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Atheist Community of Austin
The paradox of the atheistic attitude: damed if you do damed if you don't.

According some people (theists and perhaps some atheists) the god question is the most important question that can be asked. I am am an atheist and I disagree with that. I do not think the question of whether a god or gods exists is the most important question. But, theists will argue that that is irrational because to argue that god does not exists takes study, especially tok propose arguments that they will eventually dismiss. To the theist the atheist must devote his time to studying this question as much as the theist. So, it seems as though atheists are screwed into dealing with this nonsense for as long as they live or must refer to themselves as apatheists. Well, William Lane Craig would agree with that, but he thinks that apatheists are just lazy thinkers with no claim to make. So, my question is what the hell are we to do?

I think this question is important. If no god exists, then the whole construct of religion is a man-made con. No theological question can really be answered until this question is answered.

Yes, the debate is old and dry. All of the arguments for god are full of holes and, apparently, there's no god around to help with coming up with a good argument.

The atheist position, though is that we don't believe the claim that gods exist. The burden of proof is on the person making the claim about some god. The atheist does NOT have to prove that there is no god any more than we have to prove there are no unicorns, or teapots in the orbit of mars. The default position is to not believe a claim until there is sufficient evidence.

"Apatheists" can sit back and be convinced. They only have to have a reasonably sound criteria for judging evidence.

I think, what makes humans different from animals and computers is self-consciousness (awareness of our own existence) and the ability to answer the questions "who am I?" (establish our own identity) and "why?" Animals and computers have the ability to perceive and analyze reality, make decisions based on experience or instinct (programming), animals can even feel love and compassion, and computers can simulate emotion. But they lack the ability to ask and answer the questions "who am I?" and "why?".

"Who am I?" and "why?", IMHO are the most important questions to ask in our life. We cannot understand what's good for us personally and human society in general without understanding who we are, what needs we have, how to satisfy these needs, and why. The answers drive our decisions, plans, intentions, scientific research, and are a basis for moral choices. Term "lose one's mind" often refers to inability to answer these 2 questions.

Belief in God or lack thereof is our personal answer to the ultimate "why?", be it in science or morality. Ask "why?" about anything specific and keep asking "why?" about the answer. You will always come to a "why?" which cannot be answered (unless you have a circular chain of reasons which is a logical fallacy). The answer to this final "why?" is personal. There are 2 different answers which mirror each other: "There is a universal reason for everything (God)" or "There is no such universal reason." (atheistic position). Although the answers are opposite, they mirror each other and are, essentially, identical and perfectly acceptable. Both may lead to an adequate picture of the world or may produce a total garbage on the output, depending on the processing system (our brain).

How silly. Your dichotomy lacks a very important third option. "I don't know." I don't know if my perceived reality exists, but based on the assumption that it does I can then build an understanding of that reality. The entire point is moot if that reality doesn't exist. I do not have to assert that there is or isn't a universal reason, but I can certainly reject the assertion that there is one until someone can present me with a reason I should accept it. Amusing attempt at trying to put theism and atheism in the same box. Sorry, your assertion is still unsupported, and we still aren't making one.

I don't think, there is a third option. We cannot *know* if there is a universal reason, but all of us *believe* one way or another. When you reject the assertion that there is a universal reason to our existence, you simply *assume* there is no universal reason (default position) in absence of evidence of the opposite. Which is perfectly OK with me, but it's still an assumption based on your belief. You cannot build a successful worldview on "I don't know" proposition.

Assertion that "we aren't making an assertion" is self-contradictory and hypocritical. Just say "I believe, there is no God". What's wrong with that? Be honest with yourself and others and stand by what you believe. There is no middle, really. Everyone has unsubstantiated beliefs. Just state yours and stop harassing others for theirs.

AG said, "I don't think, there is a third option. We cannot *know* if there is a universal reason, but all of us *believe* one way or another."

...and some people require evidence - and some don't.

AG said, "When you reject the assertion that there is a universal reason to our existence, you simply *assume* there is no universal reason (default position) in absence of evidence of the opposite. Which is perfectly OK with me, but it's still an assumption based on your belief.

This is like Carl Sagan's "invisible dragon in my garage." There is no way to prove that it isn't there! That is no reason to believe that it is there. There is no need for "universal reason" in any scientific explanation for the existence of anything or everything. All you have done is make statements without providing one shred of evidence. Where is your proof? You want us to provide all the answers - that's typical.

AG said, "You cannot build a successful worldview on "I don't know" proposition. Assertion that "we aren't making an assertion" is self-contradictory and hypocritical. Just say "I believe, there is no God". What's wrong with that?

There are atheists and scientists who do say there is no God. I'm one of them, and that is not a belief based on nothing, it's based on the facts, investigation and evidence. There's plenty of evidence. "The Grand Design", "Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going." (p. 180)

Evolution is a paradigm for the origin of all life following mechanistic laws. Evolution, which is genetic change over time, does not rely on concepts that do not otherwise exist in any scientific model. Evolution does not require anything new or unusual in the universe. The atoms that make up the molecules that make up life did not exist in the beginning. They came into existence over time as our universe evolved. The big bang is the theory of how the universe evolved. The big bang theory pertains to the explosive expansion of the entire universe that continues to this day. At quantum physics level transitions do occur spontaneously without an apparent cause, like nuclear reactions. The Universe does not require a cause. Every atom that ever was or will be came into existence during the big bang. All of the energy and mass in our universe was formed within and following the expansion of the singularity. Every atom then and now was actualized in the course of the big bang.

AG, "Be honest with yourself and others and stand by what you believe. There is no middle, really."

Nope, no fence sitting, since there is a preponderance of evidence against any supernatural cause. God is finished.

AG, "Everyone has unsubstantiated beliefs."

No they don't! NO one should believe something for which there is no evidence; or, if there are two ideas that attempt to explain the same evidence, the simpler idea is preferred, but not ideas for which there is no evidence. It just so happens that the simpler idea has already been proven not to be the best theory. Newton's theory of gravity was much simpler than Einstein's theory but Einstein's was better because it explained more. The "God" crowd haven't even come up with a theory that can account for any of the data science accounts for, and they have not provided any reason for believing that their "God" theory even has the potential to produce anything useful to science."

AG, "Just state yours and stop harassing others for theirs."

Meaning state our unsubstantiated beliefs! Guess what! Many people do not just believe things on faith, meaning things that can't be proven or demonstrated in some way to be true. We will stop "harassing others for their beliefs" if they will get their dog-and-pony-show off the atheist message boards. In other words - it's the other way around. All the atheist message boards are loaded with believer's harassment. I ran across a site where a preacher was caught posting offensive messages as an atheist. These kinds of fanatics get on atheist messages boards and try to indoctrinate any way they can. If it doesn't work as a theist they try being an atheist. But they always give themselves away. Even when they try to copy atheists posts. they can't camouflage their true nature and the brainwashed ideas that have been pounded into their heads all their lives.

"NO one should believe something for which there is no evidence."

Linda, what you say applies to science. In science and some other fields, it makes sense to require evidence for every statement. Science is about knowledge, and requirement of scientific evidence is a way of separating beliefs from knowledge. In science, assuming statements to be false unless proven otherwise is based on this practical consideration.

It is not always practical to assume the negative in the absence of evidence. E.g., when someone yells "Fire!" or reports a bomb in a building, safety dictates to assume the statement to be true unless proven to be false.

In general, evidence is required only when there is a disagreement or doubt. It is not always beneficial or practical to challenge the statements of others.

The Hitchens' quote is nothing more than a cliche with limited applicability.

I've asked Don and I'm asking you, how do you know that the technical crew has checked the airplane when you fly? Do you make plans for tomorrow or do you wait until morning to make sure that you are still alive? In everyday life, we simply must make assumptions and take things on faith.

Logical inference is what science is based on. Ten thousand crickets are exhibit X behavior. We can expect then that the ten thousand and first cricket will do the same. That's not faith.

