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How to Convert an Atheist

August 27, 2008

Before moving forward with Case for a Creator, I want to address a question that I have a feeling will come up. In fact it already sort of has. I don’t know (despite having read two chapters of the book) what evidence Strobel intends to give, so now is the time to establish what kind of evidence I would be willing to accept for the existence of a deity, and more specifically a particular deity as espoused by a particular religion.

Ebon Musings has two great articles that I read through on this subject that I think are just about perfect. Since I got on Strobel’s case about not properly citing sources, I’ll link you directly to the source so you can read it at your leisure.

The first is, How to Convert an Atheist. The article proposes a list of evidence that would convince him that a given religion was true. I’ll summarize the bullet points here, but head over to the page for a full explication of each one.

I agree absolutely with the list, which is why I am duplicating it here.

First, things that would convince the author (and me) immediately of a given religion’s truth:

– Verified, specific prophecies that couldn’t have been contrived.
– Scientific knowledge, in holy books, that wasn’t available at the time [of their writing].
– Miraculous occurrences, especially if brought about through prayer.
– Any direct manifestation of the divine.
– Aliens who believed in the exact same religion.

Next, a list of anecdotal evidence that, while not eligible for insta-conversion, would get the author (and me) to think there might just be something to a particular religion:

– A genuinely flawless and consistent holy book.
– A religion without internal disputes or factions.
– A religion whose followers have never committed or taken part in atrocities.
– A religion that had a consistent record of winning its jihads and holy wars.

And third, the list of items that will not be seen as convincing, by the author or myself:

– Speaking in tongues or other pseudo-miracles.
– People’s conversion stories.
– Any subjective experience.
– The Bible Code or similar numerological feats.

He also lists “Creationism of any sort,” but I’ll take that one off the table. Strobel gets his shot at convincing me, as long as his evidence is solid. Worth noting, though, that disproving evolution does not inherently prove creationism or intelligent design.

I would add to that list that I do not find arguments from personal incredulity to be compelling. If you say to me “I can’t see how [blank] could be true without God,” my answer is “Do some research.” Nor do I find the argument from beauty to be compelling. A gorgeous sunset, the intricacy of a snowflake, or other astounding elements of natural beauty are not valid evidence of God.

As I said, there is a second article about how NOT to convert an atheist. This one interests me because, looking through, this is like a checklist of exactly the tactics Strobel seems to be employing:

– Don’t tell atheists what they think; let them tell you what they think.
– Don’t assume that atheists aren’t familiar with the beliefs of your religion.
– Don’t make assertions you’re not prepared or willing to defend.
– Don’t ignore sincere questions.
– Don’t use threats, personal insults, or ad hominem attacks.
– Don’t try to be an armchair psychologist.
– Don’t ask atheists to do something for you if you’re not prepared to offer the same courtesy in return.1
– Don’t refuse to acknowledge your mistakes.
– Don’t assume that any one atheist speaks for all atheists.
– Don’t refuse to consider the atheist viewpoint honestly and seriously.

So, let’s see how Strobel approaches this.


  1. Drew may well find a gift of an alternative viewpoint in his mailbox after I’ve finished Case for a Creator, unless of course Strobel manages to convince me. The God Delusion is, after all, in paperback now.
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From → philosophy, religion

41 Comments
  1. Drew Mazanec permalink

    Which I will gladly read and review.

  2. Daniel Broadway permalink

    “A religion that had a consistent record of winning its jihads and holy wars.”

    One would hope that an advanced being, or if said being oversaw a group of humans on earth, could instruct them how to solve a situation without the need for violence.

  3. Drew Mazanec permalink

    With your permission, I would also like to print these reviews and send them to Lee Strobel.

  4. JonBerry permalink

    One could argue that the bullet points about religion (internal disputes, atrocities, and jihad) have nothing to do whether there is a higher power. It’s only mankind who causes those issues.

  5. Dorkman permalink

    One could argue that, but the nature of a God who is said to be good, and who is said to touch and change the hearts of his followers, and who is said to hold the universe in the palm of his hand — you would think that if such a God existed, he’d be able to override mankind’s propensity to cause those issues. You would think that there would be no internal conflict because everyone would AGREE on the word of an all-powerful God.

