanation and really should be the last nail in the geocentric coffin for anyone who would stop and think and just five minutes.

Geocentrism Therefore Creationism.

Anyway, the news at the top of this post prompted me to dig a blog post out of my saved archives, http://thenewcreationism.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/well-evidenced-theories-can-be-wrong-poorly-evidenced-theories-can-be-right/. It is one I saved specifically because I consider it nonsense and wanted to keep it for when I felt the need to comment, that need is now.

The post above is short so won’t take much time to read, but makes an intriguing claim. Essentially it says that geocentrism was logical because that what the available evidence implied at the time. No matter how much the people believed it and wanted it to be true, it was always wrong and later, better evidence revealed that. The author then makes an analogy with evolution and attempts to put evolution in the place of geocentrism by admitting that it looks obvious. That doesn’t make it true aparently. He then goes a step too further and implies that the heroes of creationism are the Galileos of today. What an insult!

He’s wrong of course, very wrong.

Geocentrism wasn’t easy to overturn; there was an established worldview that required the earth to be the centre of everything and that philosophy would not be challenged. It was evidential weight that forced it into a minority view, one that really should be history by now. No one would ever seriously suggest that there is a controversy between geocentrism and heliocentrism and certainly no one would want both ideas to be taught in the classroom for students to make up their mind which one they want to adopt.

The true analogy with geocentrism is creationism; they are both idea born out religion and appear to make logical sense when looked at superficially. However, go deeper and the there is greater complexity that a simplistic worldview simply cannot explain and both idea crumble under evidence that is crushing.

No, the creationists of today are not Galilean heroes bravely fighting an established order trying to tell the world the truth; they are religious literalists cornered into a philosophy that has an ever shrinking platform and their worldview is so narrow they simply won’t accept what the evidence says because the consequences and cost are potentially enormous.

In Defence of Ken Ham

Yes, you read that right.

I’ve not yet watched the whole of the debate video on YouTube, but I have read a fair bit of commentary in the last day. Predictably, creationist sources say their man did good and science still starts with the rejection of god, while science sources are pulling apart the creationist claims as they have done for years.

One part that seems to me to have gained the greatest notoriety is the responses to the question “What would make you change your mind?”

Many have jumped on Ham’s response that he’s a Christian and so basically nothing could persuade him that is wrong. While it is fully understandable that a science mind would see that as closed minded, mocking it for what it seems misses the big picture behind that statement.

In my Christian days, I would have answered similar. To the Christian, the salvation that God provides is the whole point of life and it shapes everything. Christianity is not just a belief, it’s a lifestyle. The whole point of the Christian faith is that the effects permeate the whole of your being and shape your whole life and, through the Holy Spirit, one becomes a different person. With that level of immersion, it is simply not possible to answer a the question posed with a glib, “If someone showed me the evidence.” This is especially so if you believe that the devil is involved in misdirection and that he will tempt you with doubts and lies.

So Ken Ham’s response to that question is exactly what one should expect from someone who takes their faith seriously and wants to guard themselves from what is perceived as bad and spiritually unhealthy. Scoffing at the answer reveals a lack of willing to understand the subject.

Of course that doesn’t mean his arguments are right, they’re not. He is however being genuine and honest in his response and it shows how deeply seriously he takes his Christianity and how much it means to him.

To Ken Ham, his creationism is part of the package of his Christianity and the two can not be separated. Show him that creationism is wrong and you challenge the very core of his Christianity. That is not an easy ask and it will never happen in a single conversation or even a single piece of evidence. For me it took years, lots of evidence and it was a major head fuck.

 

But what about the Christians who don’t accept literal creation?

There are many more liberal Christians who don’t accept literal creation than there are creationists. That’s a good thing. However, ask them the question of what would cause them to change their mind about their faith and you’ll get similar answers. Accepting evolution does not change the value of their faith to them and some will simply choose not to consider that they might be wrong.

 

What question should be asked?

I think the question was too simple and was not the right one to ask. Instead I would seek to separate Christianity from a literal creation and ask a question such as, “How would it affect your Christianity if you were shown that evolution was true.”

If I had asked that question I am not sure how I would have answered but I think I would answer that it would cause be to question my faith. In the end, that’s exactly what happened.

The Validity of Debating Creationists

I’m very intrigued about tonight’s debate between Ham and Nye. The news and publicity that I am seeing about it is has been almost non-stop for the last couple of weeks. Though the mainstream media here in limeyland doesn’t appear to have picked up on it. I’m keen to see if it is reported at all tomorrow. I expect to see something in the morning news and later in the papers, I guess I’ll find out tomorrow. I’ll not be watching it live though, since it’ll be midnight here when it starts and goodness knows what time when it’s over. I expect I’ll check YouTube for videos tomorrow to see how it went. No doubt my feedly stream will be full of comment in the morning as well.

One of the hottest questions on the subject of the debate seems to be the validity of the debate rather than what the content is likely to be. The opinions here are almost as polarised as the subject itself.

