How can you be an atheist if you don’t know everything?

Tommy asks…

An atheist is defined as someone who doesn’t believe there are any gods while an agnostic is someone who says that they don’t know if any gods exist. Simply put an atheist’s claim is an absolute statement that there are no gods while an agnostic is admitting that he doesn’t know, perhaps for lack of evidence he is willing to accept or some other reasons. Therefore, my question is this: Can someone make an absolute claim that is logical, reasonable, and scientifically supported that “there are no gods” without having omniscience? This is a Yes or No question. In order to answer this question you must first begin with Yes or No and then explain your answer. If you do not answer firstly Yes or No then you have not answered the question because the question is, in fact, a yes or no question. If you deny that this is a yes or no question then you’ve failed to understand the question because I am the one asking the question and I require a Yes or No answer. You are perfectly welcome to explain your Yes or No answer, but you must start with Yes or No. If you feel that the entire question is some sort of logical fallacy then your answer to this question is automatically No and then you must explain then why you believe it to be a logical fallacy. The most honest approach to answering my question is to simply answer Yes or No and then explain yourself from there. Otherwise your answer will be viewed as evasive and dishonest.

The problem is Tonny, you are basing your question on a false premise. You assume that a person can’t be both an atheist and an agnostic. I am an atheist/agnostic. I have no (a) belief in gods (theist) because I have no (a) knowledge (gnosis) of any. (knowledge also meaning evidence) This chart will help explain…

Agnostic v Gnostic v Atheist v Theist

 

In other words, I don’t claim that there are no gods. I claim that the current lack of evidence is such that no gods have been proven to exist and it is because of this that I lack a belief in any. What you are looking for are gnostic/atheists. They lack a belief in gods and also claim that they don’t exist. Which, depending on the gnostic/atheist that you talk to can violate your “Well you don’t know everything” argument. So in a sense, I agree with you. Who knows what’s out there in the land of the undiscovered? Maybe there is a god, I don’t know, and I don’t think you do either. No one does. I am open to the possibility within reason.

So there you go Tommy. Asked and answered. I look forward to your response.

42 thoughts on “How can you be an atheist if you don’t know everything?”

  1. BTW Tommy, demanding a yes or no answer not only is a false dilemma, but it’s also a huge sign of a weak position. It’s an attempt to control and steer a discussion. If you want to do that, the socratic form of argumentation would be much better suited.

    1. It is not a sign of a weak position, but rather the opposite. The position is so strong that you can only refuse to answer yes or no in order to avoid admitting how strong the position actually is. And while you didn’t precisely answer yes or no at the outset, you did essentially answer No in your remarks. I was not actually aware of the atheistic agnostic position so I thank you for bringing that to light.

  2. Great. Well, first of all I will respond then by saying you should change your page to “Ask the Agnostic Atheist” to be more accurate with what you believe. Second, I will point out that you have recently actually claimed that there is no evidence for any gods. You stated “First there is no evidence for any gods.” in your Demons, gods, and the big bang question. Thus, you are in effect, claiming all knowledge because you can’t know that there is “no” evidence for the existence of supernatural beings such as gods, demons, etc. without having all knowledge. In fact, no one can make an absolute negative statement about anything without having all knowledge.

    Finally, you state “Maybe there is a god, I don’t know, and I don’t think you do either. No one does.” Here again, you are claiming all knowledge by making an absolute statement that “no one” knows. You can’t know that “no one” knows without having all knowledge. This is very often the very heart of the problem for atheism and evolution believers is that they often make such absolute statements that are impossible claims to make. And you have as much admitted this by saying “So in a sense, I agree with you. Who knows what’s out there in the land of the undiscovered?” and yet you continue to go against that logic with “absolute” negative statements to the contrary.

    So, I submit to you that maybe you haven’t really thought your viewpoint through very carefully.

  3. I actually addressed these points among others in another thread before realising this one had been started. I’m not playing your ridiculous yes/no game, but:

    “An atheist is defined as someone who doesn’t believe there are any gods……… Simply put an atheist’s claim is an absolute statement that there are no gods”

    Both statements are wholly incorrect, as Erick’s reply ably demonstrates. Also – the Oxford English Dictionary is your friend. Or just ask an atheist!

    “Can someone make an absolute claim that is logical, reasonable, and scientifically supported that “there are no gods” without having omniscience?”

    Stupid, leading question. Why not limit it to logic? Or empirical evidence? After all, they are obviously mutually exclusive, aren’t they? Demanding both in the same question is nothing more than a cheap con trick.

    I note also that in another thread you’ve been making the claim that you know for certain that there is a god and there is “lots of evidence” for that god. Can you not see the logical disconnect? Of course you can. According to the logic of Tommy we must be omniscient to claim that a god does not exist but we just need “lots of evidence” to claim that a god does exist. Did you really think we wouldn’t notice that you’re using the old presuppositionalist trick of assuming god as the default position?

    1. Gary, let’s make it simple so you can understand. If one were to claim there was no gold in China, for example, they would have to have all knowledge of every square inch of China including above ground, underground, every structure, every person, absolutely everything. Else they can’t know for sure. On the other hand, to claim there “is” gold in China only requires a small amount of information. For example, you might happen to know one person who has a gold nugget in China in his possession. Surely, you can see that, right?

      1. Tommy, you’re sounding very slick but ultimately there’s no substance to your argument. And I suspect you know it. Your argument works for China because it is an observed phenomenon, a physical part of the Earth, so we have at least some idea of what to expect there and what not to expect there. It would not be unusual to expect gold there. By sowing that seed you hope to generalise your ideas to another realm of knowledge. It’s an old trick.

        But a supernatural realm beyond the universe is not China, it’s pure conjecture. So it matters not a jot or tittle whether you claim to need omniscience, much or little information to understand it. If you really want to hold to the analogy with China you have to start by establishing its existence. You’re simply assuming it and then slipping in your analogous claim about a little nugget of information.

        You are making a material claim, providing no evidence whatsoever in its favour, assuming that your view is the default position and defending that default position on the basis that you somehow have some information about the veridical nature of that material claim. Meanwhile, you simply assert, again without evidence, that those who deny the existence of the supernatural realm must have complete knowledge of it inner workings simply to ascertain whether it exists or not!