    The whole point is that “salvation” — or at least “conversion” — should have a statistically significant effect on the followers of a specific religion, and when you back out and take a, as it’s called, God’s Eye view of things, none of them do any more than the others.

    As to Daniel’s point, we’re in agreement on that — but it’s worth noting (and those folks who would bring up free will, take heed) that knowing a God exists does not compel you to worship him. If one particular religion consistently won their holy wars, I might be inclined to think that they really did have God on their side. I would also be inclined to think — depending perhaps on the circumstances — that said God was a petty and vindictive prick of a deity not worth spitting at, much less worshipping, but I would have to admit that he does probably exist.

  6. Drew Mazanec permalink

    You’re doing a great job going through the book, by the way. I’m really eager to hear your opinion on certain topics in the second half of the book!

  7. St. Chris permalink

    Glad to see you mention the argument from beauty. I find beauty to be well-enough explained in evolutionary terms: Unhappy people are less attentive to their own well-being, whereas happy people tend to thrive. Natural selection filters out those who perceive the world as ugly.

  8. St. Chris permalink

    To clarify my previous comment: By “beauty,” I mean a person’s perception of beauty in the world, not (in this case) their being “beautiful.” Perceiving the world as beautiful makes a person happier than not.

  9. onscrn permalink

    As jonberry said, I think you need to make a distinction between deciding whether a particular religion is true and whether or not God exists. Believe me, once you have seen there is a Creator, you really start looking at religions differently. Despite some flaws in them, which you can see, they are right on the most important basic fact. I’m speaking from experience, as a former atheist (a hard one) for some forty years, who was forced over time to reconsider my position just by what I saw in the world, and I mean the fine-tuning of physical laws as well as the existence of things like transcendent art and music, which one can try to explain away, but which I finally couldn’t. I’ve reflected some on my experience on my blog, for example “On the Breaking of Bad Habits Acquired in One’s Youth: Smoking and Atheism”.

  10. *_*Antoine*_* permalink

    http://tundae.blogspot.com/2008/09/day-two.html

    Scroll down to mid-post.

  11. Dorkman permalink

    onscrn – I should like to hear the reasons for your conversion, as you mention on your site. I have to say that I think you are projecting your own thoughts and biases onto the gentlemen you quote, and also seem to be taking the existence of God quite for granted.

    I think you present a false, and somewhat insulting, dichotomy to imply that atheists are either “brought up that way” or come to it before they reach full intellectual maturity. There is always the option that they reached that conclusion on their own after reaching full emotional maturity.

    You ask in your post (with comments closed, so I must answer here) what scientific evidence would satisfy the reader. I think it is interesting that you should post a link to that in the comments to a post describing exactly that. Do you have any of the evidences available that I list here?

    As I stated in previous posts, unlike the teacher you spoke to, I have no qualms with changing my views on things, but I’ll need proof. If you have some beyond the arguments I am going to come across in Strobel’s book, I am anxious to hear about it.

  12. Drew Mazanec permalink

    How do you explain the fine tuning of the expansion rate of the universe, the ratio of electrons to protons, the cosmological constant, the mass of the universe, and the differential between the forces of gravity and electromagnetism?

    If any of these constants is increased or decreased by even a trillionth of a trillionth of 1%, the stars themselves would be unable to form, and nothing even resembling life would be able to exist. Strobel addresses this much later in his book, but you’ll have to keep reading to get to it.

  13. St. Chris permalink

    How to explain it? Perhaps by first dropping the teleologically-loaded phrases like “fine tuning.”

    If such-and-such constant were so-and-so off the value we’ve measured, we wouldn’t exist. So what?

    Honestly, so what?

    Douglas Adams, almost exactly ten years ago:

    “This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise.”

  14. Drew Mazanec permalink

    There’s no reason for these constants to be at such precise values.

