A Christian Homework Assignment

I got an email from an atheist student attending a Christian college yesterday.

She has to do the following assignment for a class:

Read Peter Kreeft’s webpage ‘Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God‘…

Evaluate arguments 6, 14, 16, 18, and 19 and select the one that you would feel most comfortable using when trying to convince an open-minded non-believer in the existence of God.

Write an essay analyzing your argument. Be sure to take into account of the following guidelines:

State the argument in your own words.

Explain the argument’s strengths

Explain (two) of the argument’s weaknesses (you should consider another reliable Internet source when addressing the weaknesses).

Explain which attributes of God are supported by the argument. For example, Is the God proven to exist actually a personal God?

Explain how you think that the argument might affect your non-believer intellectually and emotionally.”

Nothing on that website’s going to sway you, but if you’d like to amuse the student (and me) as she finishes her assignment, try answering those questions in the most amusing way possible :)

It’s not on the list, but here’s Argument 10 (“Argument from Consciousness”) to get you started:

  1. We experience the universe as intelligible. This intelligibility means that the universe is graspable by intelligence.
  2. Either this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence, or both intelligibility and intelligence are the products of blind chance.
  3. Not blind chance.
  4. Therefore this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence.

I’m totally swayed. You?

How would you respond to this nonsense (outside the context of the assignment)?

  • TWalker

    I might feel compelled to mention that assertion is not proof, and advise the person to work on basic vocab before trying advanced evangelism.
    (regarding item 10.3)

  • Claudia

    1. We experience the universe as smelly. This smellibility means that the universe is graspable by our sense of smell.
    2. Either this smelly universe and the finite noses so well suited to smelling it are the products of a Really Big Cheese, or both smellibility and intelligence are the products of a blind chance.
    3. Not blind chance.
    4. Therefore this smelly universe and the finite noses so well suited to smelling it are the products of a Really Big Cheese.

    Makes about as much sense. I love people who think that putting things in lists like that means they are doing logic. Point 3 is especially amusing.

  • Josh

    Concerning that arguement(10), I’d probably just laugh. If I felt bored I might try to come up with various examples of blind chance. Or perhaps argue that the universe is fundamentally unintelligible.

    In any case, I wouldn’t take it seriously at all.

  • Sarah TX.

    Ugh. I got really curious recently, and tried to hunt up arguments for the existence of God that might convince me, a former devout believer who grew up and “put away childish things.” It was, all in all, really discouraging – most sites set up a sort of straw man atheist who didn’t grow up in a Christian culture and who doesn’t believe in God only because she’s “never heard of him.”

  • Godless Lawyer

    I like how for the ‘Kalam argument’ (no. 6) he asks us to grant his first premise (that everything that comes to exists has a cause) as true, and implies that you’d have to be crazy (or a graduate student) not to grant that.

    He then goes on to cite this argument for the existence of a god without an obvious cause.

  • Mara

    Wow. Um. There must be some better arguments for the existence of a deity than that. Right?

    Because seriously, those are the least convincing things I’ve ever seen. I feel like it might be sort of fun to print out a big ol’ list of logical fallacies and those arguments and start annotating…except I don’t have enough time for a project that massive.

  • http://nojesusnopeas.blogspot.com James Sweet

    I’m wondering why the student chose to attend a Christian college in the first place? I’m not meaning to be judgmental; there could be plenty of valid reasons (e.g. that’s the only one the parents would pay for, perhaps?) I’m just wondering.

    It’s also relevant because I think that factors into how she should respond to the assignment. If she is at the Christian college because she didn’t really have any other choices, go ahead and thumb her nose a bit. If she actively chose the Christian college because of, I dunno, its quality or whatever, knowing that she’d be exposed to this nonsense, then it’s probably better to just play along I suppose.

    In any case, I don’t envy her position!

  • Sarah TX.

    But anyway, I actually think this is kind of an interesting and subversive homework assigment, especially this bit:

    Explain which attributes of God are supported by the argument. For example, Is the God proven to exist actually a personal God?

    So many attempts and proving the existence of God (including this one) take a “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach – a Deist-type god must exist, therefore a personal God must exist! A ressurected Jesus existed because God exists, and since God exists then Jesus must have been ressurected!

  • Ariel

    This makes me frightened to go to a Christian college. They’re offering me a full ride on a track scholarship, though. Hmm.

  • Christophe Thill

    Why is this called “argument from consciousness” ? It’s actually an “argument from intelligibility” (and a bad one). But consciousness as such is not part of it.

  • Parse

    Oy. You think by now they’d stop relying on Pascal’s Wager, but there it is, in #20.

    17. The Argument from Aesthetic Experience

    There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
    Therefore there must be a God.

    You either see this one or you don’t.

    I’d say the most persuasive argument here is the argument by annoyance:
    1) I have a really long list of arguments here.
    2) If you point out any logical fallacies with my current argument, I’ll start arguing another.
    3) You can’t prevent me from returning to an argument I’ve already talked about.
    4) I can keep this up all day.
    5) If you agree with me, I’ll be quiet.

    For extra giggles, read the discussion questions at the bottom. I’ll do us all a favor and answer #30:

    How would an atheist answer each one of these twenty arguments? (Remember, there are only three ways of answering any argument.)

    Answer: Derisive laughter, at both the arguments and abuse of logic, and at the arguer for expecting these to be persuasive.

  • Custador

    I suspect that my first response would be to sit the writer down and give them some basic tuition in logic, the use of it, and logical fallacies, the spotting of them…

  • http://nojesusnopeas.blogspot.com James Sweet

    I’m rather surprised the assignment chose to highlight the Argument from Morality, which I thought even theologians had long ago abandoned, since it is so easily undermined.

    If God commanded everyone to start eating babies, would that make it moral? Three possible answers:

    1) “Of course not!” Ergo, morality exists independent of God.

    2) “God is Good, so She would never command something like that.” This implies that we can discriminate between what God would command and what God wouldn’t command. If morality cannot exist independent of God, that this discrimination would be impossible, because the logic would be circular. Ergo, morality exists independent of God.

    3) “Yup.” Okaaaaaaayyyyy….. This is the one answer that salvages the contention that morality emanates from God. And if any theist is willing to take this position, I say, have at it. But please stay far away from me!

  • billybobbibb

    “Explain how you think that the argument might affect your non-believer intellectually and emotionally.”

    Ultimately, emotion is the trump card that will sway the argument in favor of belief. It just “feels” like there “should” be a god out there. In fact, as a scientist, one of the most difficult things to do is to distance oneself from his/her biases and emotions and accept the facts and the logical conclusions one can infer from them. I learned this first-hand in graduate school, when I was adamantly positive that the molecule I had been working with for months had a particular structure, as shown by all previous studies, and I was shocked (and elated) to find I was terrible wrong when opposing data proved otherwise. This is part of the allure of science. Scientists are mere mortals, and have strong prejudices like anyone else. The “cold fusion” debacle was a very public example of this, to this day people are still trying to find ways to fund this junk science, claiming it’s a vast conspiracy and cover-up by the academic elites.

