Atheism, theism and jelly beans

Discussion in 'Religion' started by James R, Aug 3, 2019.

  1. davewhite04 Valued Senior Member

    Yep, pretty amazing.

    I'd have to watch a documentary to get an idea of what her way of thinking was. Which I might do, I would have seen something on her before but I just can't recall.
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  3. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    I wouldn't know where to start. The 20th century - and the early 21st - saw an explosion in scientific discoveries across every field of science. You might like to start by looking the list of Nobel Laureates for the past 100 years. That should point you towards some of the people who I believe would qualify as great scientists.
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  5. davewhite04 Valued Senior Member

    Surely you have a favourite?
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  7. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    I don't have a favorite scientist. I certainly admire a number of people whom I would regard as great scientists.

    Off the top of my head, it's very hard for me to make a list, mostly because I'm sure to accidentally leave out names that really ought to be on the list.

    Also, in what sub-field of science should we start? Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Medicine?

    Start with Physics, if you like. Looking down the list of Nobel laureates, I have great admiration for the following, at least:

    Pieter Zeeman
    Marie Curie
    Lord Rayleigh
    J.J. Thomson
    William Henry and William Lawrence Bragg
    Max Planck
    Johannes Stark
    Albert Einstein
    Neils Bohr
    Robert Millikan
    Gustav Hertz
    Werner Heisenberg
    Erwin Schrodinger
    Paul Dirac
    Enrico Fermi
    Isidor Rabi
    Wolfgang Pauli
    Hideki Yakawa
    William Shockley
    Chen Ning Yang
    Tsung-Dao Lee
    Lev Landau
    Eugene Wigner
    Maria Goeppert-Mayer
    Julian Schwinger
    Sin-Itiro Tomonaga
    Richard Feynman
    Hans Bethe
    Murray Gell-Mann
    Brian Josephson
    Sheldon Glashow
    Steven Weinberg
    Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
    Steven Chu
    Claude Cohen-Tannoudji
    William Phillips
    Gerard 't Hooft
    Eric Cornell
    Wolfgang Ketterle
    Carl Wieman
    Theodor Hansch
    Brian Schmidt
    Peter Higgs
    Kip Thorne

    But listing my personal favorites isn't that interesting.

    Also, there are plenty of brilliant scientists who have not won Nobel prizes.
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  8. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    It appears at present that we have reached different conclusions. What I'm interested in is the reasoning that led you to reach the conclusion you reached - if it involved reasoning, that is. What I often find is that people come to believe in God for dubious reasons first and only later go looking for reasons to prop up their pre-existing belief. My impression is that most religious people feel like they have a personal connection or relationship to their god(s), though by the sounds of it that doesn't apply in your case.

    If you'd read enough of my posts on such matters, then you'd be aware that I'm a pretty evidence-focused person when it comes to accepting the reality of things. It follows that the reason I don't accept that a god created the universe is because I see no persuasive evidence for it. It seems far more likely to me that religious origin stories are just myths - convenient stories invented to cover up ignorance (not the only reason, btw).

    I'd say I've been there and done that. I used to be a Christian. I used to think that God was real. When I was very young, I accepted the biblical stories. As I grew older I discovered that various aspects of those stories were implausible or just straight-out untrue. I also learned about science and critical thinking. As a result, I revised my own beliefs. There was a period of time in which I might have called myself a deist (the only reason I didn't was that nobody asked me to put a label on my god belief). But later I realised that I was making excuses to cling onto the remnants of a belief for which I lacked any good evidence. Then, for a while, I described myself as an agnostic, thinking that meant that I wasn't sure if God existed or not. I didn't really understand that agnosticism is not really a position on God but a position on what can be known about God. These days I'm very happy to call myself an atheist. I'm reasonably content to be more specific and call myself an agnostic atheist.

    What's your story? How did you arrive at your current god belief?

    For why there is something rather than nothing?

    Well, we've already mentioned the multiverse hypothesis, haven't we? Even if that's wrong, it is conceivable that there has always been something, despite your dislike of infinite regress. On the other hand, maybe the something created itself. Or maybe the something popped into existence by accident. Maybe there was an uncaused cause that isn't a god. Maybe our existence is merely a simulation.

    There really are a lot of possible explanations. What makes you prefer the god hypothesis?

    That strikes me as an odd thing for you to say. How could your God possibly be involved in things like human freedom or Judeo-Christian values? You said you're a deist, which means your God is largely absent from human affairs, is he not?

