Saturday, August 28, 2010

For atheists, a couple of questions



Dear atheists, 


I desire to understand you. I really do. I am not being sarcastic or flippant when I say that. I don't get you. I try to figure things out so that they make sense to me, and so I have a couple of questions that may seem silly or simple-minded or obvious to you, but I am asking in good faith. They are not trick questions. Here goes:


1) Billions of years ago, the material universe was created when some stuff interacted with some other stuff (chemicals, gases? I don't know... I'm not a scientist so I will defer to you). My question: Where did the "stuff" come from?


2) Atheists believe that "gathering knowledge" and "intellectual curiosity" are important (and I agree wholeheartedly). My question: If your brain is the product of randomness and chance, then why do you trust your brain to give you true information?


Thanks in advance for taking my questions seriously and answering them directly, without tangents.



118 comments:

  1. 1) Your description of the Big Bang is way off, but in any case my answer is "I don't know."

    2) Likewise, you can't generalize about atheists, apart from an absence of belief in gods -- not all atheists are interested in knowledge. But that isn't germane to the question. My answer to #2 is that, first, I don't completely trust my brain, (I can make mistakes, misinterpret things, etc) which is why science doesn't depend on e.g. one person's claims about reality -- science prefers repeatable experiments, double blind tests, etc, as a way to reduce human biases and errors. Second, in day to day operation, my brain appears to interpret the real world well enough to function, so it works well enough for me. I don't need to make up invisible beings acting behind the scenes to describe what's happening, so I don't know why people believe in gods.

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  2. Brian, welcome and thank you!

    1) I had always assumed that atheists had theories about where the "stuff" came from, but then someone told me they didn't. So I wanted to ask about that. I am surprised at your answer, but it is honest and makes sense.

    2) I see what you are saying, but if the brain is made from randomness and not created to find objective truth, you could be seeing things (and witnessing repeatable science experiments) that actually don't exist or are not true. Wouldn't it have to follow that science is dubious when its truths are brought out and evaluated by brains which have no basis in anything but chance? So, I still don't get that, but I accept your answer. And, I accept your second point, i.e., that you are functioning (or at least your brain makes you believe that you are functioning), and that is good enough for you to get by. Tell me if I have that right.

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  3. Hi, first of all, the concept of nothing is overly simplistic and I have come to reject that assumption out of hand. But the current idea is energy wave distortions caused the minutest of pops, that caused a chain reaction of ever bigger pops and explosions that are still occurring to this very day like bubbles in simmering soup across the universe. Since matter is just energy at a reduced vibration frequency (simply stated) it shouldn't be hard to visualize energy wave distortions causing atoms to slow down enough to literally clot together. I know this is a simple answer, but I just covered the beginning of the universe.

    As is usual with those of your world view, you have put to much emphasis on both randomness and chance. First, the randomness is at the level of acquired traits from your parents and grandparents who have already tested it out for the most part. The chance is at the level of environmental adaptation, that is, the chance that the adaptation will benefit the organism in procreating offspring and therefore furthering the species.

    Our brain, is quite adept at reasoning, granted, some better than others. And I would be the last to recommend trusting it all the time, but it can be very rational with practice, even perceptive and observant. Otherwise, driving a car would be considerably more dangerous. But I'm sure you have an alternative that has something to do with Dualism, (ie. god doing our thinking for us) only if that were the case, how hideous must our puppet master be to punish us for eternity for the crime of being puppets on a string. I hope this helped. Imagine, you really are star dust that has progressed through billions of years of evolution to become the symbiotic community of organisms that is you.

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  4. I wonder if Jennifer at Conversion Diary has touched on these points?
    http://www.conversiondiary.com

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  5. I'll asnwer from the point of view of physics, since I'm not an atheist.

    Science must absolutely answer I DON'T KNOW to the question of origins, and religion answer GOD. This is the only conflict. The sciences are not in conflict with a rational religion that allows for natural process as God's mechanisms.

    At some point, science must admit that it does a phenomenal job of answering what, how, when, where. Religion must admit that it's expertise can only reside in the question of Why.

    John Paul II's quote is the best "Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes."

    Thus far in my Catholic studying, this quote is by far the most meaningful to me.

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  6. Monica, the JPII quote is excellent! And yes, you summarized it just right!

    Science cannot answer the questions of religion, and religion does not purport to answer the questions of science (though the truths of science and religion can never conflict, because truth cannot contradict itself).

    I hope you won't mind if I say that I think you are a better "Catholic" than most Catholics, ha ha!

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  7. stardust? WTH? LMAO. I really have never laughed so hard in my life, I'm crying!!!

    Stardust? Really! hahahahahaha

    I really hope you are joking and if so, I need to follow you because you are the funniest man I have ever read. And if not, then man, athiesm is just a joke.

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  8. beachbum,

    First, it's imperative that you understand the Catholic position... one of the first things I teach converts is that we are not puppets and God is not a puppet master. We are all about free will as Catholics. God does not pull our strings and choose for us. You are confusing us with some other branches of Christianity, perhaps?

    From your first part, I am guessing then that you believe in uncreated matter? That matter was always there, forever, from eternity? Just trying to clarify.

    Also, I'm still not clear why your brain (which is based on no intelligent design and has no grounding in an objective transcendent truth) can deduce that the concept of "nothing" is simplistic and can be rejected? How do you know your brain can find things that deep, and that most others don't know about?

    As for the car analogy, maybe you are not driving a car at all, right? Maybe your brain is only making your feel as if you are driving a car? How do you know? Your philosophy must account for that. Help me understand how you know that cars are real, when the brain that tells you so sprung up with no intelligence behind it, and no truth on which it is based ultimately. Thanks.

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  9. I think he is speaking of the religion of narcissism.....it is easier to worship oneself then God.

    I know you are trying to have a "legitimate" conversation here but I just wanted to subscribe and forgot to earlier...I'm probably coming off as very sarcastic so don't mind me.

    Stardust, over and out! Should I twinkle if I was made of stardust? LMBO!

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  10. beachbum, also if you could clarify for me: If randomness and chance came on the scene later on (if that's what you are positing), then was there a design at the beginning of this process, when the universe began? I am confused about your position on that. Thanks.

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  11. Come on, Sew. This atheist was trying to give an honest answer. Can we be more civil? And what's wrong with his stardust comment? It's beautiful. It's amazing to consider. Is it any stranger than earth dust, which Genesis says composes us?

    As a Catholic who loves evolution, I praise God if he chose to use evolution. It is so like Him not to be in a hurry.

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  12. I'm chiming in again... :-)
    Both Earth dust and Star dust are the same thing, and unless we reject science entirely, our physical/material selves *are* stardust, as stars are responsible for being the factories for all atoms up to and including iron on the periodical table (Stars perform nuclear fusion- why we wear sunscreen to protect ourselves from the sun's radiation). Where science and religion differ, again, is whether or not humans possess something more than a material (biological) body. Science says "no", as there is no measurable way to quantify it, religion says "Soul".

    Leila, in terms of randomness and chance, it is perfectly acceptable and compatible with religion to say that we are the result of random mutation. Random is a word used mathematically, not philosophically. The reason for human life is due to the very special values certain physical principles are given- the speed of light, the weight of atoms and sub-atomic particles, the gas constant, etc, etc. Now WHY our universe happens to have a set of constants that are fine "tuned" so that random chance would lead to human life... is a question Science CANNOT answer. It is a question for philosophy and religion.

    Check out this article my brother fortuitously sent me yesterday:
    http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/science/sc0101.htm

    It is Catholic, but extremely interesting for the non-Catholics in the crowd- myself included.

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  13. Ah, I love and miss Cardinal Dulles! Can't wait to read the article fully.

    I appreciate the comments. I guess I should clarify that I have always understood atheists to mean that life itself is the product of randomness or chance. In other words, no one (no god, no intelligent designer) planned, designed, created the universe or the world. Life is ultimately a result of chance, and is also ultimately meaningless.