    But theological arguments are not scientific and rely on faith and emotion for propulsion. And there is nothing to them but bias, prejudice and assertion. Otherwise, maybe all religions have it right. Or, using Occam’s razor, none of them.

  • http://www.anthroslug.blogspot.com Anthroslug

    Wow, this one’s just a very weak variation on the already weak Argument from Design.

    Douglas Adams’ response remains the best I have heard: to argue that the universe was intelligently made for use because we are suited to it is like a puddle of water deciding that a depression in the ground was intelligently made for it because it fits it to perfectly.

  • Miko

    Hm. What qualifies as “another reliable Internet source?” If we fisk all of the arguments here, can this blog post be cited as a source in the paper?

  • http://needforcognition.blogspot.com/ Christy

    Not to mention, James, that if #3 is the answer, then the word “good” in this context is totally without content. If everything God does is by definition “good,” then saying “God is good” is equivalent to saying “God is God.” Which, incidentally, is the answer God gives to Job.

  • Steve

    Point 3 just comes totally out of the left field. First you’re surprised and then you go “WTFBBQ?!”. It just doesn’t make any sense.

  • Bob

    The ‘because it fits’ argument is horrible.

    Coca-cola fits in a bottle.
    Therefore Coca-cola was made by God.

  • Josh

    OK so I just read as many of the other arguments as I could without becoming disgusted/angry/overwhelmed with laughter.

    I noticed the essay (or whatever it is) is from 1994 and references many atheist stereotypes. For instance, we are refered to as “those who refuse to believe”.

    Also most of these arguments are just silly if you don’t start with the assumtion that the christian god exists, but he disregards any alternate explanation he may have heard as only logical if you start with the assumption that there is no god.

    How are we expected to buy something when its not even consistent within its own framework?

    Sorry if this is a rant.

  • Ken

    Isn’t anyone going to ask what the class is?

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Evaluate arguments 6, 14, 16, 18, and 19 and select the one that you would feel most comfortable using when trying to convince an open-minded non-believer in the existence of God.

    Surely they’d be too embarrassed to use such weak arguments to try to convince anyone else?

    Point of fact for theists: I am an atheist because I don’t find your arguments convincing and because you lack the evidence to back up your claims. You need evidence and better arguments. Please don’t waste either of our time with this rubbish.

    14. The Moral Argument
    1. Real moral obligation is a fact. We are really, truly, objectively obligated to do good and avoid evil.
    2. Either the atheistic view of reality is correct or the “religious” one.
    3. But the atheistic one is incompatible with there being moral obligation.
    4. Therefore the “religious” view of reality is correct.

    Point one is false. I can demonstrate this by punching you in the eye.
    Point two is a false dichotomy. There may be other views that are not considered here.
    Point three isn’t true either. I may hold to the idea of moral obligations without holding to a belief in gods. Similarly I may hold to a belief in gods but not to one of moral obligations. I may even worship a deity that demands I exploit others.
    Ergo the stated conclusion is a pile of poo.

  • coyotenose

    To sum up my response to such arguments:

    http://img248.imageshack.us/img248/7894/uniresponse.jpg

  • Luther

    I would go with Argument from Authority:

    1. Whoever put this list together is dumb.
    2. There are smarter people than they, who believe in god(s).
    3. So there is even more reason to believe.

    If you want to pass, pick the dumbest arguments against the weakest proposition you can choose. Put in a couple of QED’s and Therefors in – don’t worry about being logical.

    But avoid ending with “even the dumbest professor, in the weakest christian college could see from this that God exists exactly as defined by our college’s founder(s), president, and board”.

    I think it is a trick question. If the professor has any integrity to religion at all, “blind faith” not blind chance should be the ideal.

    And don’t they actually claim the universe is a Mystery? Or do they interpret it as intelligible as a Mystery? Which is basically meaningless, circular, false logic.

  • Miko

    I’ll take #6 (from a Christian perspective):

    1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being.
    2. The universe began to exist.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being.

    The “kalam argument” is basically Aristotle’s “first mover” argument, except that we’ve given it an arabic name to try to dissuade people from thinking that we’re bigots. It’s strength is that people who hear it might not know what the word ‘kalam’ means, so that we can re-use an argument that they already know and would be able to dismiss before we finished stating it if we had given it its standard name. Two criticisms of this argument are that 1) there’s no conclusive proof that either of its two premises are true and 2) even if it were true it could be used equally well to prove that God doesn’t exist since ithe would also have to have a creator. For the requirement of including a reliable internet source, I direct you to the wikipedia page on “logic,” which I feel would be good reading material for you, my teacher, even though it does not technically address the specific argument in question. I tried this argument on some atheists to see what its intellectual and emotional effects would be. The immediate effect was that the atheists fell to the ground laughing. Since I am a Christian, I assume that this means that they were overcome intellectually by the argument, accepting God into their hearts, and then laughed as they experienced the joy of God emotionally.

  • http://tombuoniasongaday.blogspot.com/ Tom

    i’d actually love for someone to go through these, one by one, and point out what’s wrong with them simply. could someone do that? like just a sentence for each? thank you! (like the other student, i’m also an atheist at a catholic college!)

    p.s. some of them i get are obviously wrong, like #12, the argument from the origin of the idea of god.

    12. just ask someone about heaven, a perfect place – they’ll all have different answers of what it’s like, based on their earthy experiences. humans can imagine a lot of things. just read any fiction.

    13. just because you can think of something doesn’t make it exist. (unicorns, fairies, the devil). also this proof works for the non-existence of the devil if you do it backwards.

    could someone finish it up? i’d really appreciate it!

  • Miko

    Christy:

    If everything God does is by definition “good,” then saying “God is good” is equivalent to saying “God is God.”

    This one is actually a sticking point in analysis that can be phrased without reference to God. As the wikipedia article notes, if everyone who is a male sibling is a brother, then saying “My male sibling is my brother” is equivalent to saying “My Brother is my brother.” Or, to make an analogy between religious and secular authority: If everything that the government does is by definition legitimate, then saying that “government is legitimate” is equivalent to saying “government is government.” This may be logically true, but it doesn’t mean that the government won’t murder you if you don’t do things their way.

    I would classify this as more of a linguistic problem than a philosophical one.

  • http://www.unmails.com Tyler

    29. Humans lived among dinosaurs (see, “The Flintstones”)

  • TheNP

    Here is an indepth rebuttal to some, if not all, of those arguments plus a few more.

    It lists 36 common arguments for a god and then points out all the flaws in the argument. I’d just print that out and hand it in, though you’d probably be expelled from the ‘college’. And there are far more fun ways to be kicked out of a christian college than this.

  • http://thegreatamericandesert.com freelancer

    “Look at my hand! It’s like it was perfectly designed to slip into this glove! God is amazing!”

  • http://tombuoniasongaday.blogspot.com/ Tom

    thanks! @theNP

    and yeah, i’ve thought of many ways to get kicked out. got any good ones?

    (p.s. i’d still love to see the peter kreeft ones addressed specifically.. i actually used to be a big fan on his when i was a christian in like 9th grade.)

  • ACN

    Tom,

    You can find an explanation of why the basic ones are bunk at rational wiki.