        Show me your evidence of its existence and stop playing games.

        1. First of all, the illustration of gold in China has nothing to do with the likelihood of there actually being gold in China or not. It was merely an analogy that could be substituted for absolutely anything that one claims an absolute negative statement for. You cannot through any logic or reason refute the claim that you must have all knowledge in order to make an absolute negative statement. My argument is not slick and without substance. What’s slick and without substance is your attempt to wriggle off the hook when you know you are beaten.

          Again, from the previous blog, evidence for the supernatural can start with your sentient nature, which is spiritual and not physical. If you claim that sentience is physical then please provide your empirical scientific evidence of where sentience comes from? What physical process gives you your self-aware nature? How does it work? We can go from there.

          1. “You cannot through any logic or reason refute the claim that you must have all knowledge in order to make an absolute negative statement.”

            I most certainly do refute that claim, as do the vast majority of philosophers. If the object I speak of is self-contradictory, universally recognised as axiomatic, counter to my actual experience, or subject to my immediate perceptions I need not be omniscient to reasonably absolutely negate it. viz:
            Tommy is not self-identical
            There is no such thing as a cube without corners
            Existence is not synonymous with non-existence
            There is no such thing as a second Eiffel Tower alongside the first
            There is no such thing as a stick of liquorice in my mouth as I type this.

            There are a number of well-established self-contradictions inherent in a simultaneously omniscient and omnipotent being. So I can reasonably absolutely negate specific permutations of god, at least in terms of Aristotelian logic. This is recognised by most serious theologians. When confronted with the contradictions, theists can’t then use logic to rescue themselves, so they have to either alter (or drop) their conception of god or invent theological just-so stories to account for their discrepancy. It’s interesting to note that no real consensus has emerged as to the best way to counter the contradictions.

            But more importantly, you’re making a straw man argument. Who is it who is actually making these absolute denials in terms of a god/first causal agent? The vast majority of atheists are agnostic not gnostic. Gnostic attitudes are nearly always associated with theists. Very few people label themselves a ‘7’ on the Dawkins Scale, though plenty of people, at least in the USA, label themselves as a ‘1’. In my almost 60 years on this planet I’ve only ever known one gnostic atheist personally. I met him about 40 years ago. He has two degrees, one in philosophy. We’ve agreed to disagree. It’s no problem.

            1. “Tommy is not self-identical”
              Who is Tommy? What is Tommy? What is self-identical? Prove your statement with empirical scientific evidence. When your paper is done and peer-reviewed, let me know.

              “There is no such thing as a cube without corners”
              In what language? I just invented a language where the word cube is actually a sphere.

              “Existence is not synonymous with non-existence”
              In my new language they actually are.

              “There is no such thing as a second Eiffel Tower alongside the first”
              In an eternity where all time and space are in existence at the same time then there would technically be instances of the Eiffel Tower at every point in the timeline simultaneously and since the earth rotates then they would indeed be side-by-side at some point in some point in time/space.

              “There is no such thing as a stick of liquorice in my mouth as I type this.”
              I my new language “stick of liquorice” is your tongue.

              Maybe you need to add what language you are speaking in and what interpretation system of that language you are using. It was easy to circumvent your attempted refutation. As easily as you thought yours was.

              1. Tommy writes: [There is no such thing as a cube without corners”
                In what language? I just invented a language where the word cube is actually a sphere.]

                Then your language would translate to “sphere” in English, and since he was talking about a cube in English, your comment wouldn’t relate to a cube, now would it…

                [“Existence is not synonymous with non-existence”
                In my new language they actually are.]

                Ditto for this…

                [“There is no such thing as a stick of liquorice in my mouth as I type this.”
                I my new language “stick of liquorice” is your tongue.]

                And this….

                [“Tommy is not self-identical”
                Who is Tommy? What is Tommy? What is self-identical?]

                Do you want to have a serious discussion, or make up languages and play silly games? Personally, I’d like to have a serious discussion. I don’t see anything wrong with Gary’s logical and rational conclusions in his latest post. If you have a specific issue with his logical pathways then please point it out, and we can all discuss it as adults.

                [“There is no such thing as a second Eiffel Tower alongside the first”
                In an eternity where all time and space are in existence at the same time then there would technically be instances of the Eiffel Tower at every point in the timeline simultaneously and since the earth rotates then they would indeed be side-by-side at some point in some point in time/space.]

                Incorrect. Time is a linear path. You can not have two distinct points in time that exist AT the same time.

  4. Tommy writes: [Gary, let’s make it simple so you can understand. If one were to claim there was no gold in China, for example, they would have to have all knowledge of every square inch of China including above ground, underground, every structure, every person, absolutely everything.]

    The reason this is a bad analogy is because we know empirically that gold does indeed exist. Because we know this we can move on to the next step, which is to determine if there is any of it in China. Compare that to is there god in some place (universe, outside universe, wherever). Do we know empirically that goddesses exist? No, we do not. So the gold analogy doesn’t work because god is not gold. We can’t move on to the next step (does it exist somewhere) because the question of whether it even exists has not been determined. It’s not a valid analogy you make.

    You have the same problem with the sentient argument. You say sentience in Earth life is proof of a divine creature. Fine, prove sentience exists as a directed, purposeful effort by Zeus. You don’t have such evidence though, or at least you have yet to provide it. The existence of sentient beings merely proves that sentient brings do indeed exist, it does not prove how they came to be. You can claim that sentience exists because of the supernatural, but you can’t go to that next step because you have yet provided data showing the supernatural exists.

  5. I notice that you didn’t address my point regarding the absurdity of demanding both logical and empirical evidence in answer to your question. You are aware, I hope, that one can provide sound logical evidence that is empirically false and the opposite, that one can provide sound empirical evidence that is logically false?

    “If you claim that sentience is physical then please provide your empirical scientific evidence of where sentience comes from? What physical process gives you your self-aware nature? How does it work? We can go from there.”