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  14. As is typical with religions and superstitions, the basic premise is flawed from the very first step. One can either have the brain in the vat (puppet on a string) or free will - not both. Either I am reacting (driving the car) to the reality around me or I'm reacting to Descartes Cartesian theater as transmitted from on high. Either we as a species interact with free will within a subset of our intelligence and experiences as limited by our evolved traits or this god character is the puppet master of even the most heinous acts perpetrated by every living organisms. But this has been ruled out with the advent of neuroscience, fMRI, and science of the mind, which shows conclusively that the brain is the organ of our personality with different parts reacting predictably to injury, stimulation and medication. Besides, with the corroboration through evidence, review and duplication by peers and the fact that it works in medicine, technology, jurisprudence, space travel or what ever have you, seems kind of complicated for a deity whose best solution for our sins that he, as you seem to imply, supposedly transmitted into our brains ,transcendentally, was to impregnate his own mother so he could kill himself only to forgive us for what we couldn't help but to do sometime in the future. This is just as illogical as omnipotence which is logically contradictory and fatal to the whole concept of a god. Because, if he is not omnipotent then he couldn't have been nothing and everything at the same time he supposedly created the universe. Ask yourself this; Can your god create an object to heavy for he himself to move? Either answer negates his existence, and leaves the pious only with denial.

    Myth is for those who can't think of an alternative to allegory. I consider all appeals to the supernatural as logically implausible and harmful to mankind, regardless of the flavor of idiocy. Also, as a thinking being, I reject the concept of believing; I will consider the evidence and make a determination that is subject to revision upon further considerations of new or revised findings.

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  15. I'd like to reply to Beachbum's comment addressed directly to me, but it seems to be gone?

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  16. Beachbum, we are simple, superstitious folk here in the Bubble. You might want to speak with more simplicity and break down the concepts so that we can all understand. Otherwise, you might risk coming off as a pompous and condescending sort, which I am sure you don't intend. ;)

    I prefer the Socratic method when dialoguing, and when I come back, I will engage you thusly, my friend. Meantime, off to visit the parents today....

    Blessings!

    PS: If you could cite some of the Christian sources you have used in your study of Christianity or Catholicism, I would appreciate it. Thanks!

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  17. Wow, Beachbum, methinks you actually believe that last post!

    Neuroscience has ruled out religion? To that, I say pffffthhh. That's like saying one can rule out the baker after studying the composition of the cake. Put another way, the fact that we can identify chemical reactions that inspire feelings of happiness doesn't explain why happiness even exists, or why humans should ever need or desire it. It is in fact those types of reactions that some have postulated are part of the "God imprint" ... the natural wiring in the human condition to seek fulfillment (ultimately, God).

    Regarding the "omnipotence" argument, I give you this task: please describe the universe.

    ... waiting ....

    "Harum-um-um." Can't, right? Nor can you describe omnipotence. In fact, only an omnipotent can understand omnipotence. You're as likely to understand what goes through the mind of a gerbil as you are to understand how the mind of an omnipotent being works.

    Finally, the argument with an atheist is ultimately one of evidence, because physically observable, measurable phenomena are the only things he will acknowledge (thus limiting his thinking to a myopic tunnel vision, and eliminating any hope of discussion of other evidence).

    By his way of thinking, a deaf person would be right to disbelieve that music exists, and the blind person would be right to disbelieve that color exists.

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  18. One other point, regarding whether God can create a rock he can't lift. It's a nice attempt at cleverness, but the devil is in the details.

    What you are really asking is "can God make a square circle?" In other words, the definition itself is contradictory, not God.

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  19. And alternatively, who is to say God can't willingly humble himself and create a rock he can't lift? After all, He humbled himself to become a human being, one that felt pain, hunger, thirst, etc. So perhaps the answer is that there is NOTHING He can do that undermines his omnipotence.

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  20. Part 2
    The first property of thermodynamics is that matter is neither created nor destroyed, only altered, and with E=MC^2 showing that energy is one of the states of matter, and vis-versa, potential energy is not nothing, energy is a state of imbalance in finding equilibrium (eg. righting an imbalance) is a very strong and ubiquitous force in nature. So, yes, in different states at different times, even unrecognizable with respect to anything we have yet imagined, but as Monica stated above, prior to Planck time we don't know. That is not to say, as some postulate, that if not A then B, B being the god concept - it isn't logical, it's not even a failed hypothesis. It is a remnant of ignorance, a postulation in lieu of actual understanding.

    There is no such thing as objective truth, least of all in the field of theology. Objective truth is an appeal to mystical thinking, divine authority from an Orphic abyss. That is exactly why Thomas Jefferson via James Madison, wrote "We the people" in the preamble to the Constitution, because he knew there was no perfect Platonic realm, and truth is substantial as well as subjective and as such, should be based on the best of current understanding. Just like our culturally innate morality, what is truly moral with a given particular, gets closer to an actual truth and more moral with our ever improving intellect and understanding. I give you the rejection of witch burning, abolition of slavery, emancipation of women and the civil rights movement. And regardless of the religiosity of those on either side of the argument, it was man that improved his moral standards.

    As for the confusion with randomness and chance, genes your mother or father carry as received from their antecedents are combined, in packaged sets, in a process of random selection (sort of, but not exactly, like the old your mothers eyes and your fathers nose) between many choices during meiosis, after fertilization. The point is the brain you have has been tested, in one form or another, by literally hundreds of your ancestors. The chance is with respect to your combination of genes being beneficial to your survival. If that combination left you deformed or retarded, your reproductive potential would be greatly reduced.

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  21. Part 3

    A couple of points for Monica.

    The only difference between living organisms and inanimate objects is that some living organisms are aware of their surroundings, via a nervous system. Your liver is alive, do you think it has an opinion, a crystal grows what do you think it wants for xmas. Just because you have the concept of self, ego, an I - you have the audacity to think you are special in the universe, that the "lower life forms" are within your dominion, I call it the arrogance of ignorance. The concept of a 'soul' is an enigma from our primitive past, the tendency to give intelligent agency to that which we feared yet didn't understand, it's derived from essence.

    And you are also incorrect with your assertion that science CANNOT answer why our universe is fine tuned, science can. It's very simple the universe isn't fine tuned at all. The truth of the matter is that if one of the constants were changed the others would find a balance. That is, if someone fiddled with the knobs the other knobs would adjust accordingly. It is the relationships of the constants that are maintained. Also, there would most likely be life, since we have found it everywhere (under some extreme conditions) we've looked on this planet and arguably others. The fine tuning argument is a fallacy, a false dichotomy.

    Religion, has never had the answer, when god was supposedly the dictator, the Catholic Church while claiming divine authority in his stead, ruled over the darkest time in human history, the Dark Ages. Which retarded human advancement for more than a thousand years. This country, our democracy, stands in direct defiance of that ideology, formed by men of the Enlightenment, our Founding Fathers, using ideas gleaned from a book by Baron de Montesquieu, titled "Spirit of Laws" formed our government, a book by the way, which is still on the Pope's list of banned books for its concepts excluded any role for the clergy. If you think religion has the answers, you're probably asking the wrong questions.

    Do you want to know what transcends the self - what is truly transcendent; the family, the team, an idea, freedom for all mankind, the betterment of the human condition. Knowledge has, in every case, advanced those endeavors on every plain of human existence and science is by far the best way to garner that knowledge.

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  22. Beachbum, my response to your points specifically addressed to me is above.

    Leila, go check out beachbum's blog. You will find he may actually be incapable of writing lucidly for an audience of mere mortals such as us.

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  23. leila, how do you attract the non-believer's to your blog? Are you advertising:)?

    That was way over my head for the most part but interesting to read and ponder. Because yes, we are simple folk here in the Bubble.

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  24. Yep-over my head too. I can't wrap my head around why free will and God would be mutually exclusive. God giving us the gift of free will makes perfect sense to me.

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  25. Interesting commenting going on over here...

    Thanks for stirring things up! ;)

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  26. Ken
    Apologies, if my comment was not clear, it was after midnight when I wrote it. Only, what I was referring to was;

    "this god character is the puppet master of even the most heinous acts perpetrated by every living organisms"

    Descartes' Dualism is what has been ruled out by the science of mind. Injuries to the organ have direct and predictable effects on, for instance, happiness or other modes of emotion and motivation. Injuries to the frontal lobe can turn you into an automaton. Predictably this is a later and more evolved portion of our simian brain, a product of our evolutionary history like happiness itself. If you wish to know why we experience happiness all one has to do is look at what makes us happy; our successes, the successes of friends and family, a beautiful day, that is to say a day without stormy weather, beautiful scenery (like a big green bush full of colorful things). I'm sure you can see what I am referring to and it is a product of our evolutionary past, when it was food, friends & family that dominated our days. Notice that indoors, the enclosure itself, doesn't do much to induce happiness. That's because it's not a long lived (only a few thousand years) part of our evolutionary history. In fact, notice how people make it 'happier' they brighten it up, they bring in flora, they air it out, my Fiancée painted flowers on the paintable walls of our home, it has nothing to do with a 'god imprint' as you claim, but it has everything to do with the same things that make any animal happy.