    But here, it sound like you believe that your God is responsible for Christian morality. Can you explain how that works, please?

    You're asking me what I'd prefer to be true? Okay. I'm not a huge fan of the idea of infinite regress, but I'll happily admit that my distaste for such ideas is a matter of personal aesthetics. The point is: I can't rule out the possibility of infinite regress. Can you? You keep saying it is fallacious. Why it is up to me to prove you wrong? You should make your case that infinite regress is impossible, then we can dispense with that idea.

    True, and that's one reason why I prefer that hypothesis. It is, in principle, testable - unlike the alternative you're offering.

    And so...?

    Our initial aim was to account for the existence of our observed universe, right? Your claim was that God created the universe. You asked if there was a viable alternative explanation and I suggested the multiverse as one possible explanation that does not invoke God.

    Now it sounds like you want to push things back one level and ask: if the multiverse caused our universe, then what caused the multiverse? But we can just as easily play that game with your god, can't we? If your God caused the universe, what caused your God?

    If your objection is then that your God is an uncaused cause, then I ask what your problem is with the multiverse being the uncaused cause instead.

    My aim is not to defend the multiverse. I don't believe there is a multiverse; it's an open question as far as I'm concerned. My aim is only to point out that your god is not the only viable explanation for our universe. On the other hand, if you can show me why only your god will do the trick, I'm all ears.

    It's faulty reasoning to assume that because we don't currently know something, we will never know it. In 1850, you might have said "I have no reason to think that heavier-than-air flight by human beings is possible. If it was, somebody would have invented a heavier-than-air flying machine by now." That kind of thinking is a failure of imagination.

    What's more important is that, so far, no experiment has ruled out the hypothesis that our subjective experience arises solely from our physical bodies. I'd go further than that and venture that a lot of experiments - formal and informal - suggest to the contrary that the hypothesis is very likely to be correct. For instance, when the human brain is damaged or destroyed, subjective experience is either impaired or vanishes completely, as far as we can tell. The reasonable conclusion to draw is that subjective experience is a function of the physical brain.

    I'd really prefer not to get into an argument about free will here, if we can avoid it. Since our universe appears in lots of important ways to be deterministic, that looks like a barrier to "genuine ability to do otherwise" to me. Of course, nothing precludes a supernatural god from stepping in to work his magic.

    There was only one experiment that supported that hypothesis? Are you sure?

    Science has a certain track record. It is sensible to assume that scientific progress will continue.

    But your belief appears to be that god makes free will possible. How is that superior to the belief that science allows free will, if there's no evidence for how the god does it?

    However long it takes.

    I think I made the point before: it is okay to say we don't know. Why pretend to know things we don't know? If you can't show how god causes free will, or consciousness, or whatever it is that you think god causes, then how can you say you know god is the cause? On what logical grounds do you base your belief?
  9. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Now, despite all those great scientists and their accomplishments, I would still put Einstein and his relativity at the top.

    Newton shook the world by seeing that the falling apple and the Moon are the same, showing that even the heavens are bound by natural laws, thus forever banishing religion to eat science's dust in the desire to understand the world.

    Einstein shook the world again by showing that our entire universe - all that exists, existed and will exist (including every single scientist and discovery listed above) is not rigidly fixed to a grid and absolute in space or in time. The very firmament upon which our all knowledge and existence stands is curvy and ever-changing.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2020
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  10. Beer w/Straw Transcendental Ignorance! Valued Senior Member

    The mode average for me is:

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  11. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    I remember seeing a great film on the life of Madam Curie and Pierre, an oldie but a goody with two of the top actors of that era...Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon...
  12. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    Funny movie!!!

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  13. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    No, you're not, James. Look, you have, in discussions with me, refsued to provide evidence, and even gone so far as to argue against the provision of evidence.

    Whatever it is you think you're accomplishing with this thread, it would probably be a better result if the part you play wasn't so dishonest.
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  14. davewhite04 Valued Senior Member

    Wow I didn't expect that. You really do love your science.

    Do you know much about John Forbes Nash Jnr?
  15. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    And I'm trying to lead you along my reasoning process. But no one can be expected to follow a line of reasoning they are not, themselves, willing to reason out. So again:
    These are not rhetorical questions, nor questions I have not answered for myself. They are to explicitly engage you in the reasoning process which led me to my conclusion. If you don't wish to participate, because it puts you on the spot or you're worried about gotchas or something, that's your prerogative. But I'm trying to engage you in good faith here. If I just tell you my answers, without any attempt of your own, you have no reason not to object to a leap of logic you didn't/couldn't follow. Hence anything further being a waste of both our time.