I fully get the objections that vocal naysayers are raising. Debating Creationists does give undue validity to their opinions and making it this public, especially so. The Ham publicity machine has clearly been working very hard. The important point is, scientific truth is not decided by debate; it is dictated through evidence. Debating the validity of Creationism gives a platform to ideas which should have died out a long time ago and the debate format simply gives them life through the method of slippery rhetoric. Clever words do not truth make, regardless of how much the speaker believes it.

However, this does also give an opportunity for those creationists who are prepared to pay attention to the science to actually hear a science description from someone who is not trying to peddle religion off the back of it. When I look back at the science I read about in my creationist days, I can see how it was always shaped in a way that led to god. Creationists talking about science invariably frame the discussion to guide a god agenda and this is dishonest. When I read creationist comment on science now, I can see that clearly and it alarms me. Creationists who have relied on the likes of Ham and AiG to feed them these twisted versions of science now have a chance to hear it more clearly, if only they will have ears to hear.

I hope that Nye will rise to the challenge and give many creationists something serious and honest to think about and investigate. I hope he has good advisors and has had enough time to prepare because getting through to a creationist is not the same as explaining science to the secular layperson. If a scientific argument is seen as threatening to a Creationist, then it’ll be rejected. The science needs to be phrased in a way that invites (temps?) them to look deeper.

This event always springs to mind when thinking about discussions such as this: https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/when-friends-are-unkind/

 

Book Review – Creation or Evolution: Do We Have To Choose?

Cover of "Creation or Evolution: Do We Ha...

Cover via Amazon

More than a year ago I was lent this book by the pastor and I have eventually finished it (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Creation-Evolution-Do-Have-Choose/dp/1854247468). The book is held up by some as a refreshing view on the relationship between Christianity and Evolution.

I found the book mixed and ultimately disappointing, but there are some good bits in it.

On first handling the book it is clear that the intent is going to be to show how acceptance of evolution does not have to be at the expense of religious belief, specifically Christianity. This aspect interested me, given my journey, so I started the book specifically looking for how it would answer that specific challenge.

Evolution

Most of the book is devoted to explanations of various bits of evolution. By necessity they have to contain a certain amount of technical language. However, I found on the whole that the passages on evolution are lay friendly and do a good job of explaining why evolution is not only a valid theory, but an accurate description of observed fact as best we know it.

The book explains well how evolution is a naturalised process and our knowledge of it has no pre-requisite of any god. The processes we understand are fully explained and there are no missing bits that require the invocation of the supernatural.

Creationism and ID

Creationism and ID are also dealt with effectively, albeit with far fewer pages. They are accurately shown to be scientifically deficient and their need to have a god directly be involved to ‘push the process along’ is shown to be a limiting factor for which there is nothing to show.

One good point that is made in the book is the argument for beauty. Many creationists will look at the world we see now and argue that the beauty there can only have been put there directly by god. I once made precisely those arguments. The book counters by saying that the processes that made us and all we see around us are no less beautiful and they too came from god. When a creationist views the world and sees beauty and says it must come from god, they are by implication saying that the long processes that made the beauty they see can not be beautiful because they don’t believe god did it that way.

This is a dangerous way of thinking because it creates a closed mind and stops that believer from fully appreciating the glory of their god’s creation.

The book explains well why creationism and ID are not valid.

Tying Evolution and Christianity

So the big question I wanted to book to answer was, given the above, how does the author, who professes his faith at several points throughout the book, demonstrate that belief in god is consistent with evolution and, more specifically, show that there is a logical reason to hold that view. Sadly, the answer just doesn’t come.

No matter how much I wanted to see an argument for god, it just didn’t happen.

Conclusion

The book successfully argues for the science of evolution and against the god of creationism. As a result it has confirmed my position as an atheist and done nothing at all to tempt me back to faith. I suspect the author would be disappointed, but he should not be surprised.

Mathematical Insanity

Over on the ICR website is an article of such crazy logic it just beggars belief (http://www.icr.org/article/7098/). I’m not the first to comment on this item; so far two of the blogs I follow have commented already, but the path that the item takes is just so mind bogglingly insane I wanted to have my own say too.

In fact when I read this article I couldn’t help but be reminded of an item by AiG on light which I also commented on (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/magical-light/).

In summary the item on maths says that because numbers are not physical entities (the numbers we write down are but a temporary representation of the actual number) yet they are real, and since those numbers have always represented the same value, God exists. There is a bit more jumping around before getting to the final point, but that’s the basic gist once the fluff is taken away.

The author makes several statements and leaps of logic that are tangential of best and downright idiotic at worst. For example there is the assertion that numbers have not evolved; 7 has always been 7. Well duh! That’s true, but what’s the point being made here? The author knows this of course, but he elegantly steps from that to the assertion that complex mathematical laws discovered by man always existed, mankind did not invent them and nor did they evolve. True and obvious, but is there a point? Well apparently it’s a problem for secularists, but I’m not sure what that problem is and nor does the author because its not clarified. He jumps neatly from the human concept of numerical representation to the fact that numerical values are constant to the fact that the maths of planetary motion existed before man to therefore God.

Apparently anything that predates man must be of God. Great hypothesis, now let’s see a testable theory.

There is plenty more juice in the item and many more sentences of juicy sarcasm that can be squeezed out in comment. Go have a field day, if you dare …