    How about this…

    You’re sentenced to be executed by a squad of 50 marksmen. You’re led against the wall, blindfolded. You hear the order to fire, and all 50 guns jam. Noticing this odd stroke of fortune, the Captain orders you released.

    Would you believe that it was pure luck, or that someone had arranged this?

    What if we had a conversation about it later, and I brushed it off, saying “I’m sure it was just luck. After all, if all the guns hadn’t jammed, you wouldn’t be here talking to me!”

    Would you accept an explanation like that?

  15. Dorkman permalink

    Drew,

    You are making the mistaken assumption of assuming that there is an intention behind those values. To stand in awe that those values are “fine tuned” enough to allow stars to exist implies that stars were meant to exist. You are starting from an assumption of intent, which is a mistaken assumption that you then use to prove itself. Your analogy is, as such, totally off the mark, again by making an assumption of how things are “meant” to turn out.

    To clarify the problem with an analogy of my own, imagine you had a hundred-sided dice on a table, and say it fell off the table, and say it landed on 26.

    You could look at it and express astonishment that it should say 26, you could talk about the incredible odds against it hitting 26 (1 in 100), and you could claim that there MUST have been a guiding force ensuring that it came up 26.

    But that’s only valid by first making the assumption that it intended to say 26, imbuing an intelligence behind the dice. The fact is that it could just as easily have said any of the other 100 numbers on the dice, it just so happens that in this case it came up 26. All other possibilities were nullified the moment it came up 26.

    So it is with the universe. Yes, it is theorized that if the universe were different, it could not support life as we define it. And when you start from the assumption that life was an intentional goal, then certainly it seems impossible that such a thing could happen by chance. But that assumption is fallacious, and is poor reasoning leading to a Creator, since it requires that you already assume there is a Creator in order to read the evidence that way.

    The fact of it is that this universe, indeed, happens to be one that supports life — if it didn’t, there wouldn’t be life. But that doesn’t mean that it did it on purpose.

    Hypothetically there are an infinite number of possible universes. Most of which, presumably, did not have the exact same physical laws and thus did not develop in such a way as to form life. And because they didn’t, we do not exist in those universes to be having this conversation. Even if there was a “one in a bajillion” chance that everything could come together as it does in our universe, all that means is of the “bajillion” possibilities, THIS is the “one” where it came together.

    You assume that the universe works the way it does so that it could support our existence. The more likely case is that we exist because the universe works in a way that happens to support it.

    Outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins will be the first to admit we should stand in awe at the sheer fortune we have merely in existing. Not just as a species, but as individuals. The odds of the genetic information from your parents combining to form you specifically, compounded with the odds against your parents ever meeting, compounded with the odds against the genetic information of their parents combining to form them specifically, compounded with…well, you get the picture. Even by secular standards, the fact that any of us exist as we are, let alone at all, is worthy of being called miraculous.

    But it is shoddy logic and narcissism to assume that the universe set out with the goal and purpose of producing the specific individuals “you” and “me.” It’s just fortunate for both of us that it turned out that way.

  16. Drew Mazanec permalink

    There would be nothing significant about a 100 sided die hitting 26.

    However, if you play craps in Vegas and hit 12 a couple of hundred times in a row, no floorman in his right mind would think of it as a happy coincidence. He would very rightly assume that someone loaded the dice.

  17. Dorkman permalink

    Yes, but again, the number 12 in that case has significance before your rolls. The “fine tuning” of the universe only has significance afterwards.

    The “fine tuning” of the universe is not equivalent to rolling 12 a hundred times in a row. It is equivalent to rolling a random combination of numbers that ultimately add up to, say, 135.

    If you were to calculate the odds of rolling that exact sequence of numbers, then you would find the odds against are astronomical. And you could argue that if a single dice roll had come up differently, then it would not have added up to 135. That is a simple statement of fact. But in this analogy, you are imbuing the final tally of 135 with special significance, declaring that 135 is the only possible outcome, and that it must have been rolled on purpose. 135 is not the only possible outcome, but it is the only actual outcome.

    The sum of 135 after the series of dice rolls is arbitrary, with no inherent significance. The fact that the rolls added up 135 is undeniable but does not imply intent.