    God of the gaps nonsense, nothing more. And aren’t you erroneously conflating sentience with consciousness? They are two different things.

    If you claim that sentience is spiritual (after, of course, defining exactly what this term means) then please provide your empirical scientific evidence (or any other independent verifiable evidence) of where sentience (or do you mean consciousness?) comes from? What ‘spiritual process’ gives you your self-aware nature? How does it work? We can go from there.

    Anyone can play silly word games like that. The difference is that science doesn’t just manipulate words; it actively investigates neuroscientific issues such as this while people like you just sit in your comfy armchairs looking for the gaps in knowledge where you insert your wholly unsubstantiated and more often ludicrous claims.

    On every occasion that we have identified a proximal cause for any phenomena, physical or psychological, it has been a wholly physical cause. There are no exceptions. If you do not accept that fact then I’m sorry, you are not living in the same universe as the rest of us. It is perfectly reasonable, then, to search for the mechanisms underlying consciousness in the physical substrate of neurological systems. And what do we find? If neurons suffer physical trauma or biochemical damage, regardless of species, consciousness can be adversely affected or completely obliterated. The opposite is also true: there is good evidence that neuroenhancing drugs, acting directly on neuronal mechanisms, can enhance the speed and accuracy of conscious perceptions and cognitive processing. There is no evidence whatsoever, as you are suggesting, that sentience or consciousness can occur outwith a physical substrate. Several mechanisms have been identified that could account for the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness. None require anything other than a finer-tuned understanding of the electrobiochemical processes that underlie consciousness in all organisms that exhibit a sufficient level of neurological complexity. Consciousness appears to be an emergent phenomena of neurological complexity. You would go a long way to find anyone working in neuroscience who denies this. The evidence is overwhelming.

    But you, with no qualifications or experience in the field, claim to know better. So, here’s my offer: if you genuinely have verifiable data that demonstrates that consciousness can be observed outwith a physical substrate I will happily co-author with you and arrange to have it published. We will almost certainly win the Nobel Prize and certainly become very rich and famous.

    Over to you.

  6. “Then your language would translate to “sphere” in English, and since he was talking about a cube in English, your comment wouldn’t relate to a cube, now would it…”

    Then in some dimensional plane a cube is actually existent in a warped shape where no corners exist. You can’t refute this because you don’t have all-knowledge of time/space and dimensions and how things are within those other dimensions. I contend that some other dimension might exist and we haven’t yet discovered it in that 99.9% of knowledge we have yet to learn.

    “[“Existence is not synonymous with non-existence”
    In my new language they actually are.]
    Ditto for this…”
    In philosophy it could be argued that nothing really exists at all. Or that existence is pure fantasy. Or any other number of crazy ideas. You don’t even know if you are real or I am real. If you are random chemical processes then how can you trust your senses? How do you know that I sense in the same way or perceive in the same way? Without all knowledge, you don’t.

    “[“There is no such thing as a stick of liquorice in my mouth as I type this.”
    I my new language “stick of liquorice” is your tongue.]
    And this….”
    You might be having a dream within a dream and in reality the liquorice is there. You can’t say for certain because you don’t have all knowledge.

    “Do you want to have a serious discussion, or make up languages and play silly games? Personally, I’d like to have a serious discussion. I don’t see anything wrong with Gary’s logical and rational conclusions in his latest post. If you have a specific issue with his logical pathways then please point it out, and we can all discuss it as adults.”
    I don’t want to play games either, but when talking with someone who believes nothing exploded into everything and self-made everything we see and that life came from non-life, it’s really hard to have a serious discussion. The bottom line is that you are living in a fantasy la-la land that is so far from reality it isn’t even funny. Reason and logic and scientific evidence demonstrate that creation by intelligent beings is normal. Human beings are intelligent and we design and create things all the time. And the design in nature is just as obvious, except to one who has rejected God and has no alternative but to believe a fantasy.

    You see, in order to believe life came from non-life you have to start with that conclusion and for no other reason but that you have no alternative, because the only alternative is special creation and you can’t accept that. Not because of the evidence, but because that is what you have chosen to believe. An evolutionist once admitted something to the effect that “we already know life came from non-life, now we just have to find the mechanism that did it.” As in, we’ve already decided our conclusion is fact and now we need the evidence. Why? Because the evidence isn’t there. If you can give me life from non-life evidence using the scientific method then you have something. Else, you have just a belief that it happened. And that’s just a hypothesis or simply a belief.

    “Incorrect. Time is a linear path. You can not have two distinct points in time that exist AT the same time.”
    You can’t make this claim without all knowledge.

  7. Tommy writes: [Then in some dimensional plane a cube is actually existent in a warped shape where no corners exist. You can’t refute this because you don’t have all-knowledge of time/space and dimensions and how things are within those other dimensions. I contend that some other dimension might exist and we haven’t yet discovered it in that 99.9% of knowledge we have yet to learn.]

    If it didn’t have corners we wouldn’t call it a cube. You fail to see the basic problem with your attempt here. “Cube” is a human created definition, a concept we invented to define a certain geometric volume. Once something falls outside the definition of “cube” it is no longer considered a “cube”. It doesn’t matter if you create a language, or create a pretend dimensional plane, because the definition of the thing hasn’t changed. You don’t need knowledge of everything to know what is and isn’t a cube, plain and simple. Thanks for the word play once again.

    [In philosophy it could be argued that nothing really exists at all. Or that existence is pure fantasy. Or any other number of crazy ideas. You don’t even know if you are real or I am real. If you are random chemical processes then how can you trust your senses? How do you know that I sense in the same way or perceive in the same way? Without all knowledge, you don’t.]

    Since we were discussing things scientifically, and not philosophically, I’m not sure why you are taking this angle. What you are referring to is called solopsism I believe. Like most stuff in philosophy it has no real end point, which is why philosophy is generally useless in scientific discussions. Like cube, existence and non-existence have set definitions.

    You and I are not random chemical processes. They are controlled chemical processes.

    You most certainly don’t sense or perceive the same way I do. Does that mean that the thing we are perceiving or sensing changes? No, it only means that each of our brains gather and compute the information differently.

