Theist Cosmology: As Long As God’s Necessary Somewhere

Question from Physitheist:
I’m going to start this by saying that I’m a Christian, but also someone who believes in science…Here’s my question. According to the laws of thermodynamics energy moves to heat. Also there is no process that is truly reversible because we can not reach absolute zero, and the process would take infinite time. Since entropy continues to increase, and there is a limit of mass and energy how are we here? If there is not a limit of energy and mass, then why do you think so? And if you believe that energy and mass can appear out of thin air balanced out by anti matter why haven’t we ever seen this? After all the amount of unusable heat created is enormous. So basically my question is this, given the laws of thermodynamics, if you extrapolate to the size of the universe how are we here? After all the Big Crunch theory doesn’t really solve the energy problem since no process is 100 percent efficient. We’d still only have heat since there’s no such thing as negligible when the scale is eternity.

Thank you, and have a wonderful day!

Jesus loves you!

Answer by SmartLX:
I answered a similar question in my piece The World of Leftover Energy, so you can comment on that one if you like. Here I’ll just try to address some of your specific points and questions.

If you extrapolate the laws of thermodynamics regarding entropy to account for the entire universe they need to be applied as to a closed system, because we’re not aware of any energy leaving the universe. A hypothetical Big Crunch takes all the matter and energy there has ever been and jams it back together in a singularity – even the “lost” energy that’s been radiated outwards throughout the history of the compressed universe. That could actually achieve 100% efficiency through recycling, as literally no energy would be lost and the singularity could behave exactly the same as the previous singularity.

There is most likely a finite amount of matter and energy in THIS universe. If it’s the only universe, an eternal existence would have to depend on some form of reclamation, like the Big Crunch, or an exponential decrease that never hits zero, like I describe in the other piece. If there are other universes, as many have theorised and some evidence actively suggests, then it’s very possible that the total matter and energy in the multiverse is infinite, and entropy doesn’t mean much on the grand scale. I don’t feel the need to declare one or the other scenario more likely. An eternal universe isn’t certain in the first place, but a non-eternal universe doesn’t guarantee an eternal creator god.

Think about what would happen if a small group of matching matter and antimatter particles suddenly emerged naturally somewhere on Earth, and therefore in an environment saturated with existing particles of matter (e.g. air, water or earth). The antimatter would be annihilated by the existing matter in an instant, and the matter it touched would also be annihilated, so you’d be left with no antimatter and exactly the amount of matter you started with. It could be happening all around us and we’d never detect it without precise instruments. This isn’t proof that it happens, but it makes it impossible to say that it isn’t happening.

139 thoughts on “Theist Cosmology: As Long As God’s Necessary Somewhere”

  1. What you write about antimatter is true but irrelevant to the problem. The problem is that whenever matter is created, an equal amount of antimatter is formed. This is a doesn’t line up with the Big Bang because there is a very obvious lack of antimatter in the observable universe.
    ~
    The Big Bang should have created an equal amount of matter and antimatter. On the contrary, the universe is almost completely regular matter. If matter and antimatter were naturally formed like the situation you described, the antimatter would assuredly be annihilated. This is only because it is surrounded by a large amount of regular matter. This would not be the case in the alleged early universe where there would be equal amounts of both matter and antimatter. Equal amounts of matter and antimatter would completely annihilate each other leaving only energy. If, somehow they managed to stay away from each other, we would end up with equal amounts of both… but that is not the case. This is a major problem for those who support the Big Bang.

    1. I was only explaining why we don’t see antimatter emergence events on Earth, regardless of whether they happen locally or not. The apparent asymmetry between matter and antimatter in the universe at large is another issue, and I’m glad you specifically brought it up since Physitheist didn’t.

      Similarly to how we don’t know how life originally came about, we don’t know how the universe came to be apparently almost entirely composed of matter and not antimatter. The simplest explanation is that the initial burst of antimatter in the Big Bang went in a different direction and is now too far away to detect. More complex hypotheses involve various aspects of the conditions in which the Big Bang and early expansion of the universe occurred, for example the Sakharov conditions. Like abiogenesis, the phase of the universe’s “life” known as baryogenesis is a very active subject in science, and at some point we may well figure it out.

      Most importantly, like the origin of life, not knowing exactly how it happened is not a good barrier to accepting that it happened. Perhaps we have more to learn about antimatter or perhaps everything we know about it is wrong, but it was not research into antimatter that led to the evidence for the Big Bang. It has not rendered the universe as we know it impossible by natural means, just in need of investigation and explanation.

      1. I didn’t bring it up? I kind of thought it was inferred in my “How come we haven’t seen mass and energy and antimatter appear” comment. I mean it seems like that would come with that question. I didn’t make a comment yet because I was asleep at the time that the article was posted. Have a good day!

  2. Physi – I’ve had this type of conversation before, so hopefully I’m able to present this info in an understandable manner. Everything I will talk about is verifiable too so please don’t take my word for it.

    First off let me clear up a couple of things. If is inaccurate to say that entropy is energy changing to heat. Heat IS a type of energy, often called thermal energy, and is one of many types of energy. A better definition of entropy is energy becoming increasingly dispersed in the system. You may see this termed as moving towards disorder, or moving towards a less useful state too, but it all means the same thing.

    Moving onward, I think your basic question in all this is how could life be here if we live in an entropic universe. The simple answer is that Earth is not a closed system. We receive energy from the Sun. That doesn’t mean entropy stops here on Earth, not by a long shot. The entropy on our planet is slowed or delayed, long enough for life to use some of that energy to power ourselves. You see, living things are energy processors basically. We take in energy, using it inefficiently, but get enough out of it to keep ourselves going. To give an example, when sunlight hits a tree most of the energy is dissipated as heat, just like if if hit a rock, but some of it is converted by the leaves into chemical energy (like sugars) which can be used by the tree as a transferable power source. This power source gets moved to the rest of the tree and allows other parts to do their thing, like build cellulose or pull water from the ground. Eventually the leaves will get eaten or fall off, and the tree will eventually die and rot, and that energy will continue its entropy path out into the universe.

    So as we have explained, life is not impossible in an entropic universe. Far from it. Energy can be delayed in its entropic path for quite a while in some instances (think coal and oil millions of years old).

    The question of whether or not mass and energy are fixed quantities does not affect the above. What that question does affect is whether or not life can go on indefinitely. If there is a fixed amount of mass and energy than life is ultimately doomed to total extinction, because eventually the universe will approach a point where life will not be able to overcome entropy. A fixed amount of hydrogen means a fixed amount of fuel for stars which means a fixed amount of fusion producing useful energy for life to use. Bummer.

    Lastly, in regards to matter popping into and out of existence, you may want to read up on the Lamb Shift and on the Casimir Effect. Quantum physics has shown that matter does wink in and out of existence. Church it out.

    1. Ok so I think I get your point. However given a finite amount of energy you agree that we’d run out of usable energy. So then there has to be a beginning. I’ll read up on the Lamb Shift and on the Casimir Effect and see if it changes things. Thanks! Have a good day!

      1. The common sense answer is that there has to be some kind of beginning. Was that beginning of the universe though a result from a previous universe ending though, or is this universe a one time incarnation the likes of which has never been seen before? Are there other universes? All great questions that no one has the answer to right now, so even though it makes sense to say it had a beginning, the reality is we can’t say for sure. I know, this is confusing, but that’s the best we can say about it at this point…

  3. I meant check it out. Gotta love auto correct. An interesting irony that it used “church” too considering the website we are on and what gets discussed…

  4. All good answers for what is a difficult question to deal with not only because it pushes at the extent of our knowledge but also because we are dealing with ideas that don’t always translate readily into written language. Also Physitheist doesn’t have a good grasp of the everyday physics we do know, viz., “According to the laws of thermodynamics energy moves to heat” and, as such, I suspect may been susceptible to some of the distorted information put out by some (though not all) of the (usually) American theists and aimed explicitly at those without a good grasp of physics. You only have to read some of the bullshit put out in so-called ‘science’ textbooks for children used by e.g., the Accelerated Christian Education program or published by Bob Jones University to realise this. They’re disgraceful.

    Anyway, rant over, one hypothesis that appeals to my understanding and seems to accord with the known physics is Penrose’s ‘Conformal Cyclical Cosmology’. Put very briefly, it states that because the 2nd Law is inviolable, the universe will eventually result in an infinite cold, dark universe in which all energy has been converted into an extremely red-shifted photon type. In these circumstances concepts such as time and space would become meaningless and because all of the energy has become uniformly distributed, the state of the universe will become, paradoxically, one of a low entropy, ordered state, i.e., a singularity which cannot be sustained (I have to take Penrose’s word for this because you need a PhD in mathematics at least to understand his argument) and so rapidly expands to form what we would recognise as another early universe. And so on. The process cannot end.

    At this stage in our knowledge, it seems to me that the pertinent point is not really which hypothesis is correct, it’s that all of the hypotheses we have been able to generate that conform with known physics are characterised by requiring no component input of energy or ‘will’ from outside the physical system. It’s just unnecessary to account for the observable phenomena. And there is nothing in current research to suggest that this situation is going to change.

    Making claims that such an input must be essential (especially when it is solely on the grounds of logical argument) is wholly unwarranted speculation. This is especially the case when such speculation relies on simply pointing out potential shortcomings in current data and does not actually provide us with any new data to work on.

    1. I’m my defense “some of the bullshit” as you call it came from a college thermodynamics textbook and a teacher who has a doctorate in an area of Physics. I understand physics fairly well. As for how a universe could ever end up in the state you describe I don’t understand. I’d expect it to be a bright hot universe that is not capable of supporting life. Also if entropy continues to increase how an anyone’s mind would it make sense to think that the end result would be a low entropy level. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s another miscalculation. There have been plenty of those in the past.

      1. Hi Physitheist

        “I’d expect it to be a bright hot universe that is not capable of supporting life.”

        I’m not sure why you’d think that. It’s not what the majority of physicists predict. It will likely be an infinitely large cold, dark, empty universe. There would no longer be any features at all such as galaxies. Any life would have disappeared tens of billions of years earlier. The energy (including photons) would become so dissipated that physical interactions of any kind would no longer take place. We’ve already observed violations of the 3rd Law of Thermodynamics without the need of infinite time or steps.

        “how an anyone’s mind would it make sense to think that the end result would be a low entropy level.”

        Once this state is reached there would no longer be any disorder. The entirety of the energy within the universe would be uniformly dissipated and uniformly distributed. Thus the universe would effectively have returned to a state of maximally low entropy, minus any meaningful concept of time and space. Not unlike a singularity. Our notions of scale would be meaningless.

        Remember, I’m not saying that this is true, I’m pointing out that naturalistic explanations are perfectly viable, and mathematically supportable given our current level of knowledge. Just because a naturalistic explanation might be wrong doesn’t make any theistic-based explanation automatically right, does it? It’s not as if theistic explanations are the default and naturalistic explanations are merely some upstart’s counter to them.

        “I can say with out a doubt that given a finite amount of mass and energy there would need to be a beginning”

        There might need to be a beginning for the (very possibly) local event we label a universe, but how does it follow that our universe is necessarily representative of all that exists? Even if it were true, how do you then get from that observation to the claim that the beginning of the universe could only have been caused in a very specific way: by a conscious entity who has no beginning and therefore must have an infinite amount of energy at it’s disposal. I know you can sort of do it logically (so long as you presuppose certain things and define your premises in appropriate ways) but even that attempt further presupposes that logic itself, as is understood by the human brain, exists and holds outside of our universe.

        Good theories not only explain the data well, they also need to be a good fit with all the other scientific theories as well as explain in the simplest way possible. Naturalistically based cosmological interpretations do that. Current theistic explanations seem far too convoluted and bloated to be ever able to offer a viable explanation that accords with the data from all branches of science.

        “I think I’ll stick with theism. Science seems to support it.”

        Because you’re wedded to an a-priori interpretation of the data. If you were prepared to be open-minded about the characteristics of the entity (or whatever it is) that you claim caused the universe to begin then, sure, I’d say you had something of a valid hypothesis. Me, I’ll wait for further evidence to come in before I leap to the shelter of ‘god of the gaps’.

    2. Gary, I don’t think you realize how rude and unlikeable you sound when you are swearing and name calling. It really damages your ethos when every other comment you post in reply to a Christian has an excess of demeaning language (like our discussion on “Why are atheists so mean?”. I love to discuss these things but it is tiresome having to respond to unfounded assertions about my character. I would presume that Physitheist feels the same way. I stopped replying to your comments on “Why are atheists so mean”, but I hope to continue replying again when I find the time. I would greatly appreciate it if you would refrain from attacking the me personally, and instead debate what I believe.

      1. My last comment was supposed to be in reply to Gary’s first comment, for some reason it is placed under his second comment which was much more civil.

  5. Well you’ve got some good points. Of there is infinite matter then there wouldn’t have to be a beginning or an end. I don’t really see how any process could be reversible without requiring infinite time, since all processes create more heat than they require. So I suppose there could be something close to reversible, but there isn’t such a thing as close enough given an infinite time scale. So all I have to say is fair enough. If there is infinite matter and the seperate universes could exchange matter, then that would be that. Entropy would be meaningless. So ultimately it comes down to faith. There’s no logic that can defy that, nor any to support it. But I can say with out a doubt that given a finite amount of mass and energy there would need to be a beginning, since every chemical process creates heat. As well as does changes in pressure and most if not all changes in energy. So the question is finite or infinite. I’ll just choose to believe what I believe, until there’s satisfactory evidence to the contrary.
    Thank you!

    Jesus loves you!

    1. See the point of my question is that the problem isn’t energy leaving anywhere. It’s the state which the energy is in, and the state energy gradually moves toward. Given a finite amount of energy all we’d have left is heat, and probably given an infinite as well since each section could be considered its own universe increasing the number of then doesn’t matter. So on second thought it really doesn’t matter how many universes there are. It’d just be the same situation played an infinite number of times simultaneously. I think I’ll stick with theism. Science seems to support it.

  6. So basically since we have no explanation nor any idea what kind of phenomena brings us to now my guess is as good as yours. Fair enough. Have a good day!
    I’m going with one time unlike any other, and created by an unexplainable source of matter and energy who spoke the universe into existence.

    Jesus loves you!

    1. One problem with that. My “guess” is based on data. True, we don’t have enough data to determine for certain how things started, but there is some information which points to something like the Big Bang. Your “guess” is based entirely on a collection of ancient writings, with absolutely zero evidence that points to intelligent creation. Not even one single shred of proof for a supernatural origin.

      You’ve slipped into a kind of “argument from ignorance” conclusion…since we don’t know, a god.

      It’s interesting that you will choose to believe what you believe until there is evidence to the contrary, when you didn’t need evidence to get where you are now….

    2. Phy writes: [ Also if entropy continues to increase how an anyone’s mind would it make sense to think that the end result would be a low entropy level. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s another miscalculation. There have been plenty of those in the past.]

      I meant to address this too and forgot to add it in the last post. A low entropy level means there isn’t much more entropy that can happen. If the universe continue use to expand with a finite amount of energy, that energy will continue to dissipate until uniformity is reached throughout, and it will be cool rather than hot because of the fixed energy amount spreading out in an ever expanding universe.

      The math on entropy and thermodynamics is cut and dried, been there done that mathematics. There is no miscalculation.

      1. Oh, I forgot about expansion. However I still don’t see how that would give us more energy to use, or how that could be anything other than the end. I extrapolated the laws of thermodynamics over a lunch break and a few boring afternoons… That’s why no one else was saying that the universe would be hot and bright… They accounted for changes in pressure and expansion of the universe. Sorry I’ll double check my facts next time. Still I don’t see what the real difference is between the two, given that no usable energy would be left.

        1. Well you could be right. The cold dark empty universe with maximal entropy could theoretically sit like that for eternity. Doing nothing for ever. But there is some evidence that such a state would be intrinsically unstable and the probability is that a chance event at the quantum scale would trigger an abrupt change that causes the ‘singularity’ to undergo a cataclysmic change.

  7. I’m confused. How is the Big Bang scientific? It’s just some meaningless babble someone spit up. I mean we should see more anti matter , and in order for it to have happened you’d practically need to rewrite the laws of physics. It ignores the laws of thermodynamics, and frankly without proof it sounds like a fairy tale, and I like my story better. Until we have proof I’ll just believe what I believe. If you don’t like that that’s fine. Have a good day.

    1. “How is the Big Bang scientific? It’s just some meaningless babble someone spit up”

      C’mon, meaningless babble? I thought you said you understood physics. You do know that Big Bang (though not named as such then) was first formulated by George Lemaitre, a professor of physics who was also an ordained Christian priest. Initially, it was far more enthusiastically received by various Christian sects than his fellow scientists. He also discovered Hubble’s Law. Is that meaningless babble too?

      “Until we have proof”

      We’ll never have any proof. Proof is not a concept used in science.

      “in order for it to have happened you’d practically need to rewrite the laws of physics”

      Here’s an idea, instead of making statements such as this on the internet why not write to all the physics departments in all the universities in the world and tell them that their computations performed on supercomputers and the data collected at CERN are completely useless and that Big Bang cosmology doesn’t accord with the laws of physics. But you have an alternative hypothesis that you can demonstrate to the same degree of accuracy that will surely restore the fields of theoretical physics and cosmology to the correct investigatory path. I mean what have you got to lose? It’s not like they’re going to laugh at you or anything. On the other hand, Hasn’t Hugh Ross already tried this?

      1. While technically there is no such thing as proof in science there is observation, and gathering information through tests. I could do as many simulations as I want , but if the data I started with was wrong then it’s just a waste of time, and until there’s proof via experiments and analysis of the current circumstance of our universe that actually has a chance of being accurate, then I’ll listen. However that isn’t what I see. I see a hypothesis not backed up by data, and contrary to already established scientific laws. We have no evidence it’s correct, that I have seen, and I could care less about a few silly simulations. There are many simulations that are run for hypothetical what ifs. Just because I’m typing this write now does not prove that it happened, that’s a logic fallacy. So I really don’t want to jump on the band wagon. Thank you, have a nice day!

        1. Once again we’ve experienced a pattern of discourse all too common in these threads. Fair and sound questions are asked, some good quality replies are offered, the questioner (or someone else) doesn’t like what they’ve heard and/or can’t compete on the same playing field and so they start churning out generic lines stating that the evidence they don’t agree with and a related vast body of knowledge is inherently flawed, implying that we’ve actually known the real truth all along, and all this science has been a waste of time.

          “but if the data I started with was wrong then it’s just a waste of time”

          And so you have some evidence that all the data acquired in the past 80 years is wrong? Because of what, technical issues, theoretical issues, statistical analysis issues, all of the above and what, no-one has ever noticed?………or is it all a gigantic conspiracy?……or maybe you simply just don’t like the sound of it?

          “I see a hypothesis not backed up by data, and contrary to already established scientific laws.”

          What, all data? All scientific laws? Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps you haven’t acquainted yourself well enough with the data? Are you seriously saying that all physicists worldwide, different generations, different cultures, different languages, different hairstyles are, and have been for nearly a century, completely and utterly wrong. But you, with no qualifications or hands on experience in the fields of theoretical physics and cosmology has got it right. Bang on. Because you’ve got some ancient texts of dubious provenance and you’ve read the work of others who think the same way as you do? Colour me unconvinced. I’m glad you’re not my doctor.

          Are you trying to say that scientific methodology works perfectly well when you agree with it’s findings, say in the case of germ theory, or satellite technology, but is conveniently hopelessly inadequate when it’s findings don’t accord with your beliefs? I wonder, is there any other branch of science who’s findings you similarly don’t accept. Like, let me guess, biological evolution for instance? And are there any parts of science you do accept that go right against your particular brand of Christian beliefs, but for you the evidence is so sound that you will argue in it’s favour against the status quo of your church? Or, as I see all too often, are your attitudes toward specific scientific findings uncannily in line with what your religious sect tells you they should be?

          “I could care less about a few silly simulations”

          It’s asinine comments like this that close down what could be interesting and vigorous discussions. It demonstrates that you had no real intention of trying to appreciate why some atheists hold the views they do. If you really do think theoretical physicists do “silly simulations” then I honestly feel very sorry for you. You’re missing out on a great joy of open-minded, blue sky discovery. You’re opting for a safe, small view of the universe. You’ll enjoy what science has to offer but whenever it gets a little daunting and makes you feel a little insecure you go and hide under the table and tell yourself it’s all rubbish. I’ll finish with a quote from Isaac Asimov that will certainly continue to be true long after any of todays beliefs have gone the same way as all those other past mythologies:

          “So the universe is not quite as you thought it was. You’d better rearrange your beliefs, then. Because you certainly can’t rearrange the universe”

  8. Hi Jordan

    I’m aware that I sometimes write in a ‘combative’ style but your accusation of ad-hominem attacks is unfounded. There is a distinct difference between attacking a person’s ideas, however strongly, and the manner in which they might convey them (which is not ad-hominem) and attacking the person themselves. For example, when I made comments to the effect that you were making erroneous and ridiculous statements about biological evolution, these were not ad-hominem attacks. They were statements of fact, each and every one of which I supported in some detail. An ad-hominem attack would have been, for example, if I had said Jordan makes erroneous and ridiculous statements about biological evolution because he’s disabled or Chinese or supports Manchester United. Or simply a Christian.

    The fact is that you made a number of factually inaccurate statements in that thread in an area of science in which I am qualified to speak and in a field to which I have contributed. When challenged you resorted to implying that I was, like all atheists, merely cutting and pasting from atheist websites. I remarked at the time that I found it frustrating that you would not engage in any meaningful discussion but merely repeatedly parroted creationist canards. It was obvious to me that, despite your claims, you were not acquiring your knowledge of biological evolution from pursuing a recognised course at any properly accredited college as you claimed you were. I invite anyone, especially those with knowledge / training in the field of biological evolution to go back and read our exchange; I am confident that they will recognise that, despite your confidence and bravado, you were not writing from a position of familiarity with the relevant literature.

    I actually partly addressed your point in the thread:

    “Is it anger, or is it just thin-skinnedness on the part of some Christians? Open up any academic book, journal, newspaper or magazine and you’ll find critiques – of scientific experiments, technology, political ideas, theatre productions, poetry, novels, films, photographic works, music, architecture, landscape gardening. Is there some special reason why Christianity should be exempt from critique? Is there some reason why theism in general should be exempt from critique? When people make ridiculous and/or unsupported claims – in any field at all – they are going to get critiqued and ridiculed. Especially if they expect other people to kowtow to their beliefs. Like Rohit said, no-one is exempt, even Muslims. So, when people like Jordan come up with completely untrue statements like “evolution teaches that there are higher and lower races of man” in order to bolster his worldview, he’s leaving himself open to rebuttal. And for some people, who actually know something about biology and have worked in the field, those rebuttals will often be passionate. Where’s the problem?”

    If you look at my reply to Kavod in the same thread you’ll see that I was perfectly civil. He was putting forward a style of argument that you were not. Although I didn’t fully agree with him, he used a cogent, reasoned, informed and toward the end even a sarcastic, even nasty, approach. Yet I had no problem with him.

    As for Physitheist, surely he can speak for himself. Though I never attacked him personally; I questioned his line of argumentation. If he feels that the comment about the Christian science books was OTT, then yes, I apologise to him. Though I can provide plenty of examples lest anyone doubt what I wrote.

    And if you think bullshit is a swear word, then you’re definitely not cut out for a career in the sciences…….

  9. So the question we need to ask is if the singularity could actually exist in such a universe. Since as far as we know no process happens thats 100 percent efficient, and wouldn’t a decrease in entropy mean a process is more than 100 percent efficient, because that doesn’t seem entirely possible.

  10. There’s not really any problem with the Big Bang theory except one point. Entropy. The matter had to come from somewhere, and since there is no explanation for this then why believe that it happened. It’s one theory about what happened, and this is true. But it’s missing the key component. What makes it possible? If entropy always increases then how could it happen? Because I can’t see how it could. So it had to be started by some unknown phenomena. You can call it whatever you want, but I’ll call it God, and at that point it really doesn’t matter what happened.

    1. Entropy is not a problem for the Big Bang theory. They are not related. Entropy is a property OF the universe. The Big Bang theory is trying to explain the start of the universe. You seem to think the preponderance of matter and entropy are related. They aren’t either.

      The imbalance in matter is, as has already been stated many times now, an issue. But it is not an issue that makes the Big Bang theory obsolete. If it did the theory would have already died long ago. Even though we don’t why there is an imbalance, we know there is one. We also know, as has also been stated already, that the universe is billions of years old, that it is expanding, that a great expansion began it, etc. The matter imbalance is just part of the big picture. What you are doing is looking at the steering wheel, saying “we don’t know how this happened”, and throwing out the whole car. Then you go back to the cultist play book and pull out the argument from ignorance again. We don’t know, so it “had to be started” by some unknown phenomena that you call a god. In other words, you dismiss something from science because it can’t be proven and replace it with the supernatural…which can’t be proven.

      I believe they call that a double standard.

      Maybe we’ve been going about this all wrong. Why don’t you give us just one solitary piece of data that shows gods and goddesses are real instead. Just one piece of evidence….

      1. “If it did the theory would have already died long ago.” Personally I always dislike this argument. It seems ill-reasoned. Just because everyone thought the earth was flat, and it wasn’t doesn’t mean that that theory died immediately. They all had “Proof” in front of them that the world was flat, but really they were just interpreting their data incorrectly. Also I read up on the Casmir effect, and it seems to be like an energy flow, and fluctuations that have a measurable effect on on Small objects and leads to small movements in larger ones. It seems to act similar to air pressure on a smaller scale and gravity. I say this in that it can pull two walls together due to their closeness to each other that reminds me of the way to boats are puled together when they are driven next to each other. However while the Casmir effect exists, it doesn’t seem to answer anything besides the movement of matter and antimatter. It doesn’t explain the start of the universe Nor does it answer how the big bang could have happened… It doesn’t fix the High entropy state of an always existing universe. Why was it brought up? Though it does help explain some phenomena in material science. Thanks! Have a good day.

  11. Can’t you see Physitheist?

    The universe is either finite or infinite. It either has a beginning or it ended before it began. Huh? Ah hell, just go with it. Pick a theory, any theory.

    After all Physitheist, we don’t have all the answers, but here are twenty. A good answer for question x is “The Big Crunch.” One possibility for question Y is, of course, “The Big Freeze.” Opposing ideas? Can’t both be right? Doesn’t matter. “The pertinent point is not really which hypothesis is correct.” You’re being close minded again.

    The truth is…Big Bang is right. Big Crunch is right. Big Freeze is right. Inflation is right, and Conformal Cyclical is right. Even when they offer different conclusions.

    Einstein was right, Hoyle was right, Hubble was right, Penrose was right, and Hawking was right. Even though they offered different conclusions.

    SmartLX was right. Tim was right, and Gary was right. Even though they offered different conclusions.

    How can they all be right? They don’t have to be. They just have to be “natural” explanations. You can clearly see that they don’t conflict with “known” laws of nature if you would just use your imagination. Sorry, I meant to say say intellect. Stupid autocorrect.

    So pick a theory so you can be smart.

    1. Do you like comedy, Jimmy? I certainly do. One of my favorite routines is when the dumb guy tries to play smart. It’s funny because the dumb guy doesn’t know he’s dumb. He thinks he’s being intelligent and witty. The audience knows better of course…

      Take you’d post for example. Someone who understands entropy and the Big Bang theory and matter imbalance knows that Gary, LX, and myself did not contradict each other, or offer up theories that arrive at different conclusions. No, only the intellectually lazy among us could ever arrive at that erroneous end – comedy…

      1. Expanding on your point Tim, neither yourself, SmartLX or myself have actually claimed that we are able to account for the existence of the universe. Only the theists have done that.

        Which is fair enough, if they can provide the evidence. But as both of us have pointed out, they haven’t. All they have done so far is claim to have found fault with the evidence provided, and questioned the ability and integrity of those who are actively seeking to understand the situation. And it’s a wonderful and awe-inspiring thing to investigate.

        I suspect we can’t really make progress in this debate until it’s accepted by all parties that the null hypothesis is exactly that; null. And not: in the absence of any definitive proof to the contrary then obviously god (insert any definition here) must have done it. That might be how theology works, but it’s emphatically not the scientific method.

        Given the undeniable track record of scientific methodology vs. theology I cannot see how anyone could think it unreasonable to predict that our current avenues of investigation are going to be fruitful. It doesn’t really matter whether mistakes are made on the way, that’s the way of the scientific method. It doesn’t aim to provide quick and ready answers that we find palatable, it aims to find the truth and that’s sometimes a ponderous affair. Those mistakes will eventually be corrected by further scientific investigation and not by some rereading of mythology. As has always been the case, no matter what we are investigating.

    2. I can wrap my mind around thermodynamics, understand material science, organic chemistry wasn’t that hard. Physical psychology makes sense, and I aced the course. I’m more intelligent then most of my peers. Frankly if the theories made any sense I’d probably jump on board. The problem being is that I’m not a gambler. I don’t bet on things I can’t see and I can see evidence of God far more clearly then I can see evidence of a theory that to me, seems to ignore scientific laws. While being a well reasoned answer it ignores the bigger question. There’s no way for it to have happened given an infinite universe, and I’ve yet to see anything to the contrary. Do you have evidence to the contrary? If so post a link, I’ll look it over and get back to you. If you don’t have evidence, then why are we arguing again? Jesus Loves you!

  12. There’s actually plenty of scientific proof for Jesus’s resurrection. There are many scrolls that predate Jesus’s birth that describe things long before they happened or even were invented. Jesus fufilled all of them, which seems scientifically impossible, yet it happened. As for the Big Bang theory, I’m sorry how is entropy not related? There is a beginning right? If there wasn’t then we’d have the possibility of just running out of energy in the universe… I’m not sure if you all just assume that chance is zero of the universe just being still, but if it isn’t then it would have happened far earlier than me making this comment.

    1. “There are many scrolls that predate Jesus’s birth that describe things long before they happened or even were invented.”

      You or I could sit down right now and write out 1000 predictions for the future and I can absolutely guarantee you that some of them will come true. Predicting the future and sometimes getting your predictions right is nothing special. People like scientists, economists, politicians and science fiction writers do this all the time. When it works out, is it because they have access to some special, supernatural knowledge too?

  13. I do like comedies Tim! How did you know that?
    Ok, I probably deserved that reaction because I was being overly satirical and sarcastic. Could you be a little more specific about what made my “comedy act” so intellectually lazy? Remember I’m a little slow in the head so use small words.
    I did think Gary’s reply was a good one though.

    1. Hi Jimmy

      I have no problem with comedy/satire. Done properly it can cut through overly patterned thinking and maybe even create that ‘Zen-like’ moment that we probably all experience at some point.

      I think the problem with your approach was that you were resting your case on an erroneous definition of atheism. Atheism is a lack of belief in at least one god-like entity, usually due to (a perceived, if you like) lack of evidence. But your comment assumed that atheism is the complete denial of the possibility that a god-like entity exists, regardless of the (perceived) availability of evidence. In effect, it appears to me that you were confusing methodological naturalism with philosophical naturalism.

  14. What about making a hundred predictions, and every single one of them coming true, because that’s what actually happened. There were 300 prophecies, but some were rather related, so fufilling one equaled fulfilling another. Given that we shouldn’t count all of them. However 300 were fulfilled, but even 50 would be unbelievable yet it happened.

    1. Also there’s a lot of evidence that all of the prophecies fulfilled were all of the ones made, minus the ones about the second coming. So it’s completely different then what you described.

      1. This is way off topic – but surely you’re aware that no-one outside of fundamentalist Christianity takes the subject of Biblical prophecies seriously. Legitimate historians certainly don’t. The mythology of a culture in a former era supporting the mythology of a later era isn’t exactly an unusual trend, is it? Good grief, New Testament historians are still debating whether Jesus was a mythical figure or someone who actually lived.

  15. Yes it in fact is very much off topic. I don’t care if half the world thinks the sky is red. If it’s blue then it’s blue. You don’t have to take it seriously, in fact it’s expected that you wouldn’t. If the bible is infallible then you shouldn’t, because it said that even if the dead would rise they still wouldn’t believe. All I’m saying is we have evidence that the claims were made, and they all came true. So it’s just a pretty significant track record, and if you were looking for proof of God, then I showed that it’s in plain sight. That’s all I’m saying. Have a good day!

    1. OK Physi, in the meantime I’ll keep waiting for the Nile to dry up, no-one to walk through Egypt for 40 years, Damascus and Tyre to be totally destroyed, the population of Jews to equal the number of stars, the Caananite language to be spoken in Egypt, and Jesus to return……

      1. Christians are considered to be adopted into the house of Abraham, Hebrew is a Canaanite language, Egypt already was left uninhibited for 40 years. The rest are end time signs. So what’s your argument again?

        1. “Christians are considered to be”

          How post-hoc convenient in order to fulfil a prophecy! Muslims too? They’re full-on Abrahamic.

          “Hebrew is a Canaanite language”

          It is, but there is no record of Hebrew or Caananite ever being spoken in Egypt on any large scale………in any case, that’s like someone making an explicit prophecy about ancient German years ago and when it doesn’t appear to come true their followers try to tell everyone that English or Dutch or Icelandic (or whatever suits best) counts because they’re Germanic languages. Can you see how desperate that would make them sound?

          “Egypt already was left uninhibited for 40 years”

          Really? Which 40 years was that? What about their unbroken written record?

          “So what’s your argument again?”

          Anyone can conjure up post-hoc just-so stories to make it appear as if a prophecy has been fulfilled. Just look at Nostradamus. Every culture does this. My Islamic friends have plenty of ‘evidence’ re Qur’anic prophecies; they’ve never failed, ever, the Qur’an is infallible etc etc.

          If you want to see how a a real prediction has become fulfilled take a look at the Higg’s Boson. Accuracy to 27 decimal places wasn’t it?

  16. On second glance it looks like that wasn’t quite right, Egypt was taken by king Nebekenezer, which ended up looking like Egypt being uninhabited, but it’s just as likely that it’s an end time sign.

  17. Yes it is rather convenient to say that Christians are part of Abraham’s house, and technically Islam is in fact the descendants of Abraham, but they aren’t considered God’s people. However that’s what the bible says, and if God said we Christians were adopted in a roman culture who’s adoption process makes one essentially the same as a blood heir, then who am I to disagree? Hebrew is still spoken, and it was never said that it had to be the main language, just that it was spoken. The bible actually has a time where the Israelites fled to Egypt, and it talks about 3 cities… So either the other 2 weren’t mentioned, or it hasn’t happened yet. As for the forty years where Egypt was uninhibited, it also said by animals, so that could only be the result of a natural disaster or a human created one, like a nuclear warhead. The original time period I was talking about involved Nebekenezar, and at most that only accounts for human life. Still we’re talking about a very few prophecies, and the rest have already come true, since nothing is stopping these from coming true I really have no reason to doubt they will. After all for all I know there could be another 8000 years until the second coming. God’s perspective and mine are completely different. The past future and present all happen at once to him, and a thousand years is like a day and a day like a thousand years. Plus the speaking Canaanite languages in Egypt could have already been fulfilled. Are there any people of hebrew descent who live in Egypt who also speak hebrew? If so then it could have been fulfilled a while ago. Have a good day!

    1. “technically Islam is in fact the descendants of Abraham, but they aren’t considered God’s people

      Over 50% of those labelled Muslims are aged under 16 years. The next time I’m asked why, as an atheist, why it concerns me that other people believe in god I’m going to quote this comment. Please, theists, try to understand why some of us would find this line of thinking morally deeply disturbing.

  18. “Please, theists, try to understand why some of us would find this line of thinking morally deeply disturbing.”Please realize that theists find it also deeply disturbing. Those who are Christians or Jewish would say that it’s the result of sin, and the consequences are almost always disturbing.

    1. Well, as there isn’t a scintilla of evidence that sin is a reality; that it exists in any shape or form whatsoever outside of the human imagination, then why not just drop the notion? Then you’ll be free of the obvious psychopathological baggage it comes with.

      Of course, there’ll be a downside; you’ll no longer have an excuse to a-priori consider entire populations of people to be less worthy than others, regardless of how, as individual human beings, they’ve actually behaved toward you.

  19. I never said they were less. I only was saying that in Christianity there is no other name given to men, but Jesus in whom they will be saved. In fact all people are precious. Life is sacred however people are evil, and God is just. In Christianity , make or female, young or old, Gentile or Jew, all are the same. So there is no real psychological baggage, just an understanding that evil is in fact evil, and every single person in the world is evil. Yet at the same time everyone is loved, and even though he is a just God, he’s a merciful one who gave the biggest gift anyone could ask for to people who could never deserve it.

    1. Well, even given your ad-hoc reasoning, it sure looks like god’s favoured you. You’ve been very lucky indeed to have been born into a family/society where not only do they believe in one god and one god only, but they happen to believe in just the right god! Unlike one of my closest friends who just happens to have been born and lives in Mosul. Doesn’t look like he’ll ever get to be one of god’s people. But you are. And not only are you one of god’s people, you get to know that you are! What are the odds of that happening to any single human being? Well, it’s actually been calculated. It’s about 33 to 1 against. You might want to read this paper:

      Paul, G. (2009). Theodicy’s Problem: A Statistical Look at the Holocaust of the Children and the Implications of Natural Evil for the Free Will and Best of All Possible World’s Hypotheses. Philosophy & Theology, 19, 125-149.

      The author estimates that only about 3% of all human beings have ever lived long enough, or in the right temporal era or geographical location to have been exposed to the teachings of Christianity. No sir, none of this looks at all like favouritism to me. God’s obviously got no favourites on this planet.

      If I had the power to create a world……I couldn’t possibly think of a fairer, more just and loving way to organise things for my subject inhabitants, could I?

      On the other hand, maybe the reality is that the universe is operating just like…..a universe.

  20. As far as I know Christianity is the largest religion around, and has had the most impact on history. I highly doubt that that 33 to 1 against could possibly be accurate. Christians go to many different countries, even ones where they could be killed simply for going to them. So that just doesn’t seem possible. The King James Version doesn’t even have a copyright, so anyone could print one out. Ultimately it’s also not our fault if everyone doesn’t grow up to be Christian either there’s something called free will. God doesn’t play puppet master. He’s the father and king. Priest and judge. He gave himself as a living sacrifice. There’s also the big question of whether or not children who die go to heaven, and ultimately I don’t know. There are some passages that make it seem like they do, like David’s still born child.., but I have no idea how The Lord of the universe defines the cutoff. Some say the age of reason is around 12-13 others say 7-8 ultimately I don’t know. Basically I don’t know how he made his estimate, whether it was through polls, or what, however I don’t understand how it couldn’t be anything more than a description of an outlier. In the year 2000 it was estimated that 33% of people in the world called themselves Christian… Ultimately I don’t understand how that could possible drop in 14 years to ten times less. Because 33 to one against would be saying 3 percent. That doesn’t sound like the worlds main religion. To give a comparison the estimate of the percent of people who were atheist in 2000 was 2.5%. I really really don’t know how he found his data, but its almost like he was living on a different planet .

    1. Physi, You are misunderstanding the argument completely. Perhaps I didn’t explain myself well.

      It’s reliably estimated by a number of independent researchers in the fields of population statistics and population genetics that the number of Homo sapiens that have ever been born must be 100 billion+ (though there was definitely a bottleneck of only 20-50,000 at one point). Carl Haub is probably the most currently cited researcher in this field. He conservatively estimates 108 billion. This is live births, actual conceptions would be far higher, estimated at 350-500 billion. Even today in countries with modern European style health care about 20% of all conceptions (i.e., souls to you) are spontaneously aborted. This figure was undoubtedly much higher in past millennia. Next, factor in infant mortality rates extrapolated from historical data across the globe and we can see that the percentage of all females who have ever lived and died before the age of five years must be somewhere between 44-60%. These are conservative estimates: male mortality rates are found to be higher than female in every human society at every time studied (indeed 20 billion infants of both sexes are estimated to have died by malaria alone). Then, factor in the total number of those surviving females who have died in childbirth: 5-15%. So we can estimate that, of the 108 billion live births, something like 50 billion humans have made it to adulthood. Christianity has only been around for 2000 years and for the first few centuries was a minor sect. It didn’t even reach most of Scandinavia until about 1000 CE. It’s only reached outside of Europe (apart from a few small enclaves) for about a quarter of the time it’s existed. There are about 2 billion people labelled as Christian today, at a time when the world’s population is by far at it’s highest (it’s increased 6-fold in the past 200 years). So, if the 2 billion figure is accurate, the majority of Christians who have ever lived must be alive today and that means 3% of all Homo sapiens ever born is a perfectly reliable figure.

      Of course, outside of the third world and the USA, the percentage of those who actually attend church and practice the faith suggests that 2 billion is an overestimation. This includes 300+ million Christians in the EU, yet churches are closing down left, right and centre. 80% of the churches in the county I live in are now either derelict or converted to some other use.The village I live in used to have 4 different sects; there are none now. Only 1 in 3 marriages in the county are religious and most of them aren’t sincere; they take place in a handful of the most picturesque churches.

      Your comment on free will assumes that it exists. Yet there hasn’t been a single paper in the field of neuroscience supporting the hypothesis that human beings possess free will. Not one. The pattern of neuronal firing associated with a decision is always found to occur before conscious awareness of making a decision occurs. Our brains act first, then we become aware of the computations they have made. We don’t make conscious decisions, we only think we do. Add to that the shedloads of experimental evidence demonstrating the ease in which human moral and other types of decision-making can be covertly and reliably manipulated and you’d be hard pressed to find either a neuroscientist or cognitive psychologist, any brain scientist, prepared to argue that we have a functional free will in the theological sense. There are one or two here and there, perhaps, but I’ve worked in the field and I can’t recall encountering a single one. The illusion of having free will, or some limited process that mimics free will, sure, but not an effective acausal, libertarian free will such as is proposed by Christian theologians like Alvin Plantinga or JP Moreland. Actually Plantinga has acknowledged the evidence from neuroscience but maintains that he still believes in free will because it remains logically possible.

      Sigh……….

      1. Honestly people are still on the fence on whether people have a sub conscious, I aced psychology, so I already knew about our brain processing information before we act. However that doesn’t undermine the possibility of there being free will. Depending on how you define free will, then I don’t see your argument. I mean If we didn’t, then why would making choices be so difficult? Wouldn’t they already be decided. Unless of course you mean that they weren’t difficult, and I was forced to act like I was processing my options, and any realization was inevitable and decided at the start? As far as I can see denying free will would be ludicrous. Also in my previous comment I was saying that the bible is rather clear that those who are not capable of making a decision to follow him are saved… by this I mean children who are young enough not to understand the bible This is sometimes described by saying that they are too young to understand good and evil. So most of those 60% are in heaven… I don’t know how many, but all of the infants, Probably all of the people under 8 years of age, or maybe even everyone under the age of 12. I’m not God, so I don’t know everything. However I do know that if the evidence in that article is correct, then all it means for Christianity is probably more than half of the people who ever lived are in heaven.

        1. “people are still on the fence on whether people have a sub conscious”

          No they’re not. If you mean a subconscious in the Freudian, Jungian or psychodynamic sense, then there’s no real evidence at all. The bulk of psychology and psychiatry just ignores the notion nowadays. Maybe there’s a few psychodynamically inclined clinical psychologists still hold on to it. If you simply mean pre-conscious processing below the level of conscious awareness, I doubt you’ll find anyone who denies that exists at all. It’s the daily bread and butter of modern neuroscience/cognitive science.

          “why would making choices be so difficult? Wouldn’t they already be decided.”

          I suspect you’re assuming ‘fatalism’ with ‘determinism’ are the same thing and they are the only two alternatives to free will. It’s more complicated than that.

          “Depending on how you define free will, then I don’t see your argument.”

          As a scientist I can define free will according to the way the data goes. As a Christian you don’t have the option of deciding which definition of free will to choose in your arguments. Christianity appears to rely solely on acausal, libertarian free will. Unfortunately for you, this is the kind of free will which is most amenable to neuroscientific experiments. The evidence shows that it doesn’t, and probably physically cannot exist. Other definitions of free will (so-called compatibilist types) might well exist (or free will might not exist at all) but you can’t use compatibilist free will in any fundamentalist Christian theology and leave it intact. You’d have to water down the theological claims to make it work. That’s why Christian theologians who emphasise free will keep insisting that acausal free will must exist (because it fits the logic).

          “As far as I can see denying free will would be ludicrous.”

          Scientifically, no it isn’t. It’s denial is taken very seriously. Day to day, out in the street, yes it’s (as I think Sam Harris said) “a complete non-starter”. Because we have no way of accessing pre-conscious processing by any choice of our own, it appears as if our thoughts pop de novo into existence in our heads and so we assume we (our conscious selves) are responsible. We certainly all experience ourselves as having free will (excepting brain damage of course) and so we have to proceed on the basis of that experience. It’s not an all or nothing affair though. Some experience it more than others.

          I’m interested in something though. If you completed and understood a course in psychology how do you reconcile the inevitable ramifications of neuropsychology research with your belief in dualism? Over the years I’ve seen several religious students question and even drop their beliefs entirely after completing neuropsychological and cognitive science courses.

  21. Ok, so I started reading the article, and though he makes some points, I don’t really see how it matters. If David’s still born child being in heaven means that other children that died also went to heaven, then it would only show God’s great mercy. It would mean that more than half of the people who ever lived are in heaven. How then could one possibly say that God is anything other than good? I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but since he said that most of the people died as children, then that’s that. God is good.

    1. I’m sorry Physi but any being that creates life only to arrange for half of them to die in infancy in likely the most agonising and frightening conditions is not merciful. It’s an evil monster. Imagining that the victims are now in heaven is a suitable recompense is beside the point; they were given no choice in the matter. They have been subject to a celestial dictatorship. A pet for god’s amusement. Why not just make a creation with a bunch of really cool beings and live in a great place like heaven and chill for eternity? What’s the point of the cruel game?

      But then I don’t believe in any of it. Not for a minute. I wouldn’t insult my intelligence or that of others. What’s more disturbing to me is that you apparently don’t see the psychopathy that underlies the story and the intellectual lengths you will go to defend and proselytise on behalf of such a tyrannical and pathological imaginary being. I say intellectual, but of course some theists don’t stop at talking and thinking about these things. They actually act on behalf of the Abrahamic god. Like some Christians did in the past or ISIS are doing today.

      It’s ironic, isn’t it, that the Abrahamic sects supposedly teach morality, peace and humility. You would expect, therefore, that their extremists would be extremely moral, peaceful and humble. Yet in nearly all the sects they’re the exact opposite. It’s not really surprising given the underlying nature of what they believe.

    2. There has been a lot written in here in the last couple of days. Sorry to jump back in, but I wanted to respond to some things.

      Phys writes: [Given a finite amount of energy all we’d have left is heat, and probably given an infinite as well since each section could be considered its own universe increasing the number of then doesn’t matter. So on second thought it really doesn’t matter how many universes there are. It’d just be the same situation played an infinite number of times simultaneously. I think I’ll stick with theism. Science seems to support it.]

      Each section of the universe could not be considered it’s “own universe” because it would not be separate from the rest. If energy can flow from one part to the other (and it can) then you’d have only one system – the universe.

      As for other universes, you can’t say with any authority that the same situation will play out in any of them. There is no way of knowing if the set of rules we have in this universe would be found in any other universe. It’s entirely possible that another universe could have completely different types of matter, conservation laws, more or less than four fundamental forces, etc.

      Science does not seem to support theism. There is zero evidence for theism. Not even one shred of data….science can’t consider that which does not produce data.

      Phys writes: [I mean we should see more anti matter, and in order for it to have happened you’d practically need to rewrite the laws of physics. It ignores the laws of thermodynamics, and frankly without proof it sounds like a fairy tale, and I like my story better.]

      In 1999 neutral kaons were directly observed to decay asymmetrically. In 2001 B meson decay was observed in an asymmetrically decay, followed by D mesons doing the same thing in 2011. They created an imbalance of matter and antimatter. This requires conditions that only existed in the first moments after the Big Bang (extreme temps and pressures). But if you want proof, there it is. It has been shown that it can happen. And since total matter and energy stay the same (because thermodynamics doesn’t care what matter or energy it is, as long as it is still the same amount) no violation of any thermodynamic law occurs. Compare this to the complete lack of evidence for any supernatural claim, and it’s not too hard to see what is a fairy tale and what is not…

      1. Phys writes: [“If it did the theory would have already died long ago.” Personally I always dislike this argument. It seems ill-reasoned. Just because everyone thought the earth was flat, and it wasn’t doesn’t mean that that theory died immediately. They all had “Proof” in front of them that the world was flat, but really they were just interpreting their data incorrectly.]

        You extrapolated my comment too far. I was responding specifically to your charge that matter imbalance makes the Big Bang theory not possible. If that was true the theory wouldn’t still be around. I was not commenting on whether or not the Big Bang will ever be refuted or not. In fact it is practically guaranteed to be tweaked and modified at least a little in the future, given the scope of the theory. But matter imbalance is not a death sentence for it. Given the findings on meson and kaon decay there is more proof than ever for the Big Bang…

        [Also I read up on the Casmir effect, and it seems to be like an energy flow, and fluctuations that have a measurable effect on on Small objects and leads to small movements in larger ones. It seems to act similar to air pressure on a smaller scale and gravity.]

        And it is caused by virtual particles popping in and out of existence, and the ripples they cause in the very fabric of space-time.

        [I say this in that it can pull two walls together due to their closeness to each other that reminds me of the way to boats are puled together when they are driven next to each other.]

        That is not quite the same thing, as that is caused by pressure drops due to velocity through a medium. The plates are not moving and there is no medium (except the medium of space) around the plates.

        [However while the Casmir effect exists, it doesn’t seem to answer anything besides the movement of matter and antimatter. It doesn’t explain the start of the universe Nor does it answer how the big bang could have happened… It doesn’t fix the High entropy state of an always existing universe. Why was it brought up?]

        It was brought up because matter does pop into and out of existence, and the effect of that can be measured experimentally in a lab. If matter can pop into existence then that is a possible answer to your question of where did the stuff in the universe come from. If we have a way for stuff to appear, the rest of the Big Bang theory falls in line. We also know that a matter imbalance can happen, as mentioned in a previous post concering meson and kaon decay, so we can also explain why the matter stayed in existence and did not disappear. On a side note to this (but still related) there was an interesting quantum mechanics paper that came out that showed that empty space is actually less stable than space with stuff in it, which indicates why the universe would happen in the first place.

        Your “high entropy state of an always existing universe” is a non starter. Entropy is a property of THIS universe. What was before this universe? Unknown, but it didn’t have to have entropy as one of its properties. You need to understand that entropy is as old as the universe that we know of. To speculate that it has always existed is pure conjecture…

      2. Ok , so the theoretical conditions necessary for it to happen can be actually created, but could the resultant Big Bang happen? Given a state of total entropy do we have proof that anything would happen? Also the belief in other universes which follow different rules seems just as absurd as the belief in a God if you don’t have any data to suggest their existence.

  22. I really disagree that libertarian free will is described in the bible. There are many verses that say people have free will, yet there are also many verses that say that the past effects people’s current choices. Statements like the eyes are lanterns, and the heart is deceitful stand in contrast to the idea that our past and environment doesn’t have an effect on our choices. The bible often instructs people to stay away from things that would corrupt them. So there is plenty of times in the bible where it’s hinted at that libertarian free will isn’t correct…

    1. As far as I know, free will isn’t discussed in the Bible except some comments about people being free or not to accept god. Buddhism was the only religion around 2000-2500 years ago to discuss free will with any philosophical depth. Augustine was the first Christian to place it within Christian theology and it was just assumed to be present after that. Calvinism, of course, or at least the strictest variations of Calvinism, deny outright that free will matters at all. They claim ‘fatalism’ from their reading of the bible; the whole unfolding of the universe has been planned by god from the outset and certain people are going to heaven and others are going to hell and there’s nothing anyone can do about it whether they exercise their free will or not. That’s right, a god that creates people for no other purpose than to send them to hell! No wonder there aren’t many uber-Calvinists left.

      My comments on free will in Christian theology aren’t to do with the little of what the bible says, they’re to do with the importance placed on our having free will by most contemporary Christian theologians. It’s become a big deal in Christian theology in the past 25 years or so and I can see why. If human beings really don’t have completely free will, the theology collapses. Some of them say as much. If past events, genetics, etc, all wholly beyond our control, affect people’s moral choices without them being consciously aware of it (which of course they do), then on what basis can god judge us? Only those acting from a basis of libertarian free will can be held wholly responsible for their actions, including whether to believe in god or not. Non-Calvinist fundamentalist Christianity collapses if libertarian free will does not exist.

  23. The argument is that your past affects your choices, but not decides them. There’s no argument that alcoholics are more likely to get drunk, however just because you’re more likely to get drunk that doesn’t mean that it’s not wrong. Also it doesn’t mean you’re destined to get drunk. God doesn’t cause people to sin, and he hasn’t done anything wrong, therefore he is in the right position to judge imperfection. Following God’s rules is so difficult that the only one who ever has followed all of them is God himself. Also I hardly care what theologians think. The bible is ultimately the best source for what the bible says.

    1. “The argument is that your past affects your choices, but not decides them”

      So what you’re saying is that antecedents steer us in some decisional direction. OK, I accept that. What follows, doesn’t follow. You’re still talking libertarian free will. You seem to be saying that we have some mechanism necessarily unique to each one of us that is able to override, acausally, all pertinent antecedent conditions such as myriad random physical events, genetic susceptibility, epigenetics, biochemistry etc etc. But how do we know which antecedent conditions to ignore when coming to our decision? We can’t possibly know that consciously.

      The only way around this is to claim, as theologians seem to do, that our individual volition is somehow capable, de novo, of intervening midway through a continuous, rapidly changing (much faster than our conscious awareness) electrochemical causal chain to institute completely novel patterns of neural firing. That somehow, at some point before making a decision the fermions and bosons inside our brains take on different physical characteristics and behave differently than they would if they occupied some other place in the universe.

      If Christians really want people to accept this, especially neuroscientists, then they’re going to have to present some data. Just saying it’s so isn’t good enough, especially when the entirety of empirical evidence is against it.

      If you cannot establish the presence of acausality in human decision making then, as the data suggest, our decisions must result entirely on non-conscious or pre-conscious variables in accordance with the usual deterministic physical laws of the universe. And if this is so, I ask again, what possible basis would a god have for judging our behaviour? It would be like holding a cyclone personally responsible for the devastation it causes or raindrops personally responsible for nurturing a flower to bloom.

  24. OK… I see how Neuroscience shows that we’re already leaning towards doing something, I mean the brain processes information far quicker than we consciously understand something… But what I can’t figure out is if there is a single decision that could be carried out quick enough that this would even matter… We are capable of thought, and very capable at doing analysis… given these we are surely showing that we are beings of intelligence, who can lean on past circumstances in order to make different decisions then prior ones if the prior decisions provided unwanted consequences. So my question is how isn’t that free will? I mean the hypothetical person could have chose to do the same thing as last time, it’d be a bad decision, but they could have chosen it. As long as there are choices like these my question is how could you say that there isn’t freewill. Admittedly our mind works quicker than our consciousness gathering up all environmental data and possibly even an instinctual response, however all responses aren’t learned behaviors, and even the ones that are don’t always happen. Also right now you and I are engaged in a debate… Has there ever been a better display of free will than that? As long as there is free will then God has the right to judge. Also you seem to be denying the existence of consciousness… Is that right?

    1. “So my question is how isn’t that free will?”

      It’s termed compatibilist free will. It’s basically saying that because we are always unable to identify all of the antecedent events (physical, chemical, genetic etc) that have led us to be in a particular situation then, for all intents and purposes, we may as well label what we experience as ‘free will’. The problem for questions of morality is that libertarian free will is still essential for truly and wholly freely made moral decisions. This is still not possible. The actual workings of the universe haven’t changed one iota. Just because we can’t identify the antecedents to the nth degree doesn’t mean they aren’t there. How could they possibly not be? We’re still in the situation that we can’t actually make decisions that are independent of antecedents which we have no control over. We’ve just recognised that we all experience the neuro-illusion that we do make decisions independent of antecedents and relabelled it from ‘not having free will’ to ‘a type of free will compatible with our experience’.

      “As long as there is free will then God has the right to judge.”

      If we are making decisions that are not independent of antecedent chemical and physical events, whatever we choose to call it, then we do not have full control over those decisions. We are at the mercy of the universe and its physical and chemical mechanisms. Look up e.g., the literature on how genetic variability in vasopressin and oxytocin receptors levels can predict people’s moral behaviours including levels of promiscuity and how much new mothers hold their new born babies. Or how neuronal damage to right orbitofrontal structures can change a person’s sexual inclinations. Or how Tourette’s syndrome causes prolific swearing. There’s stacks of this stuff available now. The data increasingly demonstrate that even neurologically normal people have far less control over their moral behaviours than is assumed. The Christian view that people have free will to the extent that they hold responsibility for their moral behaviours is simply contrary to the science. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have a responsibility to protect the community from certain types of behaviours by either treating and/or separating offenders from the general community. That’s all we have available to us. But god is supposedly omnipotent and omniscient so if you consider it OK that he judges people (and sends them to hell) on the basis that they have free will when all of the (increasing) empirical evidence demonstrates that we don’t and quite possibly physically could never have, well, I’ll leave it up to you to see how much the game must be rigged (maybe Calvin was right?) and of course the logical incongruence.

      If you still really think you have free will about important moral decisions, then we should have free will over far less important decisions. Let’s see. Try any of these relatively unimportant decisions:
      Consciously preventing a suitable piece of music from moving you emotionally or consciously making a piece of music that you absolutely hate move you emotionally
      Unliking a culinary dish of which you are fond or relishing a dish you absolutely hate
      Genuinely laughing your ass off at will
      Postponing all your thoughts for one minute……..
      Aesthetic tastes are usually immediate and the result of some weighted combination of variables such as motives, prior likes and dislikes, memories, beliefs, values, exigencies. But how many of those are freely chosen? If they were freely chosen, then they would all need to have been constructed completely independently of each other. That’s just not plausible, philosophically or scientifically.

      “you seem to be denying the existence of consciousness”

      Consciousness exists. It’s an emergent phenomenon of sufficiently complex neurological systems (and who knows maybe computers one day?). An objectively existing individual self probably doesn’t. The data suggest it’s likely a neuro-illusion, like free will. Buddhists figured that one out 2,500 years ago.

  25. I don’t understand how this denies anything, all I can see according to your post is some is decided by genetics, and some is decided by past information… Information like the law of Moses. God provided past lessons for people to learn from… If you’re affected by those and therefore choose morality, then doesn’t it fit within free will as defined by data nowadays? I also don’t understand how you could say consciousness does exist, but not free will. What is consciousness other than a state that allows one to exhibit conscious decisions and therefore free will?

    1. Phys writes: [I don’t bet on things I can’t see and I can see evidence of God far more clearly then I can see evidence of a theory that to me, seems to ignore scientific laws. While being a well reasoned answer it ignores the bigger question. There’s no way for it to have happened given an infinite universe, and I’ve yet to see anything to the contrary. Do you have evidence to the contrary? If so post a link, I’ll look it over and get back to you. If you don’t have evidence, then why are we arguing again?]

      The universe isn’t infinite.

      Why don’t you list some of that “evidence for god” that you see. I’d love to look it over…

      1. One is the messianic prophecies… While technically not being scientific, but rather historical they list many aspects of Jesus’s life from birth, lineage, and death, and there were scrolls found of many of the books if the Old Testament that predate Jesus’s birth. So either it’s a work of god, or there were 300-100 really good guesses made. That’s really the most concrete proof that we have. The key part about these prophecies, is that they were in the Old Testament a minimum of 400 years before Jesus was born. There’s proof that they weren’t added after the fact, so you can’t just say “well anybody could say that, it was added later”. You either have to believe that there’s a serious string of unbelievable coincidences, or the alternative being that it was actually the word of God. I’m not saying it can’t all just be a coincidence, just that I can’t logically follow how that would make sense.The other proof I thought I could use was the laws of thermodynamics, but I can’t seem to get anyone here to agree that the Big Bang breaks them… It’s late at night where I am, so I’m leaving for now…

        1. Phys writes: [One is the messianic prophecies… While technically not being scientific, but rather historical they list many aspects of Jesus’s life from birth, lineage, and death, and there were scrolls found of many of the books if the Old Testament that predate Jesus’s birth. So either it’s a work of god, or there were 300-100 really good guesses made. That’s really the most concrete proof that we have.]

          What about that constitutes proof? I could take a book from 400 years ago, write about a man that supposed to be a god, and in my writings that I make after this man died I can claim he did all the things he was supposed to do. There is no independent verification of a virgin birth, a resurrection, or any other supernatural claim. You are using the Bible to prove the Bible, which is an obvious conflict of interest.

          I picked the first two of the supposed prophecies from Genesis 3:15. Nowhere in genesis does it say the snake is Satan, and the words spoke in 3:15 are from god to the snake. How anyone can take those words and say it predicts a virgin birth and predicts god defeating satan is beyond me.

          If you accept this as “proof” than you don’t have a very high standard of proof. You claim you’re not a bandwagon jumper or one to accept something you can’t see, yet you accept baseless claims from some old writings even though they are dubious and unverifiable…

          [There’s proof that they weren’t added after the fact, so you can’t just say “well anybody could say that, it was added later”. You either have to believe that there’s a serious string of unbelievable coincidences, or the alternative being that it was actually the word of God. I’m not saying it can’t all just be a coincidence, just that I can’t logically follow how that would make sense.]

          The fulfillment of the prophecies were written after Jesus died, by mostly persons unknown, and for which there is zero evidence to substantiate any of it. Forget the various codex that shows the new testament books were edited and changed, just the fact that the “prophecies” (which take a lot of liberal wiggle room) were written as fulfilled does not prove anything. Any independent confirmation of any of it? No. Any data that suggests it could have happened based on what modern science knows today? No. It’s all baseless claims of pure conjecture…

          [The other proof I thought I could use was the laws of thermodynamics, but I can’t seem to get anyone here to agree that the Big Bang breaks them]

          That’s because the Big Bang doesn’t break them.

  26. Phys writes: [There’s actually plenty of scientific proof for Jesus’s resurrection.]

    There is? Outstanding. List some of that too, along with your “evidence for god” if you don’t mind.

    “There are many scrolls that predate Jesus’s birth that describe things long before they happened or even were invented. Jesus fufilled all of them, which seems scientifically impossible, yet it happened.”

    You mean like the passage that says Israel will one day have an abundance of grain? Too bad they import nearly all of their cereals. How about the rebuilding of the second temple? That one is one of my favorites. Those passages were written after the Babylonian Exile, according to theist bible scholars who analyzed the linguistics of the passages, so the “prediction” that the temple would be rebuilt was pretty easy to make because it had already happened when it was written. The best part though? They got the math wrong! They were off by a few years. We know this because of non-Jewish documentation by the Babylonians and others about when the second temple was built. Classic stuff…

    Almost every single book of the bible was written later than when it is claimed to have been written. So the predictive power of the bible isn’t all that special considering the writings predict events that already happened.

    “As for the Big Bang theory, I’m sorry how is entropy not related? There is a beginning right? If there wasn’t then we’d have the possibility of just running out of energy in the universe…”

    You have a fundamental misunderstanding of both entropy and the Big Bang that is causing you to make the same error repeatedly. You have to understand that entropy is a property of this universe, and this universe started at the Big Bang. What was before the Big Bang is unknown, but there is no evidence nor any mathematical calculations that show that entropy existed pre-Big Bang. Talk of an entropy universe of infinite age is nonsensical – there is no proof for any such thing. Even if the total sum of energy + mass existed pre-Big Bang, it didn’t have to experience entropy. Entropy is a time-related thing, and time didn’t exist until space existed (space and time are actually connected).

    1. Gary writes: [Your comment on free will assumes that it exists. Yet there hasn’t been a single paper in the field of neuroscience supporting the hypothesis that human beings possess free will. Not one.]

      Maybe you guys covered this already (there are a lot of posts in here!), but I’ve never understood why a believer thinks there can be free will if their god is all knowing and all powerful. An all knowing and all powerful creature knows what will happen tomorrow, including who is going to die. If that person is murdered then the god creature knows who committed the murder too. So how can the murder have free will when it is already known that he/she is going to commit the murder? It is isn’t free will…

      1. Phys writes: [Ok , so the theoretical conditions necessary for it to happen can be actually created, but could the resultant Big Bang happen? Given a state of total entropy do we have proof that anything would happen? Also the belief in other universes which follow different rules seems just as absurd as the belief in a God if you don’t have any data to suggest their existence.]

        Proof? We have string theory, Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle, the Many-worlds theory, plus others that I can’t think of at this late hour. There are quantum mechanics calculations regarding these things too. I stress that this is not proof like the cosmic background radiation is proof of the Big Bang. These are concepts in their infancy. But it’s an interesting idea.

        In regards to the first part of your post, of course the Big bang could happen. This universe does exist, and there is some evidence pointing to the Big Bang. We don’t know for sure yet, but we do have some data and something to go on.

      2. Hi Tim, you’ve brought up an important point that I didn’t mention before because I thought it would just complicate things. There’s a logical disconnect between our having free will and god being omniscient and omnipotent.

        If we really possess free will then no-one would be able predict our behaviour other than calculating some probability. God included. So, if our thoughts and actions have no antecedents then it must be the case that god (like our fellow humans) continually acquires knowledge about us, including our undisclosed thought patterns, bit by bit over our lifespan in order to be able to more effectively predict our thoughts and actions. He might be able to accurately predict the machinations of the universe but not of us because, unlike other physical processes, we would be free to say, bluff and double bluff any time we wanted. Thus, it follows that for at least some points in our lifespan god cannot be omniscient with regard to each one of us. Yet we would expect an omnipotent and omniscient God not only to be able to have knowledge of our thoughts and so predict our behaviours, but also able to predict his own reactions to our thoughts and behaviours. If he can, this raises the further question as to whether God himself possesses free will or is fated to act (I wonder whether God is capable of surprising himself?)

        If he can predict our decisions with absolute omnipotent-style certainty then we would logically have no choices to make. We might experience ourselves as making free choices (which we do) but we would effectively be fated to make those decisions in order to preserve god’s omniscience.

        So either his omniscience or omnipotence, or our free will, goes out the window. I’ve never read a convincing rebuttal of this, just convoluted just-so stories that blather on about conditional fatalism existing outside of space and time (Christian) and god manipulating logic to suit his purposes (Islam).

        1. Earlier I quoted Isaac Asimov: “So the universe is not quite as you thought it was. You’d better rearrange your beliefs, then. Because you certainly can’t rearrange the universe”

          The research on free will is a good example of this type of intellectual and existential honesty. For most of us, our volition, our free will and the ability to make free choices, is a cherished ability. It’s traditionally helped define us as human and, understandably, most people wouldn’t easily give up the notion that we possess it. Yet most neuroscientists and not a few philosophers are prepared to abandon the concept (or water it down considerably) because of what the empirical data is increasingly telling us. They aren’t all working overtime conjuring up possible mechanisms by which the physical processes in our brains can disregard the physical laws in the remainder of the universe on the basis that the results are unpalatable……..or even that we have to do this to shore up belief in an invisible entity with logically contradictory characteristics lest the sky fall in.

          1. I’ll have to read up some more on the free will thing. As the understanding of the human brain continues to improve, the discoveries we are making about it are truly impressive. Your conversation with Phys has definitely piqued my curiosity…

            1. Hi Tim

              Re free will, may I suggest you start with this very readable discussion paper (I think you can download a free PDF):

              Cashmore, A. (2010). The Lucretian Swerve: The Biological Basis of Human Behavior and the Criminal Justice System. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110: 4499-4504.

              and if you will permit me a shameless plug for my own humble, but longer essay:

              http://www.imagesandmeanings.com/a-determined-critique-of-free-will-theodicy

              the science stuff is in the second half of the paper

              1. Please read the book of Romans. You’ll see a good portion of your essay is unwarranted, as the Catholic Church went against biblical teaching as it has so many times. Anyway if you were going to read one book of the bible and get a view of virtually everything Christians are supposed to stand for then you should read Romans, because it’s practically all in there. Also keep in mind that verses cited out of context take on completely different meaning. The general appearance of God in the verses in Isaiahis one of benevolence, you happened to take one of the only verses that gives a different picture, but together the weave to form a picture of a protector and savior, as well as a righteous king. Try not to sacrifice reliability of evidence just to make a point. It rather ruins your credibility.

                Speaking of which does anyone have any evidence that the Big Bang doesn’t break the laws of thermodynamic? Because I still haven’t seen any. And please do not just say the laws of physics don’t apply, that’s not a scientific response, it’s fantasy.

                1. “You’ll see a good portion of your essay is unwarranted”

                  Nonsense. You’re not familiar with the theological arguments and you don’t want your beliefs to be seriously challenged. The essay is a direct rebuttal. If large portions are unwarranted then so are the original theological arguments.

                  “the Catholic Church went against biblical teaching as it has so many times”.

                  I get tired of this ‘they’re not true Christians’ canard. On whose authority are you able to make that claim? 60% of all Christians are Catholics. The Catholic Church is far and away the giant of Christianity. No other sect comes anywhere even close to that number – the next largest sect, a toss up between Baptists and Lutherans, albeit both splintered into many diverse groups, is <10% of the number of Catholics. So I think Catholics can put up more than a good argument that they best represent Christianity. If you deny that Catholics are real Christians then you’re going to have to concede that Islam is far and away the largest religion in the world. You were quite happy to consider Catholics (and Jehovah’s Witnesses and Unitarians etc) as bona fide Christians when you quoted the 2 billion figure. You can’t have it both ways.
                  The irony is that the very fact you’ve brought this up acts as a cogent demonstration to non-believers that Christianity has no viable methodology in which to ascertain truth.

                  “Also keep in mind that verses cited out of context take on completely different meaning”

                  Nothing is taken out of context. See below.

                  “you happened to take one of the only verses that gives a different picture”

                  I didn’t choose any of those Biblical verses. The purpose of the essay is rebuttal. All the Bible and Qur’anic verses I have used are those which theologians have explicitly employed, in their exact same context, to argue their theodicies. The essay is a direct reply to those theodicies and arguments, using their own source material. Did you actually read the essay properly?

                  “Try not to sacrifice reliability of evidence just to make a point. It rather ruins your credibility.”

                  What an arrogant statement! I’m perfectly aware of what is and what is not reliable evidence. Designing experiments, collecting and analysing data and teaching research methodology is how I made my living.

      1. Hi Physi,
        there was nothing there that we haven’t seen or heard before. To be honest, it’s embarrassingly poor. It reminded me of the dumbed down analysis accompanied by carefully crafted language emanating from Josh McDowell or Norman Geisler. Lines like:

        “It is a fairly well-established fact”: Not a fact, a claim. There’s a difference, e.g., it’s commonly claimed”…..
        “we have demonstrably sincere eyewitness testimony”: Followed by no excerpts from actual eyewitness reports or references to follow up. So no, not demonstrably.
        “Early Christian apologists cited hundreds of eyewitnesses”: Yeah, if you use a completely different definition of ‘cite’ from everyone else who deals with evidence.
        “the fact of the empty tomb”: Again, not a fact, a claim or belief, there’s a difference.

        There is no eyewitness testimony. There are a few people saying that other unnamed people told them they saw things and they report it decades afterward. Imagine it, the guy performed miracles, walked on water, brought people back to life, came back to life himself and then not a single person, not a poet, or an historian, or a politician, or visitor from elsewhere, or another religious figure – no-one at all – thought it was worth mentioning and putting down on parchment for what, at least 20-30 years? And then no-one else for another 10 years, and so on…..Notice how the essay didn’t discuss why that might be so? It’s hearsay supported by post-hoc circumstantially-based attempts to gain credibility. It’s not a proper historical analysis, it’s a theological analysis. There’s a difference.

        If you were to get charged with a murder that occurred 50 years ago and the witness gets up in court and says “I didn’t see it myself but unnamed persons told me that they had seen Physi do it, and it must be true because I have uncorroborated information that by telling me what they saw they put themselves in danger way back when”……..well, there is no way that you or your lawyer or the judge would be willing to consider that sound evidence.

        I recommend you read more widely, e.g., Robert M Price, he’s a veritable walking encyclopedia on New Testament and clearly loves the text. Or Bart Ehrman, or Robert Carroll, or Richard Carrier, or Hector Avalos. You don’t have to agree with everything they say, just compare their sophistication and thoroughness when performing an analysis to the one in the essay you’ve just recommended.

        They even get the definition of methodological naturalism wrong!

  27. Ok, just tell me how it doesn’t break them? Earlier you said that there isn’t proof that the laws of physics actually applied pre Big Bang. So if you’re evidence that it didn’t break them is just by disregarding them then the argument is pointless.

  28. First I was well aware of how you make your living, and it really doesn’t matter to me, I figured it out at 4:00 today. I was actually saying it, because I was surprised at your actions. Second, Just because the catholic church is admittedly the largest of all the denominations doesn’t mean all their doctrines were Biblical based. Their entire hierarchy, saint worship, and existence of sacrificial system is in contrast to the New testament. I’m not denying they’re Christians, I’m only saying that they’ve strayed from their source in biblical doctrine, to whatever their hierarchy says. I’m simply saying that they don’t obey the laws in the bible, offer sacrifices when the bible says Jesus was the last needed sacrifice, and worship Mary as part of the God head. None of that is in scripture. They still believe in Jesus Christ, and for the most part actually follow scripture… well as much as any of us, in the areas I haven’t listed. But actions like the Crusades in the past, and the priests in the past and present are both in contrast to scripture. The Bible is the key source for Christianity, most of my points are indicated in the book of Romans… Once again I also don’t care that you merely took theologians arguments, and verses they used, but it’s kind of sad that they chose that verse. Still given your background I’d expect more fact checking, than offering sorely one sided evidence that paints a completely different picture than the rest of the passage. I really don’t care about position, all I care about is facts, data and truth. As such I prefer to get my information at it’s purest source, and for Christianity that is the Bible. So I don’t care if the Pope says what he believes to be the scriptural truth, if it’s not based on biblical text. Note that I’m not saying that Catholics aren’t Christians, I’m simply saying that out of all denominations I know of it’s furthest from the way the bible describes Christianity. Note: I don’t count Mormonism as a denomination of Christianity.

  29. Physi

    You’re viewing my essay as if I was a believing Christian critiquing Christian ideas I don’t agree with. I’m not. I don’t believe a word of it. That’s the point. Look, when you write a rebuttal, philosophically or scientifically, you’re discussing the weaknesses of the source material on offer. I was critiquing, step by step, a particular style of theodicy, published in several influential books, which has become crucial in support of Christian theology in the past 25 years or so. I don’t care whether these guys haven’t used or interpreted texts in ways that some Christians don’t agree with. It’s not my job to police the endless internecine fighting among Christian sects and their increasingly diverse interpretations of the Bible. You’re claiming that they’re misinterpreting or being selective with their Biblical texts. That’s great, because potentially that’s another nail in the coffin for their theodicy. If those texts are taken out of context then I don’t have to deal with them. They have less of an argument to start with and they’re going to have to work even harder to explain the problem of evil. My goal was to put the case that, when you look at a specific theodicy/defence from a wide variety of angles, it isn’t as robust as they’re making out.

    “I prefer to get my information at it’s purest source”

    Then you must have some consistent, structured, publicly available methodology by which you test the robustness and replicability of that data. Because before we had such a method, we lived in the dark ages.

  30. Fine fine… It wasmt a good source… but as far as I know no one actually denies the empty tomb they just claim the body was stolen.Well in my defense the definition of facts used by atheists vary wildly too. Mainly I just see wild claims about how the laws of physics don’t apply pre Big Bang. Sometimes they say that the universe isn’t a closed system, but in thermodynamics it is there fore the laws of thermodynamics applies. How do I know it’s a closed system? Because pressure chambers expand and they are considered closed systems because mass doesn’t escape into the surrounding matter. So what surrounds the universe. Well by definition the universe is all there is therefore anything past the boundaries is now within them, and so there is no boundaries matter could pass. It’s a example of expansion in a way that couldn’t possibly be contaminated the outside, since there is no outside. Therefore it’d make sense to consider our world and universe obeying the laws of physics. Given that the laws of physics, and therefore entropy applies then the universe is temporary. I can say this because there is no observation to the contrary, which would place the laws of physics in question. So then given all of this tell me how assuming that the big band happened, or any other scientific phenomena could possibly ever explain how our universe came to be… Without denying the laws of physics. If you can’t, then I have to say that atheists are far more religious than I am!

    1. “I can say this because there is no observation to the contrary”

      As Bertrand Russell reminded us, you have to be careful with that one. “There’s a flying teapot in orbit between Mars and Saturn”. I can say this because there is no observation to the contrary. Science would collapse if everyone accepted that methodology.

      I’m no physicist but you seem to be stuck on the idea that the universe that we observe must be the totality of everything that exists physically and has ever existed physically and if the evidence points to a beginning then it could only have happened ex nihilo. It doesn’t follow. As Sean Carroll and Alexander Vilenkin and Alan Guth remind us, there is nothing in our current understanding to suggest that the energy/mass that makes up our universe was created as part of the same event from which our universe emanated. The universe we observe could be a local event with a particular space-time continuum. There’s evidence to suggest that. The energy involved (and the energy that isn’t involved) could have existed in infinitely different configurations before this universe came into being.

      Physicists have an open mind on this and try to work out what’s going on. So a lot of ambiguous data needs to be sifted through. You’re starting with an answer (provided off the shelf to you by a faith system that just happens to be the one that predominates in the geographical local and time era you were born into) and then try to work backwards to find evidence that suits that conclusion (or not). That said, I found this paper on my HDD from some years ago that I never got around to reading:
      http://www.letu.edu/opencms/export/download/chemphys/BigBang.pdf
      It’s a few years old, written by a Christian physicist. It may allay a few of your doubts. Also why not read some of the Christian physicists, there’s a few of them who’ve published work intended for lay people (e.g., John Polkinghorne). I can’t remember his/her name but Stephen Hawking had (or has) a Christian working on his team. They’re still going to know the science, even if their interpretations differ from the majority of their colleagues.

      “but as far as I know no one actually denies the empty tomb”

      Well, I think the majority of people where I live don’t consider it to be an historical event. Probably the majority of mainstream Christians, including clergy (some I know), don’t consider the virgin birth or the resurrection story to be factual, they consider it to be intended as metaphorical. It’s not unusual to be taught that way from the pulpit. The ones that do take it as 100% factual tend to be those with backgrounds in third world countries who attend small, independent churches.

      I’m not going to be able to post so much in the near future, unfortunately I’ve got some more mundane things to do. Regards.

      1. PS – I forgot to add – science is a great unifier of people in that way. Because there’s no such thing as Christian physics, or Muslim chemistry or Hindu biology, science is an incredibly multicultural filed. I worked in a department in a medical school that had staff from 27 nationalities. Once you close that lab door, everyone works together in the same way, unlike in the outside world.

  31. Here’s the thing, you and I are both tackling the universe with biases. Yours is that you don’t believe in God. Whether you like to admit or not this in itself demonstates a level of close-mindedness. Mine is skepticism, and disbelief in people, A belief that if I follow the evidence enough that I’d learn that god was in fact necessary, so I searched and searched, and dozens of hours of research I believe I have. First off I decided to look at the supposed Big Bang singularity. The thoery is that its a infinitely dense singularity with infinite mass. This is probably popular because a large percent of people think this is how blackholes actually are… So I went to NASA’s site and stardate.org. They say the opposite. Instead of taking up zero space, blackhole singularities can be quite large. As a result time is not stopped at the surface… In fact it’s arguably not stopped anywhere. After all it’s density isn’t necessarily infinite. We get that from an asymptote in the equation. Another estimate is that it’s 10^96 times more dense than water. Given this, time was passing as the supposed Big Bang singularity was there. Albeit very very slowly. However the speed of time ultimately doesn’t matter. After all given non infinite gravity time, and entropy both must increase… So where did the singularity come from? Another universe? I say that’s preposterous. The universe by definition is everything (its also a closed system, so please don’t use “it’s not a closed system as an argument”). Now before you bring in the casmir effect, I’d like to say that I did research on that too. I haven’t found a reason to bieve that it really applies in a universe with infinite time, given that its the result of virtual particles “borrowing” electrical magnetic energy. Anyway I expect that I’ve done research on every possible scenario … And checked arguments, yet I didn’t find one, single decent argument for atheism. So why should I believe in something so unscientific as the non-existence of a god? Any proof to the contrary?

    1. You are completely misrepresenting the most common atheist (and the standard scientific) position. Not believing in something is not a proactive stance. It’s not a stance at all. I don’t believe in the Loch Ness Monster and I don’t believe in a teapot in orbit around planets so there’s no onus on me to demonstrate to anyone whether I have such a ‘bias’ and what effect it might have on me.

      Many theists seem to be stuck on this point: The null hypothesis is NOT that god exists and this view is something that must be necessarily countered in order to move on to the next level of investigation. There’s no onus on atheists to ‘prove’ their atheism, that they’ve overcome the null hypothesis.The null hypothesis is just that: null.

      Observing the universe and forming the notion that a god exists is a perfectly reasonable approach to take. I have no issue with that and neither do any atheists of my acquaintance. But by accepting that notion you are effectively generating a scientific hypothesis (assuming this god has effect on the universe), NOT observing a fact. That overarching hypothesis needs then to be tested from myriad angles, and replicated to the point where it would be absurd to deny it. Like it would be absurd to deny gravity.

      Your god hypothesis gets tested everyday. It’s clear that when we live our lives not having any knowledge or belief in god it makes absolutely no difference to the tidal patterns, or the weather, the speed of light or which powder washes our clothes best. To all intents and purposes, the concept of god is superfluous. Just on that alone, we are nowhere near to confirmatory evidence. It’s not a bias that a god doesn’t exist – our microscopes might not get down small enough, our telescopes not see deep enough into space, whatever. It’s not a matter of bias, it’s a matter of being honest about the results of the experiments and observations. The null hypothesis remains the case.

      You can’t just assume your hypothesis is true, no matter how much you’re in love with it and worship it. You have to provide evidence not only that a god exists but that he has effect; that there is no other conceivable means by which what we observe could not have occurred in any other way. Like we now know that gravity could not occur in any other way. We’ve had to discount all of the alternative hypotheses for gravity, one by one, and so add to our knowledge bit by bit. It’s a tried and trusted method. Heck, we know for sure it works. If you have a better method, scientists will be falling over themselves to try it out. And so we have to do the same for the overall hypothesis that a god exists and has effect. Hypothesis by hypothesis, experiment by experiment, one by one, bit by bit. Religious belief is NOT entitled to a free pass. This is not a bias, it’s simply expecting all of scientific investigation to play by the same rules. Just because there’s gaps in our knowledge does not entitle someone to a free explanatory pass. The null hypothesis is always null, not god. You have to get off your backside and do the hard work of investigating the mechanisms behind the universe if you want the null hypothesis to lose support.

      But this is important: Not believing in god IS NOT an hypothesis. It’s not even a null hypothesis. Just like not believing that demons cause Ebola is not an hypothesis. Hypotheses are always couched in positive terms – that X will happen if Y is present, or that we will observe X if Y is manipulated like so etc – it is logically impossible to formulate an hypothesis that says god does not exist (which is what you’re claiming atheists do). It’s not a positive statement. So how can not believing in god bias experimentation? It can’t.

      Where I think you’re confused is that you’re conflating methodological naturalism with philosophical naturalism. One is a tool used to investigate phenomena and the other is a philosophical stance that exists totally independently of that tool. Many theists (most) are methodological naturalists in their daily lives, whether they know it or not. If you lose your car keys you assume there’s some mundane physical explanation and not that they’ve magically disappeared into another dimension. So you go and look for them somewhere physical. That’s methodological naturalism at work. All those that work in science are methodological naturalists. It’s possible to be a methodological naturalist and not a philosophical naturalist. The thing is, however, that being a philosophical naturalist won’t affect scientific research because it’s not a method of investigation. It might affect your worldview, sure. But that’s not a problem. There are a few big names in science who are out of the closet philosophical supernaturalists, but it doesn’t affect in any way the way they conduct their science, so why should philosophical naturalism cause such a bias? The notion that science comes to erroneous conclusions because the people who conduct the science are biased is not even wrong. Out of all human endeavours science is by far the one that tries its best to prelude bias from experimenters and has built in systems, like statistical analyses and peer review, to do just that. How does religion strive to preclude its biases I wonder?

      Most scientists I’ve ever met would describe themselves as provisional methodological naturalists on the basis that anything other than physical effects have yet to be observed. That’s ‘have yet to’, not ‘will never’. No hypothesis claiming the existence or effect of extra-physical effects has ever overthrown the null hypothesis. Ever. Not once. In hundreds of years of trying. It’s time that some people started to look this square in the eye and get honest with themselves.

      Think about it this way: if evidence for god really existed and was as obvious as some people claim, why would theists be forever formulating logical arguments? You don’t need to formulate logical arguments for the existence of the Ebola virus. We just observe it. Why would theists rely so heavily on scripture? Name me one thing that we know about the universe that we couldn’t possibly know if it wasn’t for scripture. Whatever scripture, from whatever culture. There isn’t anything. We didn’t need revelation to calculate the speed of light or formulate geometry. Why talk about “other ways of knowing”. Why would we even need other ways of knowing unless it’s to convince ourselves that somehow these other ways of knowing will act to support what we already claim to know but cannot demonstrate? Think about it.

    2. I don’t know how I can explain entropy, thermodynamics, the Big Bang, and quantum mechanics any better to you Phys. You are still making the same errors as before in your understanding. You keep talking about entropy in an infinite universe. No one is saying the universe has been around for an infinite time. Read “The Beginning of Time” by Stephen Hawking for a good explanation. If the universe was infinite ,entropy would have made it completely diffused energy wise. The universe isn’t that way, so that indicates the universe had a start. The Casimir Effect and the Lamb Shift weren’t brought up to be considered in an infinite universe. They were mentioned specifically in response to your question about the source of matter in the universe. Particles wink in and out of existence. So we are not talking about an infinite universe with infinite entropy. The universe had a start, at which point time-space came ino existence, and entropy began.

      I don’t know what argument you are trying to find “for atheism”. What sites did you check? Atheism is a lack of belief in divine creatures. The root of that is not an argument for disbelief as much as it is a lack of an argument for belief. As I mentioned earlier there is no proof of the supernatural. Gary already covered your link (thank you for posting that by the way), so we still don’t having anything verifiable. I’ve asked a lot of people over the years for proof, and I’ve yet to receive anything. Not even one scrap of data. That’s what maks me an atheist – I’ve got no reason to think that the supernatural is real…

  32. “I don’t believe in the Loch Ness Monster and I don’t believe in a teapot in orbit around planets so there’s no onus on me to demonstrate to anyone whether I have such a ‘bias’ and what effect it might have on me.” Well you’re wrong that the null hypothesis is not believing. The null hypothesis is simply no hypothesis at all. Of course one couldn’t really live that way. If you believe something doesn’t exists then there’s no reason to look into it. On the contrary one might be led to believe something based on his belief that the other can’t be true. This is the atheist lens. It’s why neither party understands the other. If one were simply in the middle, one party would likely understand, but neither do. I’m not misunderstanding anything. Frankly I’m just tired of arguments without any proof. That’s why I offered some in my post… Which you decided to plainly ignore… Also religion doctrines do have a way to check them selves. It’s called a congregation. The problem with the Catholic Church is the hierarchy is some what already set, and the people in charge have very little checks over what they say. This is a failure to peer review. On the other hand some churches hold religious debates of sorts. If its done well the basis would be the bible, which is considered the word of god, and therefore accurate. It’s not all that much different than what’s going on here, only the Christians make sure they have evidence for their claims. After all what matters is what’s true, not what you’re led to believe is true. Honestly read my post, I made some decent arguments, and cited NASA as a source. Last time I checked that’s reliable… Or are you simply ignoring it because I’m right?

  33. See the problem with your argument is that atheists aren’t just not believing in god, but believing he doesn’t exist. The difference is important. Not having an opinion is the lack of any belief. Believing that there isn’t something which you can’t prove is rather different. Therefore having no opinion is null. To have an opinion leads one to feel some way about something. Not having an opinion does not. Having an opinion makes you reject others. Not having an opinion does not. Believing in something you can’t see, whether it’s several unidentified phenomena or one god is the same. Atheists don’t have the upper ground you only believe you do and therefore see the world through that lens. It’s rather hypocritical don’t you think? Two illogical arguments, two unexplained stories, yet one thinks he’s holier than thou, and the other is a Christian. I care to explain, and give an argument, in the hopes that I’m not talking to someone who’s completely biased. Apparently I might be inherently wrong in that assumption. Hopefully you’ll actually care to explain your side, otherwise I’m only led to believe that you really don’t have any answers at all, and then why do you believe what you believe?

  34. Thank you Tim. I now see my error. There’s no infinite time, because an event occurred in which matter and energy instantly appeared for no known reason, out of nothing, not even thin air. There’s nothing supernatural there… Nothing at all. I’m sorry did you really just use that argument? You outlined the need for something supernatural regarding the laws of physics, just like I have. Then you followed it up with therefore the universe hasn’t always been here. That’s what I’ve been saying all along. Just matter can’t be created it destroyed, and virtual particles only matter if there is Electro magnetic energy, since they borrow from it, meaning there’s no known source for the universe. You’re believing in something we have no proof of. Ergo why do you think atheists are being more logical than Christians? It seems like at least being somewhere between atheist and agnostic would make more sense. After all your argument seems to point toward the need for the unexplained, and I’d argue that it’s close minded to think that it couldn’t be a god.

    1. “an event occurred in which matter and energy instantly appeared for no known reason, out of nothing, not even thin air”

      Don’t you think the fact that no physicist – ever- (even Lawrence Krauss) – has actually said that might be a clue that you’re barking up the wrong evidential and theological tree here. Last time I looked it was Christians and Muslims who were insisting god created the world ex nihilo, from absolutely nothing, being 100% certain that’s the case – the alternative for them, of course, being pantheism (which you may be surprised to know is a view I’ve actually got some sympathy with – but again, there’s no evidence, so I don’t organise my life as if it’s a reality, I’ve got more existential honesty than that).