    It covers the Morality, Ontological, Cosmological, and considerably more humorous Oeneological arguments, of which these are all basically re-flavorings.

  • ACN

    The Kalam is covered in a litte more depth here .

  • http://pinkydead.blogspot.com David McNerney

    Instead of #20, I prefer: “Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Wager.”

    Work it out for yourself.

  • Craig

    I was a good enough student that I could take a hit on an assignment like this and still pass the class, and do well enough in other classes to keep my gpa up. I’d have taken the gamble of declaring that all of them are unsatisfactory, pick one, basically do the assignment, but rather than conclude how it might affect a non-believer, I’d explain how it has no effect on a non-believer and state that a similar process could be applied to the other proposed arguments. I’d likely pick 18 or 19 to write about.

  • cat

    I started at one and I love the blatant falsity of the premises. ” But we have already seen that change in any being requires an outside force to actualize it.” Er, no, that’s not how reality works. May I point out radioactive elements as an example?

    By two I thought “really, he can’t get better than arguments from Thomas Aquinas? What crap. I’m finished.” It made me think of this clip from Billy Madison http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7w64fbqYQY

  • Ryan

    Wow, well she should definitely focus on Argument 2, particularly Question 1, which I will henceforth refer to the “Argument for God from Drunken Revelry.”

    That’s good stuff.

  • Craig

    The “first cause” arguments have a pretty simple and glaring flaw in them. Everything we see that is caused, or comes in and out of being, is simple a change in the state of matter and energy within the universe, not an actual coming into or out of being. Matter and energy are observed to be neither created nor destroyed, so there is no valid argument to be made that they MUST have been created or come into being.

  • Megan

    LOL x1000 to #9.

  • http://theobligatescientist.blogspot.com/ ObSciGuy (Paul)

    Tom has a great idea – lets all pick one of these 20 arguments, and detail what’s wrong with it??

    Here’s where argument #1 fails:

    Short version: it’s a false assumption followed by a non sequitur claim that God exists.

    Long version: Among the many questionable assertions and poorly defined terms in #1, a key assumption is that “Nothing changes itself.” There are a variety of counter examples showing “nothing changes itself” is false. Ex: I can lock my watch in a sealed lead box with 20″ thick walls, and it will keep time just fine.

    If the assumption is false, any conclusions based on that assumption are unjustified. This is sufficient grounds to scrap the argument, but lets carry on as though this weren’t a problem… there are still errors in the argument!

    Notice the unjustified conclusion made here: “we have already seen that change in any being requires an outside force to actualize it. Therefore, there is some force outside (in addition to) the universe, some real being transcendent to the universe. This is one of the things meant by ‘God.’”

    Even IF that first part were true (remember, we’ve shown it isn’t), how can they claim that that force is “God”?

    This is a classic “non sequitur” — a claim that in now way follows from the argument given. If we ask “Why God? Why not Thor? Why not Brahma? Why not the FSM? Why not something we can’t imagine?” we realize they’ve just slipped God in there without justification. They could have just as easily said “This is one of the things meant by `the Germanic Deities.’”

    A second alternative they fail to consider is that their logic or assumptions are wrong (which we’ve show is the case) and that’s why their conclusions don’t jive with reality.

    Note, however, how this logic can seem pretty convincing if we’ve already made the assumption that God exists and is the only such option for such an “outside force” (as many Christian’s have). But persuasive and correct are different things. Since you can’t assume the thing you’re trying to prove, that would also kill this argument.

    Their summary: “Briefly, if there is nothing outside the material universe, then there is nothing that can cause the universe to change. But it does change. Therefore there must be something in addition to the material universe.”

    Point by point summary of why #1 fails:

    This we’ve show to be wrong: “if there is nothing outside the material universe, then there is nothing that can cause the universe to change”.

    This observation, then, means nothing: “But it does change. ”

    Therefore, this statement is unjustified and might as well have been randomly generated by a computer: “Therefore there must be something in addition to the material universe.”

    ## End of rambling comment. ;)

  • Steve

    Even if we assume any of these arguments as valid, all that is “proven” is the existence of a god. We are basically at Deism. We have shown that some sort of supernatural being exists.

    But there is absolutely no way to go from that to theism. Let alone to Christianity specifically. How does showing the mere existence of god lead to any insight about his motivations and plans?

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    I think the best proof (of at least Christianity) is that Jesus came back within the lifetime of His disciples (like he said he would), all the dead crawled out of the ground, the rapture occurred, and then the world came to an end.

    Oh wait, that didn’t happen. Never mind.

    Regardless, I think this would be an easy assignment to do for an atheist. You could honestly critique each of the arguments and explain why they don’t hold water for you. Of course the rationale for the arguments from a Christian perspective is that the Christians **want** them to be true so any argument at all is music to their ears. The arguments are not convincing, though, if you don’t already possess a psychological need for there to be arguments for the existence of God.

    Also what Steve said about Deism and theism (and Christianity) is very true.

  • TheNP

    @Tom

    Look into whatever passes as the student handbook for that college. The more fundamentalist the college is the more you can be expelled for. For example, in my town there is a college named Cornerstone University.
    It sticks out in my head because a few years ago I read in the paper that students could no longer be expelled for dancing off campus. Implying that a dance party in the dorms could still be punishable by expulsion.

    Without knowing the actual rules and regulations its hard to make recommendations.

  • shen

    Aristotle help me I actually read them all. I like that the ones singled out for the students are (arguably) the worst arguments given. Numbers 16 and 19 especially make me want to poke my eyes out. I almost want to cry Poe.

    As a philosophy professor, i will now go huddle in a corner and weep for our future….

  • shen

    6. The Kalam Argument

    This sort of demonstration has had a long and wide appeal among both Christians and Muslims. Its form is simple and straightforward.

    Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being.

    The universe began to exist.

    Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being.

    This is generally referred to as the uncaused cause, or first cause argument. The author changes the name to “Kalam” because if he doesn’t, he sounds like a moron. If your argument is that everything has a cause, but that the first cause is god and therefore has no cause, you have an answer that disagrees with your first premise.

    Grant the first premise. (Most people—outside of asylums and graduate schools would consider it not only true, but certainly and obviously true.)

    OK, I grant it. There is a cause to everything. Therefore nothing is without cause, therefore there can be no first cause. QED the author is a moron.

    Why not just argue that:

    1: there is jam
    2: ….
    3: …
    4: …

    Therefore there is no Jam

    That argument makes more sense.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Let me see if I can play this logic game.

    1. All things need a cause outside of itself
    2. The world is finite
    3. We will call the cause of the first thing “God” to break the infinite recess.
    4. Therefore God interacts in our world
    5. Therefore mankind is fallen and sinful by nature and deserves Hell
    6. Therefore there is a personal God who can save you if you believe in Him
    7. Therefore God hates fags and fags should not be able to get married.
    8. Therefore you owe me $50. Now pay up!

  • JSug

    14. The Moral Argument

    1. Real moral obligation is a fact. We are really, truly, objectively obligated to do good and avoid evil.

    Obligated to who? Isn’t that assuming the conclusion? What is objectively good? What is objectively evil? If good and evil are determined by god, doesn’t that make them subject to the will of god? If they are truly objective, then why do you need a god at all, in order for such things to exist? See Euthyphro’s dilemma.