    [I don’t want to play games either, but when talking with someone who believes nothing exploded into everything and self-made everything we see and that life came from non-life, it’s really hard to have a serious discussion. The bottom line is that you are living in a fantasy la-la land that is so far from reality it isn’t even funny.]

    First problem here – the universe did not come from nothing. Everything in the universe was present at the Big Bang. Please read up on the theory to familiarize yourself with it.

    Secondly – What in the universe isn’t “self-made”? Stars and planets and universes can form following the laws of the universe. Gems and volcanoes and tornadoes and light and elements can form following the laws of the universe. There is nothing about living things that break the laws of chemistry or physics, all that is also allowed under the laws of the universe. I don’t see anything in existence that can’t be made by the stuff in the universe following the laws OF the universe. Name anything that can’t exist in this universe as it is, and back it up with empirical evidence.

    [Reason and logic and scientific evidence demonstrate that creation by intelligent beings is normal. Human beings are intelligent and we design and create things all the time. And the design in nature is just as obvious, except to one who has rejected God and has no alternative but to believe a fantasy.]

    I wouldn’t say creation by intelligent beings is normal. Dolphins don’t create anything, neither do dogs or cats or elephants. The vast majority of intelligent creatures do not design and create anything. I will agree that it is very normal for humans to design and create things. I fail to see, however, any purposeful design in nature. I don’t see that anything exists as a result of a directed effort. Maybe if you mention something specifically that you think is created in nature, we could discuss it.

    [You see, in order to believe life came from non-life you have to start with that conclusion and for no other reason but that you have no alternative, because the only alternative is special creation and you can’t accept that.]

    You speak in absolutes, which is pretty unscientific of you. No one ever said, in this thread or in any other, that they “can’t accept” that life was created by a divine creature. What we said is that we see exactly zero evidence for it. To further that, no one here sees any evidence for any supernatural claim of any type. If the evidence existed and pointed to a god I would gladly consider it, but to date I can’t find any. You’ve been asked to provide some, and you haven’t do so as of yet. No believer ever has. As I mentioned in another post, the evidence that genetics and the fossil record offers points to life starting very simply a long time ago in the oceans. That’s why abiogenesis is the leading theory, because that is where the data points to.

    I personally do not see where there has to be only two possible options for the beginning of life. There are multiple natural possibilities. Instead of “nature or god” I would say “nature or non-nature”…

    [An evolutionist once admitted something to the effect that “we already know life came from non-life, now we just have to find the mechanism that did it.” As in, we’ve already decided our conclusion is fact and now we need the evidence. Why? Because the evidence isn’t there. If you can give me life from non-life evidence using the scientific method then you have something. Else, you have just a belief that it happened. And that’s just a hypothesis or simply a belief]

    I can’t help what some unknown person once told you. But as I just stated above, we aren’t guessing. We have information that points in that direction. We are merely following the information. I don’t know that abiogenesis is 100% true, but I do know that the evidence gathered to date points to it. I also know of zero proof for anything supernatural….unless, of course, you want to provide something specific that is.

  8. “To further that, no one here sees any evidence for any supernatural claim of any type. If the evidence existed and pointed to a god I would gladly consider it, but to date I can’t find any. You’ve been asked to provide some, and you haven’t do so as of yet. No believer ever has.”

    Yes, I did. You just won’t accept it. The entirety of creation is evidence of an intelligent creator. The fact that you can’t see that is not surprising though. As this scripture points out.

    “…because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”
    Romans 1:20-23

    That scripture even points to how evolution and the natural world are replacements for those who reject God.

    1. I was wondering when the Bible verses would kick in.

      The epistemological gap between my accepting the notion of a supernatural first cause is about a millionth that of my making that ludicrous leap between supernatural first cause and Abrahamic-style god. The first is a reasonable argument albeit devoid of evidence. The second, in most guises, is a psychopathological nightmare even more devoid of evidence or any semblance of true decency or morality.

      For heaven’s sake (sic), if you really need to be given some moral bases for your life because you can’t realise any through empathy and reason, please pick Buddhism or Jainism. You’ll make the world a much better place.

  9. Hi, Tommy!

    My reply to your question: No, not if you’re going to be rigid about the meaning of ‘absolute’ (and something tells me you are). It isn’t possible to make truly *absolute* statements about the truth or falsity of anything outside the realm of pure mathematics (as a former mathematician boyfriend of mine used to delight in telling me), so making an absolute claim of the non-existence of God is no more possible than making an absolute claim of the existence of God or the non-existence of Thor.

    OK, my turn. My questions for you are:

    1. Do you consider atheists’ belief in the non-existence of any god to be more absolute than monotheists’ beliefs in a) the existence of a god, and b) the non-existence of every other claimed god? This is technically a Yes or No question, but I’m primarily interested in the reasons for your answer and am happy for you to answer in any way that you honestly feel to address the question and facilitate mutual discussion and understanding. 🙂

    2. Why were you so insistent on us having to answer your question in a particular format? I ask this because my impression is that you were trying to score points off us rather than have a discussion, and I’d be interested to hear your comments on whether or not this is the case and, if not, why you made that stipulation.

  10. tommy writes: [Yes, I did. You just won’t accept it. The entirety of creation is evidence of an intelligent creator. The fact that you can’t see that is not surprising though. As this scripture points out.]

    Did you ever think about the illogical basis of the statement that the whole of creation is evidence of a creator? So that must mean that the divine creature that created the universe must also be created, right? If it exists and is incredibly large and complex, like a universe or a divine creature, that is evidence of being created, correct? ( I am just following your logic here after all). So the divine creature is obvious evidence that it was created. So what created the divine creature that created the universe? That thing is even more complex than the divine creature, so we again have evidence that it was created. After all, large and complex is proof of creation. But who created the What that created the divine creature that created the universe?

    Around we go on the circular logic merry-go-round, never finding an end…

    1. It gets even worse Tim.

      The creationists latest ‘evidence’ for design, courtesy of biochemist Michael Behe, is the evolution of chloroquine resistance in Plasmodium protozoans. Putting aside the fact that this claim has been comprehensively demolished by the (Christian) biologist Ken Miller, lets look at the dire implications for creationists had Behe been shown to be right.