Now consider how many days we've survived thus far and how many planes have flown that have not crashed. Using inference is not faith, it's evidence-based logical reasoning.

Your "fire!" and bomb report examples are just as flawed. We know that such reports are rare, have a statistically significant chance of being accurate, and further that false reports are punished. Also to be weighed is the value of one's survival over the value of the time wasted on a potentially false report. A simple use of logic determines that it is better to assume such a shout/report is accurate until it can be assessed.

This really has no bearing on god-claims. We have no information on gods.

Antifides,

A single cricket which does not exhibit behavior X falsifies the rule and makes the inference impossible without additional data. A single exception compels us to examine the odd cricket and modify the rule to say "all crickets with property Y exhibit behavior X". Now, to make the inference about the 10,001st cricket, we must examine it and find out whether it has property Y, because the statement "all crickets exhibit behavior X" is no longer true.

Now, airplanes differ one from another in much more ways than crickets and "airplanes never crash" is a false statement. To make an inference about the airplane used for my flight, I must rule out any similarities with the planes that crashed. I can use crash statistics for the model of my aircraft or crash statistics for my airline or come up with another criterion, such as requiring documentation of regular maintenance and technical inspection. The fact that only 1 airplane out of 1 million crashed last week is irrelevant to my flight. Note that I still have to make assumptions and evaluate probabilities and confidence levels. Ultimately, my decision will still be based on my belief one way or another. If you make your decision based on the fact that "1 airplane crashed and 999,999 did not", I would say, your belief is unsubstantiated, because the data you used is irrelevant to your specific airplane. Do you really inspect crash statistics or paperwork before each flight?

"Your "fire!" and bomb report examples are just as flawed. We know that such reports are rare, have a statistically significant chance of being accurate, and further that false reports are punished."

A simple google search on false fire alarms reveals this:

"In 2010, U.S. fire departments responded to 2,187,000 false alarms. This was a slight increase of 0.4%. This means that one out of ten calls responded to by fire departments were false alarms."

This, by the way, implies over 20,000,000 fire alarms in the U.S. in 2010 (almost 40 per minute). Rare?

http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/PDF/OSFDcalls.pdf

Another report says, "[...]In 2009, fire departments went to 16 false alarms for every 10 fires, and 45 false alarms for every 10 structure fires.[...]"

http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files//PDF/OS.UnwantedAlarms.pdf

You call this "statistically significant chance of being accurate"? Which data did you use for your "evidence-based" statement?

False automatic fire alarms are not punished.

I'm sorry, but your decision to leave the building is not based on data. You choose to believe the fire alarm, because the benefits of such belief outweigh the potential harm from the disbelief. Even if I had NO data on fire alarms, I would still leave the building. You may call me stupid for that.

"This really has no bearing on god-claims. We have no information on gods."

True, but this has bearing on cliche statements such as "what is asserted without evidence...", "burden of proof" requirement, and the rationality or usefulness of unsubstantiated beliefs. Such categorical statements are nothing but unsubstantiated beliefs themselves.

AG: Since my statement "NO one should believe something for which there is no evidence." and the name "Linda" are both on your reply I assume you are answering my reply.

If an analogy is used to illustrate someone's point it should represent the actual dispute. The dispute is not about things that we have learned about through experience - it is about the unknown or unknowable.

We expect things to happen a certain way because of our past experience - that is not the same as basing our expectations on blind faith. The sun will come up tomorrow (bet your bottom dollar) spring will follow winter etcetera.

There are things we know exist - and things we don't know to exist. Comparing things that do exist to things that "might" exist is just another groundless assumption. There are hypothesis based on educated guesses, plausibility and logic in science; it's true, and new discoveries in science do change theories. The belief that god exists does not rest on logical proof or plausible evidence, and as science makes more discoveries that answer more questions, a divine being is less and less believable or necessary, and that is not what happens when something is true. Just saying something is possible or "might" exist without testable evidence is analogous to a conclusion based on an assumption or mere speculation. Therefore, any conclusion based on facts and evidence could never be analogous to a conclusion without one shred of evidence. Establish that there is a god first - then give us an analogy for what it's like that we know exists. There is 0 evidence for god. God isn't really the sort of thing that can be proven at all.

I am separating what is information from attempts to produce information. Answer, "god does not exist" is in response to a groundless claim. My response is not that I don't know; it is that is a groundless claim. I don't have to prove anything; it's obviously a groundless claim. Therefore, the one making the claim is still required to prove the claim is not groundless by producing testable evidence that god exist. Those who 'assume' that there is a god do not provide even the basic information needed to apply critical thinking to examine their "assumption" (unless you think ideology is information) god must be demonstrated, not assumed. It is plain that there are no standards (at least none that survive scrutiny) by which one may reasonably assume there is a god, or suggests that the existence of god is obvious. It isn't! An omniscient, omnipotent god surpasses what I can believe. In fact so does the idea that a loving, all knowing god inspired the error ridden foolish stories in bible.

What I say is my opinion. It does not represent all those who claim to be atheist. I think it is akin to a religion or cult to impose one outlook on an entire group.

People who make claims about things that exist need to prove what it is, what it does and why it exists. That proof does not have to be physical evidence; proof is also the logical basis for the presumption. Proving anything exists requires demonstrating that the hypothesis is logical.

A real test of an idea would be an attempt to refute it by every means possible. That will never happen with the "god" theory because they are too busy looking for the flaws in science. There is no possibility of falsifying a theory that predicts "something" without any testable evidence; and the theory is so obscure that it is impossible to contest. An assumption about something that "might" exist; but it is invisible and there is no known way to detect it, it is in another dimension that we can't know about etc. If the existence of the "invisible thing" were more specific it would be possible to dispute the existence, and that is why it will remain so obscure, by taking away it's testability you prevent anyone from proving it does not exist.

To determine the existence of something there are various kinds of observations, experiments and logic that are used. These are the factors in making those kinds of decisions. Proof that something exists is not based on assumptions about something that could never be falsified. Just believing something exists on faith has nothing to do with what anyone knows. It is simply indoctrination. Nobody has to believe something is true without proof. That should be the position of every rational person. Nobody has put the existence of god to any test because it is not possible. It is logically impossible for someone to prove (without any evidence) that something does not exist. I don't care if anyone wants to worship and give money to support something that is invisible. That has not done a thing to eliminate starvation and war, or for no apparent reason made it's presence known, but I do object if they want me to claim that I don't know whether the invisible god - or thing - or whatever it is exists. It doesn't.

"Guess what! Many people do not just believe things on faith, meaning things that can't be proven or demonstrated in some way to be true."

Is there any scientific evidence that all humans are born with certain unaliable human rights? I don't know of any such evidence. Do you? Yet, most Americans believe so. Do you share this belief? This is another case when it is, clearly, beneficial for the society to accept a statement without proof and even use it as a cornerstone for national Constitution. Is it not?

The Declaration of Independence States, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." That is found in the Declaration of Independence not the Constitution. The Declaration was a radical departure from the idea that the power to rule over other people comes from god. It was a letter from the Colonies to the English King, stating their intentions to separate themselves. The Declaration is not a governing document.

Neither the word "god" nor "creator" is found in the Constitution. In fact, the words Jesus, Bible and Creator are never mentioned in the Constitution. The men responsible for building the foundation of the United States were men of The Enlightenment, not men of Christianity. They were Deists who did not believe the bible was true. They were Freethinkers who relied on their reason, not their faith. Thomas Jefferson wrote that the power of the government is derived from the governed. Up until that time, it was claimed that kings ruled nations by the authority of God.

Where do we get our rights? We give our damn selves our rights.

"The Declaration of Independence states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..."