    Likewise, the development of the universe was arbitrary, with no inherent significance. The fact that it “added up” to a universe which supports life is undeniable but does not imply intent.

  18. Drew Mazanec permalink

    If this is the only set of values under which life could exist, then how could you call it arbitrary?

  19. St. Chris permalink

    Because the existence of life is arbitrary. Life is an emergent property of that set of values. This universe causes life, not the other way around.

  20. Dorkman permalink

    Exactly.

    With the dice analogy, the existence of life is the number 135. It didn’t have to turn out that way, it wasn’t “meant to” turn out that way, it just so happens that it did turn out that way.

    Difficult as it can be to do when you’ve grown up with the notion of a creator god (believe me, I know), you have to shake loose from the idea that life was “meant to be.” It wasn’t.

    You have to let go of the concept that creating life is the “purpose” of the universe. It isn’t.

    What we call “life” is just the sum of the arbitrary values leading up to this point. It is the number 135. It has no cosmological significance, we are only imbuing it with such because our existence is, understandably, the most important thing to us.

  21. St. Chris permalink

    I will never look at the number 135 the same again.

  22. Drew Mazanec permalink

    Imagine this:

    You are blindfolded. You feel around and discover in front of you is an open jar. You reach into it and decide it is maybe a half gallon in volume and filled with coins that are the same size.

    You reach in and pull out a coin, and then take off the blindfold, noticing that the coin in your hand is a US Quarter, painted red. You look into the jar and notice that the rest of the quarters are not painted.

    You sit down with me and discuss this interesting luck. I then argue that the red coin has meaning solely because you give it meaning. I pick out two other quarters and say:

    “This one in my left hand is very worn, has an eagle on the back, and the number 1981 on the front. This one in my right hand has a picture of Nebraska on the back. They’re all different. The fact that yours is the only painted one is purely arbitrary.”

    You would be justified in calling me an idiot at that point.

    What if we were these weird, cosmic beings, and I put a weird, cosmic blindfold on you and asked you to pull universes out of a weird, cosmic jar.

    You pull out one, take off the blindfold, and notice that it has all these stars, planets, and it even has life forms in it. You then look at all the other universes and notice that each of the others contains nothing more than dust. You point out that the universe in your hand is unique and distinct from all the others, but I say:

    “Not true!” I say as I pull out two of these inert dust universes. “The universe in my left hand has 25% more dust than the universe in my right hand. They are all unique. The fact that it is the only one with those glowing balls of gas, rocks floating around it, and stuff you call life is not remarkable. It is no more different from the universes in my hands than these universes are from each other.”

    You might then be justified in asking me what cosmological stuff I had been smoking, to which I would reply: “your mom”

  23. Dorkman permalink

    Actually, no. You made a very close to accurate analogy. Just not with enough variation, and making the wrong conclusion.

    If there were a jar full of quarters that were all equally different — one was painted red, another green, another not painted but scratched, another painted green and scratched, another with a blank bit where “tails” should be, another blank where “heads” should be, another green on tails and red on heads, etc. — then that would be a more accurate analogy to the various possibilities of the universe. Then if I were to pull out the one that was all red, and attach special significance to the fact that I pulled out the red one, then YOU would be justified in calling ME an idiot.

    What changes the situation is if you blindfold me and say before I reach in that I will pick the red one. The odds against fulfilling that prediction are astronomical. But if you make no prediction as to which coin I will pull out, and the coins are genuinely different, then there is no significance inherent to the coin which I pull out.

    You also make the mistake of assuming that if the universe could not have formed as we know it, nothing would have formed at all. But there is nothing in the “fine tuning” argument to support that assumption. All we can say is that if the laws of physics were different, the universe as we know it could not exist. That doesn’t mean another, totally different universe, governed by those alternate laws, couldn’t have formed instead. And it doesn’t mean, frankly, that some form of “life” couldn’t have arisen in that other universe. It just wouldn’t have been life as we know it.