      Plasmodium protozoans cause malaria. It has been estimated by Finkel (2007) that malaria has produced 20% of all the deaths experienced by humans, the majority of which have occurred in infants. Chloroquine helps prevents malaria. If chloroquine resistance is evidence of design what creationists are therefore claiming is that they have evidence that god is deliberately and continually thwarting our attempts to reduce the effects of malaria on human beings, i.e., god is deliberately engineering the disease with one goal in mind: to kill (mainly) infants in malaria prone regions.

      What does that tell us about the moral foundations of people who worship such a monster…….?

  11. “Can someone make an absolute claim that is logical, reasonable, and scientifically supported that “there are no gods” without having omniscience?”

    Yes and No.

    Yes: There are no gods because “gods” is a WORD and the corresponding object that you’re seeking is a THING in the real world. You’re muddling realities.

    As Alfred Korzybski so often pointed out, the map is not the territory. A road map is a grossly over-simplified static, two-dimensional symbolic representation of a multidimensional living reality. It’s utility comes from the over-simplification. Even being two-dimensional, if a map of Chicago was as big and complex as Chicago, it wouldn’t fit into the glove compartment and it wouldn’t be easier than the actual city to navigate.The utility of a map comes from that fact that, although it is extremely over-simplified, it still contains many of the most important characteristics and relationships of the multidimensional, real-world place that it is intended to represent. Looking at a map, you can figure out whether the library is closer to the bank or to the grocery store. You can tell whether 2nd Avenue is north of or south of 1st Avenue.

    Words and concepts are maps. They are grossly over-simplified, symbolic representations of reality. Language is useful for the same reason that road maps are useful. We use language to navigate the universe in our heads, and to conveniently share our understanding of the universe with other people. There’s a problem, though. While most people use road maps correctly, they often fail to do the same with words and concepts.

    How often do you see someone removing a map of Boston from their glove compartment, spreading it out on the road in front of their car, parking the car on top of the map, and then claiming to have arrived in Boston? How often do you see someone spreading a map of Paris out in their back yard, putting a lawn chair on top of it, spending the weekend in the lawn chair, and then telling all their friends that they just had a wonderful vacation in Paris? We don’t make this sort of mistake with road maps, but we do it all the time with words and concepts. Distinguishing between the map and the territory is one of the key components of Zen practice. A major aspect of Zen enlightenment is the ability to distinguish between words/concepts and reality– to not confuse the two.

    What relevance does this all have to your question: Can someone make an absolute claim that is logical, reasonable, and scientifically supported that “there are no gods” without having omniscience?

    I can easily create a map of a place that doesn’t exist, as Tolkien did for his Lord of the Rings novels. I can also create maps of places which CAN’T exist. There is really no limit to the kinds of maps I can create using my imagination. Unless the map is drawn from an actual physical model, however, it has no relevance to non-imaginary reality. There’s no reason to associate a two-dimensional, charcoal sketch of a money tree with reality. Unless I’ve drawn that sketch from a real object, it has no association with reality. They are two completely different things.

    When you ask, “Can you claim that “there are no gods” without having omniscience?” you are essentially asking if anyone can prove that the map that you just sketched on the back of a napkin doesn’t symbolically match anything in the real world. The implication here is that, if nobody can, then it’s perfectly fine to treat the map as though it is reality– to lay your lawn chair out on it. Note that, you aren’t laying your lawn chair out in Heaven because you aren’t in Heaven– you haven’t found Heaven. You’re laying your lawn chair out on top of your theological map, and living there.

    No: No one can prove that there is nothing in the real world which might resemble your napkin sketch sufficiently to satisfy you, even if the sketch is of an Easter Bunny, a Leprechaun, or a good-tasting light beer.

  12. Tommy is an idiot and a control freak. He dosent want answers, he just wants to tell people what to do and beleive. I have found This attitude is consistant with most theists. Kind of a “Live and let die” philosophy.

    1. Congratulations for demonstrating an ad hominem attack instead of addressing my position. Demonstrates you have no defense or rebuttal and that you are angry about it. Bottom line is that molecules to man evolution, to be true, must disprove the law of biogenesis. Since there is no disproof for that law, your position is indefensible and unscientific. Have a nice day.

      1. Tommy, putting Larry’s ad-hominem aside, can you not see the irony in claiming that his views are unscientific in a statement written by someone who clearly has no understanding of science.

        There is no recognised scientific concept of the ‘law of biogenesis’. If you don’t believe this go to both PubMed and Web of Science and perform a search for that exact phrase. Even an ‘all fields’ search yields zero results (out of well > 20 million papers). Even if such a ‘law’ was recognised, there is no such concept as ‘proving’ or ‘disproving’ a scientific law……..

        So the basis of your allegedly ‘scientific’ argument is that no-one has yet performed an incoherent action on an unrecognised concept!

        1. You need to look again because I just did and clearly there is a law of biogenesis and it has not been eliminated or downgraded. The only thing I see is that atheists claim it is not in conflict with the “hypothesis” of abiogenesis. Note that it’s just an hypothesis and not even a scientific one at that. Yet, clearly it is in conflict and only someone unreasonable and without any other foundation would disagree.

          I understand science better than most people. Obviously better than you because you think molecules to man evolution is science when it can’t be according to scientific principles.

          1. What? You’ve just searched PubMed and Web of Science and found a paper that discusses Pasteur’s definition of the ‘law of biogenesis’ as a scientific theory? Really? I don’t think so! How did you search Web of Science anyway? Do you have a subscription?

            For goodness sake, just Google the term. You get page after page of creationist websites in the results – along with the occasional site discussing the silliness of creationism. You don’t get chemistry or biology departments of universities or research centres. Google ‘Law of Gravity ‘ as a comparator. See the difference? It’s a trivial observation, not an accepted scientific law.