What?! "Self-evident"?! And not a single reference to any sort of reputable scientific research! This is preposterous! C'mon, atheists! What happened to the good-old "burden of proof"? Oh, wait... Isn't the 236-year history of the U.S. a proof that this belief was right? But that's backwards! Evidence - first, belief - second. Right? But how would we have gotten the evidence if the Founding Fathers did not have this "self-evident" belief?.. Is it possible that our today's reality is a result of some people's beliefs introduced 236 years ago without evidence? No way! That's backwards again. Beliefs must be based on reality, not the other way around. Right?

"Thomas Jefferson wrote that the power of the government is derived from the governed. Up until that time, it was claimed that kings ruled nations by the authority of God."

This idea is not new. The history goes in circles. Mosaic law imposed 613 rules on people putting them in spiritual bondage. Hypocrisy flourished as people watched others to obey these rules. Then came Jesus (allegedly) and proclaimed that people should govern themselves by the rule of their own consciousness (accepting Jesus - a human God - into their heart and identifying with him.) That idea seemed revolutionary and liberating at the time. Then came the Catholic church and imposed more rules on the people. Now come atheists and scientists to "liberate" people from the bondage of religion again saying "we don't need God or religion to govern ourselves". Etc. What's next? Look at the 27 titles of U.S.C. 236 years after Jefferson. I don't think I need to go further than NT to know what's next. The whole cycle is well described 2000 years ago.

Reflecting on a few quotes:

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." -- MLK

"And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. Come now therefore, and let us slay him..." -- Genesis 37

It, sure, looks like much of what America is praised for, is based on "self-evident" beliefs and dreams.

"Often, believers are creating harm in the world based on those beliefs." -- Don Baker.

Often, but not always. Often, scientists are creating harm in the world based on those discoveries too (Chernobyl, Hiroshima, global warming, etc...). Sometimes, intentionally, sometimes, not. Shall we call science harmful for that?

"In science there has to be experimental evidence before something becomes a theory or is believed to exist." -- Linda, 5/28/2011. Well, that's in science. Outside science, this principle may not always apply.

I've made these points before. The example with Declaration of Independence was just too good to miss. I think, knowledge and beliefs, science and religion, faith and skepticism, confidence and doubt all have their place. None of them are inherently harmful.

The harm is caused by lies and errors - when people intentionally or unintentionally misunderstand or misrepresent the true nature of people, things and ideas. E.g. when scientists require "scientific evidence" for non-scientific and unfalsifiable ideas, when believers use non-scientific ideas in scientific debates, when people require proof where they ought not, when people kill other people who do not "love their neighbor" (them) totally misrepresenting the point of the commandment, when people hate other people for who they are (their identity - race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, appearance, etc.) because they do not know or understand these people, e.g. when people who do not personally know any homosexuals hate all homosexuals or people who never read Koran hate Muslims.

Reflecting on some more quotes:

"That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind..." -- Martin Luther King, Jr. The value of 'an eye for an eye' law is to make people project what they do to others on themselves. When taken literally, it does leave everybody blind. Any law taken literally may cause harm.

"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." -- Voltaire

"No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong." -- Albert Einstein

"Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm." -- Abraham Lincoln

"What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right." ― Albert Einstein. Just because Christianity is not so popular these days, does not mean it is wrong or I shouldn't accept it.

"You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else." -- Winston Churchill (isn't this M-theory with 11 dimensions and 10^500 possible universes applied to society?)

"If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right." -- Henry Ford (this has to do with faith. Same applies to "God exists" statement.)

"Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right." -- Abraham Lincoln (by this definition, if scientists are right, what they say is what God would say - not because God exists, but by definition - just a matter of terminology).

"There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way." -- C. S. Lewis

"Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me." -- John Lennon

"I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others." -- Thomas Jefferson

"Seven social sins: politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice." -- Mahatma Ghandi

"I'm a lover of my own liberty, and so I would do nothing to restrict yours. I simply want to please my own conscience, which is God." -- Mahatma Ghandi

"I came to the conclusion long ago that all religions were true and also that all had some error in them, and whilst I hold by my own, I should hold others as dear as Hinduism. So we can only pray, if we are Hindus, not that a Christian should become a Hindu But our innermost prayer should be a Hindu should be a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, a Christian a better Christian." -- Mahatma Ghandi

"Religions are different roads converging to the same point. What does it matter that we take different road, so long as we reach the same goal. Wherein is the cause for quarreling?" -- Mahatma Ghandi

And the best one:

"It is beyond my power to induce in you a belief in God. There are certain things which are self proved and certain which are not proved at all. The existence of God is like a geometrical axiom. It may be beyond our heart grasp. I shall not talk of an intellectual grasp. Intellectual attempts are more or less failures, as a rational explanation cannot give you the faith in a living God. For it is a thing beyond the grasp of reason. It transcends reason. There are numerous phenomena from which you can reason out the existence of God, but I shall not insult your intelligence by offering you a rational explanation of that type. I would have you brush aside all rational explanations and begin with a simple childlike faith in God. If I exist, God exists. With me it is a necessity of my being as it is with millions. They may not be able to talk about it, but from their life you can see that it is a part of their life. I am only asking you to restore the belief that has been undermined. In order to do so, you have to unlearn a lot of literature that dazzles your intelligence and throws you off your feet. Start with the faith which is also a token of humility and an admission that we know nothing, that we are less than atoms in this universe. We are less than atoms, I say, because the atom obeys the law of its being, whereas we in the insolence of our ignorance deny the law of nature. But I have no argument to address to those who have no faith." -- Mahatma Ghandi

And, of course, I misspelled the name Gandhi. I know, some may consider this as evidence of ignorance.

Thomas Jefferson the author of "The Declaration of Independence" wrote in a letter to his nephew, Peter Carr, "The Christian god can easily be pictured as virtually the same god as the many ancient gods of past civilizations. The Christian god is a three headed monster; cruel, vengeful and capricious. If one wishes to know more of this raging, three headed beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes: fools and hypocrites." That's sure not praise for Christianity from Jefferson. Nevertheless, even if Jefferson had been a Hell fire and brimstone believing nut job, it wouldn't mean god exists.

As far as applying science where it doesn't belong? Why wouldn't a Creator who created everything (creation science) be a science issue? Also, the question is not whether science is good or bad. The question is whether god exists. The fact is there is no place for a creator in any scientific theory about the origin of the universe and life in the universe.

Mahatma Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." In the Old Testament, it is stated, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. This was Old Testament law commanded by God. Jesus said that He came not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it.

You're coping famous people's quotes to prove god exists when the quotes are not confirming your belief. Your commentaries after the quotes do not reflect the intent of the statements either. The reason for your commentary is because the quotes don't prove your point. Voltaire - Albert Einstein - Abraham Lincoln - even when they use the term God they didn't mean the personal God of the Christian Bible. Albert Einstein wrote, "for me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions." Einstein didn't believe in god or agree with you. Neither did Abraham Lincoln, "it will not do to investigate the subject of religion too closely, as it is apt to lead to infidelity." Abraham Lincoln, from "What Great Men Think Of Religion" by Ira Cardiff

John Lennon was an atheist. Most of your quotes were from atheists. I wonder why you think it proves your point?

Hindu parents raised Mahatma Ghandi, there is no doubt, Mahatma Ghandi was indoctrinated into a religion from the day he was born (which rarely ever changes) he remained a committed Hindu throughout his life (it is easy to program people) but very difficult to deprogram people. A young Hindu nationalist fanatic Nathuram Godse, angry at Mahatma Ghandi for promoting peace and tolerance for people of all faiths, assassinated him on 30 January 1948.

Belief in god/gods is learned or instilled in the victim, along with the desire to spread the delusion. Most believers were taught belief in god from childhood - very few of them are taught that god is not necessary to a naturalistic universe or that God lacks definition.

Atheists are not quarreling over which god is the "one true god" or what religion is the "right" one. An atheist can disbelieve god exists for reasons as simple as the degree of suffering in the world. The atheists issue is about the existence of god. Most of the wars throughout history have been stirred up through religious fanaticism, while the real motive was hidden, like controlling or acquiring oil.