    2. Either the atheistic view of reality is correct or the “religious” one.

    3. But the atheistic one is incompatible with there being moral obligation.

    4. Therefore the “religious” view of reality is correct.

    This is a perfect example of a false dichotomy. First of all, there is no single “atheistic view of reality”, or a single “religious view of reality.” And even if that were the case, it would be entirely possible that both are wrong. All claims must be evaluated on their own merits. If one is wrong, that does not automatically mean another is right, unless there are no other possible options.

  • http://facebook.com/seraphino Roberto Valenzuela

    Tom, here goes.

    1- Fallacy of composition. It applies observations made within the universe to the universe as a whole; this is the same error in reasoning as saying “atoms are colorless, I am made of atoms, therefore, I am colorless.” (This is particularly true in light of the universe possibly being literally “changeless” as a whole, i.e., a zero-sum game; watch some of Lawrence Krauss’s stuff for more on that notion.)

    2- Appeal to personal incredulity, and failure of parsimony. The actual existence of infinities has not been falsified; “it seems weird/silly” is not a rebuttal Further, the universe itself might be an uncaused cause of what we observe within the universe; adding God into the explanation adds no explanatory power and is therefore not preferred. Further, even if there is some uncaused first cause originating outside our universe, there is no reason to suppose it is anything resembling God.

    3- Premise (6) is false as a matter of physics; see, e.g., virtual particles. Further, “something coming into being” is an extremely Aristotelian, non-atomistic view of objects, which is extremely questionable (see, e.g., the Ship of Theseus paradox for an illustration of how “things” are really just mental shorthand our mind separates out, rather than real separate and distinct entities). Nonetheless, this is a subtle and actually pretty good argument for God — Leibniz was a brilliant thinker. It’s worth understanding better; do some Googling and you’ll find comprehensive statements of the argument and comprehensive rebuttals.

    4- All judgments from comparative value ARE subjective; merely because we all live according to such subjective judgments does not rebut them, contrary to the Reply, which falsely assumes sincerity = objectivity. Further, the ontological argument can also be used to argue for all sorts of crazy things, like a being of both perfect good AND perfect evil (yay Zoroastrianism!), or, in Dawkins’ amusing rebuttal, a God who is the smelliest being in the universe, “a pre-eminently peerless stinker.”

    5- Appeal to personal incredulity: “this is all so amazing that God must have made it!” Fractals, natural selection, crystal formation, gravitation force, and a number of other staggeringly well-understood natural processes are capable of effects that have “an intricately beautiful order and regularity that can fill even the most casual observer with wonder.” Further, premise 3 is based on an equivocation of “chance,” equating it with arbitrary randomness, which is not at ALL the way physical laws work. Further, we have no empirical reason to believe any natural phenomenon ever observed was designed by an intelligent force (hence the utter scientific failure of the intelligent design creationism movement).

    6- “Whatever begins to exist” is, again, a statement based on faulty Aristotelian objectification. Everything we observe apparently beginning to exist is not a new thing-in-itself, but merely a reconfiguration of preexisting matter/energy; therefore, we cannot say we have observed anything ever TRULY beginning to exist. Secondly, premise (1) again commits the fallacy of composition, applying observations within the universe to the universe as a whole; we therefore have no reason to believe premise (1). Nor do we have any real reason to believe premise (2); the state “preexisting” the Big Bang is today hypothesized to be the quantum vacuum, which, as far as we know, is irreducible and does not “begin to exist” in any meaningful sense.

    7- Another fallacy of composition, and another use of outmoded Aristotelian objectification. Further, there are entities that could account for the existence of the universe (such as the quantum vacuum) that “transcend space and time” but in no way resemble a personal cause or a god. The argument’s reply even admits as much, although it notably and dishonestly attempts to imply that such a transcendent necessary entity is unknown or unknowable except through divine revelation (not necessarily the case).

    8- Fallacy of composition again. Also, argument from personal incredulity: “Things work in a certain way in our universe, and that way looks complicated to me, therefore God!” Further, it makes no sense to say that there MUST be a transcendent creative mind; given the probable origin of the universe from an initial compressed high-energy state, from which everything else has subsequently developed, it makes perfect sense that everything we observe, having derived from an early unity, should continue to flow necessarily from that early unity.

    9- God of the gaps: “If we don’t understand it, therefore God.” Lightning, clouds, stars, earthquakes, volcanoes, disease, mental illness, and a whole host of other things formerly thought to be “[events] whose only adequate explanation is the extraordinary and direct intervention of God” have been demonstrated to have manifestly natural causes; on the other hand, nothing thought to have a natural cause has ever been relegated firmly to the product of divine intervention. It is thus inductively reasonable to suppose that miracles do not occur and are simply human misapprehensions; see Hume’s argument against miracles and Michael Shermer’s “why people believe weird things.” Further, there is no scientific, peer-reviewed evidence for miracles; all evidence comes from highly flawed and easily manipulated personal anecdotes, widely considered the weakest possible form of evidence.

    10- Fallacy of division; assumes without evidence that rational sources cannot be constituted from (or originate within) non-rational sources. Further, from evolutionary biology we have reason to believe that intelligibility and intelligence have survival value and will therefore be selected for; this is a well-evidence natural origin of these phenomena and should therefore be preferred over a speculative supernatural origin. Further, the many *flaws* in our thoughts, memories, and perceptions are well accounted for by the evolutionary, naturalistic account of our development, while the theistic counter-proposal flounders in explaining things like agenticity, confirmation bias, the high incidence of false memory, etc.

    [don't wanna make this too long, so part 2 to come shortly]

  • Loki

    Transfer schools.

    I thought OSHA had something to say about high risks of brain damage, this list is making me dumber.

  • JSug

    16. The Argument from Desire

    1. Every natural, innate desire in us corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire.

    I desire a cheap, easy to use jet pack that I can use to commute to work quickly. Such a thing does not exist. Just because you have a desire, does not mean that something exists to satisfy that desire. But often, such desires are what drive us to solve problems and invent new tools.

    2. But there exists in us a desire which nothing in time, nothing on earth, no creature can satisfy.

    Well, that’s just a baseless assertion. How can anyone claim to know what another person does or does not desire? Maybe some people have such desires, but as you can see from point 1, that does not mean that something exists to satisfy the desire.

    3. Therefore there must exist something more than time, earth and creatures, which can satisfy this desire.
    4. This something is what people call “God” and “life with God forever.”

    These just follow from the faulty premise.

  • JSug

    6. The Kalam Argument

    1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being.
    2. The universe began to exist.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being.

    This whole argument is based on a nonsensical premise. We have no evidence that anything ever “begins to exist.” As far as we can tell, everything that exists in the universe has always existed. Matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, only converted into different states. We have no real evidence that the universe began to exist at any point either. In fact, such a claim is somewhat nonsensical, because time itself is a property of our universe, and did not exist until our universe was in its current form. “Before” has no meaning when you talk about the universe.