    The fact, again, is that we pulled out the red coin out of all the equal and different possibilities. And that led to us. But that doesn’t mean that we were the “goal.”

  24. Drew Mazanec permalink

    Are you implying that the alternate universes would be as different from each other as they are from this one?

    First off, we have to understand that stars are very interesting phenomena. The Big Bang can explain the background radiation in our universe, and can even explain the existence of hydrogen, but would be able to generate almost nothing heavier. We need stars to act as the factories for the heavier elements, or there no hope of having planets or any sort of life whatsoever.

    If we were to adjust the dial that controls the expansion rate for the universe, what outcomes would there be?

    If we dialed it down by even the tiniest amount, less than a thousandth of a percent, we’re left with a universe that collapses on itself very, very quickly. While I’m not sure if a star would be able to form in such a universe, there is undoubtedly not enough time to process the hydrogen into anything from which planets and life could form.

    If we dialed it up by an equally tiny amount, we’re left with the opposite problem. The energy and matter produced by the Big Bang is so widely dispersed that while MAYBE a few stars could form, they would be so widely dispersed that there would be no hope whatsoever of producing any planets or any life.

    I guess the analogy would work better if there were an ocean of painted coins, half black (dust universes from overly rapid expansion), and half white (collapsed universes from insufficiently rapid expansion), and you pick the sole red coin.

  25. Dorkman permalink

    Even assuming that’s true — what’s to say all that didn’t already happen?

    You’re assuming that there was nothing before our universe “started,” and there is no reason to assume that. Our universe is most likely one of unfathomably countless iterations that have occurred.

    If it’s true that the numbers being too low would have collapsed again instantaneously — well, why assume that didn’t already happen? If it Big Banged and accelerated wrong, it would just collapse and Big Bang again.

    And how many times might that have happened? Billions of times maybe? Trillions even? Until the universe hit just the right “settings” to expand at a reasonable rate?

    Likewise, it’s hypothesized that even at the “perfect rate” our universe is expanding, eventually it will reverse and collapse upon itself. So there’s nothing to say that a universe that expanded “too fast” wouldn’t also have eventually collapsed, billions or even trillions of times until it hit just the right rate of expansion.

    So even conceding, for the sake of argument, that this universe is totally unique among all the other possibilities, it is not so much like “picking” the one red coin out of a jar of black and white ones on your first try, as drawing out coins one by one until eventually you get the red one. The odds against the former case are, admittedly, astronomical. The latter case is, on the other hand, inevitable given time enough.

  26. Drew Mazanec permalink

    And all the other constants?

    A slightly higher strong nuclear force constant would create insufficient hydrogen for stars to form. A slightly lower strong nuclear force constant would make any elements heavier than helium either unable to form or extremely unstable.

    If we were to mess with the ratio of electrons to protons in either direction, electromagnetism would dominate gravity, negating the existence of planets, stars, and galaxies.

    There’s also the decay rate of 8Be, the mass of the neutrino, the decay rate of the proton, among other factors.

  27. Dorkman permalink

    Same exact thing. It’s entirely possible that all of that has happened before. You get one universe that only has the right rate of expansion, but none of the other constants are in place as they “need” to be, and no life arises, the universe collapses after a couple hundred billion years, then it explodes out again and the “constants” will change.

    Somewhere down the line — maybe billions of iterations later — you get a universe with two of the constants in place, but not the others. No life arises, universe collapses.

    And so on and so forth, until eventually you get a universe where it all falls into place and life eventually arises. The “fine tuning” argument is only compelling if we assume that the beginning of our universe was the beginning of everything, that there has only ever been one universe and that it “got it right” the first time. But there is no reason whatsoever to assume that.

    What we’re talking about is the cosmological equivalent of infinite monkeys on infinite typewriters. Given enough time (and we’re talking about an infinite amount of it), it is not only possible but inevitable that, just by randomly pounding keys, they will eventually type the works of Shakespeare. But they won’t know that they’ve typed Shakespeare, and they’ll continue pounding aimlessly away afterward.