            I challenge you to cite a single paper from a legitimate peer reviewed journal that discusses the putative biochemical mechanisms behind the ‘law of biogenesis’. Not just mentioning it in passing as an historical aside but actually concerns itself with it. Or cite one non-religious accredited university biology department that actually teaches this scientific ‘law’ as a valid counter to abiogenesis.

            Tommy, you don’t understand scientific methodology. If you did you wouldn’t make a silly statement like “Note that it’s just an hypothesis”. What does that even mean? Do you think there’s some hierarchy within science whereby hypotheses are somehow less important than theories which are less important than laws? They serve completely different functions in the methodology. One is not less important than the other. If abiogenesis is ‘just’ an hypothesis and evolution is ‘just’ a theory then why isn’t biogenesis ‘just’ a law…….think about it.

        2. You need to look again because I just did and clearly there is a law of biogenesis and it has not been eliminated or downgraded. The only thing I see is that atheists claim it is not in conflict with the “hypothesis” of abiogenesis. Note that it’s just an hypothesis and not even a scientific one at that. Yet, clearly it is in conflict and only someone unreasonable and without any other foundation would disagree.

          I understand science better than most people. Obviously better than you because you think molecules to man evolution is science when it can’t be according to scientific principles.

  13. Seriously, if you really knew anything about the scientific method then you wouldn’t make such crazy statements like you just did. Go learn the scientific method and then tell me how abiogenesis is anything but an hypothesis or that biogenesis is not a scientific law. The fact that you made a crazy statement like “Do you think there’s some hierarchy within science whereby hypotheses are somehow less important than theories which are less important than laws?” I think even the other atheists here are laughing at you for that one. D’uh, of course there’s a hierarchy. That’s how it works. It begins with an hypothesis, which is nothing more than someone’s idea of how it might work. It becomes a “scientific” hypothesis once it can be tested and observed. D’uh again. It then becomes a theory if those tests and observations bear out and hold up over time and repeated experimentation. Etc. Etc. A scientific law is beyond theory. Yes, it’s a hierarchy. Seriously, learn science and then come back.

    1. “Seriously, learn science and then come back.”

      Tommy, I’m not in the habit of commenting or making claims about subjects in which I have no expertise. I’m retired now, but have a BSc (with 1st Class Honours) an MSc in research methodology and a PhD. I’ve published work in the fields of visual neuroscience, molecular genetics and cognitive psychology. I have taught cognitive psychology and research methodology, supervised student research programs and sat on an exam board. But I suspect from your level of confidence on these matters that you’re far better qualified than me; you certainly seem to have a god-given talent in identifying people who are being “unscientific”. So maybe you can tell me where I could usefully “learn science” before I get back to you? From the same place you did, perhaps. Meanwhile:

      It’s a common misconception that an observation-hypothesis-theory-law hierarchy exists. The traditional linear hierarchical model of observation-hypothesis-theory-law was abandoned decades ago and is no longer taught in science classes at any level that I’m aware of (though it appears creationists still hold on to it). There may be a suggested ‘hierarchy’ in terms of procedure but there is NO hierarchy in terms of levels of explanation. It’s nonsense to talk of “just a hypothesis”. No scientist has ever been considered inferior because they work at the bottom of a so-called hierarchy and only generate hypotheses. Findings from testing numerous related hypotheses may feed into the explanatory power of a theory but a single hypothesis NEVER becomes a theory. Any experimental hypothesis will be far too specific and concentrated to develop into theory alone. Theories have been developed in the absence of hypotheses. Some molecular genetics research operates without any explicit hypotheses. So does much astronomy. Initially, Charles Darwin had no hypothesis with which to develop his theory of natural selection. If experimental evidence comes along that contradicts a theory it NEVER goes down a rung on any ‘hierarchy’ and get reduced to a hypothesis. Theories influence hypothesis formation but a series of well designed hypotheses that receive confirming evidence will ALWAYS have more explanatory power than a law and theoretically can exert considerable power over a well established theory. Similarly, a theory NEVER becomes a law. One has explanatory power while the other is merely descriptive (and usually then only in a mathematical sense). Isaac Newton discovered the Law of Gravity yet we still have no overarching Theory of Gravity. If there’s such a thing as a ‘Law of Biogenesis’ and laws are “beyond” theories, where is the theory associated with it? Where are the “just hypotheses” related to that theory?

      But I suspect you’re not going to take my word for it. So here are two recent high school level textbooks which explicitly state that it is misconceived and simplistic to talk of a linear explanatory hierarchy:

      Goldston, M.J. & Downey, L. (2013) Your Science Classroom: Becoming an Elementary / Middle School Science Teacher. London: Sage. (Pages 11-12 specifically – check out the excellent diagram, it encapsulates so well why you are wrong)

      Keeley, P.D., Eberle, F. & Dorsey, C. (2014) Uncovering Student Ideas in Science: Another 25 Formative Assessment Probes. Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association. (especially Page 85)

      Here are a few quick example quotes from websites that discuss the matter:

      http://serc.carleton.edu/sp/process_of_science/misconceptions.html

      “Misconceptions about the nature of scientific theories are rampant and well-known. These misconceptions include: That there is a hierarchy among “laws”, “principles”, and “theories””

      http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Scientific_theory

      “One common misconception is that scientific theories are derived from hypotheses that have met with confirming experimental evidence – and that there is a hierarchy of science starting with the hypothesis that reaches theory and eventually reaches law. This is in fact wrong, as theories are completely separate from hypotheses – a hypothesis does not become a theory, and if experimental evidence contradicts a theory it is not downgraded to a hypothesis.”

      http://evidence-based-science.blogspot.co.uk/2008/02/what-is-scientific-law-theory.html

      “Regardless of which definitions one uses to distinguish between a law and a theory, scientists would agree that a theory is NOT a “transitory law, a law in waiting”. There is NO hierarchy being implied by scientists who use these words. That is, a law is neither “better than” nor “above” a theory. From this view, laws and theories “do” different things and have different roles to play in science.”

      http://www.notjustatheory.com/

      “This bears repeating. A theory never becomes a law. In fact, if there was a hierarchy of science, theories would be higher than laws. There is nothing higher, or better, than a theory…… Laws describe, and theories explain.”

      http://science.kennesaw.edu/~rmatson/3380theory.html

      “There is NO hierarchy being implied by scientists who use these words [hypothesis, theory, law]. That is, a law is neither “better than” nor “above” a theory. From this view, laws and theories “do” different things and have different roles to play in science.”