    But even if this argument were correct, it only leads to the logical string of questions: Did the cause of the universe begin to exist at some point? And if so, what caused it? If it does not have a beginning/cause, then why must we assume that the universe must have a beginning/cause?

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    oh, good laird. this takes me back to my days in xtian theology classes in Div school. how hard i tried to “understand” the “logic” of those texts/arguments. and failed. literally. at my grad school getting a B- was tantamount to failing, and that’s what i got in “intro to xtian theology.” i just could not do it.

    for me at least, the hardest part was always, “well, we can made these fancy arguments that put most people to sleep and impress the philosophy department, therefore Christianity is true.” i was always like, “um, but what about the Hindus? the Native Americans? all the other religious mythologies that existed before and after Christianity? if you’re saying you’re ‘right’ why can’t they, also?” and i never, ever got a good answer.

    i will say that at least my classes in Judaism and Islam lacked this particular annoyance. i don’t know if that’s because i had better professors, or because those faiths aren’t quite as arrogant about their supposed rightness. nobody does “because i say so, that’s why” like xtians.

    anyway, Pazuzu is real, and he is coming for you. as a Sumerian Emesal speaker, i assure you this is true. fear his bifurcated wing wrath.

  • Humean G

    I’m surprised that nobody has picked at the opening of #10 point 1 at all. A little digging shows yet another theologically-derived fallacy.

    /edit:whoops, looks like a couple pokes in this direction were taken while I was writing. Still fresh material though.

    Intelligibility is not an innate quality of the universe. It is quality attributed to it by intelligent minds. Eg, intelligibility comes from the intelligence that is observing, not the imaginary intelligence that created, nor from the universe itself.

    The assertion is more or less that the universe is comprehensible by one who can comprehend it. It’s just an identity statement. Never mind the rest of the obvious flaws, the first statement already demonstrates a completely bass-ackward understanding of the nature of intelligibility.

    Without an intelligent mind, intelligibility does not exist and is not a meaningful word–and to say that intelligibility is just waiting to be found by intelligence ridiculously implies that intelligibility is somehow a natural property of matter and that intelligence gives it meaning. This misunderstanding is very much related to the Christian theological motives to place mankind as the final product of development.

  • Andy

    It would be interesting to know the answers to two questions, to judge the bias of the course:

    1. Are the students allowed to conclude that the arguments are fallacious?
    2. When asked to discuss the weaknesses of the arguements, are the students allowed to consult atheistic websites as “another reliable internet source”?

  • Claudia

    @Tom, good idea. I’ll follow @ObSciGuy’s lead and get on #2

    Well, #2 is merely a rewording of #6, which is Kalam’s argument. This essentially says that everything has to have a cause, and that cause is God, because God is the only thing that doesn’t need a cause because uhmm, well because otherwise the argument falls apart. These arguments fail because:
    - They rest on the assumption that everything requires a cause, something that in physics is not clear, I think.
    - The declare that God doesn’t need a cause while everything else does, by definition. No evidence is offered.
    - They also declare that the “ultimate causer” (which they have failed to demonstrate is needed) must be an intelligence. Again, no evidence is offered.

  • http://facebook.com/seraphino Roberto Valenzuela

    [continued]

    11- “Truth” is a largely subjective notion, generally meaning correspondence of an idea with a given observation. The idea that eternal truth can exist is not established, and even probably incoherent. Further, as the argument itself admits, it’s based in the ancient Greek theory of knowledge, with Platonic forms ‘n’ such, where if I can understand eternal truth, then that means there is a Form of Eternal Truth floating around there somewhere. Needless to say, we have no reason to accept ancient Greek epistemology as more accurate than a scientifically informed epistemology, which renders the argument completely incoherent.

    12- Virtually all definitions of God define God in terms of what we are not, and/or of what we are, merely extended maximally (humans cannot actually conceive of infinity or eternity; try it; therefore, the idea of God as infinite/eternal in our minds is just an entity that is limited but REALLY REALLY EXTENSIVE). Both of these views are inherently anthropomorphic, defining God in terms of man, and therefore *obviously* can arise from within man. The argument itself realizes this and only attempts to undermine by appeals to personal incredulity (“Is that really enough?” “Does that seem farfetched?”) rather than actual argument.

    13- Rehash of arguments 4 and 7. As a side note, my reply to arguments from modal logic — indeed, with all “deductive” arguments for God or the supernatural — is that they are unconvincing without empirical experimental evidence to back them up. If I make a perfect logical argument that the clouds must be colored chartreuse, but every cloud ever observed has been white and no evidence has ever been found of a chartreuse cloud, only two conclusions are possible: Either everyone’s senses are constantly being deceived, or else I’m full of shit. Which is more likely?

    14- We have no reason to accept the objective — i.e., mind-independent — existence of moral values. Think about it for yourself: “Good” and “bad” in your own mind describe your (subjective!!!) evaluation of the correlation between a proposed action and a proposed standard of conduct (a “moral value,” let’s say). “Goodness” and “badness” therefore subsist subjectively in your mind, and are not objectively measurable properties of the universe like mass and gravity. Further, even if objective moral values exist, they need not come from God (see, e.g., Kant’s categorical imperative, which attempts to objectively establish rules of conduct based on pure reason); in fact, if they DO come from God — who is himself a mind — then objective moral values do NOT exist, since moral values are simply whatever God says they are.

    15- The argument is based on an outright lie. EVERYONE believes it is occasionally okay to go against your gut instincts and simply place your trust in an entity better qualified to make decisions. If you’re a conservative Christian, and your conscience tells you that homosexuality is not sinful, would somebody like Kreeft say it’s better for you to obey your conscience, or better to set aside your misgivings and “trust in God’s commandments,” hmm? Likewise, we secularists submit our moral impulses to the scrutiny of reason all the damn time. Basically, this argument is based on an equivocation regarding the definition of “conscience.” If we define “conscience” in a broad sense, as “that which we believe to be preferable courses of action,” then the criticism of this argument becomes easily seen as ridiculous: it effectively says, “isn’t it remarkable that even the most consistent subjectivist believes it is not preferable for anyone to deliberately do something he doesn’t believe is preferable?” Uh, no, it’s not that remarkable. :P

    16- The existence of a desire which nothing can satisfy is not established. Further, even if there were, the evolutionary imperative toward maximum survival and propagation would be a much better explanation than God.

    17- Babies die shrieking in agony due to natural diseases or disorders. Therefore, there is no God. You either see this one or you don’t.

    18- This is formally termed the weak argument from miracles. It’s actually one of the better arguments. It’s flawed for two reasons: First of all, the counter-argument from inconsistent revelations. A ton of people have experienced something “divine,” but nobody can agree on what it is; this already means that most if not all such experiencers are incorrect in their evaluations of their experience, and it’s therefore QUITE conceivable that “so many people could have been so utterly wrong.” Secondly, anyone who’s ever taken certain drugs or worn the “God helmet” or experienced certain types of stroke or epilepsy can tell you that profound religious experiences can easily originate within demonstrable natural processes. It is more likely that religious experiencers are encountering a natural phenomenon than contacting a supernatural phenomenon. As a side note, try running a Bayesian analysis on the whole “at least one person must be right” hypothesis and you’ll see that God, even granting virtually the entire argument, is exceptionally improbable.