    Given enough time and opportunity for variation (and we’re talking abut an infinite amount of it), it is not only possible but inevitable that a universe should eventually arise with everything having fallen into place. And after this universe collapses, there will probably be billions more that arise without those constants in place.

    Out of trillions of universes — or more — it may very well be that ours is the only one that can support life as we know it, or at all. No one would deny that it makes our universe special, but that isn’t the same as making it divine.

  28. Drew Mazanec permalink

    You mean trillions of universes or one universe exploding trillions of times?

    Because if we have one universe exploding trillions of times with the laws of physics changing each time, every single set of conditions would have to allow for a recollapse and a bounce. If it ever expanded to quickly, or had too low a force of gravity, or too high a cosmological constant, and the universe tears itself apart with no chance of a Big Bounce.

  29. Dorkman permalink

    Can you point me to any peer-reviewed scientific studies that support these assertions?

    At any rate, there’s no point in going in more circles because it really doesn’t matter. Whether it is one of infinite universes or one of infinite iterations of a single universe, the fact remains that the universe being one which supports life is only evidence that the universe is one which supports life. Placing intelligence behind that is an assumption based on a pre-formed conclusion, and not an inherent conclusion based on the evidence.

    The only conclusion that can be reasonably drawn, even granting all the evidence that you have provided to be true (which I have no reason to doubt, but also no particular reason to accept, lacking citations), is that the odds of the universe developing the way it has are really small. But the odds of a 100-sided dice landing on any given number are also small — admittedly nowhere near as small, but still small — and yet sometimes when playing an RPG you get exactly the number you need.

    Or let’s say you go out in a rainstorm. There are millions, billions, trillions of raindrops falling through the air, and there are at least hundreds of thousands of square millimeters of surface area on your body (I think, I could be wrong but let’s just say for the sake of argument). The odds of any one of those specific raindrops touching you is astronomical, the odds of any one of them hitting you in a specific spot exponentially so, and yet against a trillion-trillion-to-one odds, a raindrop hits you on the freckle above your left eye. A millimeter in any direction and it would miss the freckle, but it hits. And in the storm dozens, maybe hundreds of other drops hit the same exact spot! What are the odds?

    My point is that natural events — even the rare or unlikely — have no inherent significance. Small odds != intelligent intervention, unless you have already decided you need to believe God is involved. Then you’re not forming a conclusion, just affirming one you’ve already made.

    Seeing significance in the “fine tuning” of the universe is no different from seeing significance in a Rorschach test. The inkblot wasn’t “designed” to resemble a butterfly, that’s just the pattern your brain retroactively assigns it. There is no significance, in either case, but that which you impose upon them.

    True science starts with a question and finds the best answer. You are starting with an answer and trying to find/ask questions that lead to it.

  30. Drew Mazanec permalink

    Simply google “Escape Velocity” and you’ll see a discovery by Newton. Since gravity obeys the inverse square law, where every time the distance between two objects, their gravitational attraction is cut by a factor of four. If two objects are moving away from each other rapidly enough, gravity will never be able to reunite them.

  31. St. Chris permalink

    …like the viewpoints in this discussion. So it goes.

  32. Dorkman permalink

    But that’s assuming several things:

    – it assumes that the universe is an open space where motion is always linear and never curved (as proposed by Einstein, Google “curved universe”)

    – it assumes that beyond the boundaries of the universe there is nothing (perhaps two “universes” collide at their “boundaries” to form a third universe, with different mathematical constants in place as a result of the collision)

    – it assumes that Newton wasn’t flat-out wrong — Newtonian physics actually tend to break down at very small scales, that’s where quantum mechanics comes in.

    Assuming that you are right that nothing greater than subatomic particles could form, then the possibilities of what might or might not have happened should be factored through the lens of quantum mechanics, not Newtonian physics. And when you get down to the level of quantum mechanics, matter basically turns into a circus, where light is both a particle and a wave, and a single electron can be in two places at once (check out the “double-slit experiment”).