      You are a walking, talking example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

      1. “The traditional linear hierarchical model of observation-hypothesis-theory-law was abandoned decades ago and is no longer taught in science classes at any level that I’m aware of”

        Probably because you can now wiggle your way out of actually having to adhere to the scientific method to claim something is fact like molecules to man evolution.

        According to information I’ve read on the scientific method, it states:

        “The scientific method is an ongoing process, which usually begins with observations about the natural world. Human beings are naturally inquisitive, so they often come up with questions about things they see or hear and often develop ideas (hypotheses) about why things are the way they are. The best hypotheses lead to predictions that can be tested in various ways, including making further observations about nature. In general, the strongest tests of hypotheses come from carefully controlled and replicated experiments that gather empirical data. Depending on how well the tests match the predictions, the original hypothesis may require refinement, alteration, expansion or even rejection. If a particular hypothesis becomes very well supported a general theory may be developed.”

        This information lines up exactly with what I said. For the record, I never actually said theory became law because, frankly, I wasn’t sure how that transition happened. Just admitting I don’t know it all as you suggest I think I do.

        Anyway, the bottom line as always is that in order for you to be right about abiogenesis, you have to explain how life came from non-life and wrote all its own software. To my knowledge there is not such evidence, experimentation, or proof of any of that. So as it stands, it’s simply an idea and a belief.

        Now, if you want to throw your scientific prowess around against my humble minimal scientific background then why don’t you start by explaining how something can be a fact without that critical piece of the puzzle being in place? How is it really scientific? I’m waiting.

        1. Well I note that the information you have read makes no mention whatsoever of an explanatory (or procedural) hierarchy. Nor does the rest of that Wikepedia article. So , no Tommy, it doesn’t line up with exactly what you said, does it?

          “I never actually said theory became law”

          You certainly implied it by invoking the concept of a hierarchy and claiming that a law was “beyond” a theory. That does suggest you meant it was ‘higher’ in some way. For the second time: a law describes, a theory explains. Explanation is of far more use to a scientist than mere description. To a religionist, obviously not.

          “you have to explain how life came from non-life and wrote all its own software.”

          So basically what you’re saying is that if someone claims that life originated from non-life via some vaguely worded magical methodology expounded in some ancient texts written by a particular cultural group who lived in a tiny part of the world thousands of years ago, then there is no onus on them to explain any further how that might have been possible. We should simply accept it as a given, i.e., description is far more important than explanation.

          But if someone considers an alternative hypothesis that life resulted from a natural chemical process for which a number of plausible hypotheses exist (and two Nobel Prizes awarded) then the onus is on them to “explain how life came from non-life and wrote all its own software”. In this case, explanation somehow becomes far more important than description (and rightly so). Never mind that the notion that life is written in software is completely erroneous (yet another creationist misconception)……

          You’re making a material claim. You have a book that describes how it happened and you suggest that this is what we should all accept. So please outline your research that backs the claim up. Abiogenesis researchers publish their research. Where’s yours? Just like I challenged you to produce a single piece of peer reviewed research that explicitly investigates the so-called ‘Law of Biogenesis’ (which you can’t, despite your claim to the contrary) I now further challenge you to produce a single piece of research that supports the notion of a supernatural origin for life. It doesn’t have to be a conclusive result. No-one expects that. We understand the complexities and difficulties involved in this field of research. Partial evidence would be OK. But lets be honest, you don’t even have that, do you?

          Look Tommy, what’s the point of arguing the finer points of scientific methodology when you clearly don’t understand them and your own hypothesis doesn’t even rely on a scientific basis?

          1. Tommy writes: [Bottom line is that molecules to man evolution, to be true, must disprove the law of biogenesis. Since there is no disproof for that law, your position is indefensible and unscientific. Have a nice day.]

            I believe this ground has been covered before Tommy. As I (and I believe others) have pointed out, the “law of biogenesis” is not a scientific law. It is not a law in any sense. Additionally, Pasteur was not commenting on the original source of all living things. He was showing that bacteria and viruses that make people sick did not spontaneously appear inside the human body, but rather got there via other sources (food, water, the air we breathe, etc).

            You have been told all this, in very specific and accurate terms, and yet here you are trying to pass it off once again as some kind of irrefutable law….to the same people as last time no less!

            I don’t know how many times and from how many people you need to hear it from, but there is no law of biogenesis.

            Aside from all that, I must also point out that a god would, by your very definition of the “law of biogenesis”, violate the law! Either a god has to come from another living thing, which creates an endless false logic loop, or it has always existed which means the law is not a law since there is an exception to it. You haven’t solved anything.

            So may I humbly suggest you find a better point to argue, because this one is dead in the water and sinking like the Titanic…

            1. ” As I (and I believe others) have pointed out, the “law of biogenesis” is not a scientific law. It is not a law in any sense.”

              Time, yes there is such a law. But nevertheless, there is no evidence one way or the other that life came from non-life. So you’re just trying to skirt the issue anyway. You are still left with the same problem.

              “I don’t know how many times and from how many people you need to hear it from, but there is no law of biogenesis.”

              Well, show how life came from non-life using the scientific method and I’ll stop saying it over and over. Until then, when will you get he fact that your theory has no supporting evidence? What will it take?

              “Aside from all that, I must also point out that a god would, by your very definition of the “law of biogenesis”, violate the law! Either a god has to come from another living thing, which creates an endless false logic loop, or it has always existed which means the law is not a law since there is an exception to it. You haven’t solved anything.”

              Totally bogus and false. The creator of all things and the law giver can not only alter those laws, he can interfere with them or manipulate them. In any case, God “is” life and so life created by God did indeed come from life.