    19- The vast majority of people through recorded history also profoundly believed some people were simply worthy of (and destined to) slavery. Is it more plausible to believe they were right about this, or wrong? Effectively, this argument commits the fallacy of appeal to a common belief. When it comes to physics and metaphysics, it is safe to say that almost everyone in history has been almost entirely wrong about almost anything. To make common beliefs, with their track record, a source of proof for God is sheer arrogance with regard to the human mind.

    20- A friend of mine put together a good and quick summary of why Pascal’s Wager should not be taken seriously as an argument for God: http://thechaoscosmos.com/?p=136

    Thanks for reading! Hope this helped, Tom.

  • JSug

    I’m going to skip the other 2 on the list and just say this: I can’t imagine arguments like these convincing anyone who had even a basic understanding of logic and/or science. I can only assume, then, that such arguments are aimed at shoring up the doubts of people who already profess belief in a god.

  • Paddington

    Let’s start with the one you quoted:

    “1.We experience the universe as intelligible. This intelligibility means that the universe is graspable by intelligence.
    2.Either this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence, or both intelligibility and intelligence are the products of blind chance.
    3.Not blind chance.
    4.Therefore this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence.”

    Point 1 is demonstrably false. That’s why we invented religion, homeopathy and the rest of the pseudo-scientific nonsense. In addition, efforts to get more people to understand what the top scientists can do have met with limited success.

    Point 2 is a false dichotomy. For example, the Universe could be designed, but intelligent beings not so.

    Point 3 is, as said by others, just assertion.

  • Richard Wade

    Argument from Dizziness:
    1. God is the Almighty Creator and Master of the Universe.
    2. God is Omnipotent and Omniscient throughout and beyond all time and space.
    3. God is perfect.
    4. God made man.
    5. Man is imperfect.
    6. Therefore God fucked up.
    7. God’s excuse is that man has free will.
    9. Omniscience means that God knows everything ahead of time, including every thought we’ll ever think, so there can’t be free will.
    10. But of course God already knew that excuse wouldn’t work.
    11. Therefore God’s just messin’ with our heads.
    12. But because there’s no free will, we’re just action figures he’s moving around like a little boy acting out an imaginary drama. So he’s only messin’ with his own head. Or other parts.
    13. Despite being everywhere and controlling everything, his existence is not readily apparent to many of his action figures.
    14. So God made Apologists to argue for his existence.
    15. Therefore Apologists exist.
    16. Apologetics is the art of arguing for the existence of God in dizzying circles long enough so that doubters either give up and stagger away or give in and concede that God must exist just to stop the dizziness.
    18. This argument will go on indefinitely. If at any time you experience disorientation or nausea, or whenever you’ve had enough dizziness, simply insert “Therefore God exists,” and the ride will come to a safe stop.
    19. Therefore, God exists.
    20. Thank you, and please watch your step. Have a pleasant day at the theme park.

  • Vas

    Explain how you think that the argument might affect your non-believer intellectually and emotionally.”

    Well right off the bat I’d say it would reinforce the negative stereotype of Christians being stupid and gullible.

    If any of these arguments were presented on the interwebs the emotional affect might be to produce ad hominem arguments from otherwise rational people, i.e. “You guys are a bunch of assholes, therefor there is no god”.

    Really when you think about it, the above argument is every bit as valid as the arguments from the list.

  • Squidy

    I have no responses for that, but just felt like sharing…when I was in high school, I was taking college courses at a Christian university part time my junior and senior years (they were free and I still got college credit, I couldn’t resist). For the final paper in my Economics class, I had to explain how market changes are influenced by Jesus Christ. True story. This happened in Indiana, I’ll give a high five to whoever can guess the school.

  • katie chambers

    Hey guys,
    I am the student who sent in the question. Thanks so much for all your responses!
    I’m attending the school because my mom works there as a professor (even though she isn’t Christian, either). The philosophy typically doesn’t influence any of my coursework (it’s a Methodist university, so it’s not anywhere near as heavy-handed as, say, Liberty or something; I’ve had valid biology classes with no mention of ID, etc.), but this class really takes the cake. I’ve actually been really open with my professor and classmates and have been responding to this, and every assignment, from my atheist/humanist point of view. I feel like it’s extremely important to represent the atheist community well and to let people know that atheists aren’t a group of evil, hateful freaks, so it isn’t an option for me to pretend to believe something that I don’t just to get through a class, as several people suggested.
    Thanks so much for your funny and intelligent thoughts (and sympathy)!
    Katie

  • http://needforcognition.blogspot.com/ Christy

    On my blog, I’m going to take each argument and see if I can “prove” the existence of Cthulhu with them. It looks disturbingly easy.

    Meanwhile, I’m really enjoying the more philosophically knowledgeable people here pointing out all the fallacies!

  • JB Tait

    This assignment looks less like it was designed by an evangelical, and more like it was an exercise set by an atheist, for any thinking student is going to have a hard time finding any of those arguments they can support, as requested.

    If it is a writing class, then the proof need not be rigorous, just well phrased. If it is a logic course, then a faulty axiom is no bar to a logical progression thereafter to an incorrect conclusion. If it is a philosophy class, then failing to prove the postulate is just as valid as succeeding, and can be expressed in satire.

    I once made a convincing argument for a Flat Earth, to a large audience. I didn’t need to believe in it in order to find a way to make it plausible and convincing. Alas, a substantial number of the attendees went away believing what I had said.

  • katie chambers

    By the way, this assignment is taken from a class called “Philosophy of religion”; it’s basically a comparative religions course from a Christian perspective. Earlier this week, another of the assignments from this class was to determine whether all religions share the same one God or if all the gods are different– “using facts” to validate our position.

  • anon

    @ theNP: I used to live in a town with a fundamentalist “Christian” college. (I put “Christian” in quotes because they claim Jesus is love . . . yet they were anything but loving towards their fellow human beings. Intolerant bastards.) Their rules say that if the non-student SPOUSE of a student is seen having an alcoholic drink even OFF CAMPUS, the student will be expelled. Um, hello? Anybody remember the “wine into water” thing from the Marriage at Cana?

    *crickets*

    Oh, yeah, they claim that “wine” was actually unfermented grape juice…. *face/palm*

    Yeah, and women wearing pants is cause for expulsion, too. I wouldn’t have attended that school for a million bucks. Although, honestly, I might have enjoyed seeing just how many feathers I could ruffle and how fast I could get expelled…..

  • jose

    about Argument 10… Pangloss, anyone?

  • PettyBetty

    I feel her pain. I was still a Christian when I chose my college, and only became an Atheist last year. Perhaps that’s what happened to her?

  • Secular Stu

    I’m sure many here are familiar with Qualiasoup, he makes a pretty convincing argument here that you can’t prove a god through logic alone, so the whole exercise is a waste of time anyway.

  • JSug

    @katie:

    Good to know you’re up front with them about your lack of belief. So how do you approach an assignment like this? Do you point out the obvious flaws in the arguments? How does your prof react?

  • mj

    “We believe that only some of these arguments, taken individually and separately, demonstrate the existence of a being that has some of the properties only God can have . . .”