"Most of your quotes were from atheists. I wonder why you think it proves your point?"

Because my point is not "god exists". My point is that there are striking similarities between atheists and believers in almost everything they say or do. You may disagree, but I see a vivid illustration of this point in this thread.

"A young Hindu nationalist fanatic Nathuram Godse, angry at Mahatma Ghandi for promoting peace and tolerance for people of all faiths, assassinated him on 30 January 1948."

Promoting tolerance can get one killed by intolerant fanatics. I think, this idea is well described long ago (guess where) with multiple historical examples to confirm the point. Does hating intolerant fanatics promote tolerance?

"Most of the wars throughout history have been stirred up through religious fanaticism, while the real motive was hidden, like controlling or acquiring oil."

You seem to imply that religion was NOT the cause of all these wars, but a mere pretext and a tool to convince the gullible to support the *real* corrupt cause. Just like patriotism and freedom or evidence of WMD had little to do with the war in Iraq which you seem to refer to. To me, hating intolerant people and forcing other people to be free are greater mysteries than God.

One doesn't need to use religion to dupe the fools. Fools don't need to be religious to be duped either. Would it make sense to leave religion alone and focus on educating fools? This would effectively stop dishonest people from duping other people. But how do we "educate" other people without "forcing our opinion" on them? I think, it's possible, but the line is very fine. The safest approach is to educate ourselves first.

Here is a cup. The cup itself is unique, one of a kind as far as we know, and we have both been presented with the assertion that the cup has a very special coin in it. However, the coin may be hidden. We have both examined the cup. I see no evidence of a hidden coin, but perhaps it could be sealed into the very body of the cup where I can't examine it. I choose to believe neither that the coin is there, nor that it is not, until I acquire some evidence. In other words, I lack belief in the coin's existence. I also lack belief in the coin's nonexistence. This, of course, is the default position. You choose to believe there is a coin. I find that irrational. You further insist that I must believe that there is or is not a coin. I find that irrational. I then make the assertion that I am not asserting a belief either way. This is obviously not hypocritical. Now, replace "cup" with "universe" and "coin" with "God".

"Just say 'I believe, there is no God'. What's wrong with that?" See the coin example.

"You cannot build a successful worldview on 'I don't know' proposition." Of course, this is a pointless statement. I perceive a reality to exist. Whether a god exists is entirely superfluous to that fact. Answering the "universal purpose" question is not required for a worldview and, of course, my worldview isn't built on the answer to it.

Antifides,

The example with the coin and the cup illustrates the position of agnosticism, not atheism. Agnosticism is acceptable when you don't have any motivation to believe one way or another. If you don't care, there is no reason to ask for any evidence either. So, why do atheists so insist that believers provide evidence for God?

The situation changes when we introduce motivation. What if I say that the coin, if found, will bring you a fortune on an auction? Will you still indifferently shrug your shoulders and insist that I prove my words or would you rather spend some effort to check my statement yourself? Your perception of my motivations also matters greatly. You may think that my words are in jest or I have dishonest motives for my words. My point is not that you should believe in God, but rather to show that your belief, disbelief, or agnosticism have to do with personal motives more than with data.

If you say that you have no reason to believe in God, before we discuss if there is God, we should discuss whether you could benefit from such belief. If you don't see the benefit (have no motive) or you suspect that I have dishonest motives, no evidence will make you believe in God.

By the way, the two reports I found on false fire alarms have significantly different statistics. Which one should I *believe* and why? Evidence does not eliminate beliefs. Data is often unreliable due to systematic and random errors. We still use beliefs based on assumptions to accept or reject the data.

I'd like to read the book by D. Kahneman and A. Tversky "Judgement under Uncertainty". The book has, at least 2 interesting conclusions, according to the reviews (http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/WhosCounting/story?id=97542&page=1): 1) People make riskier decisions to avoid perceived losses than to achieve perceived gains. This is consistent with my statement that motives matter greatly for decisions and beliefs. 2) When asked to confirm a rule, people intuitively (and incorrectly) look for facts agreeing with the rule rather than checking possible exceptions. This is consistent with your reasoning in the example with airplanes. You employed irrelevant data to find confirmation for your decision to fly.

I'm sorry that you don't accept the definition atheists provide for atheism, but that's not really my concern. You will understand, of course, if I continue to use the well-documented definition that the ACA and others have surely provided for you, which is of course, "lack of belief in gods."

"So, why do atheists so insist that believers provide evidence for God?" Because god-believers have a tendency to insist there is a god and enforce that belief and the associated religious doctrine upon others.

"before we discuss if there is God, we should discuss whether you could benefit from such belief." That is exactly backwards. I have no interest in whether or not I could benefit from the belief in something that doesn't exist. I care far more greatly about believing things that I can find to be true.

I wrote a long response to your fire report thing, but due to doing other things, I apparently got timed out and lost it. In brief, your statistics are irrelevant. I don't need to believe there is a fire in order to choose to waste a little time to potentially save my life. My life is worth more to me than the time, and the numbers that you quoted are both percentages I have no desire to risk. Even without those percentages, my experience with human beings has allowed me to infer that out of any given number of "fire!" yells (which by the way aren't fire station reports despite what you seem to think) enough of them will be correct and serious to not risk my life on the odds, not because I've had a lot of "fire!" calls, but because that is a very serious prank. Of course, it is also worth noting that if my life is in serious danger from fire, there is likely to be plenty of evidence to that effect. Lacking that evidence, I may investigate.

Re: Planes Sorry, but I employed relevant data. The fact that an overwhelmingly large number of planes do not crash is enough to bet my life on, by inductive reasoning.

"I'm sorry that you don't accept the definition atheists provide for atheism, but that's not really my concern."

And I'm sorry that you don't accept what Christians say about their religion.

""So, why do atheists so insist that believers provide evidence for God?" Because god-believers have a tendency to insist there is a god and enforce that belief and the associated religious doctrine upon others."

And atheists have a tendency to insist there is no god and enforce their opinion upon others. Any commonality between the two statements? Wherein is the problem? Atheism? Religion? Or enforcing our opinions upon each other?

""before we discuss if there is God, we should discuss whether you could benefit from such belief." That is exactly backwards. I have no interest in whether or not I could benefit from the belief in something that doesn't exist. I care far more greatly about believing things that I can find to be true."

This is getting funny. "I don't have faith, because I don't believe it's useful. Therefore, my faith does not exist, and what does not exist cannot be useful. This proves that I was right." There is no end to this nonsense.

In the fire alarm example, you seem to say what I say, but do not hear the same. You say (slightly rearranged),

"A simple use of logic determines that it is better to assume such a shout/report is accurate until it can be assessed." And the "logic" is: "My life is worth more to me than the time, and the numbers that you quoted are both percentages I have no desire to risk." ... "In brief, your [or any] statistics are irrelevant."

I.e., our *desire* to save our life dictates us to ignore any data and assume positive in the absence of evidence. This is not a scientific dispute. Therefore, while it is true that burden of proof is always required in science, it is not generally true outside of scientific disputes. This was the point of my example which you seem to confirm.

"Re: Planes Sorry, but I employed relevant data. The fact that an overwhelmingly large number of planes do not crash is enough to bet my life on, by inductive reasoning."

The key word is "desire". Now you have a desire to fly. This is why, percentages, suddenly, become relevant and acceptable to make your decision.

When people have a strong motivation to do something or not to do something, they readily seek and accept data supporting their decision and willingly suppress and ignore data that contradicts their decision. The research I referred to seems to confirm this statement.

I don't understand why you argue. I don't think, there is anything sensational in what I say. I am not making a statement that God exists and not quoting Bible to support my statements, but rather a Nobel prize-winning research in psychology. And my statements, by the way explain the "irrational" behavior of believers who ignore some Bible quotes and over-emphasize others to make their point. This was a great illustration that atheists are not much different, whatever they say about the value of logic and reason. Thanks for participation.