    There is nothing in the description of this deity that should instill happiness. In the old testament how it is described is as an evil, vindictive, jealous, war mongering megalomaniacal murderer. This from people that insist it needs to be appeased with burnt offerings of both animals and humans. And since the new testament is nothing but a collection of addenda (some from the midrash tradition) for the sake of Graeco-Roman gentiles, their Platonic ideologies and mystery cult mentality, I will leave that description until another time.

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  27. Ken part 2

    The universe isn't impossible to describe at all, there are in fact many ways to approach this task, none of which have any relationship to the illogical concept of omnipotence.

    The universe is an accumulation through time of the effects of forces interacting with matter at many levels and scales.

    Omnipotence, on the other hand is that overly simplistic fallacy needed in the apology for excuses of another overly simplistic concept, god(s). Notice that I needn't delve into the abyss of claiming to know the mind of a supernatural entity or anything else, which I leave to the religionists. All I have to know is that infinite anything is only an applicable concept in the world of numbers, another concept used to understand the real world, usable only after conceptualization has been factored out.

    And again, you are incorrect in the blatantly false assertion that basing conclusions on the evidence is comparable to deaf or blind person disavowing the existence of music or color for many reasons. Let me enumerate a couple, first our challenged individuals can use the observation of effects, preform experiments, create technology or use other senses to establish the existence of both music and color. Secondly, in the pursuit of supernatural entities, supernatural claims have always been found to be natural phenomena, that is, not supernatural at all, or shown as false, else rendered illogical, irrational and unknowable, therefore irrelevant to the material universe for there is no interaction to be observed or expected. Every advance of human knowledge has set religious claims on their heals, that is, pushed god into smaller and smaller gaps in our knowledge. Where now we see the correlation of god as ignorance in that when our ignorance was great so to was the power of god(s). Now that our ignorance is not so great, nor is the power of god(s).

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  28. Hey, Beachbum... You really need to know your audience. First, no one can sift through your verbosity. Yes, we understand that you fancy yourself quite intelligent, but stringing together a bunch of incoherent statements does not necessarily make you so. Bring it back, friend.

    First, when you start babbling about pedophile priests to make your case, you will lose us. I am not surprised you cannot attract readers to your blog if you approach your arguments that way. Please read my earlier posts about the Church scandal if you are really interested in the truth about the priest scandal.

    If you want this conversation to continue, please answer the simple follow-up questions I posed after your first comment. (By the way, we believe that God was always there... he was never "nothing"... if I read you right... you are particularly hard to understand.)

    Or, just answer this please:

    I used the term "ultimately meaningless"... can you tell me what you understand the word "ultimately" to mean? Just want to make sure we are on the right page. Thanks.....

    I do hope Brian comes back. :)

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  29. Beachbum: My 9th grade English teacher taught us the cardinal rule of clear writing: Omit needless words. Take it to heart, friend.

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  30. Apparently something weird is happening on the comments section of this post. Here is what Beachbum wrote, which I have not seen in the comment box yet:


    leila @

    I disagree with your "ultimately meaningless" assertion, but I know this is a typical religious propaganda point and you are probably used to pushing it without resistance. Only what would make life more meaningless, having a scapegoat philosophy where you aren't even responsible for your own sin and you are just a pawn in a game between a god and his fallen angel, while trying to be 1 of 144,000 non-defiled (by not being with a woman) male virgins. This may explain pedophile priests, anyway see Rev 14:3, sorry girls.

    Would not life be much more meaningful if you did not deny that this was it; you were to take responsibility for, while being rewarded for your accomplishments and failures right here in life as we are any way - except for the religious concept of retribution, a form of revenge for those who haven't come to grips with the idea that life just isn't fair.

    I find the comment section of blogs does not lend itself to the Socratic method the way face to face debate does.

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  31. No Ken,

    What I am doing is showing that a property that this entity is said to possess is at least illogical and therefore impossible. Since this entity would also be required to be timeless, that is outside effects of time, to be everywhere at once, uncaused "to have always been," infinite, to avoid infinite regress, this entity could not have created a finite universe nor interacted with it at any time because of the properties of the caused must reflect those of the cause (it would always be in a state of potential, which is why it is impossible) and again, infinite is a concept that exists only in the realm of concepts, everything real is finite. Another point is the Law of Identity, this entity would have to be material to actually exist, to be real; otherwise it is just a concept, which is how I read the Platonic description at any rate. And this is supported by the fact that every human being I have known, heard of, or read about has their own idea of a deity, they cherry-pick which scriptures they adhere to, but only after they read what they want into them, etc. This is fine, until the devotee tries to inflict their imagination on another, that's oppression.

    Finally, it breaks down to this; a logically impossible god cannot exist in reality and a logically possible god would have to be caused, therefore finite, constrained to logical material properties that the rest of the universe must adhere to. Therefore, god does not exist except in the imagination of the dense, delusional, desperate or despicable. And I don't write this to be mean, just honest.

    So, the pious are left with "faith" which is to say "denial" in the face of overwhelming evidence.

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  32. Beachbum, are you for real?

    Speak English, man.

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  33. Mr. Bum:

    Read my sidebar. This is a blog where clarity is required. You must either start being clear and succinct, or please just stick to your own blog (which, frankly, is incoherent). Because to be honest, you are basically talking to yourself at this point.

    Please respond or your comments will be deleted or ignored at my pleasure.

    Thanks, and God bless you!

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  34. @liela

    My understanding of "ultimately meaningless" as you put it, is "in the end valueless" or that there is no "higher" meaning to life. Which there really isn't a meaning above that of the pursuit of happiness, procreation and providing knowledge to our offspring or the offspring of others.

    My main point with that comment, which I wrote last night, but couldn't get to upload until this morning, my time, was to compare ultimately meaningless as you see it with how I see it. I see the subservient subject of a dictator as a meaningless life. This is how I see your life. Just waiting to die so you can get revenge, reward, more than anyone else, whatever. When, in fact, there is no way for the ego to survive the death of the brain.

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  35. Beachbum, thank you for the coherent answer, finally.

    You have a very misguided view of the Christian life and experience. The reality of it is nothing at all like you describe. In fact, what you write as "my life" is unfamiliar to me.

    May I ask you: Do you consider your father a dictator?

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  36. @liela

    Oh, one more thing, what you are calling my blog is only used when writing to specific people. It is not meant for general consumption, unless of course, you mean to read the blogs it references, which I wouldn't recommend. I should delete some entries, I guess. I'm not a blogger.

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  37. Before I get started ...

    Beachbum:

    You said: "Injuries to the organ have direct and predictable effects on, for instance, happiness or other modes of emotion and motivation."

    Please accept my sympathies for the injury you incurred to your brain.

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  38. Now, where to begin?

    First of all, I know precisely what you are attempting to demonstrate. Problem is, you're failing. The premise of your damned-near indecipherable posts is essentially: you don't understand.

    But let's start with you're description of the universe, which is as flaccid as a eunuch at a Golden Girls reunion. To reply, I'll just say this: describe the effects (all of them), describe the forces (all of them), describe the matter (all of it), describe the levels (all of them), and describe the scales (all of them). That would be a start, yes? Your pathetic definition, translated, is "Um, well, the universe is ... like ... everything. Ya know, dude?"

    You also said (unbelievably) that "[a]ll I have to know is that infinite anything is only an applicable concept in the world of numbers ... ." I have to wonder what convinced you that only numbers are infinite. Is the universe not infinite? Or do you *gasp* simply now know? Perhaps the questions you cannot answer are equally infinite? But I digress ...

    You talk about God being pushed into smaller gaps in our understanding because we discover more about our universe. I've never spoken to a scientist who found LESS wonder in an atom, or the human genome, simply because he observed it.