    Engage or don't, your choice.

    What I find is that everything a person first learns about must be initially taken on a degree of faith. Whether it's trusting what your parents told you or what teachers and textbooks say, we all believe things that we can only later, with time, come to understand the full reasoning for. In this respect, religion is no different from any other human learning. It would only seem to be a double standard that would lead one to criticize one while neglecting the other.

    I have as personal relationship with my God as I do myself. Everyone is in the continual process of learning more about themselves. And by the same process we learn anything else, by presuming some things, as givens or stable datum, upon which to build further comprehension.

    I meant about the specific questions I asked:
    You seemed to be saying that you had already reasoned these questions out, here:
    But now it seems that you may have only been talking about your general take on theism. Not sure why you'd think I'd be asking about something that's pretty evidence, even in your posts in this thread alone. No one doubts that you have your reasons to disbelieve theism, but neither is anyone asking you to detail them.

    I'm only talking about the above, specific questions.
    Good for you. That's not what I was asking. Being a former Christian has nothing to do with the questions I asked:
    For one, I start with the presumption of nothing, and typical Christian thinking is that there must be a God because, if there was ever nothing, there would never be anything (nothing comes from nothing). So if that's as far as you reasoned out these questions, that's basically nowhere.

    I'm starting to get the impression that these questions, themselves, may be beyond you.

    Until you can explain why an infinite regress is valid reasoning, we have no reason to accept it as anything but an empty, fallacious answer.
    I do think something created itself, but the notion that it was an accident (which is not, itself, synonymous to uncaused) just raises the further question of why all evidence says it started a finite time in the past. What could precipitate such an event then rather than earlier or later?
    I do think that it was a "natural" uncaused cause, and only in some qualities might be what many typically describe as God.

    So aside from infinite regresses and raising more questions than answering, I think I've covered my bases.

    I never said I was deist, you just presumed it. I specifically told you:
    You asked what the notion of God added, and I told you. Unless you can divorce the notion of God from Judeo-Christian values, their relation should be self-evident.
    It seems pretty telling that you can neither justify nor rule out infinite regress. Do you just take the possibility on faith?

    Sorry, I though you would have found/been familiar with something like this SEP entry on your own:

    I assumed you wouldn't be arguing something you had not at least tried to falsify yourself. But here we are.
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  16. Vociferous Valued Senior Member


    Infinite regresses are not, even in principle, testable.

    It seems naive, or disingenuous, to pretend that we're only talking about this one universe. God is commonly held to be the cause of all existence, no matter what that ultimately entails, including multiple universes.

    But you're the only one here arguing an infinite regress, as my cause terminates squarely at nothing.
    When all evidence points to a beginning in time, some unexplained uncaused cause just raises the question of why now rather than earlier or later. Answers that raise more questions than they purport to answer are not parsimonious.

    I'm still waiting to see if you will engage with following my reasoning.

    Bad analogy, as that would be like experimentally proving heavier than air flight was impossible (Libet-type impossibility of genuine choice), and having that debunked, somehow still stubbornly clinging to the belief that such flight is impossible without any further evidence. You already had one debunked, and you have no viable proposal for further establishing the debunked hypothesis.

    So like your unjustified belief in the possibility of an infinite regress, you also espouse and unjustified belief in subjective experience arising solely from our physical bodies? That's a lot of faith for an atheist, but that's why scientism is more like religion than science.

    "As far as we can tell" about damaged brains is only as much as we could tell about a damaged phone line. We don't get a good signal, but we don't presume from that that anyone on the other end is as impaired as the signal sounds.

    More than a little disingenuous to claim you want to avoid a topic you immediately make arguments about.
    Genuine (meaningful rather than random) choices require that there be enough determinism to predict likely outcomes of a choice. There is no meaningful choice in a truly capricious universe. Nor does free will require the supernatural. It only requires that material determinism is not absolute.

    All such experiments were Libet-like, and equally debunked.

    I thought you didn't want to discuss free will? Again, pretty disingenuous.

    Science defines its own limits, like the finite speed of light defining how far back in time we can ever hope to receive information, like photons and radiation. Science can only ever address things that can be approached with its materialist methodology, which is why philosophy is not just a branch of science. Scientism is unjustified hubris. Scientific progress is not limitless magic.