    I think when they tell you that up front it’s safe to just save your time and skip reading the arguments.

  • Devysciple

    First of all, this.

    Secondly, I can’t resist pointing out to this guy and his take on the Kalam argument. I like watching his videos. Maybe you’ll enjoy it as well.

    Therefore, FSM exists!

  • hipopotamo

    Friends, you had me in stitches with all the witty comments and de-constructing of the logical falacies in Katie’s assignment.

    @Richard I so loved your “dizziness” argument, with your permision I would like to translate it and post it to my blog.

    I would like to add my proof by intimidation:
    1. Cats have an EVEN number of legs
    2. Cats have two legs in the back, and fore legs in front
    3. By simple arithmetic cats then have 6 legs
    4. This certainly is an ODD number of legs for a cat to have.
    5. No number can be both ODD and EVEN at the same time…
    6. Therefore a miracle and God exists!

    Corollary.
    1. I performed the miracle of the cat’s legs multiplication
    2. Therefore I am God’s prophet
    3. Surrender your wealth to me. You don’t need it in Heaven

    Cheers

    The Hippo

  • Ellie

    “Explain how you think that the argument might affect your non-believer intellectually and emotionally.”

    “your non-believer”

    What are we pets now?

  • Dan W

    I skimmed all the arguments on that page… they are all fucking stupid! Most of them are versions of arguments I’ve heard and easily refuted hundreds of times before. The one that irritated me most was this one:

    “17. The Argument from Aesthetic Experience

    There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
    Therefore there must be a God.”

    It’s a complete non-argument! The premise and the conclusion don’t go together! Are these crappy arguments the best theists can come up with? Because if they are, that’s just sad.

  • Richard Wade

    hipopotamo,
    I’m honored. Have fun translating the Argument from Dizziness. Maybe take some Dramamine beforehand. :)

    Your cat argument is intriguing. Whenever I try to count my cat’s legs, she wants to play and grabs my hand, so I never find out for certain. Ow. Ow ow.

  • Richard Wade

    Dan W,
    I thought maybe you were kidding, so I went over to Kreeft’s site. Oh my goodness gracious.

    17. The Argument from Aesthetic Experience

    There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
    Therefore there must be a God.
    You either see this one or you don’t.

    Are people really sure this isn’t a Poe? What an amazingly inane argument. I can offer a much better one than that:

    There is Catherine Zeta Jones’ ASS in the film “Entrapment.”

    Therefore there must be a God.

    You either see this one or you don’t.

    Or you see it over and over again.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    @hipopotamo,

    I see that you too have had the divine revelation that these logic proofs many times end with the conclusion that a wealth transfer (tithe) needs to happen.

    1. State a loaded assumption with desired conclusion embedded but slightly hidden
    2. Go through several steps revealing the built-in desired conclusion.
    3. Throw in a couple non-sequiturs along the way.
    4. Conclude that the faithful then needs to give you their money.

  • Robert W.

    As for the Kalam argument, I think that the first premise as worded here is a short hand version of it.

    I believe that more correctly the first premise is that everything that has the possibility of not existing must have had a cause to exist.

    That cause must have been a necessary cause that could never have the possibility of not existing.

  • ACN

    I’m pretty sure that is logically equivalent to “everything that begins to exist has a cause”.

  • Robert W.

    ACN,

    If that is true then do you agree that the universe had a possibility of not existing?

    As I understand that one of the current responses to the Kalam argument is that the universe always existed. What evidence is there for that in light of the general scientific consensus that there is a beginning point for the universe estimated to be about 13 billion years ago?

  • JSug

    @Robert W:

    I’ll tackle that: The problem with the Kalam argument is that it makes the assumption that the universe had a beginning, when the truth is that we don’t know either way. The theoretical expansion event 13.7 billion years ago represents the beginning of the universe in its current state. That does not rule out the possibility of prior states, or any other myriad of possibilities that do not require an external cause.

    The claim that there had to be an external cause, and that we know that cause has to be eternal is complete conjecture, because we have no basis for comparison. How many things have you seen created by eternal creators?

  • Nordog

    There is Catherine Zeta Jones’ ASS in the film “Entrapment.”

    Therefore there must be a God.

    You either see this one or you don’t.

    Or you see it over and over again.

    Quod Erat Demonstrandum

    ;-)

  • Nordog

    How many things have you seen created by eternal creators?

    Ah, everything?

  • Steve

    What evidence is there for that in light of the general scientific consensus that there is a beginning point for the universe estimated to be about 13 billion years ago?

    The COBE mission:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COBE
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_microwave_background_radiation

    One of the best examples in all of science of an experiment perfectly agreeing with the predicted outcome. It shows that the cosmic microwave background radiation matches a black body curve perfectly (with error bars too small to draw). It’s what you’d expect to happen when the universe was once really dense and hot.

    Then there is the (accelerating) expansion of the universe as shown by the redshifting of galaxies moving outwards.

    Of course given that god isn’t clearly defined in any way whatsoever, that doesn’t preclude that an extra-dimensional god could have snipped its metaphorical fingers and made the Big Bang happen in our universe. Theists railing against that theory is patently absurd as there is no conflict.

  • katie chambers

    @ JSug:
    I discussed the morality argument for this assignment. One of the problems I have with debating issues with Christians/really zealous religious people in general is that, no matter what you say, they most often will just “refute” your logic by pulling some illogical craziness out, or quoting lines from their holy book of choice, as if that is relevant. I could have gone on and on about the logical flaws in that argument, so I tried to keep that part of the essay brief and focused more on explaining that, while atheists(/at least, this particular atheist) don’t feel a divine obligation to morality, most of us do feel obligated to our own consciences and to our loved ones and community, or humanity in general, to try to do what we think is right. I quoted heavily from the book Good Without God by Greg Epstein, the Humanist chaplain at Harvard.
    My mom, the closeted agnostic professor, is actually in an impromptu and unexplained meeting with the Dean of my school as I speak. I am keeping my fingers crossed that it is not about the lack of belief I’ve expressed.

  • Robert W.

    JSug,

    Thank you. This raises two additional questions- 1. where did the matter come from in the first place? 2. what changed to make it suddenly explode in the Big Bang?

    I would think that it would have to be something outside of the universe that is still the necessary uncaused being.

    Steve,

    I agree with you that the Big Bang is not inconsistent with the description of the Biblical description of the creation of the universe.

  • ACN

    1. where did the matter come from in the first place?

    Matter pops into and out of existence all of the time. The universe appears to have 0 total energy, this would be explained very nicely if the big bang originated from a quantum vacuum fluctuation.

    2. what changed to make it suddenly explode in the Big Bang?

    This is a strange question, there wasn’t really an “explosion” in any conventional sense of the word, I suppose then the “bang” is somewhat of a misnomer. If you’re asking “why does space-time expand?” then in the very early universe, the physics isn’t clear enough to answer that. The Friedman equations tell you a ton about expansion at non-GUT/Planck energy scales though.

    I agree with you that the Big Bang is not inconsistent with the description of the Biblical description of the creation of the universe.