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  39. *sigh* part 2

    You attempt to describe human happiness by claiming that the things your wife does to your home has "everything to do with the same things that make any animal happy." And what makes an animal "happy," Mr. Bum? What makes a squirrel "happy?" And how could possibly prove it? Either you would have to have the brain of a squirrel (debatable), or you have to A-S-S-U-M-E that you (a) understand animal happiness; and (b) that animal happiness is equivalent to human happiness in nature and degree.

    Then you say that "the family, the team, an idea, freedom for all mankind, the betterment of the human condition" are transcendent, but - naturally - never say "why," which is the question to which you will never find an answer if your understanding of self, purpose, the universe, is based on your version of "science." The "why" is still lacking from everything you purport supports an atheistic view. If I was lazy, I could have simply answered your post with "Why?" That probably would have ended the whole debate right there.

    Ultimately, your posts are premised on myriad assumptions that are assailable on the most elementary levels (evolution, the Descartes Dualism red herring, the "God as illogical" without examining whether God created logic in the first place, the transcendent ideals which are transcendent, um, because ...).

    I'm sure I've left out so much. So if you believe there is some point you find crucial to your defense of atheism that is absent from my post, please feel free to inform me, and I'll go get my flyswatter.

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  40. I was really looking forward to reading this because I've wanted to ask atheists some questions lately, too. Honest, open questions, to help strengthen my own faith by learning more about what they believe/don't believe... Unfortunately I really don't have the time (or the eyesight!) to filter through all of the words in beachbums responses. Are there, by chance, any other atheists (or people who are well-versed on the subject of atheism) who would care to argue from that standpoint??? I promise we'll be nice! :) Thanks in advance! I love learning-especially in a "blog atmosphere!"

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  41. I am finding this most amusing.

    Well, I may indeed be "dense, delusional, desperate or despicable," or even all of the above, for believing in my God. But if I'm wrong, I'm wrong. If you're wrong, beachbum... then what?

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  42. I should add a thank-you to everyone who has already chimed in! Thanks for being brave enough to talk about this so we can all learn :) Very interesting... just some more things I'd like to hear about!... :)

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  43. To sum up here for the evening....

    Brian (first commenter): Thanks for your clear answers. I'd love to hear your thoughts on my response.

    Beachbum: I'm going to summarize what I think your answers were to my initial questions. I think you would say:
    1) The "stuff" didn't come from anywhere because "stuff" (matter) has existed eternally. There never was "nothing." (I would still say, "huh??" How do you know? And I would also say that you think matter is eternal, we think God is eternal.)
    2) You trust your brain with some things but not with others. (My question would be "Why?")

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  44. By the way, thanks to EVERYONE who commented, believer and non-believer alike. You guys rock! I really enjoy the exchanges. Of course, we are still open for more comments, always!

    I may have to do a post on the so-called "Dark Ages" (i.e. the Middle Ages) since there seems to be a very warped view of that era....

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  45. Ken, well done!
    TCIE, I totally agree!

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  46. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  47. Well I had another informative comment written, unfortunately comprehension may be a bit much to ask. So, I'll forgo that and ignore Ken's ad hominem attacks. I can't expect everyone in the US to comprehend.

    But Liela had a question that seems like the result of a mis-comprehension of what is trusted. My brain is trusted based on an inverse ratio of the times it has failed me, which means I trust it very much, but not 100%. With the confirmation of other observers and their minds, my trust improves ever closer to perfect. This means I trust the statistical probability that many people seeing the same thing is good enough. The scientific method works on this premise.

    This compared to the alternative of a logically impossible entity or his equally impossible antithesis performing a mind meld is a pretty good bet.

    But now I see why my fellow atheists say they find religionists difficult to convey answers to. It must be because you are all so accustomed to simple answers to complex questions that are in effect lies. Leila, if you want to know why you can't trust your mind all the time, because of phenomena like optical illusions read a book by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett titled The Mind's Eye, or Dan Dennett's, Consciousness Explained. If you wish to understand the beginning of the universe read anything by Stephen Hawking, Brian Greene or Victor J Stenger. Only, if you have trouble comprehending my 'complex' sentence structure these books will be a stretch.

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  48. It's not that your sentence structure is complex (you would be surprised how well-educated most commenters are on this blog), it's that it's gibberish. I actually have a degree in physics, and nothing you've stated relating to the physical nature of the world has made the least bit of sense, grammatically or scientifically, with the exception perhaps, of the stardust comment.

    There are many, many articulate, well-educated and well-reasoned atheists out there who can engage in open and clear debate with well-educated deists. You just don't happen to be one of them. To quote Gandalf (one of my favorite people to quote), "You are a lesser son of greater sires".

    Seriously though, Leila, he isn't worth it!

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  49. Monica, thank you. You said it better than I could.

    Mr. Bum, I graduated summa cum laude from a top, private New England university, with a degree in English, and I can't follow your nonsensical rantings. Thanks for illustrating some truths to the readers here; unfortunately for you, the truths you've shown have nothing to do with the validity of atheism.

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  50. Oh, dear. I've offended. And after this sentence, I though ad hominem attacks were ok: "I consider all appeals to the supernatural as logically implausible and harmful to mankind, regardless of the flavor of idiocy." I hadn't realized that calling an entire class of people, including those posting here, "idiots" was not an attack *shrug*. Thank you for educating me.

    Second, it's not your "complex sentence structure" that is indecipherable, it's your thought process. Normally I wouldn't flash my education, but I'm a lawyer, and I've read case law and statutes that are three times as convoluted as your sentences. That's nothing new to me.

    To the issues at hand: you admit that you trust your brain based on probability - which of course is not the same as proof. But you try to bolster that by relying on the observations of others. Well, isn't that what believers in God do?

    In fact, if you believe that statistical probability is sufficient to establish truth (or at least a premise you can trust), then you should believe in God because the vast majority of humanity, existing now or in the past, has held that there is a higher being. With so many observers holding the same truth, the atheist view seems statistically improbable.

    But let's take another tact. What you've attempted to so far is to disprove God through metaphysics (of course, without ever addressing in any coherent fashion the source of natural law).

    So let me ask you a series of questions:

    1) Why is there something rather than nothing?

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  51. Hey, what's going on with the comments? I just scrolled up and saw that my reply to beachbum for his specific comment towards me isn't actually there. lol. I can't find the copy in my inbox either... it's lost in the ether! Oh well.

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  52. Wow fascinating exchange! I am learning a lot just reading. Beachbum, um, the number of insults you dished out in your posts indicate to me that you don't know much at all about Catholic teachings. I recommend reading up on the Church's actual teachings before making statements that sound very ignorant regarding the world of religious belief.

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  53. Ken, great questions. Sarah, I agree, it doesn't appear he knows much about Catholicism. And Monica, I wondered the same thing about your comments! I tried to find them yesterday! I'm so interested to know what you said!

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  54. I'll have to post this in a few parts, because it's a bit long:

    Part I
    ---------
    My response to Beachbum's statements directed to me:

    Your definition of living organisms versus inanimate objects is just flat-out wrong. I'm sorry. (Not only is it wrong, it's nonsensical, but I digress...) "Living", as compared to "non living" is not something we guess at- the definition is clear, and includes metabolism, growth, homeostasis, reproduction, and response to stimuli. There is no need for a living organism to be aware of its surroundings, and certainly not for it to posess a central nervous system. (???) I have no idea what my liver's opinion or a crystal's Christmas list has to do with ANYTHING. Because you consider yourself to be an expert in logic, I'd like to just mention that you've forgotten about the logical fallacy called the "red herring". Your liver and crystal nonsense is a perfect, albeit juvenile, example among many in your recent posts.

    Is it arrogant for me to assume I am special because I am a member of the human race? First off, where do I come off as being arrogant and wanting to put all other life under my domination? Second of all, are you a breatharian, or do you routinely exercise your arrogant dominance over plants and animals at the dinner table? Maybe it is arrogant to believe I am special, simply because I am a member of the only species on the planet capable of introspection and consciousness. Maybe you are arrogant for thinking the entire knowledge and wisdom of the universe can be discovered by our finite human brains, downloaded from the internet, and then carried around in your pocket on a USB drive because reductionist science is the answer to every single question worth asking. It's hard to say which of us is more arrogant here... lol.