    Trying to shoehorn things like philosophy into scientific methodology is irrational, scientism hubris.
  17. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Out of curiosity, if what was created included the notion of time as we understand it, such that it began upon creation, when else would you expect the evidence to point to as being the point of creation?
    Also, I'm unclear as to your reasoning: does it being an accident mean it would have to have happened an infinite time ago? I'm not sure how/why you're jumping from one to the other.
  18. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    James has been arguing an infinite regress, in which the beginning of our universe would presumably occur relative to some time in another in the multiverse. There, I have no qualms with it being accidental, where the bigger objection is to the assumption of an infinite regress. And if there is no infinite regress, "accident" is not itself an uncaused cause, making it, at best, a superfluous presumption. "Accident" would seem to imply some circumstance acting upon a cause, again raising the specter of an infinite regress.
  19. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Not sure which discussions you think you're referencing. I note that you give no links. Could be a case of sour grapes, I guess.

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  20. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    You mean the A Brilliant Mind guy? Nash equilibiriums and all that? I don't know that much about him. Why do you ask?
  21. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    The tone of your most recent reply to me is testy. You sound angry for some reason. Also, you accuse me at several points of being disingenuous, verging on dishonest.

    If this topic is too triggering for you to discuss it with me in a civil manner, I'm happy to leave you to your own devices. But if we are to proceed, I'm going to need you to assume that I'm posting in good faith, unless you find clear evidence to the contrary. In turn, I will show you the same courtesy.

    Moving on. I was not aware that you considered your question about "nothing" so important, but now that you have repeated it four or five times I understand that this is somehow central for you. So, probably best for me to start there. You asked:
    Taking your questions in order:
    What is nothing? As I understand it, "nothing" is the complete absence of any thing. It's literally "no thing".

    How do I identify "nothing" in everyday life? I assume the same way you do. If my pocket is empty, I say "there's nothing in it". Stuff like that. What I mean by that is that there is no important or significant thing there that bears mentioning. I appreciate that when I say there's nothing in my pocket you might well object that there's some air in there, and air isn't nothing, in which case I will happily agree with you. When we speak of "nothing" in everyday life it is seldom an "ultimate" nothing. The ultimate nothing, I guess, would be a complete absence of anything. It would mean no matter, no energy, no thoughts, no spirit, no Gods, etc. But that kind of nothing is far removed from the "everyday life" you asked about.

    How do I know there is nothing in or on somewhere/something without relying on synonyms such as empty, void, absent, lacking, not something etc.? To that, I'd say I don't know, I suppose. When I say there's nothing in my pocket, I could equally say that my pocket is empty, or things are absent from my pocket, or my pocket is lacking contents, or whatever. When it comes to the "ultimate nothing", I don't think I've claimed to know much about that.

    These are my honest answers to your questions about "nothing". I'm happy to answer any follow-ups you might have about that. As things stand, I can't really see the relevance of this "nothing" (everyday nothing or ultimate nothing) to your argument for God, but I suppose you'll be explaining that later in the process.

    One thing perhaps should be made clear here: I have at no time claimed that there has ever been an "ultimate" nothing, such as I described above. It seems to me that if your argument for God hinges on the actual existence of this kind of ultimate nothing, then it's up to you to defend your position on that.

    Now, you say:
    As you can see, I am attempting in good faith to follow your reasoning. You go on to say:
    As you can see, I am participating in good faith. I trust you will provide the answers you have found to your non-rhetorical questions, in good time.

    With that out of the way, I will respond to the rest of your posts below.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2020
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  22. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    I agree. Let's move on.

    I'm confused as to how that is possible. On the other hand, I believe you previously said that you regard God as everywhere. This means you are God, or God is you, I suppose, and therefore your relationship with God amounts more or less to recognising that you are God? Is that correct?

    Most religious people regard God as separate from themselves, I think. That is, while they might believe that God might be "in" them, they also recognise that God is not just them. I suppose this is also true for you?

    I'm confused. How can you and I have a useful discussion about theism if the discussion only involves you trying to defend theism while I'm not allowed to express a contrary view? What kind of discussion do you have in mind, exactly?

    Maybe you want to restrict this to you leading me down your path to theism? If that's what you want, we can certainly try that, but am I allowed to tell you when I find your assumptions or reasoning questionable? Will you be interested in my reasons for being unpersuaded?

    My apologies. I thought you might be interested in a frank exchange of views. I tried opening up to you to give you a little insight into my background, so that you would understand better where I'm coming from on the whole God question. I was hoping you'd possibly reciprocate. If you don't want to do the discussion that way, that's okay. We can follow your agenda instead and see where that takes us.

    Okay. I'm interested to learn why you start with a presumption of nothing. As you can see from my answers to your questions above, I find the concept of "nothing" - especially an absolute nothing - to be difficult to get my head around. I have no everyday experience of an absolute nothing and I know you also lack that experience. Any assumptions you make about an absolute nothing would then have to be questionable, would they not?

    I am aware of the common argument for our universe that "nothing comes from nothing". However, I have two objections to that line of argument. But I will abide by your expressed wishes that I don't discuss my reasons for rejecting this theist argument, until you say otherwise.

    Now, I could read this comment two ways. One way would be to read into it that you're getting frustrated and snarky at me because I'm apparently disagreeing with your position and I'm not coming around to your way of thinking fast enough for your liking. Another way would be to take you at face value and assume that, somehow, I've given the you impression that I'm not very bright, at least in regards to this topic of conversation. If this second interpretation is correct, I ask for you to be a patient teacher of a slow student. I would appreciate also knowing how you reached the conclusion that your questions may be beyond my capacities, especially in such a short time of the start of our interaction. Have you a lot of experience in putting your religious arguments to students? Are most of them quicker on the uptake than me? If so, I apologise for my lack of ability. Perhaps I truly am limited. I would appreciate that you persevere for a little longer. Maybe I will be able to get a glimmer of understanding if you help me.

    No argument I have made actually relies on infinite regress, as far as I can see.

    Suppose I say the natural universe is an "uncaused cause". Is there a problem with that idea that is not equally a problem for your God hypothesis?

    Also, on the flip side, until you can explain why infinite regress is invalid reasoning, we have no reason to accept that your objection based on infinite regress is anything but an empty, fallacious one. Right?

    Personally, I think you're getting unnecessarily distracted by the whole infinite regress thing. But then again, maybe that's just my limited capacities missing the point again.

    You say "something" created itself. What "something" are you referring to? God? The universe? I can't tell from what you wrote. How did it do that?

    When you speak about something starting a finite time in the past, it sounds like you're referring to the universe and the big bang. You think the big bang had a natural uncaused cause? Okay, but why give that the label "God"? Or is there more to it?
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  23. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    My mistake - again. Silly me!

    Okay, so not a deist but a theist of indeterminate religion. A self-constructed theist?

    Could you possibly give me a brief description of what you believe your God does in the world? I get it that you believe he/she/they created the universe. Does he/she/they do anything these days? Is the God a personal God? Does he/she/it/they communicate with you in any way - other than via "nature"? Does the God spend his/her/its/their time tweaking the levers of the natural world? Does the God have a plan? Do you know what the plan is or the aims of the God are? Are there any revelations from the God, or only human deductions from the natural world?

    Are these questions too presumptuous?

    You keep issuing ultimatums. Unless I can show this or that, you must be right by default. Is that how it goes?

    It seems to me that "Judeo-Christian values" would explicitly reference God in all their particulars, would they not? The Judeo-Christian idea is that God is a personal God who communicates (or used to communicate) his wishes and commands directly to his followers. In particular, the bible is supposed to be a record of God's Word to his Creation, at least in part. It follows that biblical "values" are assumed by believers to be God's more-or-less direct commands.

    Do you believe that the bible (or some other religious text or texts) contains God's commandments or moral prescriptions? Do you believe one or more religious texts are the Word of God, or similar?

    Previously I was under the impression that you did not accept that God communicates his morality (or anything else) through religious texts or prophets or the like. Am I wrong?

    If I'm right, then can you explain to me why you think morality comes from God? When I ask questions of this type, remember that I'm aware of your claim that everything comes from God. I'm not asking who created morality, on the assumption that a God who created everything is also logically responsible for morality - and immorality of course. I'm asking you how human beings know what God's moral values are.

    It remains a logical possibility until is is either justified or ruled out. What does faith have to do with it?

    That's a long article. Are you trying to point me towards something that you regard as particularly relevant or important in it? If so, perhaps you should quote the relevant passage and explain.

    Assuming I'm not familiar with this or whatever sounds snarky again. It also sounds condescending. Do you think you're better than me, Vociferous?

    Snarky again. What's with that?

    I think you can assume that I'm not arguing something I haven't thought through. That's not to say I couldn't be wrong. As I said above, I'm prepared to be educated by you. I'm willing to learn from your accumulated wisdom. You don't need to assert your mental superiority all the time. Show, don't tell!
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2020

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