"And I'm sorry that you don't accept what Christians say about their religion."

What are you talking about? If you mean things they want me to believe, all I ask is that they demonstrate them. The Bible is not evidence of events. A dictionary is evidence of word usage. I assure you that our definition is in dictionaries.

Even if you have encountered an atheist who would insist there is no God and further try to enforce that belief upon you, you're comparing an irritating person to a pervasive force within society, making it's mark on everything from civil rights to science education. For reference, I mean homosexual marriage and teaching evolution. These are high profile examples, but ever so far from the only ones.

I never said "I don't have faith because I don't believe it is useful." Do find a better circle to accuse me of; you know, one I'm part of. I do not have belief in that for which there is no evidence because I care about having verifiable beliefs. The truth matters to me.

You sit there and type that out, and don't even notice the hypocrisy staring you in the face. If your claim that desire to live is my reason for escaping the fire, THEN IT WOULD ALSO KEEP ME FROM RISKING MY LIFE FLYING. Unless there was some reason, perhaps one born of logic and evidence, that differentiates the two?

Try reading it again, and realize that I referenced pieces of evidence in both cases. If I knew one out of every million times someone yelled "fire!" it was inaccurate, I would be far less inclined to take action upon hearing it. If I didn't know anything about planes, or knew that 30% of flights crash-landed, I would not trust them to take me anywhere, and not because I'd arrive late.

What you're talking about is placing value on things, which is far different from faith.

I argue because you're wrong, you silly, silly person.

Antifides,

It appears to me that our thought process is significantly different. May be, your decision to leave the building on a fire alarm is based on data and experience. I just did not see it from your reasoning.

I guess, all that we know or think originates from some kind of interaction between our brain and the outside world and can be called "experience" and "data" in a broad sense. Judging from how the discussion goes, the disagreement must be in some basic definitions. I think, we should leave it at that. Discussion of word definitions can get really boring.

AG said, "The example with the coin and the cup illustrates the position of agnosticism, not atheism. Agnosticism is acceptable when you don't have any motivation to believe one way or another. If you don't care, there is no reason to ask for any evidence either. So, why do atheists so insist that believers provide evidence for God?"

The reason all religions use blind faith is to convince people to believe something without evidence - since there is none. Just believe anything and everything that any person might conjure up (imagine) in their minds. What I care about is stopping overbearing fanatics from trying to force their beliefs on the entire nation. Just believe anything without evidence. Anyone can make any claim without evidence, but we are not required to believe it.

AG, "The situation changes when we introduce motivation. What if I say that the coin, if found, will bring you a fortune on an auction? Will you still indifferently shrug your shoulders and insist that I prove my words or would you rather spend some effort to check my statement yourself?"

All religions use reward and punishment to promote their belief, it's atheists who don't think that is a basis for belief in something. If someone wants to find out the facts of the matter (truth) they don't jump to conclusions or accept evidence that is invisible. How do you know what a coin you have never seen is worth? People can say anything if there is no way to disprove it - but nobody has to believe them.

AG, "Your perception of my motivations also matters greatly. You may think that my words are in jest or I have dishonest motives for my words. My point is not that you should believe in God, but rather to show that your belief, disbelief, or agnosticism have to do with personal motives more than with data."

We are not the one's trying to get people to believe something is true without giving them a reason to believe it. Why would someone think something is true without any evidence? All religions tell people to have "faith" that certain things are true without giving them any reason to believe it, and their data is very defective. I think the fact that you don't require evidence is far more questionable. What's the motive for believing things on blind faith? Could it be things like life after death, blessings and all kinds of rewards for believing?

AG, "If you say that you have no reason to believe in God, before we discuss if there is God, we should discuss whether you could benefit from such belief. If you don't see the benefit (have no motive) or you suspect that I have dishonest motives, no evidence will make you believe in God."

You don't have any evidence or you would present it instead of playing games with cups and coins. And my goodness, why would anyone think it's dishonest to say there is an invisible thing but there is no way to prove it exists, so don't look for evidence, just believe that it exists. I guess just about anything is possible or could be true.

AG, "By the way, the two reports I found on false fire alarms have significantly different statistics. Which one should I *believe* and why? Evidence does not eliminate beliefs. Data is often unreliable due to systematic and random errors. We still use beliefs based on assumptions to accept or reject the data."

Mistakes with statistics don't change the fact that fire alarms and fire exists. Your example does not depict the actual argument. Originally it was about yelling fire! How about yelling God! Would that convince people to believe in the existence of something without any evidence?

AG, "I'd like to read the book by D. Kahneman and A. Tversky "Judgement under Uncertainty". The book has, at least 2 interesting conclusions, according to the reviews(http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/WhosCounting/story?id=97542&page=1): 1) People make riskier decisions to avoid perceived losses than to achieve perceived gains. This is consistent with my statement that motives matter greatly for decisions and beliefs. 2) When asked to confirm a rule, people intuitively (and incorrectly) look for facts agreeing with the rule rather than checking possible exceptions. This is consistent with your reasoning in the example with airplanes. You employed irrelevant data to find confirmation for your decision to fly."

On the other hand there is no data or evidence to confirm god exists. There is no way to judge what is "true" if we are not given any evidence, and we should be suspicious because it might be a swindle.

Arizona con man Edward Purvis admits huge Ponzi scam targeted Christians. He maintained his innocence in a fraud that bilked millions of dollars from churchgoers in Arizona and 12 other states. Teaching people to believe things without proof leaves them venerable to deception. I really don't see any difference between "blind faith" in god/gods and a Ponzi scam; when they both manipulate people into believing something that is irrational without giving them any evidence.

Linda,

You (and others) say, "The reason all religions use blind faith is to convince people to believe something without evidence - since there is none."

I can join you on your crusade against forcing beliefs upon others. And I completely agree with you that not only there is no evidence of God, but none could ever be. I'm seeking consistency in our statements.

With that said, do you know if scientists have yet found any evidence of the 11 space-time dimensions described on page 117 of "The Grand Design" book you quoted? How about the 10^500 universes described on page 118? Do you think alternative universes can be ever be detected in ours? Isn't M-theory just replacing one untestable hypothesis with *several* others? I understand that M-theory comes from the best scientists in the world and seems to agree with observed natural phenomena better than the Bible. But if accepting statements without evidence appalls you, accepting M-theory at this stage should be unacceptable as well. Don't you think so?

Have you given any thought to the following places from "The Grand Design" book?

"Strict realists often argue that the proof that scientific theories represent reality lies in their success. But different theories can successfully describe the same phenomenon through disparate conceptual frameworks. In fact, many scientific theories that had proven successful were later replaced by other, equally successful theories based on wholly new concepts of reality." -- "The Grand Design", page 44.

"According to model-dependent realism, it is pointless to ask wether a model is real, only whether it agrees with observation. If there are two models that both agree with observation, like the goldfish's picture and ours, then one cannot say that one is more real than another. One can use whichever model is more convenient in the situation under consideration." -- "The Grand Design", page 46.

Does M-theory explain human suffering or offer any solution to it? Silly question, isn't it? M-theory has little to do with human suffering, just as Bible has little to do with physics. The Bible may offer a poor explanation of physical nature, but I find its accuracy in describing human nature remarkable. The Bible agrees with many of my observations about myself and people around me, just as M-theory agrees with observations about the physical universe. Both employ untestable concepts. Is it relevant whether alternative universes or God exist to accept one or reject another if both offer useful ideas?

Pages 80-82 of "The Grand Design" describe experimental evidence that the act of observation affects the system we observe and alters not only its future, but its (unobserved) past as well: "Quantum physics tells us that no matter how thorough our observation of the present, the (unobserved) past, like the future, is indefinite and exists only as a spectrum of possibilities. The universe, according to quantum physics, has no single past, or history." -- page 82. Objective reality is dead. Long live model-dependent reality!