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  55. You are right about one thing, sort of. Science IS the best way to gather SCIENTIFIC knowledge. Using ancient religious texts to teach creationism is just silly. Luckily, this is a blog by a Catholic, not a fundamentalist Christian (otherwise I wouldn't be touching it with a ten foot pole). You continually set up religious straw men (another logical fallacy) because you actually have no idea what the religion of this particular blog (Catholicism) has to say on the subject of origins or evolution. I'm assuming you did not read the article that I linked above, probably because you think intelligence and faithfullness are incompatible and therefore, it is not worth your time. This is just a sign of your own close-minded stupidity. Whichever camp you are in, religious, agnostic, or atheist, to claim only one group is capable of intelligent or well-reasoned thought immediately disqualifies you from being capable of reason. You are also wrong, of course, that science is the ONLY way to gather ALL knowledge, or that the only knowledge worth gathering is scientific. Why are people "asking the wrong questions" (your words) simply because they are asking questions science is incapable of answering? Are questions such as "What makes this poem, and not this one, worthy of reprinting?", or "Why do we hang Monet up in museums, but not Bob Ross?" unworthy of dialogue and debate? Or do you believe even art can be pulled apart into reductionist logic, so that someday, a well-programmed computer could pick out the artistic masterpieces of the 22nd century? I hope we do not live to see such a day.

    Knowledge has advanced the family? How? In the US and Western Europe, the family as we once knew it is an endagered species, and yet we have more knowledge at our fingertips than any other time in the history of human kind. Ideas? How has knowledge increased either the quanitity or quality of truly important ideas? The betterment of the human condition? If you are defining that by national GDP, than I suppose you are sort of right. But if you define it by human happiness, then you should know that since the statistic has been monitored, human happiness has not increased in our history. Not a bit. This paragraph from you has highlighted what religion you are- You are one who has faith in knowledge and thinks that technology is our savior, sent down from...the internet perhaps... to save us from our own stupidity and mistakes. In fact, you are a religious zealot, both irrational and unbending, incapable of even examining another world view.

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  56. How can you be sure these ideas you listed are transcendant? It is accepted by philosophy that an ethical system cannot exist without faith of some kind. Those without any form of faith are left to relativism- a hideous beast, arguably more scary than any religious image of hell. I assume you are a relativist, based on some of your other statements. What this means is that you cannot absolutely define any of these concepts as transecendant, as the quality of transcendance is up for debate by anyone with two brain cells to knock together. So is truth, justice, happiness, and any other intangible quality.

    Religion attracts me because it is the only philosphoical system that provides us with the certainty of Absolute Truth. Without this, we must all, logically, accept nihilism and relativism as our ethical models. The very idea is HORRIFYING to me. Religion offers hope that our own selfish desires are not the end-all-be-all of our existance. It is hope, not technology or "knowledge" (and the way you use the word, you actually mean information) which can save us from ourselves.

    But all of this falls on deaf ears, because of your bigoted zeal for the false trinity of Science, Technology, and Relativism.

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  57. "This paragraph from you has highlighted what religion you are- You are one who has faith in knowledge and thinks that technology is our savior, sent down from...the internet perhaps... to save us from our own stupidity and mistakes."

    Monica... I had a brilliant college professor (secular university) say a similar thing to a student trying to make the case that we don't "need" the Bible or morality. We can just "use logic" to solve the world's problems. He showed the student how this is really "worship of the brain" or mind. And rather arrogant (as if people before us moderns just weren't "logical" enough to create Utopia. Really? Because their brains looked just like ours...).

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  58. I would challenge Beachbum to consider an aspect of physics that seems to be overlooked in this blog. You earlier quoted Einstein's mass/energy equivalence theorm. We also know from special and general relativity that the universe has at least 4 dimensions: 3 spatial and 1 time. (String theory suggests several more dimensions, from 9 to 11, but I digress). So we live in a 4-dimensional world. However, we can only see three dimensions at any particular time. We can observe a room in the present moment, but we can't see how the room looked in the past or how it will appear at any point in the future. The paint will degrade, or the carpet will be stained/replaced, or a spider may crawl across the floor tomorrow. All these things change the room's characteristics, but we can only see the 'here and now.' So we live in a 4-dimensional world but we can only observe 4 - 1 = 3 dimensions. It has been suggested by some that God 'lives,' or exists, in a 5-dimensional world, and can see 4 dimensions. (If string theory is correct, God may live in the 12th dimension.) Thus, being able to see all 4 dimensions allows God to see all space and time. God can see our room from the time before it was built until long after it is torn down, and all times in between. Many other examples from physics also expose the infinite wonder of the universe, from the mathematical beauty of Hamiltonian or Lagrangian mechanics, to the precise energy states allowed by quantum mechanics, to the extraordinary properties of materials at the nano-scale. To believe this is all happenstance and by chance is impossible for me to buy as a physicist. I wish you well in your endeavors to argue your points of atheism, but as for me, I believe!

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  59. Maybe you are having problems with my "Anthropic Coincidences" argument, so here is Victor J Stenger:

    "I have made a modest attempt to obtain some feeling for what a universe with different constants would be like. It happens that the physical properties of matter, from the dimensions of atoms to the length of the day and year, can be estimated from the values of just four fundamental constants. Two of these constants are the strengths of the electromagnetic and strong nuclear interactions. The other two are the masses of the electron and proton (Press and Lightman1983).

    Of course, many more constants are needed to fill in the details of our universe. And our universe, as we have seen, might have had different physical laws. We have little idea what those laws might be; all we know is the laws we have. Still, varying the constants that go into our familiar equations will give many universes that do not look a bit like ours. The gross properties of our universe are determined by these four constants, and we can vary them to see what a universe might grossly look like with different values of these constants.

    I have created a program, MonkeyGod, which can be executed on the World Wide Web at
    . Try your own hand at generating universes! Just choose different values of the four constants and see what happens. While these are really only "toy" universes, the exercise illustrates that there could be many different universes possible even within the existing laws of physics."

    at this page:

    http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/Cosmo/anthro_skintel.html

    Does this cover the "gibberish"
    Monica, I'm guessing it's too late to get your money back for that degree, stick with the breast feeding.

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  60. Ken, I do attack the ideology not the person but for a (ack!) lawyer(?), (I teach reading comprehension to K-12 on a volunteer basis, in case you're interested) your reading comp skills are atrocious, needless to say.

    I'm sure you don't know this about descriptions and definitions. An important property of them is succinctness. I was attempting to be all inclusive in that description. Like I said,"...there are in fact many ways to approach this task..."

    If you wish to get a thorough description, might I suggest, "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking.

    No, Ken, the universe is not infinite. That means it is finite, Ken. The universe has a beginning and it will have an end in time. The universe is 93 billion light-years in diameter:

    "The age of the Universe is about 13.75 billion years, but due to the expansion of space we are now observing objects that are now considerably farther away than a static 13.75 billion light-years distance. The diameter of the observable universe is estimated to be about 28 billion parsecs (93 billion light-years), putting the edge of the observable universe at about 46-47 billion light-years away."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observable_universe

    Nothing in reality is infinite, mainly because the universe is not infinite. Since the universe is everything, Ken, nothing is infinite. Numbers are in our imagination, just because you use your fingers to count - doesn't count. Numbers are conceptual, as is "infinite," that means we can only imagine it.

    Wonder Ken, is not god. A god of the gaps is what is left of a god that used to control all of nature. According to those clergy in control at the time, that is. Now we know that this is not the case. The pious still try to explain "gaps" in our knowledge with a deity. That is from where the god of the gaps concept is derived. The wonder of the natural world has nothing to do with god(s).

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  61. I'll ask again:

    Why is there something rather than nothing?

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  62. Mr. Bum (or may I call you simply "Bum"?).... Ron is a physicist. Should he turn in his degree as well? Are you credentialed? I am not sure what your expertise is, but it appears that you have not addressed Ken's questions/points, nor Monica's. Nor mine, come to think of it.

    As for your last, rude and boorish slam at Monica, I would normally ban you and delete your comments, but I think my readers should be able to see evidence of someone who has not yet evolved from a horse's ass...er, bum.

    Sadly for your side, you didn't represent atheism well here, Bum. Too bad Brian didn't stick around.

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  63. "Monica, I'm guessing it's too late to get your money back for that degree, stick with the breast feeding."

    Wow. This was one of the rudest, most sexist comments I've seen on a blog in a long time.

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  64. But Sarah, haven't you heard? Atheists and leftists are tolerant, enlightened and evolved! It's the neanderthal Christians/Catholics who are misogynists and bigots.