    Are you being serious or facetious? The biblical account of creation is a myth passed down by bronze age desert dwellers. It is wholly inconsistent with what we know about cosmology, the history of the earth/solar system, and evolutionary biology.

  • Steve

    You can count on Robert to miss the point and jump to conclusions again. No one with an ounce of common sense takes the biblical creation story seriously. It’s pretty much understood that it’s just a myth. Even by theologians.

    What I meant was that the Big Bang theory doesn’t conflict with the common ideas of a god (for example the ones advanced in the “arguments” discussed here). Either in a general sense or the Christian one. The biblical creation myth has nothing to do with it.

    The only thing of importance that would be lost with Genesis is the doctrine of original sin. And that would actually be a huge benefit for Christianity.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Robert W.

    1. where did the matter come from in the first place?

    What matter? Our current best understanding of the universe is that matter did not exist in the very early period of its formation.

    2. what changed to make it suddenly explode in the Big Bang?

    Why do you assume it was an explosion?

  • Robert W.

    Steve and ACN,

    I was too loose with my comment. My point is that I think that the Big Bang theory is consistent with the account that God created ex Nihilo. i understand that your point is that this really wasn’t a creation out of nothing, but that that was matter already there that was transformed.

    Matter pops into and out of existence all of the time. The universe appears to have 0 total energy, this would be explained very nicely if the big bang originated from a quantum vacuum fluctuation.

    Doesn’t this still require there to be matter? I thought that the Big Bang began at the point of singularity that included all of the matter that ultimately became our universe. And that attempting to explain beyond that at this point is pure speculation and violate the understandings we have now. For example I have read that the notion that our universe grew out of a quantum fluctuation has not been widely accepted because it would lead to universe appearing all over the place for an infinite time and they would invariably have collided with each other and shrink which we don’t see through observation.

    I am not pretending to know this stuff, just curious and trying to learn it. So thank you guys.

  • Jeri

    Personally- I think there is valid argument for a single omnicient god; provided that the conclusion also allows for the idea that he is an evil, conspiracy theory type paranoid, crazy, sadistic, leaking colostomy bag of a bastard, who happens to have a nice aesthetic sense, sometimes.

  • Parse

    @Katie Chambers:
    Is the Dean your mom meeting with in her chain of command? If so, I hope her job is all right. Even if you aren’t commenting under your real name, it isn’t that hard for the administration to identify you by finding the intersection of “Students in the class this was assigned”, “Students with mothers as professors”, and “Students who don’t write the expected Christian lines”.
    Then, think about what you’ve written about your mom: “the closeted agnostic professor” and “even though she isn’t Christian, either”. A sharp eye in the wrong head could mean that your mom might not be closeted any more – and if she had to sign a ‘Statement of Faith’ to work at the college, she might be in trouble.

  • Robert W.

    Hoverfrog,

    What matter? Our current best understanding of the universe is that matter did not exist in the very early period of its formation.

    Is there a name for this theory?

    Why do you assume it was an explosion?

    I assume explosion is a bad choice of words. i mean the cause that caused the point of singularity to start expanding at the speed of light

  • Steve

    i mean the cause that caused the point of singularity to start expanding at the speed of light

    That isn’t really what happened either. Space-time itself expanded (and is still expanding). Individual galaxies are moving withing their respective clusters (Andromeda is moving towards us for example) but the clusters as a whole don’t move much. That’s often confused, because even scientists tend to say that the redshift of receding galaxies is caused by the Doppler effect, when in reality it’s caused by relativity.

    The Big Bang isn’t about matter hurtling outwards from a single point. If anything “exploded” it’s the underlying fabric of space. That’s why the universe is “only” 13.7 +/- 0.2 billion years old, but actually extends about 46 billion light years – or a sphere with a 93 billion LY diameter. Space-time itself can move at speeds faster than light. Relativistic restrictions only apply to matter in space, not to space itself.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Robert W.

    Is there a name for this theory?

    Yeah. The Big Bang Theory.

  • Robert W.

    Hoverfrog,

    Yeah. The Big Bang Theory.

    So is it your understanding that the Big bang theory supports creation of matter from nothing?

  • Steve

    In short we don’t know really how matter was created or what caused the Big Bang to occur. Everything was compressed to an infinitely dense point. Physics get wonky at that point and you can’t go farther than the Planck time anyways.

    That’s complicated by the fact that we can’t imagine “nothingness”. Not just the absence of something, but literal nothingness. But that doesn’t discredit the theory or lead the conclusion that “god did it”.

    You can’t even say that matter really came from nothing, because we already postulate the existence of a singularity as a starting point. That singularity expanded, released quarks and other elementary particles, which combined to form more complex matter, etc.

  • Jason

    The words “false dichotomy” come to mind.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Robert W.

    So is it your understanding that the Big bang theory supports creation of matter from nothing?

    No. There’s this little thing called the conservation of mass. Matter is “made of” molecules which are in turn “made of” atoms. Mainly atoms consist of protons, electrons, and neutrons. Protons and neutrons are in turn “made of” quarks. Quarks have various intrinsic properties, including electric charge, color charge, spin, and mass. Quarks experience the fundamental interactions of neutrinos and it is these neutrinos that are theorised to be been around in the very early universe. To go further than this we’re looking at the theoretical Higg’s boson.

    There’s not a lot in the way of “nothing” there.

  • Steve

    This is what they mean at CERN when they say that they want to replicate the conditions shortly after the Big Bang (and by shortly, we’re talking fractions of a second). It’s about the creation of a quark-gluon-plasma. When it cools down, all kinds of particles are formed. Or so it is thought. But we can do experiments to try and confirm it.

    @hoverfrog
    The Higgs boson has nothing to do with this per se. It’s a theoretical particle to explain where mass comes from. It’s more somewhat of an exchange particle than a part of matter

  • Anonymous

    I find it particularly amusing that this argument, a piece of Argument from Conscience, is used just before the Argument from Experience and Argument from Consent:

    How can society obligate me? What right do my equals have to impose their values on me? Does quantity make quality? Do a million human beings make a relative into an absolute? Is “society” God?

    In both experience and consent, the argument is basically, strength in numbers. So many people believe, or have had religious experiences, its sill to think they’re wrong. Yet, they scoff at the idea that quantity makes quality.

    The other thing I wanted to say is also from the Argument from Conscience. They claim that conscience cannot possibly come from something less than you (nature, animal instincts) nor from you yourself. But evolutionarily, this is very clearly where conscience comes from. It’s not at all difficult to imagine how conscience could have been a useful evolutionary trait, and there happen to have been simple evolutionary experiments, done with robots with simple genetic-like codes, that show that there is a natural tendency for at least some organisms in a group to have a sort of conscience, a sense of goodness.

    I wish I could point out everything I found funny in the 20 arguments. But I only have 20 minutes before my math lecture starts, and that’s not nearly enough time. So, if anyone is look for a good, funny, quick read, here are my favorites:
    5, 7, 9, 10, 12 (this one makes a particularly astounding jump in conclusions at step 4, quite the logistical magician’s trick), 13, 14, 16, 18
    Okay, so I started that list, and realized that I wasn’t abbreviating it all that much. They’re all funny in their own way. Just read it all =)


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