    To say nothing of string theory, which is slowly gaining support in scientific circles and which implies that, at some level, all matter is connected. String theory suggests space-time has eleven dimensions, only four of which (three space one time) are perceptible to human beings, so it may be perfectly possible, if examined through the lens of string theory, that matter expelled “too fast” into the ether could still be “connected” and eventually reconstitute itself via forces other than gravity.

    We have a tendency to view our understanding through our expectations and experience in what Dawkins calls “Middle World.” (Not to be confused with Middle Earth.) Because we evolved at the level we have, we do not perceive the surface tension of a pool of water (unlike an insect, which can land on the surface of a liquid and may very well perceive it as solid because of its relative scale), and we do not perceive the forces that affect the stars and planets on a massive scale. So we expect gravity and matter and etc. to behave in a certain way because we have always observed and experienced them behaving that way. But when we begin to observe very large or very small scales, we discover that the universe defies many of our expectations, behaving counterintuitively and even, often, inexplicably.

    That’s the beauty of science. It is always striving to find new, better answers to difficult questions, and those answers often create more questions. If you start with what you think is the answer to everything, then you wind up never asking the proper questions.

  33. Dorkman permalink

    Don’t be silly. Believing that there is more to the universe than the human senses can perceive on their own, or the human mind can conceive on its own, is not a belief in the supernatural. It’s a statement of objective and verified fact.

    Neither you nor I can see infrared or ultraviolet light with the naked eye, but that doesn’t make it “supernatural.” It just means we don’t have the capacity to perceive the full spectrum of what is “natural.” We need other instruments to do so.

    Before we change the subject again, you are welcome to address the possibility of a curved or multi-dimensional universe, and their implications for the “fine tuning” argument.

    Also, you seem to have misunderstood my raindrop analogy. The raindrops do not represent different universes, rather they are examples of events occurring despite the astronomical odds against those specific events ever occurring. This is in response to the “fine tuning” argument, where you contend that the high odds against a particular event — or even a succession of them — imply the necessity of divine intervention.

    You may wish to look up the term “God of the Gaps,” and the related logical fallacy, the “argument from ignorance.”

  34. Drew Mazanec permalink

    I’ll gladly answer them, but I forgot to ask about what you define as natural and what you define as supernatural.

  35. Drew Mazanec permalink

    I’d also like to withdraw that last comment which put words in your mouth. It’s a technical foul in any civilized debate. You may have your two foul shots and the ball back.

  36. Dorkman permalink

    You know, if we’re going to debate, we might as well debate. You’ve got a blog, I’ve got a blog, let’s just discuss it there. You write a post, I’ll respond, you rebut. Then maybe I write a post, you respond, I’ll rebut. We can take our time and not bury the discussion in a long thread of replies to a particular, arbitrary post.

  37. Drew Mazanec permalink

    Here’s the issue with the oscillating universe hypothesis as it relates to fine tuning:

    If the universe bangs and crunches repeatedly with no change in the laws of physics, then it adds nothing to the discussion.

    If it bangs and crunches repeatedly with the laws of physics randomized each time, then how can the universe be expected to bounce every single time?

  38. Dorkman permalink

    First off, the universe cannot be “expected” to do anything. You need to get expectation and intention out of your head if you’re going to get your head around these concepts. The universe is uninflected, unemotional, and without intention.

    That being said, I proposed three scientific paradigms by which the question might be answered (curved universe, quantum mechanics, string theory).

    Of course, those are hypotheticals. The simple answer is “we don’t know.” But again, not knowing the answer doesn’t mean the answer is un-knowable, nor that the answer is “God.”

  39. Drew Mazanec permalink

    Don’t proponents of the oscillating universe theory expect the universe to collapse and re-explode in an endless cycle?

  40. Nathaniel Caauwe permalink

    Epic conversation that I somehow managed to make it through…but how about asking what triggered all these big bangs in the first place?

  41. Dorkman permalink

    Why assume that anything needed to “trigger” them? Why can’t they have always been happening, with neither beginning nor end?

    If you say that everything had to come from somewhere, and then say that somewhere is God, then God has to have come from somewhere and you haven’t solved anything. If you say that God can be exempt from requiring a beginning, then why can’t the universe?

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