    At least that's what I've heard on the news....

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  65. It was very rude. Why be kind to people who are just random stardust?

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  66. Wow-that attack on Monica was completely uncalled for. I think an apology is the least you could do.

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  67. @liela

    Religionists, it has been my observation, are adept at reading into texts that which is not there, this may be what all of you are doing. Unlike the devout, I have no presumed goal with my research, I only follow the evidence where it leads.

    I hardly ever discuss myself on the net, but I think you need to know that I have been a theologian for more than 45 years. In fact, the only thing I have been longer, than a theologian, is an atheist. I was born one.

    I know a great deal about your faith. The history of religions in general, Christianity in particular. When I called it idiocy, I meant it.

    Only, I have never regarded religions adherents as idiots generally, only victims. This is why I answered your questions. This is why I spent my whole life studying the phenomena that is institutionalized mythology, sin based superstition, revelatory authority, religion.

    I know things like; the Pauline Epistles are based on Platonic reality, spirituality. Neither Paul nor the pseudo-Pauline writers knew of or believed in an historical "Anointed Savior," the translation of Christ Jesus.

    Lies need believers, facts are facts whether we believe them or not, therefore their value is constant. Notice how many gods have gone from all powerful to forgotten. Religion needs to be inculcated to have any value, to be believed.

    I know this because it takes thousands of years, millions of people, and billions of dollars to interpret a concept first proposed by a bronze age desert goat herder.

    And I know a great deal more than that, yet I know better than anyone just how ignorant I am.

    "A professorship of Theology should have no place in our institution [the University of Virginia]." ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Cooper, (October 7, 1814. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 492.)

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  68. Oh right, got it. Atheists are enlightened. Catholics are idiots. Sorry, my little female, superstitious brain has a hard time keeping track.

    Seriously, I was hoping for a genuine discussion here. :( Anyone else out there who can answer Ken's question?

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  69. *sigh*

    I'll ask again:

    Why is there something rather than nothing?

    (frankly, if you aren't willing to participate, why not just surrender and spare the innocent another seven paragraphs?)

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  70. Wow. Wikipedia is now your source? I'm am in awe.

    Yet, I must still (despite my admiration of your Google skills) ask:

    Why is there something rather than nothing?

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  71. Wait a sec ... are you going to have confidence in your beliefs or keep on deleting your posts?

    How many edits do you require? I promise that I will wait until you are ready ....

    Ready?


    Why is there something rather than nothing?

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  72. Ken, Something actually has an entropy of zero, is balanced. Nothing is what would be at least, difficult, if not impossible to attain.

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  73. Uhhhh....You are a theologian? I never, ever, ever would have guessed. You have not even an elementary grasp of the Catholic Faith. You are embarrassing yourself with how little you seem to know about Catholicism. It's actually weird.

    Anyway, there is something screwy with the comments (I won't go into what I think it might be), but I received one of your comments that didn't show up here, yet. You talked, in response to Ken, about "love" and about "family" being transcendent.... But to an atheist, so what? Ultimately, love and family mean nothing. Why do you subscribe to those concepts any transcendent meaning in a meaningless universe? Weird. Nothing means anything ultimately in an atheistic world. How can you claim otherwise without undermining your whole worldview?

    Also, you claim that evolution is fact. It may well be, so don't go spouting that we Catholics are "against science." But again, how can your brain know anything about "fact" or "truth" since you are just a bunch of chemicals with no meaning, based on no truth? I never heard you give me an answer to the question: How do you even know you are sitting in a car or at a computer, really? Your brain may be firing off some really random chemicals stuff that makes you completely deluded on all counts. Right?

    For purposes of the Bubble, you have given me many ideas for future blog posts, so thank you for that.

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  74. "Ken, Something actually has an entropy of zero, is balanced. Nothing is what would be at least, difficult, if not impossible to attain."

    Prove it.

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  75. @liela

    I am having a heck of a time with loading comments on this site, still haven't seen the first one to Monica.

    Yes, I am, but there are many more religions out there. Catholicism, is only the first to build a power structure from Christology.

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  76. What was the first atheistic structure to attempt to build a power structure?

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  77. See liela, your whole comment to me is sheer bigotry. Why, is an atheistic world view devoid of meaning, or the capability to value love? You have been programmed, and this why the first Brian didn't answer your questions. Yes, My name is also Brian. Forget everything you have been told about atheists, and maybe you will see just how bigoted you are.

    "... If we did a good act merely from the love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? It is idle to say, as some do, that no such thing exists. We have the same evidence of the fact as of most of those we act on, to wit: their own affirmations, and their reasonings in support of them. I have observed, indeed, generally, that while in Protestant countries the defections from the Platonic Christianity of the priests is to Deism, in Catholic countries they are to Atheism. Diderot, D'Alembert, D'Holbach, Condorcet, are known to have been among the most virtuous of men. Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than love of God. ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Law, June 13, 1814. (From Adrienne Koch, ed., The American Enlightenment: The Shaping of the American Experiment and a Free Society, New York: George Braziller, 1965, p. 358.)

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  78. Okay, let's say I'm a huge bigot. Now, put that aside and tell me why "love" to an atheist has any ultimate meaning. (Please note the emphasis on "ultimate".)

    Of course as a theist, I know and understand why love and family have meaning to you (you are a human, made in the image of God, like the rest of us). I understand that humans see love and family as meaningful. But I am trying to figure out why you, an atheist, think these concepts are ultimately meaningful?

    If we are here as a chemical reaction, designed by no one, made for nothing, going nowhere, then how on earth can your love or your family ultimately have any scrap of meaning at all?

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  79. You're Jefferson quote is out of context. The intro to your quote is: "Some have made the love of God the foundation of morality. This, TOO, is but a branch of our moral duties, which are generally divided into duties to God and duties to man." (emphasis added)

    So Jefferson acknowledged duties to God. What say you about THAT?

    And again, I'll ask (I think for maybe the fourth time?):

    Why is there something rather than nothing?


    And I'll follow with:

    Why haven't you responded to Ron? He seems to know a thing or two about about physics.

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  80. Sophie Fletcher left this comment on today's post rather than this one, so I am cutting and pasting it here. I will answer it next.

    Sophie Fletcher said...
    Hi Leila
    I am not an Atheist but my older brother is and he once explained his beliefs to me, so I think I may be able to answer.

    1)As you may or may not know, the universe is currently expanding. It is a commonly-accepted theory of many scientists. Part of that theory is that not only is it expanding, that it will one day reach its limit and snap back to zero. Then, when it reaches zero, two particles will touch (Big Bang) and it will begin to expand again. One branch of this theory is that this is not the first time the Big Bang has happened. So, that's where all that "stuff" came from (I am tight on time, if you are still confused I can explain in more detail later.)

    2) Not all Atheists believe that. Please pardon my tactlessness here but you seem to do a lot of generalizing?

    And I know it is completely unrelated, but I would like to ask you to keep in your prayers the victims (and families of the victims, who are still so affected today,) of Jack the Ripper, who struck for the first time 122 years ago today.
    August 31, 2010 9:23 PM

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  81. liela, I can be just as arrogant as you. What makes you think your understanding of the "ultimate" meaning of love isn't part of your overall delusion?

    Based on the evidence at hand, love has nothing to do with gods. Elephants, porpoises and many troop animals experience love in the same way you do. Do some research on the mental states of emotion. Therefore ultimate value of love is family, the continuation of your genetic line. Fancy it how you please.

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  82. Hi Sophie!

    1) But that begs the question, "Where did the two particles come from?" I'm not disputing the science of it (I am not a scientist), but I am asking where the "stuff" or particles came from that touched this whole thing off originally?

    2) Not all atheists believe what? I am sorry, I need you to clarify. As to generalizing, we have to generalize or we can't speak of anything. There are always exceptions, of course.

    I will remember those souls in my prayers.

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  83. Beachbum, forget about my beliefs or possible delusion. I'll even stipulate that I am delusional, okay? I am delusional.

    Now....

    I was asking you the question, because you are an atheist. I will try again: From an atheist's worldview, how can love or family have any ULTIMATE meaning whatsoever? After all, our "genetic lines" will eventually (ultimately) disappear, and no one will care anyway.