              Imagine a virtual computer world simulation created by a human. The human is the god of his virtual world. He is outside his own simulation, but has an interface to it. Indeed he can set the gravity properties, make it rain, snow, be light be day, pause the physics simulation or even alter it in one specific spot. All without anyone in the virtual world
              ever having any evidence for this god’s existence. That’s how it is with God and creation.

            2. Tommy writes: [Anyway, the bottom line as always is that in order for you to be right about abiogenesis, you have to explain how life came from non-life]

              Yes, we do need to prove that. As of now science does not know exactly how life started. What we do know is that life started simply a long time ago. There is evidence for this, both in the form of the fossil record and in genetic studies on the genomes of living things. We also know that amino acids, which are the stuff that makes up proteins, are abundant molecules. They’ve been found on meteors and comets. So have sugars for that matter. We know that nothing that happens inside living things violates any of the rules of chemistry, physics, and thermodynamics. We know that simple lipids, also abundant on Earth, form watertight membranes all on their own. There are peptides that self-replicate, and there are proteins that fold themselves (like in DNA). All of these things make the concept of abiogenesis plausible. It does not prove it, but it doesn’t make it impossible either. It leaves the door open.

              Compare this to what we know about divine creatures and the supernatural – nothing. Not one single solitary scrap of data to support any of it. Zilch. Zero. Nada. You catching my drift here, Tommy? You claim a divine entity did it, yet you can’t even prove the divine entity. First you have to do that, and then you have to prove that the divine entity actually did the creating. Maybe Odin exists but he didn’t have a thing to do with life starting. You can’t say for sure. And you have TWO things you need to prove. You might want to get started…

              [and wrote all its own software.]

              Since you make the claim, prove to me that DNA is software. I look forward to what you have to say…

              [To my knowledge there is not such evidence, experimentation, or proof of any of that. So as it stands, it’s simply an idea and a belief.]

              True, but an idea and belief that doesn’t violate any of the laws of the universe. And all the empirical evidence we have to date points to it being the explanation…unless you care to offer up evidence of the supernatural and Odin now…

  14. No, Gary, the burden of proof is on you. You claim it all happened naturally and you claim that science supports it. So, you, my friend, need to provide the scientific evidence for it.

    “a number of plausible hypotheses exist”

    Puh-lease. I don’t care how many Nobel prizes are awarded, there is not a single plausible hypothesis for life from non-life naturally. You must take me for an idiot.

    The only reason you believe it happened naturally is because you’ve rejected the one who created you and have no alternative left but to believe a foolish, ridiculous lie. I honestly find it incomprehensible how anyone of even marginal intelligence could believe such a ridiculous idea that the self-replicating cell with all its machinery and software just came into being on its own. Even mathematically, the concept is ludicrous. You should be ashamed for believing such nonsense.

    1. Tommy writes: [Tim, yes there is such a law.]

      Great. Please provide me the experiment that proves it then. And no cop outs saying look for yourself. I can’t find it. So give me a link or a title to the study please.

      [But nevertheless, there is no evidence one way or the other that life came from non-life.]

      I assume you mean beside the fossil record. It clearly shows that life appeared in very simple fashion long ago. Genetics show that all living things are related. Chemistry and physics show that nothing in life violates any rules of those fields.

      [So you’re just trying to skirt the issue anyway. You are still left with the same problem.]

      Not trying to skirt it. We haven’t replicated how life first started. I freely admit it. But since all the evidence that we do have points in that direction, that is where we should be looking.

      [Well, show how life came from non-life using the scientific method and I’ll stop saying it over and over. Until then, when will you get he fact that your theory has no supporting evidence? What will it take?]

      You will see that quote again in a minute…

      [Totally bogus and false. The creator of all things and the law giver can not only alter those laws, he can interfere with them or manipulate them. In any case, God “is” life and so life created by God did indeed come from life.]

      Let see….how to answer this. Wait, I know: “Well, show how life came from {god} using the scientific method and I’ll stop saying it over and over. Until then, when will you get the fact that your theory has no supporting evidence? What will it take?”

      [Imagine a virtual computer world simulation created by a human. The human is the god of his virtual world. He is outside his own simulation, but has an interface to it. Indeed he can set the gravity properties, make it rain, snow, be light be day, pause the physics simulation or even alter it in one specific spot. All without anyone in the virtual world ever having any evidence for this god’s existence. That’s how it is with God and creation.]

      Well, show this using the scientific method then, Tommy. Until then, will you get the fact that your theory has no supporting evidence? What will it take?

      1. I know you were replying to Gary, but I have to chime in here…

        [The only reason you believe it happened naturally is because you’ve rejected the one who created you and have no alternative left but to believe a foolish, ridiculous lie.]

        I can’t answer for Gary of course, but I can tell you that for myself the reason I feel that abiogenesis is the answer is because that is where all the evidence points to. There isn’t any empirical data that points to any other explanation. None. I don’t reject gods, Tommy. I don’t consider them as an explanation because there is no rational reason to do so.

        [Even mathematically, the concept is ludicrous. You should be ashamed for believing such nonsense.]

        The math they present to you on your creationist websites is wrong. You of course don’t realize this, but I do. Would you like to present your side of the mathematics, and see why their claims are ludicrous?

    2. Well you missed my point entirely. I was pointing out that science has fully accepted the burden of proof and has and is developing and tested hypotheses pertaining to abiogenesis.

      It’s your camp that claiming we know exactly how it happened – so you have no need to investigate the matter further. I think its abundantly obvious who’s accepted the burden of proof and refuses to do so.

    3. “I honestly find it incomprehensible how anyone of even marginal intelligence could believe such a ridiculous idea that the self-replicating cell with all its machinery and software just came into being on its own.”

      Exactly. Absolutely. Couldn’t agree with you more (except for the software analogy). Now can you remind me again who is actually claiming that? In which paper that claim was published?

  15. That’s one of the biggest misconceptions (if not outright lies) being perpetrated on creationist websites these days Gary. While no one involved in researching the question of how life began thinks DNA just appeared from nowhere, that is exactly what is claimed. And folks like Tommy gobble it up and spit it back out in forums like this, completely oblivious to the fact that it doesn’t even remotely represent what science thinks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *