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May 31, 2013

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This blog post is so timely. I was just in a conversation with an atheist about this exact topic on FaceBook a couple of weeks ago. I became increasingly frustrated because the atheist felt he didn't need defend his position. He kept falling back on this idea of atheism being the "default" position. Atheist have been trying to redefine atheism for several decades now. I like William Lane Craig's response to this. He says if atheism is the default position then by that definition, babies would be considered atheist and that's absurd. Your blog post does a good job of rephrasing why the atheist must give evidence for his worldview. Thank you for this helpful insight Jim!

    While atheists are sometimes un-persuaded by the arguments for God’s existence, they are still woefully unable to provide coherent and adequate answers to the most important questions of life related to the cause of the universe, the appearance of design, the origin of life, the reality of human free will and the existence of transcendent moral truth. Theists aren’t the only ones who have to answer these questions. If naturalism is true, naturalists have their own unique burden of proof.

Umm, there are dozens of atheistic or non-theistic answers and discussions related to these matters. I agree that the burden of proof is on the person who makes a claim, but it's not like atheists have been simply silent on these matters. Feel free to start here.

http://www.ted.com/talks

Atheists and theists both agree that the big questions of life are numerous. How did the universe come into existence?

The difference is that one group believes in searching for answers using tools at our disposal (science, rationalism, etc.) and is not afraid to say "I don't know". The other looks to a god for whom there is no evidence or a holy book of dubious origins and says "Only god knows".

One path leads to knowledge and progress, the other to ignorance and stagnation. I prefer the first.

AJG’s response proves the OPs point perfectly. I count 1, 2, 3..…maybe 10 or so claims neatly packed into one short post. All with not one shred of evidence to back any of it up.

I prefer the first

That’s the cherry on top. : )

Answers from the perspective of philosophical naturalism (a view I held as an atheist), or answers that accept the existence of supernatural forces (a view I now hold as a theist).

Philosophical naturalism provides a clear method to discern truth from faslehood. What method does the belief in the existence of supernatural forces have to do likewise? How can you ever be sure you are worshipping the "right" god?

The answer is that you cannot. The majority of theists cling to the belief system that was instilled in them either by family, friends, or the culture at large. That's a poor way of duducing the truthfulness of a claim, as is the "feeling" that what you believe must be true.

AJG’s response proves the OPs point perfectly. I count 1, 2, 3..…maybe 10 or so claims neatly packed into one short post. All with not one shred of evidence to back any of it up.

There are naturalistic answers to many of these questions which contain both scant and ample evidence. I didn't feel compelled to give a dissertation on them, however. Call me lazy. ;)

That’s the cherry on top.

Well I do tend to have a preference to gravitate towards what has been shown to work.

Atheist need to shed the false notion that science was invented by the Reinassance humanists or by French illuminists, and before that the faith-imbued world was groping in the shackles of superstition.

That notion makes Dawkins sell copies of his books to his acolytes, but it's simply false and easily proved by studying history.

Since we have something (the universe and stuff in it), and since this something had a beginning, all sides need to provide an account of such beginning, the most likely cause for this beginning (a mind or a non-mind), and the best explanation for what's going on within its boundaries (matter, space, rules by which the universe operates, etc…)

Saying that atheists don't have the burden of proof is simply false. We have a universe, life, moral laws, structured information (both at the genetic level and at the human language level). They have to account for it and show how a non-mind is a better explanation for all this than a mind.

At this point we are not talking about specific deities. That, eventually, comes later and requires a different kind of apprehension (special revelation), with other sets of proof.

First, some of the questions make unjustified and vague assumptions. Are humans contradictory in nature?

Second, "I don't know" is a perfectly good answer to some of these questions. For example, I don't know how the universe came into existence or IF it came into existence.

Third, claiming the Christian god explains something doesn't make it true that the Christian god explains that thing. Nor does such a claim constitute evidence that the Cg exists.

I think it's better to stick with the usual standard: you owe evidence when - and to the extent - that you make a claim.

Apologetics are for Christians.

If you don't know, you are an agnostic. the OP is referring to atheists, who maintain that a non-mind is a better explanation than a mind in matters of origins.

Because the scientific consensus is that the universe had a beginning, both theists and atheists are to provide evidence for their position in matters of origins.

And because the universe works according to stable mathematical, physical, and chemical rules that allow for meaningful scientific inquiry, both sides need to provide a cogent interpretation of how this came to be.

Apologetics are for anyone who makes a claim about reality.

As human beings, we do want answers, regardless of which world view we embrace. But the question about a supreme being we've never seen is paralleled with other questions. I've never seen the air. Does that mean that it probably doesn't exist? If it doesn't then some other explanation needs to be posited to explain its function. If God, whom I've not seen either doesn't exist, then some rational explanation needs to be posited to explain HIS function.

Don Watson

francesco,

the scientific consensus is that the universe had a beginning

No, no no! Physics has no theory of nothing!

I guess you're claiming this is a consensus of cosmologists - the physicists that study the evolution of the universe, both past and future.

Well, there is no physics about nothing. So, there is no physics of something coming from nothing. Neither Big Bang cosmology nor any other area of physics says a single thing about anything being created from nothing. Physics has no theory of nothing*.

I urge you to check that.

Now: People talk about 'the age of the universe' and about a zero of time in phrases like '1 second after the Big Bang' but there are no observations or even theory about the actual zero of time. Sometimes even physicists talk this way.

But, the zero time is not a part of physics. It's a notion extrapolated from early (theoretical) sizes and rates of expansion. The 'age' is a misleading shorthand way to talk about that extrapolation to zero.

The zero time is actually something like 'the time when expansion of the universe, extrapolated in reverse, would bring the size of the universe to zero'.

Notice the difference between that and 'the time when the universe came into existence' or 'the moment of creation'.

The first idea takes more words and it's hypothetical (in the everyday sense).

The second idea makes an assertion that neither theory nor empirical observation supports.

Observations can only extend back to about 370,000 years after the Big Bang. Before that, the universe was opaque: no telescope can 'look back' to times before that. This is not a practical limit; it's a limit in principle.

Theory in general tells you what happens over the passage of time. We can run our theories backwards in time to see what they say the universe was like before it became transparent. Eventually we get to a point where theory deserts us. Our current theory breaks down at the Planck epoch when the universe was 10E-42 (0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000001) seconds old. Quantum mechanics doesn't know what to do with times shorter than that.

So, if cosmologists have a consensus like the one you claim (and I doubt it) that consensus is certainly not a scientific consensus. Science is absolutely silent on the subject.

WLC claims Big Bang cosmology supports his Kalaam argument. But it doesn't. He simply allows the popular misconceptions about phrases like 'the age of the universe' to stand in the minds of his customers.

Apologetics is for Christians.

RonH
___________________________

* When I say 'nothing' here, I mean nothing: no thing.

Physics won't EVER have a theory of nothing.

Theories have elements. For instance, physics has electrons, fields, forces, etc.

The elements have properties. The electron has a mass; it has a charge. The properties give the elements their theoretical nature.

So, what properties does nothing have?

Who said anything about the universe coming from nothing?

Ron,
Aside from the different opinions of physicists and cosmologists on the subjet ( http://tinyurl.com/6tdna34 ), your answer misses my point.

The universe as we know it is here. It started operating according to stable and predictable rules in the distant past, and it continues to do so today. It exhibits apparent design, fine-tuning, cosmological constants, and -- at least on one planet -- complex life operating on self-replicating genetic code, consciousness, and intelligence.

There are several opinions on how this came to be and why our universe works the way it does. Whoever holds an opinion must present a cogent interpretation that fits the facts.

That's apologetics is: an argument in justification of a theory.

It's not just for Christians. It's for anyone who presents a theory. Atheists included.

Who said anything about the universe coming from nothing?

You did! You said:

the scientific consensus is that the universe had a beginning

A 'beginning' of the universe (everything) implies starting from nothing. There is no physics theory of nothing. So no physics, including Big Bang cosmology, can ever be about 'the beginning of the universe'.

I'm not going to go over the same ground again in any more detail than that. And, I'm certainly not going to switch to some other topic (consciousness?!?) just because you want to change the subject.

You say I miss your point. No I don't. In fact, I'm willing to talk about your point after you either take back

the scientific consensus is that the universe had a beginning
or defend it in light of my criticism of that claim.

You link to Krauss's book, A Universe From Nothing.

Are you implying Krauss disagrees with me based on the title of his book?!?!?

What do you think I was anticipating when I said: When I say 'nothing' I mean nothing.

When Krauss says 'nothing', he doesn't mean nothing; he means 'quantum fluctuations'.

Apologetics is for cons Christians.

RonH

Ron,
No need to get so worked up. We are just having a conversation on a speck of dust spinning around a tiny star at the periphery of the universe; I'm sure nothing we are mentioning here will have such a lasting impact as to justify all those italics and exclamation points.

Now, to your points. Having a beginning does not (necessarily) mean coming from nothing. Where did you get that idea?

The consensus is that there was a big bang around 13.7B years ago. That's what I meant by beginning and by consensus.

Now, this universe exhibits certain properties and a certain history. Any (and I mean any) person who interprets the facts and the history to present a model or a theory of how this universe came to be and how it works is necessarily engaged in apologetic work because he or she must provide a justification for that theory (which is the meaning of the term apologetics).

Examples of darwinian apologetics:
- Why Evolution Is True, by Jerry Coyne
- Science on Trial: The Case for Evolution, by Douglas Futuyma

Having a beginning does not (necessarily) mean coming from nothing.

It doesn't for most things. But for the universe it does.

What was there before the beginning of the universe, francesco?

...for the universe it does.

Says who?
http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=59759

The standard model (the consensus) says the universe as we know it started 13.7B years ago with a big bang (unfortunate term).

Was it a beginning ex nihilo? If you are a non-theist, you have different options. All fascinating.

But that's not even the point.

The main point in the original post and in my original comment is that we all build a worldview based on facts and their interpretations.

Because there are many worldviews, anyone who adheres to one must be able to defend it from proponents of competing worldviews.

i do it. You do it. That's why you post on this blog. You are engaging in apologetics every time you express your point of view about something.

And that's apologetics. It's the defense of something, in this case a worldview. It's silly to say that it's only for Christians.

What was there before the beginning of the universe, francesco?


If the universe (meaning everything there is) had a beginning, then before that (whatever you take that to mean) there was nothing.

If there was something before the beginning of the universe it wasn't the beginning of the universe now was it?

And, by the way, when I say 'apologetics is for Christians' I am referring to Christian apologetics and I'm referring to some things Brad B (another commenter here) said.

You can read about that here.


"If the universe (meaning everything there is) had a beginning, then before that (whatever you take that to mean) there was nothing."

Well, we have an infallible, authoritative account that sheds light on this.


"Jhn 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Jhn 1:2 He was in the beginning with God.
Jhn 1:3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being."

Hi francsco, it is true that I belive and have argued that Christian apologetics only benefits Christians....I think you probably agree since I see that you're attentive to foundations of thought prior to worldviews being built.

Not to be misunderstood, I dont undervalue the importance of Christian apologetics, I just distinguish makedly between apologetics and evangelism.

As you stated, and I agree:

"The main point in the original post and in my original comment is that we all build a worldview based on facts and their interpretations."

The Christian worldview comprehensively accounts for life as we expereince it in a coherent system of thought--a point that escapes RonH as he's willing to argue points without examining his prior assumptions for coherency. When he has no justification, he simply claims he doesn't need it. Often, he then claims that Christians dont have justification either, but does so in a question begging way by assuming the atheist starting point--namely that since he cant prove God by naturalism, the Christian worldveiw has no justification. All the while he borrows from the Christian worldview to support his own irrationally unsupported opinions as he argues against Christianity. His worldview cannot even begin to argue in the first place, much less make factual claims about the inferences yeilded from sense perception input.


Thanks for all but that last bit, Brad.

francesco, I'm going drop the question the beginning of the universe. You can work on that on your own time.

Let's start our examination of the 'main point' with (Eeny, meeny, miny, moe..) the Christian account of consciousness.

How does consciousness work according to Christianity? Don't tell me that I have not account; tell me yours.

RonH

My last should end like this:

Don't tell me that I have no account of consciousness; tell me your account.

Ron,
1. you could have sent that link about Christian apologetics a bit sooner; that would have avoided some confusion. Thank you for the link. The OP, however, was not referring just to that. He was talking about burden of proof for each side that advances an argument. So was I;
2. Whoever said that this universe is everything that there is? You might believe that (not sure, do you?). I don't. Some non-theists don't either.
3. The main point in this thread was not the Christian account of consciousness; it was burden of proof (apologetics);
4. Why discuss consciousness in a thread devoted to a different topic?
5. What makes you think I'm qualified to discuss consciousness. Are you?

But RonH, the last bit concerns the point most crucial. Maybe you're tired of it, or possibly it hasn't really been delivered in the way you'd stop to really look at it, but it stands that staring into the face of coherency, you choose irrationality.

You cannot believe it...therefore you dont even really look. Eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear. So confident that you cannot be decieved, it never occurs to you that a liar has offered you foundational worldview building blocks that are mere facades or images that appear to be substantive. You dont even have to look hard to see it--if only you would.

I dont know where you are going with francesco by asking about consciousness, but "according to Christianity" relying on individual sense experience to understand the world and my place in it, proves that human sense perceptions alone are generally perniscious guideposts, wholly unreliable as means to attaining true knowledge about man, and the world in which he lives.

In reference to the "burden of proof", I have not yet seen an adequate answer from theists to the questions posed in AJG's second reply (May 31), which I'll repeat here:

Philosophical naturalism provides a clear method to discern truth from faslehood. What method does the belief in the existence of supernatural forces have to do likewise? How can you ever be sure you are worshipping the "right" god?

As AJG pointed out, those of you who are theists actually cannot be sure. As is obvious from the long and continuing saga of doctrinal schisms arising from that one set of "inerrant" biblical texts, you never did and never will have a viable claim on proof or certainty, because it is logically impossible. You have no basis for being sure, outside of your own personal choice based on your own subjective sensations.

In becoming a believer in theism, you heard the bare assertions of this or that person who was offering this or that interpretation of this or that translation of some texts that were cobbled together a few thousand years ago from incomplete and imperfect sources. You related what this person told you to your own internal idea of what you thought ought to be the case, to what you really wished to be true, and you found yourself convinced.

Maybe the person who told you those things was your parent - you are naturally inclined to trust your parents, because if they weren't trustworthy, you probably wouldn't survive to adulthood and become a parent yourself.

Maybe the person was some other relative who helped to nurture you, or someone in the community who seemed kind and admirable and wise and well-informed and well-respected.

That's all fine, your life is complete and you are a unique treasure to your community. We all recognize your value as an individual. But in terms of holding up a burden of proof, you are regrettably unequipped. There's no real structure to support you there.

Worst of all, the particular "truth" whose proof you must bear is not reconcilable with the "truth" that so many other theists must bear. They acquired their beliefs the same way you acquired yours. If you knew the assertions they heard, the choice of interpretations / translations / sources they were given, and the subjective feelings that led them to feel convinced, you would see that their "evidence" is no more or less valid than your own. And yet their "truth" is not compatible with yours.

The one thing that all theists have in common is the absence of a stable framework for holding up their burden of proof. Another thing shared by far too many theists is an inability to form a consensus once a schism arises. These problems stem from making assertions for which objective evidence can never be available, because it cannot even be sought.

Would it be better to simply avoid making such assertions? An atheist would say yes, such assertions are clearly not helpful, and we can derive greater benefit if we turn our attention to issues that can be informed by objective evidence, where consensus can be reached, because that is what creation tells us is true, by its nature.

I dont know where you are going with francesco by asking about consciousness...

Try answering the question, Brad. That will make it clear.

Hi RonH, I did answer the question, maybe your use or definition could be brought to clarity for me with some additional information.

Otto, now I've heard it all. Up is down, front is back, right is left and inside is outside. You and AJG champion philosophical naturalism as some kind of reliable system of thought, but I'd like to see you, AJG, or anyone deliver a philosophical proof of any truth claim that can be yeilded from it. Since philosophical naturalism is dependent on the scientific method [ie methodological naturalism], it is philosophically impossible to "know" anything as you propose. Please explain yourself.

As much as the modern atheist activists in their zeal to promote their religion speak as though there is no proof of Christianity, they wallow in prominently displayed irrationality. Their plea's are unsubstantiated, hopeful, or in reality, wishful thinking--wanting to suppress what is plainly evident:

"Rom. 1:28(a) And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind,"

And:
"Psa 115:1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
Psa 115:2 Why should the nations say, "Where is their God?"
Psa 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
Psa 115:4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.
Psa 115:5 They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.
Psa 115:6 They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.
Psa 115:7 They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat.
Psa 115:8 Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them."

Most of 'em worship Darwinism and will blindly do most anything to preserve this irrational religion.

Brad,

You answered the question?

You gave the Christian account for consciousness?

Where? I don't see it.

RonH

Wow... all this because atheism apparently doesn't require an "apologetic" as part of its worldview. Theists are willing engage the notion of apologetics as meaningful. I always wonder about a position when that position seeks to dismiss an argument by labelling it as irrelevant or meaningless. Atheism does have an "apologetic" and others here have identified it - methodological naturalism.

AS for consciousness, why start another pointless round of back and forth where the result is effectively predetermined and will invariably run parallel to this thread.

Whether or not one admits it, an unbiased observer of the broader argument would likely not be scandalized by the idea that methodological naturalism acts as a de facto atheistic apologetic. And if this is so, so what? It doesn't impact the validity or the explanatory scope of atheism one bit. Atheism continues to stand on its feet quite well even if it has an "apologetic".

Justithin,

AS for consciousness, why start another pointless round of back and forth where the result is effectively predetermined and will invariably run parallel to this thread.

The point of the OP is to ask for answers to certain questions. One of the questions is How did human consciousness come into being? The implication is that Christianity has an answer to that question.

Were you concerned that my asking for that answer was going to lead to "another pointless round of back and forth"?

A lot of your comments get off track of the original intent of this blog post by only trying to defend your existence of God. While it is reassuring to do so, the blog is about putting the burden of proof on atheists. Atheists are the ones that need to defend the notion that "time plus nothing" (evolution) equals beauty, design, order, adaptability, and emotions. They are the ones that have to convince us that life just started by mindless chance when scientific minds can't even create life in a lab. They need to convince us that animals changed into different species when we do not see that in the world around us. They need to show us all the deformed animals alive today that are in the intermediate state of evolutionary change. This world would be filled with deformed monsters, animals transitioning between species. They need to explain to us why we see color, have taste, feel pleasure, hear, and smell, as these are not necessary to survive as evolutionary monsters, and yet are so complex with all the subsystems needing to operate at the "same" time to function etc..... If seeing is believing, i'm lost!

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