It was interesting to read how scientists changed their ideas depending on available observations: "In fact, the famous physicist Sir William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) said in 1884 that the ether was "the only substance we are confident of in dynamics. One thing we are sure of, and that is the reality and substantiality of the luminiferous ether." -- page 95. As you know, the idea of ether was abandoned a few years later.

"When it was discovered that the universe was not static, Einstein eliminated the cosmological constant from his theory and called including it the greatest blunder of his life. But in 1998 observations of very distant supernovas revealed that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, an effect that is not possible without some kind of repulsive force acting throughout the space. The cosmological constant was resurrected." -- Page 162.

I do not deny M-theory. However this I know for sure: in 100 years, for sure, but, possibly, in 50, it will be history. It will be either completely changed or abandoned altogether. We cannot find absolute truth in science as sure as we cannot find God in the universe. It does not mean that we should not believe that one exists or stop seeking one.

As for scams, fools can be duped with scientific ideas just as easily. Science has no cure for stupidity either.

AG said, "Linda, You (and others) say, "The reason all religions use blind faith is to convince people to believe something without evidence - since there is none."

You have no rebuttal to that statement because it's true. If something is true there will be some kind of evidence that points to that truth. The exact opposite is happening with the Creator. We know the universe and life in the universe evolved - there is nothing that has ever been found that was created.

AG said, "I can join you on your crusade against forcing beliefs upon others. And I completely agree with you that not only there is no evidence of God, but none could ever be. I'm seeking consistency in our statements."

Well, shoot Luke your faded! There could never be any evidence of God because it's a scam that's why the story is "there could never be any evidence" like Carl Sagan's "invisible dragon in my garage". There has to be logical or physical evidence for a hypothesis to become a theory. Otherwise, whatever anyone imagines is true, the God theory has neither logic nor evidence, and I'm not on a Christian message board spreading anything.

AG said, "With that said, do you know if scientists have yet found any evidence of the 11 space-time dimensions described on page 117 of "The Grand Design" book you quoted?

As everyone knows who has ever read anything Stephen Hawking has written, particularly "The Grand Design", he never claims M-theory is anything but a mathematical theory.

Extra dimensions, while difficult to visualize, are actually a very simple mathematical concept. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) can expand our limited understanding of these theories. String theory predicts the existence of extra dimensions. Some of these might be large enough to be observable by the LHC. One possibility is that gravity might become strong when these extra dimensions appear. In this case, some variants of string theory predict that microscopic black holes might be produced in the LHC collisions. These would evaporate rapidly according to Hawking radiation, but measurements of this radiation would offer a unique window into the mysteries of quantum gravity. If the extra dimensions are curled up on a sufficiently large scale, ATLAS and CMS might be able to see Kaluza-Klein excitations of Standard Model particles, or even the graviton.

String theory (theoretical physics) is a mathematical theory that up to now we couldn't test. The reason we can't test String theory is the difficulties in creating the extreme energy levels required for testing. String theory unites Einstein's 'Theory of Relativity' with quantum physics and offers a potential explanation for the Big Bang. Einstein wanted to unite the four fundamental forces under one theory. The theory of everything is sound theoretically. There are a number of complex theories that (quantum physics) the science that deals with discrete, indivisible units of energy, can unit with what we can observe.

The LHC experiments are with particles that collide into each other at high speeds. By observing these collisions, scientists can attempt to test the latest theories. It is presumed that any theory of quantum gravity would require higher energies to probe than the Large Hadron Collider can reach. There is one possibility of testing the existence of large extra dimensions of space and of fundamental strings if there are strings that are up to nearly a millimeter in size.

Dimensions of time say nothing about god's existence.

AG said, "How about the 10^500 universes described on page 118?

According to M-theory, the way that the dimensions are curled up to instantiate our apparent "laws" can be modeled a number of different ways. The number of ways that universes can be modeled under this theory turns out to be on the order of 10 to the power of 500. Each having its own unique physical laws.

Multiverse theory involves complex mathematical extrapolation. Stanford cosmologist Andre Linde, perhaps the best-known contributor to multiverse theory, says that his work "allows you not to have to beg for the help of religion." He was among the team of Moscow scientists developing "chaotic inflation theory" in the 1980s, which posits that parts of the cosmos are constantly budding off, undergoing big bangs of their own, and developing into universes with varying laws of physics. Linde began his research to resolve lingering questions about the big bang. The idea in itself is far from new; philosophers have exhaustively considered this eventuality.

AG said, "Do you think alternative universes can be ever be detected in ours?"

Can we detect gravity? The Multiverse theory does not presume the existence of any supernatural physics. In fact, there is no physics involved in the God theory at all. No matter how much wishful thinking "god theories" are not science. Some scientists believe that the multiverse would exclude a Supernatural Creator. It's Supernatural Creator or parallel worlds?" However, there are powerful reasons to believe that the universe may also be a consequence of random mutation. This idea is very firmly established in the mainstream physics and cosmology literature. According to String Theory the tiniest dimensions of space are curled up and twisted into an analog of the Double Helix. The Double Helix is a frame on which base pairs can be arranged. The pattern of base pairs determines the properties of a given biological entity.

This is just what happens when apologists, who have no understanding of the reasoning involved in a theory, try to talk about physics. They create their own reality they are more satisfied with.

AG said, "Isn't M-theory just replacing one untestable hypothesis with *several* others? I understand that M-theory comes from the best scientists in the world and seems to agree with observed natural phenomena better than the Bible. But if accepting statements without evidence appalls you, accepting M-theory at this stage should be unacceptable as well. Don't you think so?"

M-theory suggests that our universe and others are created by collisions between p-branes. According to string theory, an unknown number of branes exist that each supports a separate but parallel universe. This is an attempt to explain what caused the Big Bang. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) can expand our limited understanding of these theories. The LHC experiments with particles that collide into each other at high speeds. By observing these collisions, scientists can attempt to test the latest theories. It is presumed that any theory of quantum gravity would require higher energies to probe than the Large Hadron Collider can reach. There is one possibility of testing the existence of large extra dimensions of space and of fundamental strings if there are strings that are up to nearly a millimeter in size.

The eleventh dimension of string theory predicts a new kind of string, that stretches continuously to create what is termed a floating membrane, or brane (M-theory) that our universe and others are created by collisions between p-branes. According to string theory, an unknown number of branes exist that each supports a separate but parallel universe. This is an attempt to explain what caused the Big Bang not creation.

Many scientists believe that proof of string theory will come with technological progress and time. M- theory is not actually testable yet, so nobody is saying anyone has to believe anything.

Without experiments a possible explanation for something is not (yet) a scientific theory. To become a scientific theory it will require testing and rigorous proof. Many very good possible explanations have come and gone that didn't stand up to testing and new technology. However, there is no theory proving a Creator. As I have said, it is presumed that any theory of quantum gravity would require higher energies to probe than the Large Hadron Collider can reach. There is one possibility of testing the existence of large extra dimensions of space and of fundamental strings if there are strings that are up to nearly a millimeter in size

AG said, "Have you given any thought to the following places from "The Grand Design" book? "Strict realists often argue that the proof that scientific theories represent reality lies in their success. But different theories can successfully describe the same phenomenon through disparate conceptual frameworks. In fact, many scientific theories that had proven successful were later replaced by other, equally successful theories based on wholly new concepts of reality." -- "The Grand Design", page 44."

Hawking writes that under model-dependent realism, there is no single model that can explain the universe. There are, instead, a series of models that overlap. That's fine provided (that where the models overlap) they make the same predictions. If they don't, one or more of the models is flawed. Hence Newtonian and General Relativistic models can account for big objects in the world, and quantum mechanical models can account for little things like subatomic particles. There is no model that accounts for the overlap of quantum mechanics and general relativity. That would be the theory of everything. The new Theory of Everything, is M-Theory, M-Theory is a network of theories, or models, which model different domains of reality, but which will end up making the same predictions where they overlap. M-theory derives from string theory. It describes a world of eleven space-time dimensions, in which all but the 3+1 dimensions that we normally experience are curled up into tiny little balls far too small to see or experience. The mathematics of the theory says that the way these minuscule dimensions are curled up accounts for the "apparent" laws of physics that we experience. So our laws of physics are not laws at all, but simply incidental consequences of the way that the extra dimensions are curled up under M-theory.

One problem for M-theory is there no quantum description of gravity, but Einstein's theory of gravity replaced the Newton's theory.

AG said, ""According to model-dependent realism, it is pointless to ask wether a model is real, only whether it agrees with observation. If there are two models that both agree with observation, like the goldfish's picture and ours, then one cannot say that one is more real than another. One can use whichever model is more convenient in the situation under consideration." -- "The Grand Design", page 46.

"One can use whichever model is more convenient in the situation under consideration" as can be done with Einstein's model of gravity and Newton's. "It might be that to describe the universe, we have to employ different theories in different situations. Each theory may have its own version of reality, but according to model-dependent realism, that is acceptable so long as the theories agree in their predictions whenever they overlap, that is, whenever they can both be applied." (p. 117) The Grand Design.

AG said, "Does M-theory explain human suffering or offer any solution to it? Silly question, isn't it? M-theory has little to do with human suffering, just as Bible has little to do with physics. The Bible may offer a poor explanation of physical nature, but I find its accuracy in describing human nature remarkable. The Bible agrees with many of my observations about myself and people around me, just as M-theory agrees with observations about the physical universe. Both employ untestable concepts. Is it relevant whether alternative universes or God exist to accept one or reject another if both offer useful ideas?

The Bible attempted to answer questions like (how the universe and life in the universe came to be) and failed miserably. It didn't do much better trying to explain human suffering. A perfect God created a defective man and then punished him (by cursing the ground) for being defective. That explains why it's so hard to make a living farming - I guess?

The Greek philosopher's arguments were posed to prove that an all-powerful - all-good - all-knowing - god does not exist. Epicurus's the problem of evil: Is god willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god?

AG said, "Pages 80-82 of "The Grand Design" describe experimental evidence that the act of observation affects the system we observe and alters not only its future, but its (unobserved) past as well: "Quantum physics tells us that no matter how thorough our observation of the present, the (unobserved) past, like the future, is indefinite and exists only as a spectrum of possibilities. The universe, according to quantum physics, has no single past, or history." -- page 82. Objective reality is dead. Long live model-dependent reality!"

The Wheeler delayed choice experiment, observing a particle now can change what happened to another particle in the past. According to quantum mechanics, a physical system (such as a nucleus of a radioactive atom) can be in a superposition (mixture) of states such as ("decayed" and "not decayed"). Although relativistic quantum mechanics includes wave functions that propagate backward and forward in time, this does not mean that earlier events are determined by later events. The DCE also states that when a measurement is performed by an observer, the system "collapses" into one of the states, which is the state seen by the observer. In the double-slit experiment instruments can measure the "self-collapse" systems, there is no need for an observer, and the interaction of the photon with an electron in the double slit experiment will take place whether anyone is observing it or not.

Quantum physics finds that every object in the universe has both particle-like and wave-like properties. Particles are waves, and waves are particles. Every object in the universe is a quantum particle that has some characteristics of both particles and waves, but isn't really either. Some advocates of design try to use quantum mechanics to prove that there is a god. To explain myths or any other preconceived ideology with quantum physics is a multi-faceted problem. For instance trying to use the duality of particles to prove the "supernatural". Our lack of knowledge about the definite existence or non-existence of a particle before it has been actualized does not imply that it manifests some kind of strange reality between existence and nonexistence. We know it does in fact exist but we may have to predict where it exists. It's not supernatural. Various claims are made about quantum mechanics to make it support the ideas of religious philosophies that do try to use new scientific theories to support their specific ideologies that they promote. The most usual way they have gotten their ideologies to conform to new scientific discoveries is through twisting scientific theories (quantum mechanics) in order to prove what they already believe.

AG said, "It was interesting to read how scientists changed their ideas depending on available observations: "In fact, the famous physicist Sir William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) said in 1884 that the ether was "the only substance we are confident of in dynamics. One thing we are sure of, and that is the reality and substantiality of the luminiferous ether." -- page 95. As you know, the idea of ether was abandoned a few years later.

That is because in science theories that are wrong die (usually pretty fast) and when a theory is proven wrong it is thrown out. Wrong theories don't last because they can't be used for anything. Unlike creation science evolution has lasted and is now considered a theory and a fact. It is the basis for all kinds of theories in biology and science. So is the big bang - and by the way M-theory is a theory that is trying to explain the big bang not do away with it in favor of "creation science" or some other fantasy that nobody could use for any scientific model.

AG said, "When it was discovered that the universe was not static, Einstein eliminated the cosmological constant from his theory and called including it the greatest blunder of his life. But in 1998 observations of very distant supernovas revealed that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, an effect that is not possible without some kind of repulsive force acting throughout the space. The cosmological constant was resurrected." -- Page 162.

Astronomers discovered that the expansion of the universe was being accelerated by some dark energy that behaves exactly like the cosmological constant. The cosmological constant which drives the inflation of the universe.

The universe is expanding and the expansion is accelerating. This finding was as surprising to astrophysicists as the discovery of expansion. There has been some speculation that Einstein adjusted his calculations concerning the structure of the universe to keep it from collapsing, not to keep it from blowing apart, because the gravity built-into the mass of the universe would tend to pull everything together into one big blob. Since that had not happened, Einstein added a factor he called the "cosmological constant" into his equations to maintain a stable state. Einstein dropped the "cosmological constant" after the scientific community's acceptance of an expanding universe. One of the biggest questions in cosmology for decades was whether the universe keeps expanding forever. Or does the big bang cycle back to a (big bounce) and repeat? That would solve the problem of an ultimate beginning event. It's not the same thing as eternal life or the resurrection. It's more like flowers that bloom in the spring, die in the fall and come back in spring, a process of nature, which many resurrection myths were based on.

Now that astrophysicists have found that the expansion is accelerating it might be that Einstein had the right idea all along. His "cosmological constant" has been resurrected as a force called "dark energy"- a kind of antigravity that makes the universe expand faster as time goes by. Dark matter is the mystery substance thought to account for the unusual motion of galaxies themselves.

This is not in any way unusual for a theory to change when new information comes along. What would be astonishing would be to find something that was created, although there is no exhibit, model or evidence to affirm there is a reason to believe that there is a Creator, some people still claim, just saying that it is possible is adequate.

"The Grand Design" by the British cosmologist Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow contends that physicists do not need God to account for the universe. " Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist."

"The multiverse concept can explain the fine-tuning of physical law without the need for a benevolent creator who made the universe for our benefit."

AG said, "I do not deny M-theory. However this I know for sure: in 100 years, for sure, but, possibly, in 50, it will be history. It will be either completely changed or abandoned altogether. We cannot find absolute truth in science as sure as we cannot find God in the universe. It does not mean that we should not believe that one exists or stop seeking one." Yes, if a theory is flawed or can't be proven it should be thrown away. So, why don't you feel the same about the, God who created everything and can do anything but He hasn't "theory". Maybe He can't! It's been thousands of years, so where is He? "The Grand Design", on page one, in the second paragraph: "Philosophy is dead." If God is unnecessary and philosophy is dead, the field is clear for science to explain the world: to answer all the age-old questions like: "What is the nature of reality? Where did all this come from? Did the universe need a creator?"

AG said, "As for scams, fools can be duped with scientific ideas just as easily. Science has no cure for stupidity either."

Trying to use science to prove that science is wrong (a circular argument) with science you are always trying to disprove not to prove something. Trying to disprove science in order to prove god exists is very stupid indeed. Science has proven itself (many times) but if a scientific theory fails it is discarded - unlike the creator theory. Apologists seek to impose a dogma rather than seek a truth.