    By the way, it's spelled: Leila

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  84. Ken the question itself is asinine, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nothingness/

    answers, "Well, why not." Like I said earlier, I have no evidence that "nothing" could be a stable state, ie. exist. Stanford agree's and so does:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2007/08/30/why-is-there-something-rather-than-nothing/

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  85. Also Ken,
    the point to the quote that I was making, is morality does not come from love of god in Jefferson's view. The part you added only requires the caveat "Jefferson's god was a Deistic god ie. not Christian," which is why I omitted it.

    I know, yes, Thomas Jefferson was a Deist.

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  86. Once again Leila,

    There is no love that you have, that is not experienced by many other species on this planet. You are only under the presumption that you have superior privilege in the emotional category, it is a presumption from ignorance. And as such, is not true. Furthermore, nothing of "ultimate" (if I understand your use correctly) will out last the death of your brain, nor anyone else's.

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  87. Oh SNAP! Stick with breastfeeding! You sure put me in my place! LMAO!!! Let me crawl back to the rock I should be hiding under.

    I would contact Rice U for my money, but I received full merit and US military veteran scholarships. I guess I'm out of luck.

    Reading Brief History does not a physicist make, sorry.

    I would love to stay and debate, but my baby is calling for my boob, and I do at least have some priorities.

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  88. An aside- Catholicism is so much fun. I'm going to have to convert just to annoy the hell out of people like Bum.

    I cannot believe someone can be so threatened by the truth that they would instruct me to "stick with breastfeeding".

    If you look at the statistics, the overwhelming majority of biologists are atheists. With physicists, this is not the case. About half of all greater physicists believe in God. But, I suppose you understand physics better than they do as well? In your free time from studying animals and animal behavior and supposedly being an engineer, you have also mastered physics? I suggest for your next feat of genius, you master spelling and grammar.

    To quote Hawking, "To understand the entire Universe, is to know the mind of God."

    To be honest, bum, my toddler was weaned two weeks ago, so LOOK OUT!

    Just kidding. I'm really, really done. I'll go get barefoot and wash the dishes or something.

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  89. My apologies Ron,

    As the first commenter on this site to strike me as none condescending, I wanted to make the time and take the consideration your comment required. In my observation there are only 11 dimensions currently proposed in string theory and I propose that Occam's Razor would limit even those. Also, the Law of Identity combined with Causation Principles may limit this "other" dimensional entity to interaction in that "other" dimension. Not even time can be physically manipulated because it has no physical properties.

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  90. This should have been the first of the three for Monica.

    Because I refuse to be called names by the likes of you, (I've been called worse by better people) I will let the recognized names speak for me; Stephen Hawking on the beginning of the universe:

    http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/03/14/172226

    It's a downloadable webcast, but listen for the line as quoted here:

    http://www.dailycal.org/article/23829/renowned_cosmologist_draws_sold-out_crowd

    According to Hawking, the origin of the universe can be depicted as bubbles in a steam in boiling water. Small bubbles that appear and then collapse represent mini universes that expand only to disintegrate.

    A few “bubbles,” Hawking said, will grow to a certain size until they are safe from collapse, and will begin to develop galaxies, stars and eventually human life.

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  91. This is the second of three to Monica.

    Dr. Hawking also expresses a very educated conclusion that the universe started from nothing, it is this view I was disagreeing with in my initial remark.

    Within string theory, is born the vibration concept of which I spoke. If one does a text search for:

    " These "strings" vibrate in multiple dimensions, and depending on how they vibrate, they might be seen in 3-dimensional space as matter, light, or gravity. It is the vibration of the string which determines whether it appears to be matter or energy, and every form of matter or energy is the result of the vibration of strings."

    at

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introduction_to_M-theory

    you will get the basics of the idea. And I did say it was simply stated. As for my other statement about the first law of thermodynamics;

    "Albert Einstein's theory of relativity shows that energy and mass are the same thing, and that neither one appears without the other. Thus in closed systems, both mass and energy are conserved separately, just as was understood in pre-relativistic physics. The new feature of relativistic physics is that "matter" particles (such as those constituting atoms) could be converted to non-matter forms of energy, such as light; or kinetic and potential energy (example: heat). However, this conversion does not affect the total mass of systems, since the latter forms of non-matter energy still retain their mass through any such conversion." from

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservation_of_energy

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  92. Kaitlin is it?

    Maybe the shock you show is because of what you may think is an atrocious insult. The "breast feeding" comment I'm guessing. Maybe it's because I'm an atheist that you would assume I'm capable of such an insult. It has had enough time to simmer and no one has come forward. Also, no one has bothered to check or consider that an alternative may be the case. Such as she is a Childbirth Doula, breastfeeding counselor as it states in her bio. It's just that I don't take well to being called a liar, which is the connotation of "gibberish" where I come from, thank you very much.

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  93. Gibberish is defined as unintelligible talking. Lying is to purposely mislead. No one has ever accused you of lying. On the contrary, we all think you actually believe everything you write. You don't get to make up your own definitions for words. Where do you come from that the connotation of gibberish would be lying???

    Why am I still posting??? LOL. Leila, you gotta call it quits here, close the comments! I feel like I'm in junior high, but the desire to continue to dialogue with this guy is turning into something akin to rubbernecking a violent car accident.

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  94. Monica, again;

    I wrote,"The only difference between living organisms and inanimate objects is that SOME living organisms are aware of their surroundings, via a nervous system."

    Is it because you all think you're so right or is it that you are so sure that I'm wrong? Why can't you read what I wrote?

    I wasn't writing the definition of living organism; I was highlighting a difference. The liver and crystal were used rhetorically to compare properties of living and non-living things. Like the fact that a liver is living but it doesn't reproduce. Crystals grow and reproduce but aren't considered living under the standard definition. My point being you think you are alive and therefore different than a rock when at an elemental level we are all star dust. You are a community of symbiotic organisms, when your body dies for example, your hair and nails keep growing.

    Dominion is in the biblical context, and not a direct affront to you personally, I originally understood it as figurative. Maybe that's not how it reads, and for that I apologize. I should have used 'one' in that case as opposed to 'you.' But that dominion grant was over a great deal more than plants and animals, it included non-believers like Indians and Islanders by the interpretation of some Pope's like Romanus Pontifex and Alexander VI who sanctioned genocide of all non Christians.

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  95. I have been accused of setting up strawman fallacies, red herring fallacies, and a few other things that I haven't done. I'm not at war, and I have nothing to prove. You people are nothing to me or the rest of the world, nothing. I haven't mentioned creationism until now. I haven't mentioned fundamentalist until now. I have used rhetorical gibes when they were used against me first, Ken, Monica. I probably could have written in a less convoluted style, but I have so much information and little time left to share it.

    To think that I would pull apart a Monet has not been evidence in my writing, any more than a wrong question could not be; why are we here? Or what is the meaning of life? But religion is not beauty, nor meaning. I don't think it is anything, but make believe, or maybe a since of community, else the adherents would be much more knowledgeable of scripture.

    Knowledge, if one would choose to see, has taken a family from where most of the children died before five and put them in a situation were they choose their own happiness and their own path at a much younger age. The 'Atomic' family was a short lived phenomena in reality. It was not destroyed by knowledge except in the sense of communication; via TV we learned that other families were just like ours. And what is that old saying about, "as long as you have your health," or something. Maybe Monica, is blinded by the affront her mythology is suffering at the hands of knowledge. Monica, Martin Luther had a thing against knowledge for the same reason. But even he would find it hard to argue against the elimination of polio. The survival rate of child bearing women would be a rough one to get around, as well. The fact that we can prove other races are not inferior and thereby denounce Papal Bulls like Inter Caetera 1493 is good for the whole of humanity.

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  96. I'm not sure if it's even possible for you to post a reply that isn't followed by a link or citation to someone else's work, someone else's idea, or a scientist or philosopher whose opinion we are supposed to take as infallible - or even credible, for that matter. The theorems and postulates you continue to cite ad nauseum don't actually explain or defend an atheist viewpoint, nor do they contradict the existence of God.

    Whether you would admit it or not, what you have actually done is prove that you have faith, just that your faith is in theoretical science - the discoveries and conclusions of which can and do change all the time.

    So how about answering the questions instead of posting a bibliography? A web link war is uninteresting, and moreover, lazy.

    But to the point: if you wish to say your answer to my question is "Why not?" then I will follow with another question.