      Physicists are actually saying that we have no reason or evidence to assume that the energy involved in the event we label as the big bang was created as part of the same event. Unlike you, they’re keeping open minds about the source and the reason for the energy.

      That’s assuming there is a reason or purpose, we can’t just assume there is, can we? After all, if god exists as you claim, what’s his purpose? How did he acquire that purpose? Oh that’s right, he’s doesn’t need a purpose he’s his own purpose! Then why can’t the universe be it’s own purpose? But like I said, I’m not a pantheist. But it makes more sense to me than ex nihilo creation from a disembodied consciousness that has always existed and is it’s own purpose and hates homosexuals and used to hate loads of other things like wearing mixed fibres and shellfish, and not forgetting Amalekites, but has now apparently changed his mind, except for the gay thing (or at least that what some of his believers say) since his son came down to earth to be a man born of a virgin mother (i.e., human parthogenesis, then he must have been a woman!) to save us from the sin that god decided to place on our species in the first place because one of the first two humans performed a dietary indiscretion. But, of course, he loves us so much that he even created a special place to torture us if we don’t love him back. What a guy! Love to hang out with him!

      And you accused physicists of indulging in fairy tales…..

      The fact is there is zero empirical evidence for anything even vaguely resembling supernatural causation – of any kind – in any field of science – we have only ever identified physical causation, and there is absolutely zero evidence also that a consciousness can exist without a physical substrate – we have never observed this – then surely it is not unreasonable to hypothesise that the beginning of the universe will have a physical causation too.

      You can make all the accusations you want about people’s motives and you can invent all the theological just-so stories you want but at the end of the day you will still have zero actual evidence for your hypothesis.

      So I don’t understand why you’re arguing the toss. Why not do what people like William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga do and just claim that, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to me that the evidence for god isn’t there, or will ever be there, because god put his spirit inside me and let me know he exists……..

  35. Phys writes: [So why should I believe in something so unscientific as the non-existence of a god?]

    First, let’s look at the definition of the word “belief”. Every dictionary has it a little different of course, but in general the word “belief” as it relates to this discussion is to consider something as true DESPITE sufficient evidence to support that belief. “Belief” is synonymous with faith. Being an agnostic atheist is to have no belief in divine creatures BECA– USE there is not sufficient evidence to support that belief. Atheists don’t believe anything because we see nothing that suggests divine critters exist. That’s the point Gary was making to you, to which you responded: [Well you’re wrong that the null hypothesis is not believing. The null hypothesis is simply no hypothesis at all. Of course one couldn’t really live that way.] Let me try to explain it in different terms. In a court of law, the claimant is the one that has to prove their case. If the government charges you with a crime, they have to prove that you did it. As the defendant you can provide information and data as well to defend yourself, but no matter what the government is the one responsible for proving that their claim is accurate and true. In this discussion you are the one claiming a god exists. The burden of proof falls in your lap. You’ve already been asked for this proof by the way, and we have yet to see anything that can pass for verifiable.

    Second, the atheist stance is not “unscientific”. The scientific method requires data in order to study and make determinations. Gary and I are saying we don’t see any evidence, any data, that indicates that there is a supernatural. Therefore, there is nothing TO consider. That is an accurate scientific statement on the matter based on the lack of proof. Believers hold the unscientific point of view because they claim something is true without the ability to prove their claim.

    [Any proof to the contrary?]

    You cannot prove that something does not exist. That is false logic. Something that does not exist does not create data or information. If it doesn’t exist it can’t interact with things that do and create evidence. You can only prove that something does exist. As you are claiming a deity exists, you are the one that needs to provide evidence. If you cannot prove that something exists, the only rational conclusion to reach is that it does not exist.

    Got any proof?

    [Frankly I’m just tired of arguments without any proof]

    But you believe in a god. The irony of that statement is outrageous.

    [See the problem with your argument is that atheists aren’t just not believing in god, but believing he doesn’t exist. The difference is important. Not having an opinion is the lack of any belief. Believing that there isn’t something which you can’t prove is rather different. Therefore having no opinion is null. To have an opinion leads one to feel some way about something. Not having an opinion does not. Having an opinion makes you reject others. Not having an opinion does not. Believing in something you can’t see, whether it’s several unidentified phenomena or one god is the same. Atheists don’t have the upper ground you only believe you do and therefore see the world through that lens. It’s rather hypocritical don’t you think?]

    Atheists don’t think they have the upper ground, or that they are better. Atheists simply understand the meanings of the words belief, faith, science, evidence, proof, and data, and understand what is and isn’t verifiable information and what is opinion. I’ve already explained the difference between DESPITE the lack of evidence and BECA– USE of a lack of evidence. That is what matters.

    If you really want to call atheism a belief, or even a religion as some cultists do, be my guest. Call it whatever you want. At the end of the day there is one thing that you cannot possibly get around – that your dogmatic belief system is baseless, devoid of even one scrap of empirical evidence to support it. That’s always the end result of these conversations. Your stance is based on illogical conjecture. Sorry if that is blunt, but that is the truth.

    1. See to me, there may not be any evidence of the supernatural, but the lack of a way for the universe to happen without it is a red flag. To me if there is an impossibility, and you have data about nearly every circumstance, and there isn’t anything that points to it happening another way, then that alone would be significant evidence. And if you gather all of the data we have, that’s what we see. Is it proof of the supernatural? Of course not! Would the existence of the supernatural be much of a stretch? It seems like the only logical choice. The word belief in the bible really best translates to trust then it does faith. Most of the evidence that actually supports Gods existence wouldn’t hold incourt. However there isn’t even any evidence of the Big Bang singularity, even being a possibility. No amount of space/time distortion makes having no size at all seem like a possibility. I say no size at all, because do long as it exists entropy would increase, but if it was completely nonexistent, yet existent then I’m not sure how to comprehend that, and I’m not sure how to apply physics to nothing while nothing is subsequently everything…. There’d be no equation to use. This is of course going with the idea that the singularity always existed, but could really apply to a situation of “the energy that started the Big Bang came from a prior universe which came from a prior universe” style of illogical argument. Since given infinite time, which would be the only real option given matter exists, and no God was involved, then the second law of thermodynamics which applies to all closed systems, such as the universe states that we’d end up in heat/cold death. This is my proof that a natural cause doesn’t make sense. Also I’d Lind to say that in a court of law there is two sides, and both offer evidence. I don’t see why Atheists should be any different. Have a good day! Take care everyone!

      1. “the energy that started the Big Bang came from a prior universe which came from a prior universe” style of illogical argument.

        Physi, you really need to lift your game. No-one relevant to the subject assumes such simplistic philosophical arguments seriously any more.

        How is your argument any different from “the energy that started the universe came from a consciousness which existed infinitely prior to the universe” style of illogical argument? Without invoking special pleading because god?

        For a start, you’re relying on the assumption that logic, as we know it, necessarily exists outwith our universe. But we have good evidence that it doesn’t even exist at every spatial/temporal scale within our universe. For example, the Law of Noncontradiction certainly doesn’t seem to apply at subatomic levels. Consider for example:

        Andreyev et al. (2000). A triplet of differently shaped spin zero states in the atomic nucleus 186Pb. Nature, 405: 430-433

        Their findings are patently illogical. And wholly physical.

        You might benefit from reading Quentin Smith or Wes Morriston on the possibility of actual physical infinities, past and future. Smith is an atheist philosopher with a really good grounding in mathematical physics who’s not afraid to debunk atheist arguments if they’re not up to scratch, while Morriston is a Christian philosopher who is not afraid to say he’s embarrassed by many of the arguments put forward by theists. His critiques of the Kalam Cosmological Argument are among the best (and clearly explained).

  36. Ok, I really don’t have problems with physical infinities, unless it’s infinite density. Infinite mass, fine. Infinite energy, fine. Infinite volume fine. However even given all of these the 2nd law of thermodynamics applies. You’d still reach maximum entropy, the maximum entropy would just need to be measured per volume… Given everything is infinite. Also atheist and theist arguments for the most part are embarrassing. It feels like an elementary school classroom.

    1. How can you possibly know that the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics – any Law of Thermodynamics applicable to our universe – exists outwith our universe? As with logic, you’re just assuming that it does.

      The second Law of Thermodynamics is an observed property of this universe. We have no evidence at all to suggest that it is an ontologically necessary property of all possible universes or realms of existence, prior or subsequent to this universe.

      If we’re really serious about wanting to know how the universe (and beyond) works, we have to work slowly but surely, moving forwards from what we can be sure of, not immediately leaping to mythology, speculation and subjective existential desires.

  37. Here’s the thing… It’s not a big leap. As far as I know The only thing that’s needed for the 2nd law of thermodynamics to mean something is matter or energy. It seems like a more radical leap to assume we ‘ll not have matter and energy, but rather something of a third type… But of course arguing with you has proven meaningless… As the good book says Proverbs 26 4-5 “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.” I think this has become both a type one, and type two. Unless the heavens open and God actually speaks out loud you won’t believe, and even then it’s a toss up. As much as I care about you all, logical arguments just don’t work when talking to people. People are very illogical creatures. Have a good day everyone ! Take care, and try to keep an open mind, both on what you can’t see and what you can.

    1. Phys writes: [See to me, there may not be any evidence of the supernatural, but the lack of a way for the universe to happen without it is a red flag.]

      How do you know the universe cannot happen without a god? No human being is capable of saying, with 100% certainty, that the only way the universe can exist is if a divine creature made it. Just because we don’t know how it started, or what might have existed pre-Big Bang, does not mean Zeus did it. That is the argument from ignorance that I posted about previously.

      There is also a rather huge logical hole in the argument that a god created the universe. let’s say the universe, an incredibly large and complex thing, full of an incredible amount of matter and energy, cannot happen on its own. That means a goddess had to create it, and if that goddess can create a universe than it is even MORE complex than the universe. But where did this complex creature come from? We’ve established that nothing as complex as a universe can exist on its own, it has to be created, so that means that the goddess must have also been created. But what created the goddess? It is incredibly complex too, so something must have created the what that created the goddess…on and on and on. It’s a illogical circle…

      Of course believers will just say that the divine creature just always existed. That doesn’t rectify the logical problem however. By saying that, they create an exception to their own premise that something as complex as a universe has to be created. If a goddess can just happen, then something less complex comparatively, like a universe, can also just happen. So therefore a universe can happen without divine intervention.

      Adding a supernatural reason into the existence of the universe actually makes that explanation more complex, not less. Now you have 2 incredibly complex things existing instead of just 1. Call it Occums Razor, call it the KISS principle, call it whatever you want, adding gods to the mix just increases the complexity, and the simpler answer is usually the best.

      1. “No human being is capable of saying, with 100% certainty, that the only way the universe can exist is if a divine creature made it. ” You’re right about this. All we know is that all things observed scientifically couldn’t have started it, and all things observed would already be at thermodynamic equilibrium. In other words I can’t tell you for sure, I can only say that atoms couldn’t, no mass of energy would be enough. Virtual particles don’t apply. That even if the universe was infinite it wouldn’t matter, and that nothing in the universe is dense enough to completely stop time. So I can’t say that I can prove that the universe needs a deity, but a spiritual entity who isn’t made of mass and energy sure seems more logical than denying everything we know about the universe and assuming that there isn’t a god. It just seems like the intelligent approach. Given all the evidence I don’t understand why you would believe something so irrational. I mean I’d understand having doubts about the existence of a God, but with all the evidence, how could you starkly say that there isn’t even the possibility of a God. And given that the existence of a God seems more likely, why do you think I’m the one that has to prove his existence? In probability the null hypothesis is the most likely one, and the alternative has to be proven. Given all the evidence isn’t the atheists side the alternative? I mean I can’t say for certain, but don’t you think 95% would be low assumption for the likelyhood that a Deity does exist?

  38. The argument that nothing as complex as a deity could exist without being created is one that makes all theists groan. After all God was a being in spirit form. Therefore the second law of thermodynamics probably doesn’t apply. It’s already stated that it’s a being that exists outside of time and space. You’ll never win an argument with a question like “who created God?” All that’ll happen is the person will look at you strange and wonder how is that even a question. Nowhere in the laws of physics are spirits described, therefore it’d be pointless to apply the laws of physics to something not observed in nature. It’d be like applying applying a simple harmonic motion equation to a car crash, it just doesn’t make sense. a theoretical being who isn’t made of matter or energy existing forever doesn’t go against the second law of thermodynamics. It only is the point that is missing. It’s as I said earlier, the universe would be dead without something existing of a third type. I believe in a third type, I just call it God. Have a good day.

    1. Physi, you lack a coherent, systematic and comprehensive process when dealing with these issues. You go full-on ad hoc. You’re blithely inserting any just-so story that fits nicely into your theology without checking to see if it demonstrates internal validity with the other elements of your theistic argument.

      For example, no-one is claiming that physics as we know it exists outside of the observed universe. No-one is claiming that the supernatural must work according to the laws of physics that we observe. Or, indeed, any laws at all. But if the supernatural has effect on our observed universe we would be able to observe and measure that effect. If we don’t (and in actuality we don’t) how is that situation any different to the supernatural having no effect on our universe or not existing at all? On what basis can you claim that a supernatural exists when all we painstakingly observe are natural processes?

      And why stop at physics; wouldn’t it be pointless to also apply the laws of logic to something not observed in nature too? We don’t even observe the same type of logic everywhere in the universe we can observe. Yet every Christian argument for the existence of a god takes the form of logical argumentation. It just doesn’t make sense. It’s simply conflating the relative importance and truth claims of deductive and inductive arguments. It’s a form of special pleading.

      Just like your rebuttal to the question where did god come from? – a perfectly reasonable (and we note, completely unanswered) question, as well as what is god’s purpose? – again, you have no choice but to resort to special pleading (god must always have existed, it makes logical sense!). So what if it does make logical sense? Not that it does. You should read Christian philosopher Wes Morriston’s take-down of the special pleading in the god must have existed forever story.

      For the umpteenth time, just because a set of premises make logical sense does not guarantee that either they, or the conclusion reached, is true. Not without special pleading.

      The problem with your approach is it’s not an approach exclusive to metaphysical questions or even theism. How do you deny special pleading to other arguments? Anyone can resort to special pleading to support their view of the universe – schizophrenics excel at it. You should listen to some of their clinical interviews. They go full blown supernatural sometimes and occasionally they have an uncanny sense of internal validity in their arguments. In the absence of empirical evidence, why should we listen to you and not the often highly structured arguments made by schizophrenics with an intact high IQ? On what basis, then, can we pronounce one set of claims true and the other, similar claims, a delusional state? And please don’t say the bible…….you’re going to have to special plead the validity of that too……

      Here’s another question for you: if, per the ontological argument for god, he is the most perfect being, then before he allegedly created the universe, the entirety of existence would have been a perfection. Agreed? The universe is demonstrably not perfect (not least because we can imagine a universe which would be more perfect); therefore by his act of creating the universe god has, in actuality, lessened the degree of perfection in existence. Yet according to the ontological argument, god cannot (logically) do this because he is perfect and always acts perfectly. Whenever this point is raised, you can hear those special pleading cogs whirring away in the Christian brain. Can you give an answer that doesn’t involve special pleading, I wonder?

      1. Just to add something I’ve recently come to understand about the theory of relativity that may pertain to this discussion. It was asked “where the energy came from” for the singularity. Well, according to relativity, it came from nowhere. Gravity is a negative energy in relativity, and the other energies (including mass, which is just a state of energy) are positive. Add up all the gravity with all the other energies, and you get a zero sum.

        So it seems that the energy in the universe is just different parts of….nothing. Fascinating stuff.

  39. Hi, Physitheist and others! I’ve just found this site (looks great) so I thought I’d chime in on this discussion. I don’t know nearly enough physics to contribute to that side of it, but wanted to add this thought that occurred to me a few years back (with apologies if anyone added this already, as I’ve skimmed a lot of the debate).

    Suppose that either this argument, or evidence that emerges in the future, were indeed to prove that the Universe could not have come into being without some kind of initial external creative impulse being involved. Where, in practice, would that get us? I mean, sure, it’d technically abolish atheism and we’d all be theists instead of atheists, but what difference would it make beyond that?

    As far as I can see, we’d still know nothing whatsoever about what kind of being(s) might have been responsible for the creative impulse. We wouldn’t know whether it was one being or many working together, and, if it was a single being, we wouldn’t know whether it was the only one of its kind or one of many. We wouldn’t know whether it was conscious in the sense we understand the term, or took any particular interest in its creation having created it, or, if so, whether that interest included any interest in our species (which is, after all, one of billions of species on a planet that’s one of billions of planets in this universe), or whether it had any expectations of us, or what those expectations might be if so, or whether it had created any sort of after-death experience for us or what *that* might be or whether the type of experience was contingent on anything about our behaviour during life or… you get the picture.

    Of course, most people probably would leap to the conclusion that the creative power came from a being who matched whatever their existing religious belief taught them about the universe’s creator or creators; or, if they didn’t already have a religious belief, whatever their cultural default belief was. So the churches would end up fuller (and in other countries the mosques and synagogues and temples and whatever would end up fuller) and many religious people would talk smugly about how they were right all along. But, in fact, there would be no logical reason to assume that any of that followed. In practical terms, nobody would be any further forward in terms of having proved his or her religion to be correct.

  40. You’ve brought up a lot of other interesting discussion points above. I wonder if it would be worth you posting them as separate questions on the main site so they could a) get seen by more people instead of being lost in this thread, and b) be discussed separately instead of getting mixed up? (Granted, the last is probably overoptimistic – any discussion on this subject is going to end up with lots of ‘yes, but what about…’ tangents.)

    Anyway, responding to them here: Firstly, you said there was a lot of scientific evidence for the resurrection. As far as I can see, the only evidence we have is that 1. Jesus was pronounced dead in an era when we understood vastly less about how to confirm death than we understand today, and 2. at some undetermined point after his death people began to believe that his tomb had been found empty and that he would come back to his followers, followed at some undetermined point after that (possibly some years later) by people believing that he had been *seen* after his death by several of his followers, reporting this in conflicting stories that show signs of developing over time. I have to say that doesn’t strike me as compelling evidence of anything. I will read the site you posted about it, when I get time.

    You also said that there were somewhere between 100 and 300 prophecies of Jesus’s life which he fulfilled. I was interested in this some years back and spent some time looking up several of these prophecies to form my own opinion on them, and what I found was that most of them seemed not to be prophecies at all, but to be passages that happened to sound like something that was said to have happened in Jesus’s life and had therefore been quoted out of context as prophecies. Alternatively, some of them (in particular, the prophecy about his birth in Bethlehem) seem to have been genuine prophecies where the story of Jesus’s life was doctored post hoc to fit in with them (look at the contradictions in the Matthew and Luke stories of how he came to grow up in Nazareth despite having been born in Bethlehem). So in fact I didn’t find that to be compelling as proof of anything.

    What Jesus *didn’t* fulfill, as I soon found out when I read the biblical prophets and read more about what the term Messiah actually means within the Jewish religion, were the actual prophecies referred to as Messianic by the Jews. Those prophecies speak of a time when the Jewish people will be liberated from their oppressors and live under conditions of peace and prosperity under the rule of a descendant of King David, who came to be referred to as ‘the Messiah’ by the Jews, as ‘Messiah’ (anointed one) was their term for kings (also for priests, by the way, but that’s irrelevant here). Since this time of liberation, peace and prosperity did not in fact come to pass, and Jesus did not end up ruling over the Jews, he did not fulfil the Messianic prophecies. Hence, whomever he may or may not have been (my personal vote is for him being a charismatic member of the Jewish people who became one of many would-be Messianic claimants throughout history), he was not the Jewish Messiah.

  41. Hi, Physitheist! I’ve had a chance to read the link you posted above on evidence for the resurrection (http://www.gotquestions.org/why-believe-resurrection.html). I’m going to try to post a response to each of the arguments the page makes, in order.

    First argument made: There were hundreds of eyewitnesses, some of whom documented their alleged experiences.

    The last part of this simply doesn’t seem to be correct; as far as I know (and I’m happy to be put right on this if I’m wrong) there are no records of *anyone* documenting a first-person experience of seeing a resurrected Jesus. The closest thing I know of is Paul’s comment in 1 Galatians about his experience, which reads more like a description of a spiritual experience (such as a Christian might give today) and has nothing about it to suggest Paul witnessed a physical Jesus. (This, of course, is backed up by Luke’s second-hand account in Acts, which only has Paul seeing a light, not a body, and reports different experiences for the men accompanying him, suggesting that this was some sort of spiritual/psychological experience for him and not an encounter with a physical Jesus.)

    The only account claiming there were ‘hundreds’ of eyewitnesses is Paul’s, and it’s hard to believe the Gospel writers wouldn’t have mentioned such a thing if it were true. This, moreover, is the same Paul who was willing to mislead people into thinking he still observed the Jewish law if he thought that would win more converts for the church (see Acts 21:20 – 26 and 1 Cor 9:20), so he clearly was prepared to… well, stretch the truth… in the name of convincing others. So an unverified claim from him just isn’t really valid evidence.

    What’s more concerning, though, is that the earliest accounts – the early versions of Mark – don’t contain *any* accounts of witnesses. All we get in Mark is the story that some people found the tomb empty and were told by an unidentified man that Jesus had risen. All the stories of witnesses to a resurrected Jesus come in the later accounts.

    Now, I can believe that over the years, as the story was passed on from one person to another, it could become exaggerated or changed and all sorts of myths and legends might have grown up around it, to the point where people were saying “And did you hear that so-and-so saw Jesus actually risen from the dead…!” when in fact no such thing had occurred. I find it a lot harder to believe that Mark *wouldn’t* have included such amazing evidence for the resurrection if such stories were around at the time. It seems to me that the eyewitness stories are practically certain to have arisen later, over time, rather than being actual claims of eyewitnesses.

    Hope that’s a good start. I’ll leave it at that now and try to get to the rest when I have a chance.

    1. Doc – The things that are written in the bible are, at best, third party heresay. Biblical scholars agree that the vast majority of books were written later than what is claimed, and by authors unknown. Moses and Solomon and Isaiah didn’t write those words, other people did, and they wrote them years later (after the events they “prophesied”). Not just secular scholars, but theist ones from Christian, Jewish, Orthodox, and other sects, agree to these conclusions. The bible is really nothing more than a grand fabrication.

      1. Tim, that is not even close to correct. You say “Biblical scholars” but don’t mention any. I have read from many Biblical scholars and they would wholeheartedly disagree with you.

    2. Dr. Sarah: “The last part of this simply doesn’t seem to be correct; as far as I know (and I’m happy to be put right on this if I’m wrong) there are no records of *anyone* documenting a first-person experience of seeing a resurrected Jesus. The closest thing I know of is Paul’s comment in 1 Galatians about his experience, which reads more like a description of a spiritual experience (such as a Christian might give today) and has nothing about it to suggest Paul witnessed a physical Jesus.”
      I mean no disrespect, but did you actually read the passage you cite? First of all, there is no such thing as 1 Galatians. Perhaps you meant 1 Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul writes “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” Here we read that the risen Lord was seen by the following: Cephas(another name for Peter), the rest of the twelve disciples, over 500 other people, and Paul. Might I note that Paul had been a violent persecutor of those who followed Christ until Christ appeared to him. William Craig notes: “For example, the appearance to Peter is attested by Luke and Paul; the appearance to the Twelve is attested by Luke, John, and Paul; and the appearance to the women is attested by Matthew and John. The appearance narratives span such a breadth of independent sources that it cannot be reasonably denied that the earliest disciples did have such experiences. Thus, even the skeptical German New Testament critic Gerd Lüdemann concludes, ‘It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.’” There are other accounts as well. If you are really interested, you should look more closely into the subject and see for yourself.

      Dr. Sarah: “This, moreover, is the same Paul who was willing to mislead people into thinking he still observed the Jewish law if he thought that would win more converts for the church (see Acts 21:20 – 26 and 1 Cor 9:20), so he clearly was prepared to… well, stretch the truth… in the name of convincing others. So an unverified claim from him just isn’t really valid evidence.”
      Again, I don’t know if you actually read those passages or not, because they do not say what you claim they say. Nowhere do they talk about “stretching the truth.” They are talking about how Paul was respectful of different cultures and traditions when he brought them the truth.

      Perhaps one of the greatest evidences for the resurrection is that many people died because they refused to deny it. 11 of the 12 apostles where tortured to death for the name of Christ. People don’t die for something they know is a lie. The apostles believed in the risen Christ to the point of death. Would you die for something if you knew it was a lie? What about if you were only partly convinced of its truth? Probably not, certainly 11 out of 12 people would not. In addition the apostles deaths were recorded by other historians, such as Josephus, who were not followers of Christ. The evidence for the resurrection is truly remarkable. I encourage you to research it for yourself with an open mind. Read more than just the writings of skeptics. You wouldn’t be the first to become a Christian after realizing the truth of the resurrection.

      1. Blast – I meant Galatians 1, not 1 Galatians. Sorry about that.

        Good point that Paul also mentions his experience in 1 Corinthians, but he still doesn’t give any details to indicate that he saw a physically resurrected Jesus, and there are still no other examples that I know of of eye-witnesses documenting their own experiences. My point there was simply that the statement on that webpage that ‘some of [the eye-witnesses] documented their own alleged experiences’ doesn’t actually seem to be correct.

        The problem with the independent sources is that we have absolutely no information as to where *they* got the information from. I mean, none of the gospel writers says anything like “I spoke to the apostles and they all insisted that they had seen Jesus walk into the room” or “Peter’s account of this states “Jesus appeared before me and said…”. So, for all we know, they might have actually been reporting inaccurate rumours that had sprung up and circulated in the years since the resurrection was first reported and had become widely believed to be true.
        ____

        Sure, I’ve read the passages I referenced about Paul’s honesty or, ahem, problems thereof. In Acts 21, the elders of the Jerusalem Church raise their concerns – the Jewish members of the Jerusalem Church, who are still practicing Jews themselves holding to the Law, have heard that Paul is teaching other Jews to *stop* following the Jewish law. Although it’s downplayed in the passage, this is something that would be of enormous concern to practicing Jews, who would not be happy in the slightest to hear of one of their number teaching other Jews to stop following the Law. The leaders would have wanted it made very clear that Paul was doing no such thing. Their proposed solution for doing this was for Paul to take part in purification rites to demonstrate his commitment to the Jewish law. They make it very clear that this is their reason for telling him to take part in the rite: “Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law.’ (v 24).

        And Paul goes ahead and participates in the purification rite that they wish him to participate in for the express purpose of disproving the rumours – *despite the fact that the rumours were absolutely true.* Paul *did* believe that the Jewish Law was no longer binding, and he *had* been teaching precisely this, as we know from elsewhere in the NT. He was willing to participate in a Jewish rite to give the impression he was a practicing Jew, when this wasn’t so.

        So, when Paul says in 1 Corinthians that he becomes like one under the law in order to win those under the law… it isn’t just a matter of being respectful of the culture of practicing Jews. He was, indeed, prepared to present himself falsely as being a practicing Jew if he felt it necessary to help his cause. Which means, in turn, that he is something of an unreliable witness when it comes to claims like ‘He [Jesus] was seen by over five hundred brethren at once’, because, if Paul was prepared to try to make the Jerusalem Church believe that he was a practicing Jew when he wasn’t, it’s hard to see why he wouldn’t also be prepared to throw in a claim about an appearance to five hundred people that never in fact happened, if he thought it would sound good enough to win more converts.

        (It is of course also possible that Paul was genuinely in error on this point; he wasn’t around for the early events in the Church, and it’s possible he heard an nth-hand version of something like the incident in Acts 2 where the apostles successfully preached to and won over a huge group of people and misunderstood this as being about a personal appearance of Jesus. This becomes even more true when you consider that he included his own experience as another ‘apperaance’ example, thus showing that he counts spiritual-type experiences as ‘appearances’ and doesn’t require them to be actual physical appearances. But, either way, the point is that this mention of Jesus appearaing to ‘more than five hundred’ is hopelessly unreliable as any sort of evidence for a resurrected Jesus.)
        ___

        The point about followers being tortured/killed for their beliefs was the next one in the page at Physitheist’s link that I was responding to, so I was hoping to answer that some time this weekend. Meanwhile, must go do something that isn’t writing stuff on here. 🙂

        Thanks for joining back in, anyway! I was glad to see people were still taking part – thought I’d got here a month too late & missed the discussion. 🙂

      2. By the way, could I also just point out that I *do* read more on the subject than just the writings of skeptics, for goodness’ sake? Honestly, I’m a tad miffed that you’d make assumptions like that about what I have or haven’t read in forming my conclusions. 🙂

        1. Dr. Sarah, Jimmy did a great job at explaining Paul’s actions to you. I did want you to know, however, that I assumed you had read only secular writings on the resurrection because your arguments have been addressed and soundly refuted time and time again.
          For some more food for thought, here is an article written by one who only became a Christian after openmindedly studying the resurrection. It is concise and probably the best article on the resurrection that I’ve ever read. I pray you will take the time to read it: http://www.bible.ca/d-resurrection-evidence-Josh-McDowell.htm

          1. Hi, Jordan! I’ve read the Josh McDowell page now, so I’ll start refuting it. (I’m going to put this comment and future comments in as direct replies to the comment in which you linked to it, so they should show up just under them.)

            One of the first noticeable things in McDowell’s essay is that he is clearly working from the belief that everything stated in the Gospel/Pauline accounts of the resurrection happened just as stated. Thus, even points that appear in only one Gospel (the Roman guard, the huge quantity of spices) are stated by him as ‘facts’. There is no discussion of the possibility that accounts may have been embroidered over time and word of mouth, or of awkward questions such as why three Gospel writers would have omitted mentioning something as significant as an earthquake or a miraculously avoided Roman guard, or why all four would have left out something as amazing as a physical appearance of a resurrected Jesus to over five hundred people, or, worse, why the earliest available accounts don’t mention the appearances *at all*. Is it really warranted to put this kind of absolute trust into accounts written down decades after the fact, by people who are now thought not to have been eyewitnesses themselves, and in spite of the fact that the accounts themselves show signs of having been embellished over time?

            McDowell doesn’t directly bring up or discuss that question in this essay, but he does briefly deal with the issue of reliability. He states:

            a) The accuracy of the NT accounts could have been confirmed or denied by the people who were alive at the time of the resurrection

            b) the Gospel writers were either eyewitnesses or passing on the accounts of eyewitnesses

            c) archaeological discoveries (unspecified) confirm the accuracy of the NT manuscripts.

            The second point is not in fact proved or accepted as fact by scholars; the Gospels are anonymous and we don’t have any clear details as to how the authors got their information or how they went about verifying it. I’m not totally clear what archaeological discoveries he’s referring to in the third point, but I think what he’s trying to say is that we have enough manuscripts to get a good idea of what the Gospels originally said; however, this gets us no further forward in deciding how accurate the Gospel accounts were at the time they were first written.

            So, coming back to the first point – can we feel confident that any errors in the resurrection accounts would have been identified and corrected by people who knew what had really happened? This simply doesn’t seem to me to be the case. The Gospels were written in different places at a time when travel was slow and infrequent. Can we really be certain that each of the finished products was reviewed by one of the relatively small number of alleged resurrection eyewitnesses for accuracy? And, since the apostles clearly did believe in the general idea of the resurrection, how strongly would they have objected to the alteration or addition of parts of the story when, after all, the overall story supported their beliefs? Even if an apostle had read a gospel and stated that such-and-such hadn’t happened in such a way, would it be guaranteed that that gospel would be rewritten to alter the detail? There are simply too many uncertainties there for it to be valid to base arguments on the idea that everything the Gospels report on the subject is accurate, and so that’s a big hole in McDowell’s argument.

            That’s plenty long enough for one comment, so I’ll leave it at that and discuss other points in McDowell’s essay in further comments as and when I get a chance to get back to it. Hope that’s of some interest for starters, anyway.

  42. Dr. Sarah, it pains me when I read your interpretation (actually misinterpretation) of Paul’s actions in Acts 21. Especially troubling is this paragraph from your post
    “And Paul goes ahead and participates in the purification rite that they wish him to participate in for the express purpose of disproving the rumours – *despite the fact that the rumours were absolutely true.* Paul *did* believe that the Jewish Law was no longer binding, and he *had* been teaching precisely this, as we know from elsewhere in the NT. He was willing to participate in a Jewish rite to give the impression he was a practicing Jew, when this wasn’t so.”
    1. The rumors about Paul were not true. He was not “teaching all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children.” This is his take on circumcision found in Romans 2; “For circumcision verily profiteth, IF thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.
    26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?
    27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?
    28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
    29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Basically he was saying that it’s pointless to be strict in one area of the law if you are going to willingly, and unapologetically ignore “weightier” areas of the law. He said they were betraying themselves because they were doing all of the outwardly things right and ignoring all of the more important inwardly things. They were being hypocrites! Clean on the outside and dirty on the inside. Paul was saying it is better to be clean on the inside than clean on the outside! He preferred them to be clean on the inside and outside (circumcised and truly practicing the law) but at the very least be clean on the inside. He was speaking from experience. For a long time he was considered a “model” Pharisee because he was excellent at practicing and enforcing the “outward” aspects of the Law. But one day he was literally knocked down with the realization that he was an “outward Jew,” caring only about how “zealous” he appeared to other people. His heart was changed and he truly began to see God’s laws as they were intended to be seen. Jesus said it like this in Matthew 23 “23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. 24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” Unfortunately many Christians are the same way, even today. They judge others based on outwardly things like appearance, attendance, etc., while “omitting the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.” Woe unto them also.
    2. You say “Paul *did* believe that the Jewish Law was no longer binding, and he *had* been teaching precisely this, as we know from elsewhere in the NT.” This simply isn’t true either. Paul believed, as Jesus did, that the Jewish Law had become corrupted and misused by men in high places. (Please read all of Matthew 23 for Jesus’ scathing indictment of the religious practices of the day.) They weren’t alone in this view either. Many Old Testament Prophets were killed or persecuted by their own people because they challenged the customs and traditions that were added to the law. Such men, and women, were seen as threats to the status quo, and therefore to the power structure. It is true that Jesus’ teachings, and subsequently Paul’s teachings represented a shift in the implementation of Moses’ law from a more external, outward covenant to an inward, spiritual covenant. This shift or change, however, did not come from about unexpectedly. It was foretold, by God, through the prophet Jeremiah and recorded in Jeremiah 31:31-34 “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
    32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:
    33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
    34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” This is but one example of the coming changes foretold by many of the Old Testament Prophets. “Outward” to “inward.” Sound familiar? I believe that was Paul’s whole point about circumcision and true religion. And he would know. His life story is probably the best known example of an “outward religion” turning into an “inward faith.”

    1. Jimmy: If it were just that passage, I’d agree with your interpretation. But over subsequent chapters it becomes clear that Paul is not, in fact, talking just about the importance of keeping to the ‘inwardly’ parts of the Jewish Law *as well as* the outer parts, but that he believed that the Law should no longer apply *at all.* See in particular Romans 7:6 and 10:4 – also 3:21 and 6:14. He also comes back to this subject in chapter 14, advising the church members not to object to what someone else eats or to expect them to ‘observe days’ (which would have referred to things like the Sabbath and the Holy Days), and says ‘I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself” (Romans 14:14) – beliefs that were incompatible with following the Jewish Law.

      In Galatians, he lets loose on the law even more; he is, it appears from the letter, writing to members of his church who had gone back to observing the Law after having been taught by Paul to stop doing so, and Paul is shocked by this. He says that the Law is not of faith and refers to its followers as being under a curse/imprisoned/submitting to slavery. He refers to Jesus ‘redeeming’ them from the Law and tells them that if they accept circumcision Jesus will be of no advantage to them. There’s a negative comment about the Law in 2 Corinthians 3:14 – 16 as well, indicating that this was a viewpoint he’d held to at least some extent for a long time.

      So, when the Jerusalem Church elders reported having heard rumours that Paul was telling Jews ‘to turn away from Moses’ and ‘not to… live according to our customs’, it does appear that this was a pretty fair description of what was going on.

  43. Jordan writes: [Tim, that is not even close to correct. You say “Biblical scholars” but don’t mention any. I have read from many Biblical scholars and they would wholeheartedly disagree with you.]

    I didn’t mention any specifically, and I see neither did you.

    I can give you a list of books if you really want them. I don’t doubt that there are people out there that disagree, because there is never 100% consensus on anything. But the scholarly majority seem pretty clear about the authorship of the various books and the time they were written, and the vast majority of them were written much later than claimed, and by unknown authors.

    The key to a lot of it is simple linguistics. Word usage is a powerful tool, especially when trying to date a writing to a certain time period. There are plenty of other writings available with known dates to compare to, and it’s pretty obvious when words used in the bible texts didn’t exist when they were supposedly written.

    This is all verifiable by yourself, don’t take my word for it.

  44. Jordan writes: [Perhaps one of the greatest evidences for the resurrection is that many people died because they refused to deny it. 11 of the 12 apostles where tortured to death for the name of Christ. People don’t die for something they know is a lie. The apostles believed in the risen Christ to the point of death. Would you die for something if you knew it was a lie? What about if you were only partly convinced of its truth? Probably not, certainly 11 out of 12 people would not. In addition the apostles deaths were recorded by other historians, such as Josephus, who were not followers of Christ. The evidence for the resurrection is truly remarkable. I encourage you to research it for yourself with an open mind. Read more than just the writings of skeptics. You wouldn’t be the first to become a Christian after realizing the truth of the resurrection.]

    That would all be well and fine if the bible was a verified, credible source that could be considered a trusted document for everything you’ve written above. But its not. There is no proof that anyone died or was tortured in the name of Jesus Christ. There is no proof that a man named Jesus rose from the dead, or that his actual body went to heaven. You are using a book shown to have revisions, deletions, additions, and omissions from it as proof for the whole thing. It’s not a reliable source.

    Josephus wrote about Jewish history, and does speak about John the Baptist and his death. John died before Josephus was born, so it’s not clear where exactly Josephus got the information. There are various arguments of authenticity about his writings, although there is broad consensus that at least part of his writings are authentic and attributable to him. The recording of the torture and death of John the Baptist does not prove anything supernatural however. I fail to see how his death or the death of anyone else in the name of a god proves the existence of a god. Lots of people in Jonestown died believing in something too. Doesn’t mean they were right…

    1. Tim: “That would all be well and fine if the bible was a verified, credible source that could be considered a trusted document for everything you’ve written above. But its not.”
      That is simply not true, even by secular standards the Bible is one of the most historically accurate ancient manuscripts in the world. Secondly, the Bible doesn’t even record the deaths of most of the apostles. We know that from other sources.
      Tim: “There is no proof that anyone died or was tortured in the name of Jesus Christ.”
      Tim, you keep making outrageous claims that are not true. Remember, we know how the disciples died from non-biblical sources (a fact that you apparently just learned). Here is an article describing what happened to each of the disciples: https://www.reclaimingthemind.org/content/Parchmentandpen/DeathoftheApostles.pdf . It would save some time if you read up on the issue before trying to argue about it.
      Tim: “I fail to see how his death or the death of anyone else in the name of a god proves the existence of a god. Lots of people in Jonestown died believing in something too. Doesn’t mean they were right…”
      I see that you do not understand the argument. You are correct that the death of the people in Jonestown does nothing to prove they were right. What does it prove? It proves that their belief was so strong that they were willing to pay the ultimate price for it. The same goes for the Apostles and many other early Christians. They died for something they fully believed was true. They had witnessed the resurrected Christ and nothing was going to make them recant their belief… Not even death. If that still doesn’t make sense to you, read the end of the article I linked above(or basically any article on the resurrection … Almost all of them discuss this point).

  45. Jordan writes: [That is simply not true, even by secular standards the Bible is one of the most historically accurate ancient manuscripts in the world]

    I never said the bible was devoid of any historically accurate information. The building of the second temple in Jerusalem (even though the bible gets the timeline wrong), the Babylonian exile, and other events have been corroborated. There is also lots of things, like the exodus from Egypt, worldwide flooding, and Soddam and Gomorrah, for which there is no evidence as being true or accurate. Specifically when discussing the supernatural (virgin births, resurrections, walking on water, etc) there isn’t even one scrap of data that supports such outlandish claims. Just because there really is a city named Jerusalem doesn’t make the entire bible true or reliable. Stephen King sets most of this stories in the real state of Maine, but that doesn’t make his stories anymore true because of it…

    [Tim, you keep making outrageous claims that are not true. Remember, we know how the disciples died from non-biblical sources (a fact that you apparently just learned). Here is an article describing what happened to each of the disciples:]

    We “know”, do we? While I thank you for the link, that article by Patton is, to be frank, comical. Did you just read it and accept it as is, or did you bother to do a little digging? Clement was born 120 years after Christ died, and 105 years after the apostle James supposedly died. Obviously he couldn’t have talked to any eyewitnesses to the event (they’d all be dead), which means at best he is writing about third party information. In a court of law that would be considered inadmissable heresay. Eusebius was born 205 years after James death. Yet Patton gives the “probability rating” of the account an A? Outrageous nonsense. Hippolytus – born 100 years after Andrew’s death, but his word on the death of Andrew rates a B probability rating? Of course after that the rest of the apostles are based solely on the biblical accounts. Even Paul’s beheading in Rome is factless legend. Try to find a credible source on it if you don’t believe me.

    Three Christian theologians who wrote about the death of some of the Apostles 100 years or more after the fact, and the rest of it supported only by biblical passages, and I’m supposed to accept this stuff as undeniable fact? Surely you jest…

    [I see that you do not understand the argument. You are correct that the death of the people in Jonestown does nothing to prove they were right. What does it prove? It proves that their belief was so strong that they were willing to pay the ultimate price for it. The same goes for the Apostles and many other early Christians. They died for something they fully believed was true. They had witnessed the resurrected Christ and nothing was going to make them recant their belief… Not even death.]

    I think it is you that do not understand. Mass hysteria is not proof. Just because someone believes in something does not make it true. You could find millions of people that believe in UFOs and the Loch Ness monster, but that doesn’t make them any more real. Millions of Germans died believing that Hitler was going to create an empire, and they fought to the death to make that happen. Belief does not equate probability or fact…

  46. OK, I’m back to continue discussing the evidence for the resurrection. I’ll discuss the issue of alleged eyewitnesses being tortured/killed first, as that was the point Jordan raised, and then read the Josh McDowell page and discuss that (which will not happen tonight, BTW, but I will get to it as soon as I have a chance).

    Firstly, as Tim already pointed out, we don’t actually have very good evidence as to *what* happened to the Apostles – most of the legends about their death come from well after the time and have no real backup. Some or all of the stories may of course be true, but we certainly can’t proceed on the basis that it’s an established fact.

    A more important problem, though, is that if some of the Apostles did die for their beliefs it is extremely unlikely that the details of whether they saw a physically resurrected Jesus would have come into it at all. The Romans weren’t putting Church followers to death because they believed a man had risen from the dead; they were putting them to death because they believed this man was the Messiah and would return to lead them.

    In those times, as I said above, ‘Messiah’ didn’t have the meaning it’s acquired in Christianity since then – it referred to the prophesied King of David’s line who would rule over a Jewish nation that had been liberated from its oppressors, which included Rome. To the Jewish people, and hence to the Romans hearing the term, what this meant was proposed insurrection against the Romans. And, as you can imagine, they were determined to squelch this. The details of *why* Jesus’s followers believed him to be the Messiah simply wouldn’t have mattered to Roman soldiers or officials, any more than the occupying Germans of World War 2 would have cared about the motivations of members of the Resistance once they had proof of their activities. What mattered to them was putting down these Messianic movements, regardless of the reasons their followers had for joining them.

    Of course, there would have been cases where recanting their beliefs that Jesus was the Messiah would have saved them. We see a great example of that in one of the references at the link Physitheist posted – the letter from Pliny, a Roman governor, to Trajan, his emperor (available at http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/pliny.html). Pliny writes to Trajan for advice on his treatment of Christians, explaining that he has them executed if they persist in declaring their beliefs under interrogation but will let them go if they can convince him that they have left the movement. In order to prove this to him, they have to worship statues of the Roman gods and the emperor, and curse Christ; Pliny regards these actions as sufficient evidence that they have changed their allegiance. But, he wants to know, does Trajan feel that this approach is the correct one? Trajan agrees that it is. And no mention is made by either Pliny or Trajan of any need to find out whether or why they believed in Jesus’s resurrection – it just isn’t raised as an issue. If they could show Pliny by their actions that their allegiance had changed, that was good enough for both Pliny and Trajan.

    Now, of course, none of this addresses the issue of why the apostles actually did come to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead – because they clearly did. And I think it’s fair to say that *something* out of the ordinary happened to convince them; otherwise the movement, like all other Messianic movements, would simply have died when its leader did. But, given how long after the event the stories were written down and how unclear the chain of evidence is for their provenance, I think it’s simply impossible to establish at this point any details of what exactly did happen or how convincingly it might have stood up to critical examination.

    1. Adding to the above: Obviously in some of cases the legends have apostles being put to death by Jews rather than Romans, in which case of course the motives would have been different. Jews would have typically welcomed a Messianic movement rather than trying to suppress it (other than in cases of quisling Jews collaborating with the Romans for their own gain), but they would not have been happy about a movement that taught Jews to turn away from the Law, as clearly happened at some stage of the Church’s development. If any of the apostles had come round to that view and started preaching it among Torah-observant Jews, that could have earned them the death penalty.

      Again, however, their reasons for having come round to that view wouldn’t come into it. There was nothing whatsoever in Jewish law that said that you couldn’t believe a man had been raised from the dead by God. Teaching Jews to give up Torah observance, on the other hand, would not have been acceptable to observant Jews regardless of the reason.

  47. Dr. Sarah. Do you have any theories as to what would cause these early men and women to take such a radical leap of faith and dedicate the rest of their lives to spreading the Gospel?
    – What causes Peter, a man who wouldn’t even admit to knowing Jesus when confronted by a few maids, to stand up before thousands in Jerusalem and speak on the day of Pentacost?
    – What causes a dyed-in-wool Pharisee like Saul to abandon his power and favored position as a persecutor to become the most persecuted man in Israel?
    – What causes Nicodemus, a Pharisee who was afraid to even be seen with Jesus in public, later stand up to the High Priest on Jesus’ behalf, and then donate 100 pounds of myrrh and aloe to prepare his body for burial?
    – What causes Paul to travel to the most powerful, oppressive, and pagan city in the world to spread the Gospel of Christ?
    – What was their personal gain?
    – How did it survive?
    – How is it possible that the Roman Empire would eventually adopt this religion as their own?
    – Can you think of any historical figure that has made a bigger impact on the world that wasn’t a ruler, didn’t lead an army, only lived into his 30’s, only in the public eye for three years?
    – Can you think of another person that is so influential that for thousands of years people measured time by counting how many years an event occurred before his birth and how many years it occurred after?
    Sorry. I know this is a lot of questions but I am truly interested in how other people perceive the influence of Jesus on our world

    1. Hi again! Sorry – I took a few days off commenting over the Christmas period, and it stretched to a couple of weeks with everything else I had to do. Anyway, I’m back, but still pretty busy so I’ll have to answer your questions a bit at a time when I get time. I love these discussions, so fire ahead with all the questions you like, but it may take a while to answer them so I apologise in advance for that.

      OK – your first question was about the motivation of the Apostles.

      For the Apostles, I disagree that there was anything that radical about following Jesus. As Jews, they wouldn’t have placed the meaning on the term ‘Messiah’ that the Christian church has reinterpreted it with since – rather, they would have understood it in the original Jewish sense as meaning the King of David’s line whose coming signals the arrival of the age of peace and prosperity described in Isaiah 11 and other passages in the prophets. Believing in a Messianic claimant was *dangerous*, in occupied Judaea – if you got too active or vocal about it you could get yourself put to death as a rebel against the Romans – but it wasn’t radical.

      I think their motives in continuing the movement after Jesus’s death were pretty much the same as their motives for following him during his life. Jesus was a charismatic man who inspired people to follow him, and had earned their loyalty and belief. Like nearly all Jews of the time, they passionately hoped for the coming of the Messiah and the wonderful age that their prophecies told them would be ushered in by his arrival; it was natural for them to come to believe that he was indeed the prophesied Messiah. We don’t know what happened to start the belief among them that he had come miraculously back to life after his death, but once that belief arose it would have been a desperately attractive one – they could keep believing in their beloved leader and in the imminence of the Messianic Age.

      You mentioned the story of Peter denying Jesus, which is something I see brought up a lot in pro-Christianity arguments. This always seems to me to be taking a very narrow view of what the Gospels tell us about Peter’s life prior to Jesus’s death. According to the Gospels, Peter dropped everything to follow Jesus, leaving his job and his life behind to roam the countryside with an itinerant rabbi who believed his followers should put him ahead of their own families. He followed a Messianic claimant in a time and place where Messianic followers could die a nasty death. He stuck around while Jesus stood up to authority figures, overturned tables in the Temple, and generally got himself a name as a first-order troublemaker. Those are the actions of a brave and idealistic man. If the denial story really is true (and, as ever, we’re hampered by having no way of telling which stories only arose in the years between the alleged events and the writing of the Gospels), then that, not Peter’s loyalty to the movement after Jesus’s death, is the aberration – a one-off moment of panic in the heat of the moment.

      But if the denial story is true, then that seems to me to add even more strongly to Peter’s motives. If he really did deny the dear friend he’d followed for years, his likely reaction afterwards would have been bitter shame, followed by overwhelming relief when he realised that (as he believed) he had a second chance to follow Jesus and proclaim his teachings to all of Jerusalem. That kind of reaction can drive a person with ferocious force – they become utterly determined never to fail and experience that shame and unworthiness again, no matter what.

    2. As for Paul, what emerges pretty clearly from his letters is that he seems to have been through some kind of religious crisis. He felt unable to keep from sin or adhere to the Law himself (Romans 7:18 – 25) and, probably as a result, he had come to see the Law as a curse and as a burden on him (see the way he talks about it in Galatians) but, prior to Jesus, continued to view it as a compulsory requirement for him. From the power and passion in his words when he gets onto the subject, it’s clear that this was a dilemma that affected him deeply.

      However, he then – in what seems to have been a (literally) dazzling flash of inspiration – came to the belief that Jesus’s death had been a sacrifice that permanently absolved him from the need to adhere to the Law or seek righteousness through his actions. His religious crisis was solved at a stroke, and he could henceforth know the inner peace that had been eluding him. That’s a pretty powerful motive.

      Of course, he could also then claim the role of ‘apostle to the Gentiles’, finding acclaim and popularity in the founding of new churches in distant cities, and it’s likely that that also played at least some role in his motivation – not consciously so, but it might have been icing on the cake for him and made his new religious beliefs extra attractive. But it does sound as though the easing of his religious dilemma, and the new peace and joy he found in his interpretation of the meaning of Jesus’s death, was the biggest motivation for him.

      From the descriptions we have of his Damascus conversion, we find out something else that’s worthy of note: it is *not* described as an encounter with a clearly physical Jesus. He heard a voice speaking to him, but only saw a light, not Jesus himself; and the other men with him do not seem to have shared exactly the same experience (Acts 9:7 and 22:9). So we know that, whatever Paul’s motives in converting, they did not include clearcut objective evidence of a physically resurrected Jesus.

    3. Good grief. Sorry, I really didn’t intend to leave the discussion for *this* long. Life happened, I’m afraid. And went on happening, as it does. Anyway, here I am back to take it up again, in case anyone’s still interested! Where the heck was I? Let’s see – I’d just been replying to your query about Paul.

      One more point in reply to what you said about Paul, while I think of it: We don’t actually know that Saul had a ‘favoured position’ prior to his conversion. (He obviously had some kind of power, but it seems to have been the power of brute force more than anything else.) He presents himself as a skilled and respected Pharisee, but how do we know that isn’t his own self-delusion or attempt to show himself in a good light? Like so much else in the Christian story, answers to the question of how much respect or favour Saul had are largely a matter of conjecture.

      Anyway, in response to the rest of your comment:

      Nicodemus’s motives seem to have been straightforward enough – he was impressed by Jesus’s teachings, and, as a faithful Pharisee, he would have known it to be a mitzvah (commandment/good deed) to ensure that a dead body received a proper and respectful burial. It’s quite a stretch to say that he was afraid to be seen with Jesus in public – he might have come to see him at night because he had full-time work in the day!

      Paul’s motives – hopefully already covered.

      Their ‘personal gain’ would, again, have been what it was during Jesus’s life – belief that this was finally the promised Messiah who would liberate Israel from the cruel clutches of the Romans, and belief that they were still following their dear friend and leader’s wishes.

      How did it survive? I think primarily by containing beliefs that would have held a powerful attraction for others. While it seems to have started out as a Jewish Messianic movement (which would have attracted many Jews who wanted to believe in the imminence of the Messiah, but would have had limited appeal outside of that), it then seems to have been transformed, in Paul’s mind, into a salvation religion preaching itself as the only release from sin and damnation. The attractions there (the prospect of choosing between salvation and damnation, the comfortable certainty of God’s forgiveness without the need of having to earn it through actions) are pretty obvious. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rise_of_Christianity (which is a summary of a book) gives theories as to the reasons for Christianity’s spread.

      Constantine was the one responsible for adopting it as the official Roman religion. We can only theorise about his reasons; he may have been influenced by his mother converting to Christianity before him, but that’s by no means proved. In any case, he happened to be the right convert in the right situation to make an enormous long-term difference to Christianity’s success.

      I don’t know of anyone else who fits your criteria who made a bigger impact, and I don’t know of anyone else whose birth was used to start a calendar, although Julius Caesar and the Emperor Augustus were the origin of months within the calendar which have been around for about as long or longer.

      I think that answers that lot; I’ll get back to the questions about Bible verses later, though hopefully not quite as *much*later.

  48. Dr. Sarah. I am also interested in your response to my post about Jeremiah 31:31-34. What is your interpretation of it? I would also like to know your thoughts on Isaiah 53 and Psalms 22. I know this is asking a lot but I am truly interested. Thanks

Leave a Reply

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