Religious nonsense should be behind us; it is practically nonexistent in nearly all of the advanced countries, and they do not have the incredible level of violent crime, poverty and war that the most religious countries do have.

Linda, thanks for the reply. Just wanted to acknowledge that I read it all.

"Trying to use science to prove that science is wrong (a circular argument) with science you are always trying to disprove not to prove something. Trying to disprove science in order to prove god exists is very stupid indeed."

I agree. I don't think it's possible to prove there is god. Neither do I say that science is wrong. It is not my intention. I would have the burden of proof only if I wanted you to believe. I just want to understand how other people think. In fact, I've learned a lot from you, folks.

Regarding circular statements, it is equally impossible to prove with science that science is right or with logic that logic is reasonable. Just as Epicurian argument is nothing but a paradox. I'm sure, you know these as well: "Can the omnipotent God create a stone too heavy for Himself to lift?" "Can omniscient God change a future event which He knows will happen?", etc.

With God, we always encounter circular reasoning. I think, thoughts about God, our origin, and the origin of the universe follow directly from our self-awareness which puts us apart from the rest of the living creatures (I know, apes have various degrees of it, but I doubt apes (or computers) ever ask questions "why do I exist?") This self-awareness leads to circular reasoning and gives rise to compassion and morality as well. We cannot answer questions about ourselves without circular reasoning, just like science cannot answer questions about itself. I think, our beliefs about God are tightly connected with our beliefs about ourselves as individuals and as human species in general. Of course, circular reasoning is a logical fallacy. This is why I don't think, computers will surpass humans in reasoning ability or morality any time soon. Nor will scientists believe in God.

AG said, "I agree. I don't think it's possible to prove there is god. I would have the burden of proof only if I wanted you to believe. I just want to understand how other people think. In fact, I've learned a lot from you, folks."

It is not possible to prove anything about a fictional character. "There could never be any evidence" like Carl Sagan's "invisible dragon in my garage".

AG said. "Neither do I say that science is wrong. It is not my intention.

M-theory is a mathematical concept that Stephen Hawking wrote about in "The Grand Design", he never claimed M-theory was anything but a mathematical theory. You compared a scientific hypothesis (that will be testable in the future) to something that can "never be proven".

AG said, "Regarding circular statements, it is equally impossible to prove with science that science is right or with logic that logic is reasonable. Just as Epicurian argument is nothing but a paradox. I'm sure, you know these as well: "Can the omnipotent God create a stone too heavy for Himself to lift?" "Can omniscient God change a future event which He knows will happen?", etc."

You don't understand that the all knowing, all powerful, all good god, is not logical according to the logic involved in solving the paradox. Proving science (or the scientific method) right is not the same thing as falsifying a theory - Theories are never proven. They are supported by evidence. God isn't even a scientific concept (no model) the same thing could be said for magic.

AG said, "With God, we always encounter circular reasoning.

That's right because you presuppose something exists.

AG said, "I think, thoughts about God, our origin, and the origin of the universe follow directly from our self-awareness which puts us apart from the rest of the living creatures (I know, apes have various degrees of it, but I doubt apes (or computers) ever ask questions "why do I exist?") This self-awareness leads to circular reasoning and gives rise to compassion and morality as well.

The ancient biblical idea that humans are more important than all other creatures on earth has been debunked. All of the life on earth is necessary for humans and animals to survive. Humans evolved from an ape like creature, and it has been proven that dolphins and whales are self-aware.

AG said,"We cannot answer questions about ourselves without circular reasoning, just like science cannot answer questions about itself. I think, our beliefs about God are tightly connected with our beliefs about ourselves as individuals and as human species in general. Of course, circular reasoning is a logical fallacy. This is why I don't think, computers will surpass humans in reasoning ability or morality any time soon. Nor will scientists believe in God."

There is no need to use circular reasoning to answer questions about ourselves or the human race, and science does answer questions about science. Claims can only be accepted or refuted based on tangible evidence. Ignorance about something provides no evidence.

Humans will design a machine that surpasses human intelligence. This machine will improve its own intelligence faster and better than humans can, which would make it even more skilled at improving its own intelligence. This could continue in a positive feedback loop so the machine quickly becomes vastly more intelligent than the smartest human being on Earth: an 'intelligence explosion' resulting in a machine super intelligence. There are many paths to artificial general intelligence (AGI). One is to focus on developing a 'seed AI' that can recursively self-improve, so it can learn to be intelligent on its own without needing to first achieve human-level general intelligence.

Nanotechnology - Genetic evolution has limited life to a system based on DNA, RNA, and ribosomes, but memetic evolution will bring life-like machines based on nanocomputers and assemblers.

"Humans will design a machine that surpasses human intelligence. This machine will improve its own intelligence faster and better than humans can, which would make it even more skilled at improving its own intelligence. This could continue in a positive feedback loop so the machine quickly becomes vastly more intelligent than the smartest human being on Earth: an 'intelligence explosion' resulting in a machine super intelligence."

This is a fascinating idea. If I'm not mistaken, this situation is called "a technological singularity" in science fiction. You speak about it as of a certainty whereas it is nothing but an assumption based on extrapolation of exponential growth of human intelligence. I, personally, believe (based on practical experience) that no exponential growth is sustainable indefinitely. I learned it the hard way, waiting for my stock options to sky-rocket in 2000. All previous data showed that it was going to happen soon. Where is your skepticism now? For some reason, I don't see it when it comes to "scientific" ideas.

AG wrote:

"Regarding circular statements, it is equally impossible to prove with science that science is right or with logic that logic is reasonable. Just as Epicurian argument is nothing but a paradox. I'm sure, you know these as well: "Can the omnipotent God create a stone too heavy for Himself to lift?" "Can omniscient God change a future event which He knows will happen?", etc."

This is the thing, christians insist that their god is omnipotent and omniscient and the two aren't compatible. And then consider that if god knows everything, he can NEVER experience anything novel. Mr. Deity addressed this by "turning his omniscience off" so that he could actually enjoy existence. The Christian god's existence has to be the most boring thing imaginable. March Madness is going on and God can't enjoy a single moment. God can't watch Louis C. K. and laugh, ever. And enjoy a new movie? As if. And the next Song of Ice and Fire? Yeah, right.

He really should try non-existence, like what we atheists think of him, and finally enjoy something novel. Or, maybe he did. Maybe he created everything, new exactly what would happen everywhere, every when, and promptly split to create a new universe, with different physical laws and inhabitants, just so he could feel that blissful novelty once again.

Rinse, lather, repeat for eternity.

Mark,

Finally, my message is getting through. When we turn off the anxiety and stop viewing each other as idiots or as a threat to each other, we can enjoy a good laugh about God, our beliefs, science, and absurdity of life.

"Or, maybe he did. Maybe he created everything, new exactly what would happen everywhere, every when, and promptly split to create a new universe, with different physical laws and inhabitants, just so he could feel that blissful novelty once again."

According to the M-theory, he created 10 to power 500 such universes :).

What you say is logical. However, if we admit that omniscience and omnipotence are one and the same thing (knowledge is power, is it not?), then there is no paradox. After all, scientists did admit that mass and energy are, pretty much, the same thing.

if i show you a book that tells the future then 33 more books to confirm it and it comes true would you believe its the truth

Probably not, but please feel free to post your miraculous evidence. I'm sure I can tell you why it's not the least bit convincing.

From: hell smells if i show you a book that tells the future then 33 more books to confirm it and it comes true would you believe its the truth

Absolutely. I don't even need to know the author(s) or when they were written or whether there was any collaborating evidence from outside sources or whether the information was historically accurate or whether there were ulterior motives or whether the information was altered or miscopied or perhaps mistranslated for some effect or whether the books are unique. I'm not going to think, at all! Just sign me the fuck up!

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From the officers:

The audio and video from Steve Bratteng's July 13th lecture are now available.