Two items appear below:
1   The Probable Non-Existence of A God
2   The Existence of God – Reply to John williams





THE PROBABLE NON-EXISTENCE OF A GOD
                 
John H Williams

We don't see things the way they are;
                     We see them the way we are. (Found in a fortune cookie)
We know everything about the Higgs boson except whether it exists.
                                      (Rolf Heuer, D-G of CERN)

Illusion: false or misleading perception or belief; delusion. (Collins Concise)

(Investigator 142, 2012 January)


This is a response to Kevin Rogers' The Existence of God (#138), written in reply to my Goodness and Evil piece (#137). I acknowledge that my article was short on argument, brevity having the Ockham-like advantage of being sweetly simple, to which he responded in kind: it was "a good argument". From my current perspective, life is too ephemeral to go even one round of a mulberry bush with Kevin on topics such as the hiddenness of God (a bit like playing hide-and-seek with oneself), and that tedious problem of evil — only a problem because it actually exists, often where one would least expect it!

I've told Kevin I've not gone where he'd have liked because I'm more interested in other topics; it's hard enough focusing on those without being distracted by discussing a being I don't believe exists. I was content to read the debate between Kirk Straughan and Kevin, and viewed Kirk as being far more skilled and knowledgeable – making, as always, perfect sense. Why duplicate, space in the Investigator being increasingly scarce?  

Far from "waiting for the dust to settle", I spent several months researching and writing ‘difficult' articles on Ziusudra and Mengele, both subjects being outside my realm of expertise. I believe that every Investigator writer should be free to choose topics they're interested in, and I generally defer to those who clearly are more invested and more expert. Having confessed that he's a creationist scientist, Kevin may now want to flesh out his beliefs in an article, or critique articles of mine on natural selection and evolution, but that's entirely up to him.

As to receiving "free-kicks" from believers, which Kevin suggests was the case with Bruce Bennie's article, they're not needed, because I have a clear sense that, since believers are inclined to supernatural explanations, as well as having a more or less non-skeptical view on the Bible, that atheists are far more likely to be right. For example, Kevin wrote me this in an email on 27/5/10: "The Virgin Birth (VB) would violate everything we know about biology (a quote I'd sent him by Jack Spong). But so what? The Bible clearly presents it as something supernatural. If God created, sustained the universe, and is the author of life, wouldn't it be a piece of cake to effect a VB?"

IF there is a god called God! Easy-peasy indeed for a being so extraordinary as to be everywhere yet nowhere, effortlessly multi-lingual in simultaneously dealing with prayers by the million, who pump-primed the Big Inflation, incidentally enabling time, space and the laws of physics, directing the unfolding universe for about nine billion of years, before taking particular interest in a planet in an off-Broadway solar system in a spiral arm of one of its galaxies, and, voila! that sublime celestial lab-job, vita!   

A piece of cake, IF you happen to believe: I, just an ordinary non-avid atheist and skeptic, don't, not because "I don't want to believe", as opined by Kevin:

1 I'm unimpressed with the plethora of arguments for the existence of any deity. In Investigator #132 Bob Potter praised the appendix of Dr Rebecca Goldstein's 36 Arguments For The Existence of God (2010), which explained each argument before giving a "briskly scientific dismissal", as "Flaw #1, Flaw #2". I too recommend her repudiation of the arguments for, among others, Fine Tuning, the Big Bang, the Beauty of Physics, Survival After Death, Free Will and my favourite, The Abundance of Argument (#36)!
This is a very good site: http://edge.org/3rd_culture/goldstein09.index.html

2 I assess the arguments of fellow non-believers, Straughen, Potter, Eddie, Edwards, De Kretser et al, as collectively superior to those of Anonymous, Bergman and Rogers. The same holds in the broader non-fiction world, in my opinion.

3 Believers, some of whom are distinguished scientists, write the most ridiculous things, such as "We need God because he is our Creator and to help us to be decent" (George Pell, 1991); "On a beautiful fall day, as I was hiking in the Cascades, the majesty and beauty of God's creation overwhelmed my resistance. I…saw a beautiful frozen waterfall, hundreds of feet high (which had three streams, thus putting him in mind of the Trinity!). I knew the search was over. The next morning I knelt in the dewy grass…and surrendered to Jesus Christ." (Dr Francis Collins, head of Human Genome Project).

4 As a scientist, I don't factor in the supernatural, and I find Kevin's "Biblical view", that a god will physically raise the dead, like those bizarre ‘resurrection' scenes from The Mummy movie trilogy, as macabre, repulsive and ridiculous, one directly at odds with science.

5 I'm outraged when those who espouse the Good Book, who are supposed to live by its edicts, and in many cases are employed by churches, behave evilly towards the vulnerable, misrepresent science, evolution in particular, tell lies to help the cause or are coyly mendacious, as were those (Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, Stephen Meyer) who first promoted Unintelligent Design.

Yes, the non-existent immortal soul is a Greek invention: however, since I don't believe that there is one, I didn't mention it in my article. I've argued its non-existence in debate with Anonymous: I described it as something thought up by mensa, a process which occurs in the brain. I assert that living things have spent eons not existing, then being alive, later becoming ‘life-less' and returning to non-existence: Kevin agreed "entirely", yet in his final paragraph he offered that weird "Biblical view" without making it clear whether that was or wasn't what he believed.  

In paragraph three, Kevin offered two astonishingly weak arguments, presumably given to counter what he described as my "bravado".

1 That a majority of Earthlings ostensibly believe in a god or gods is argumentum ad populum: I don't think that I need give historical examples to refute this egregious fallacy. I can't think of one good reason to believe in a god or gods, apart from the threat of being tortured or terminated. A very large number of people are godless for most of their lives as adults, safe from proselytizing parents, teachers and priests, without ever thinking much about a deity, unless as a popular subject for humour.

2 " …we live in a world that strongly appears to be created and designed and so the existence of a creator/designer deity seems "bleedin' obvious."!

I've spent months thinking about how best to deal with this shocking delusion, but a thorough response requires more space than our editor will want to spare. It's redolent of Ken Ham's Creation Museum of Misinformation and Michael Behe's Unintelligent Design: "Why do most people disbelieve Darwinian evolution? They go out and look at the trees and say "Nah"! A letter sent to Richard Dawkins extolled the ‘design' features' of a banana, "the atheist's nightmare", thoughtfully, miraculously and conveniently arranged by a god: an easy-to-peel zippered protective wrapper; a colour scheme indicating state of ripeness; a tab for removal of wrapper; sits comfortably in the hand and bends conveniently towards the mouth. Yes, the bleedin' obvious, unless you happen to know about how the wild, unpalatable SE Asian Musa accuminata (plantain or cooking banana) evolved, after some cross-pollination with the far too seedy Musa balbisiana, then to become the once dominant hybrid cultivar, Gros Michel, which was replaced (due to Panama Disease) by the ubiquitous Cavendish, sourced from Vietnam in the 1950s. (Shortages of Gros Michel began in the early 1900s, and in 1923 a musical hit, "Yes, we have no bananas" referred to the fruiterer's lament).

Yea, "fearfully and wonderfully made", and "how marvellous are thy works" (Jerry Bergman quoting Psalm 138:14)! I again refer to his In Six Days description of that amazing moment when a fully-grown ‘Adam' with 100 trillion cells, plus an even bigger number of intestinal bacteria, was instantaneously created. (I again ask Jerry, re my article, Natural Selection Does (Explain Evolution) in #131, to send our Editor the microbiological evidence devoid of biblical quotations, please for this (non-) event).

Kevin, the argument from apparent purposeful design is hopelessly inadequate to support the lazy default ‘God must have done it' school, because it is far from established that any god exists, and because it is based on an ancient pre-scientific myth that the god of the Bible must have had something creatively momentous to do! Yet, should your mind, questioning the illusory  ‘evidence of your eyes', stray from your ‘bleedin' obvious' towards mine, and if you take a more disinterested view of the scientific evidence, and the lack of evidence for creation, you may, like Darwin during his five years on the Beagle (1831- 1836), develop the "onset of doubt".

"I had gradually come, by this time (during the voyage) to see that the Old Testament from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow as a sign etc., and from attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian … the clearest evidence would be requisite to make any sane man believe in miracles by which Christianity is supported…I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as divine revelation … Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never doubted for a single second that my conclusion was correct."
(The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1800 – 1882, Collins 1958, p 85).

Darwin was quite reasonably fearful of publishing his work for over 20 years until forced to by the arrival of Wallace's virtually identical thesis: he then had to ‘face the music' for his last 24 years. Over 128 years later, his work and its massive legacy are still being derided and misrepresented by those who put their faith in the Bible well before the overwhelming scientific evidence.

Good science depends on the disinterested pursuit of the truth, as wonderfully exemplified by Darwin: in Herbert Spencer's words, "The most cowardly thing of all is to fear that the truth could be bad."


 




The Existence of God Reply to John Williams

Kevin Rogers

(Investigator 143, 2012 March)


In Investigator #142 John Williams claimed that I had confessed that I was a "creationist scientist". I am not sure where I made this confession and I am not sure what John means by it. Fred Hoyle didn't like the Big Bang theory because it implied the existence of God, and so he labelled anyone who believed in it as a creationist. So, by Fred's standards, John Williams is probably a creationist too. I am a creationist in the sense that I believe that the universe is created by God. However, I am not a Young Earth Creationist (YEC).

I believe that the universe is old and was not created in 6 literal 24-hour days. As I have explained privately to John, I am not sure to what extent evolutionary theory is true. My background is in engineering, physics, maths and philosophy. I haven't done any formal studies in biology and so I don't have firm opinions on the matter. One of my daughters spent 8 years attempting a PhD in microbiology, but she is largely agnostic on the issue; so that is cause for some caution.

Some atheists seem to argue, "Since atheism is true, therefore evolution must be true. Since evolution is true, therefore atheism is true." In other words, their belief in evolutionary theory is more ideologically driven rather than scientifically driven. I actually do suspect that a lot of evolutionary theory is true, but I do not believe that it necessarily leads to atheism and I do not have any ideological compulsion to believe or disbelieve it. I am quite happy to follow where the evidence leads. I think John wants to pigeon hole me to create something that he can attack. Richard Dawkins uses the same strategy. He would love all Christians to be YECs and he even argues that they ought to be, but his motive is to create a target that he can ridicule.

John referred me to Rebecca Goldstein's critique of 36 Arguments for the existence of God. The main arguments that I have presented in The Investigator Magazine are the Kalam Cosmological Argument and the Fine-Tuning Argument (FTA), so I was particularly interested in Rebecca's position on these arguments. Rebecca started with the cosmological argument and immediately misrepresented it.

Her 1st premise was, "Everything that exists must have a cause", and then raised the question, "Who caused God?" This is a very common basic error. The first premise of the cosmological argument should instead be, "Everything that begins to exist has a cause." To put it crudely, something must be eternal and uncaused; otherwise we would not be here. It is either God or the universe; and it ain't the universe. So she started off on the wrong foot and her subsequent comments on the cosmological argument are completely invalid after that. She then makes some comments on cause and effect, where she completely misunderstands David Hume's position.

Her comments on the FTA are very brief. She claims that a "Theory Of Everything" (TOE) may explain why the physical constants have their current values. TOE is actually a misnomer. Physicists suggest that a "Grand Unified Theory" (GUT) may unite the 4 forces, but even if it does, this will not be a theory of everything. Even if the physical constants can be derived from a GUT, it wouldn't explain the fine tuning of the Big-Bang initial conditions and it would also be a grand fluke that a GUT would generate the right values for the physical constants.

She then appealed to the multi-verse theory and the oscillating universe theory. The oscillating universe theory is definitely not viable and the multi-verse theory has a number of problems, which I have already listed in one of my replies to Kirk (#127). The flaws she raised are hopelessly flawed and naive, but John seems to be easily pleased, provided that the conclusion appeals to him. Quite frankly, I was quite surprised that John would refer me to such a site. He has had plenty of exposure to the Kalam Cosmological argument and should have seen the flaws in Rebecca's arguments without any assistance from me.

Kirk and I have debated the fine-tuning argument. John claimed that he "viewed Kirk as being far more skilled and knowledgeable". I have distributed links to the debate quite widely and one of my daughters has also distributed the link to her fellow medical students. The feedback I have received differs vastly from John's claim. I have already challenged John to distribute the argument to his acquaintances if he really believes that Kirk presented the stronger case. No answer came the stern reply.

In Investigator #138 I stated, "I am quite satisfied that I presented a good argument and that I addressed all of Kirk's objections. Please let me know of any specific issues that I did not address." However, John has come up with nothing specific, only an unsubstantiated general comment and a reference to a hopeless web site. The central issue is not who won the debate on the fine-tuning argument but "Does God Exist?


The cosmological argument and the design argument (in the form of the fine-tuning argument) are probably the most important arguments for the existence of God. They are also major topics of discussion within the scientific and philosophical communities. Knowledge is justified, true belief. If a person takes a firm position as an atheist or theist, then they should have a reasoned position on these 2 arguments, otherwise their beliefs are not justified. It is intellectually dishonest to attempt to ignore these arguments or hope they go away. These are not "astonishingly weak arguments" as John claims. He responds by referring back to Darwinism as an explanation of design.

However, Darwinism does not explain fundamental things like the existence of the atomic table and the ability of elements to form complex molecules and it does not explain the origin of the universe. Darwinism is irrelevant to these issues.

The remainder of John's arguments are not relevant to the existence of God. He creates an argument for design from the shape of bananas and then knocks it down. Did I ever mention bananas? Also the fact that some people who claim to be Christians do bad things is not an argument against the existence of God. And so on.

I agree with John that the majority is not always right. However, if you are the member of a minority and presume that you are right without providing a reasoned justification, then you are simply a minority bigot. The truth is not "what John believes".


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