    #1a) "Indeed, why not?"

    (seems to me if you know that God CANNOT exist, then must know why everything else CAN exist).

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  97. I've been a theologian for 45 years. Don't get me wrong, I see no religion as any better than another. The fact that this is a Catholic site is irrelevant to me. They all share a common problem, I find them unconvincing and detrimental to humanity.

    Now, relativism, has been a boogie man for far to long, it has recently attained the status of canard. It was a philosophical view some years ago. I've always looked at it as a 60's fad like bell-bottoms. While few have taken that view seriously in decades, clergy still use it as a scare crow. Telling!

    To have objectivity in your opinion, views, observations and interlocution is a good trait. Only, don't confuse objectivity with objectivism, objectivism is far more dangerous. Objective truth is the kind of thing that gave despots divine authority. It's an appeal to mystical thinking, and irreproachable dictatorships of an unseen deity acting through all too human agents with less than divine motives. It is what caused the dark ages, when the church had total authority. When education out side of the church was prohibited because it was in the good book or ordained by god. When the church and despotic monarchies kept humanity in servitude, serfdom.

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  98. Beachbum... you have slung names since very early on. You have come off as condescending. You have come off as preachy. Perhaps that is not your intention but from an outsider reading the debate, this is how your words come across and your claims that somehow others are attacking you very much appear to be "the pot calling the kettle black."

    You say this group here means "nothing to you"... that has been pretty obvious from early on. You are not interested in what anyone else has to say, only your own words. So why not spend your energy somewhere else?

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  99. BTW, knowledge is fundamentally in line with faith. The difference, however, is the purpose and source of the knowledge. Atomic knowledge has led to the creation of energy. And also nuclear warheads. The knowledge is indisputable. The use of the knowledge however, requires something more than thermodynamics. And believe it or not, I don't even trust Hawking to decide the rightful purpose of knowledge.

    I also would like to jump ahead to another question (though I'm sure you are diligently searching Wikipedia for a response to #1a).

    #2)Imagine: Person A says to Person B, "My friend just told me there is no sand in Hawaii." But Person B says, "That's funny, my friend just told me she was at the beach in Hawaii, there was sand everywhere."

    Which friend is more reliable?

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  100. Monica, finally

    No, you already use what is left without faith it is called your subjective intellect. You already see morality as substantial, that is, based on reality. You don't think stoning is proper, nor do you believe slavery is moral or doing something on the sabbath is a sin punishable by death. Those were once objective truths from on high, for which, people died defying.

    Now, when you come across a situation that requires a moral judgement you make it. Subjectivism is when the punishment fits the crime, as one example. Needless to say, I disagree with your interpretation of these terms, and as I read them, they don't match any definition I am aware of.

    Noun: transcendence
    1. A state of being or existence above and beyond the limits of material experience

    2. The state of excelling or surpassing or going beyond usual limits

    Now, because I have never seen evidence for anything outside of the material world, ie. supernatural, I reject the first definition.

    If you were to ask me do I put a higher value on family, friends, truth, justice, etc. I would, of course, say yes. If you were to ask me what I put the highest value on, I would, of course, say honor.

    Monica, your assumptions about my character are wrong, those about my philosophy are worse, but about absolute truth are frightening. It's despotism

    Absolute truth is by the book, black and white, no middle ground, no compromise, god said it, I wrote it and now your stuck with it, absolutely. Only, that has nothing to do with;

    We the people....have discovered we can form a more perfect Union.

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  101. Can someone tell me how to close comments? I have no idea!!

    Also, I found some comments in my blog's "spam" folder... I didn't even know there was a spam folder!!!

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  102. But if long ago those people who "'logically'/'realistically' set the morals" we follow now had simply said "well, morals are relative to whatever YOU believe or I believe, so if YOU believe stoning is okay, then it is, for you." (Relativism)... Where would we be now?

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  103. PS what kind of theologian are you? (Meaning, do you have a degree in theology, some kind of certificate, did you learn at a secular school, etc) - I promise this isn't a jab, I'm really just honestly curious. Thanks!

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  104. Just one more, I promise, until someone responds :) --- Do you think gay marriage is okay? Morally sound?
    Why is it that so many people are pro-gay marriage if it is as you say and our "morals" are based on what's best for survival of our species? (As determined by our ancestors many years of living on earth and figuring out what's best for our survival)... Gay marriage is certainly not best for the survival/continuation of our species, and yet there are millions of people (possibly you included?) who support it. That really doesn't make sense to me if our morals come from our desire for survival of the species.

    ?

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  105. OK I lied on accident :) and that wasn't the last post, because I feel like I should clarify--- I am saying this/asking this because why would there be so much debate about whether or not these types of subjects are morally right or wrong if 1) our brains tell us and 2) our ancestry tells us and 3) it's based on survival of our species...
    (There has to be something greater that we stand for, somewhere we at least try to get our information from. For me, it's God, through the Church)

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  106. Mary, excellent questions! Thank you!

    I hope Mr. Bum answers before I learn how to turn the comments off....

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  107. haha me too!

    I have a quote that I LOVE that I'd like to share with the people reading this blog. It's from Christopher West's "Good News about Sex and Marriage" (which is about more than just sex/marriage)...
    "‎the Church has always taught that Catholics, like ALL people, are obligated to follow their own consciences.There's an even more fundamental obligation to FORM the conscience according to the TRUTH. Conscience is not free to invent right or wrong. We all have basic moral law written in our hearts by God, original sin tends to cloud our judgment. This is why the conscious person sees the Churchs moral teachings as a tremendous gift-they're a sure norm for forming a conscience according to the truth. Too often we use 'conscience' to give a morally accepting veneer to what we wanted to do all along without discerning our behavior in light of objective standards. If personal conscience is the autonomous determinant of good and evil, morality becomes whatever we want it to be. Who are we, then, to tell a rapist or mass murderer that what he does is evil if his conscience says it's ok? There must be objective standards that were all responsible to follow. Those are given to us by God and revealed through the teachings of the Church"

    Just love it and thought I'd share since it's somewhat relevant :)

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  108. Ugh. From subjective intellect, to moral judgments to ... the preamble??

    But you did say something interesting, that "honor" is your highest value. Now, in an atheist that begs so many questions I hardly know where to begin, but I'll start with: How can it be your highest value if there are no absolutes? In fact, as an atheist how can you hold ANY value higher than another? Isn't any value merely the coincidental byproduct of random chance, physical or chemical reactions to stimuli, and uniquely stored experience? And what good does a value accomplish for an individual if every other value is, necessarily, equal to it? (i.e. how can murder be wrong if it is the natural product of the mind of the killer? And why should anyone care if they are a victim, if there is no purpose or design to life anyway outside of perpetuating the gene pool?)

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  109. Good grief. I'm going to go watch Dumb and Dumber and never think about this conversation again.

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  110. I have been following this conversation for a few days and find it very interesting although sometimes above my humble mind's understanding. However, from my heart, not my mind, I feel called to address Beachbum. I hope that somewhere deep in your own heart you will someday see that you were not brought to this Catholic Christian blog by accident or coincidence. God, in His great mercy, is gifting you with the opportunity to be drawn into the light of His Truth. Our lack of understanding before the mystery of God should not present an objection to His Truth. We humans will never fully penetrate the mystery of God with our limited intellect. But the fact that a mystery is mysterious can only be an objection to a person who refuses anything deeper than his own understanding.
    The rays of God's grace are attempting to enlighten you! What a privilege!! I pray for you that you do not squander this opportunity by obstinately persisting in your errors. Please honestly consider this:
    "I will lead the blind on their journey; by paths unknown I will guide them. I will turn darkness into light before them, and make crooked ways straight. These things I do for them, and I will not forsake them." Isaiah 42:16
    I will keep your eternal soul in my prayers.

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  111. Does this mean you haven't figured out how to turn the comments off yet? :) Go to "Edit posts" and click on "Post Options" on the bottom left. It will allow you to choose not to allow anymore comments but show the existing ones. Or hide the existing ones if you want. Not that I've ever had to use this feature. I've never had any kind of epic conversation like this. :)

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  112. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  113. Agh I'm so glad Leila is out of town bc I don't want her to turn off the comments! :) I want to see Bums answers to the last couple of questions...!

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  114. I'm back in town! I didn't turn off comments because I had some folks request to keep them open. :)

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