Frank Turek’s Criminally Bad C.R.I.M.E.S. Argument: Fine Tuning

Frank Turek’s Criminally Bad C.R.I.M.E.S. Argument: Fine Tuning November 11, 2016

fine tuning frank turekThis is a continuation of a critique of Frank Turek’s arguments in favor of Christianity from his book Stealing from God. See the beginning of the discussion here.

Let’s conclude the critique of Turek’s first argument, Cosmos.

Fine tuning of the universe

Turek says that if the expansion rate from the Big Bang were different by 10–15, the universe would have either collapsed or never developed galaxies. What explains this fine tuning?

Good question. Why does the universe look finely tuned? This is a scientific question, not incontrovertible evidence of the hand of God. Replacing “Science doesn’t know” with “Well, if you don’t, I do—it was God!” doesn’t help. Advancing a god as the cause of the universe simply moves the question back one level: if we assume that a deity did it, where did it come from? How did it create the universe out of nothing? What laws of nature did it break, and what as-yet-undiscovered laws did it use? We’ve resolved nothing. It is merely one more supernatural claim that science must set aside on its way to finding the truth.

And what is the universe finely tuned for? There is life on earth, a tiny speck in an inhospitable and inconceivably vast sea of space. Most of the mass in the universe isn’t ordinary matter, and almost all of that isn’t part of a habitable world. It’s hard to call the harsh wasteland that is the universe “tuned for life,” so why imagine that life was what it was finely tuned for? There are probably trillions of black holes in the universe—you could more logically say that it was fine tuned for them.

Turek argues that we have two possibilities: (1) that our universe just got really lucky with its constants or (2) a supernatural being created it. He concludes: (1) is really improbable, so therefore (2). But what is the probability of (2)?? How can we compare these two options when we haven’t even analyzed one of them? He doesn’t even acknowledge the problem.

Multiverse

Of course, the in-your-face response to the fine tuning argument sidesteps the question of whether the universe was finely tuned by arguing for a multiverse—uncountably many universes with varying cosmic constants, of which ours is just one. A very unlikely universe will pop up eventually if you have enough of them. In fact, Alexander Vilenkin, the cosmologist that Turek praised earlier, makes clear his view on the multiverse question in an article titled, “The Case for Parallel Universes: Why the multiverse, crazy as it sounds, is a solid scientific idea.”

(Does Turek still want to cite Vilenkin as a reliable source?)

Just to hit this a little harder, Jerry Coyne wrote a post subtitled with the very question that I had been asking: “Is the multiverse a Hail Mary pass by godless physicists?” No, the multiverse is not just a “well, it’s possible” gambit for which atheists admit they have no evidence for but which they toss out simply to annoy apologists. He quotes physicist Sean Carroll, who makes clear that the multiverse is a prediction made by other well-accepted theories. It wasn’t pulled out of a hat; it is a consequence of accepted physics.

(I discuss the related Kalam Cosmological Argument here and here.)

Cause and causelessness

Turek says, “If the universe had a beginning, it must’ve had a Beginner.” Does everything have a cause? When an electron comes out of a decaying nucleus or a photon comes out of an electron dropping to a lower energy level, what was the cause? Nothing. Quantum events (like the Big Bang presumably was) don’t necessarily need causes. “Everything has a cause” sounds right coming from our experience, but common sense isn’t a reliable tool at the edge of science.

Turek has one final salvo for this argument: “Either no one created something out of nothing or someone created something out of nothing.” Huh? So we’ve already established that the universe came from nothing? That’s possible, but there is no consensus. Why imagine that nothing was more likely before the Big Bang than something?

Lacking evidence but not confidence, Turek picks the latter option, as if it makes more sense that someone created something out of nothing. But how does anyone make something out of nothing? Turek falls back on an uncaused god, without evidence.

And even if we grant fine tuning, a supernatural agent creating the universe is just one of lots of explanations. Maybe our universe was created by powerful but limited aliens. We could be in the Matrix of a computer designed by an alien race. And so on. No need to imagine an unlimited god.

Unless there’s evidence, of course.

I’ve written more about the fine-tuning argument here and here.

Continue with the discussion of R = Reason.

“In God We Trust.” 
I don’t believe it would sound any better if it were true. 
— Mark Twain

There’s a phrase we live by in America: “In God We Trust.”
It’s right there where Jesus would want it: on our money. 
— Bill Maher

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 8/1/13.)

Image credit: Seigner, CC

 

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  • Michael Neville

    Our universe may be “low probability” for certain values of probability but the probability of its existence is 100% as shown by the fact that we’re here. The arguments that if gravity or the proton-electron mass ratio or the energy density of the vacuum had different values that the universe would not support our life all boil down to a tautology: If things were different then things would be different. It may well be that this is the only universe out of an infinite number of possible universes which will support life as we know it but we know it exists because we exist.

    • I’ve never found that response satisfying. Maybe I’m missing something.

      Yes, that we’re here obviously means that we exist in a life-permitting universe. The probability of a life-permitting universe is 1 ’cause we’re in one. But is that a resolution to the Christian’s fine tuning challenge?

      • Michael Neville

        I see it as a resolution to fine tuning in that the argument claims that the probability of our universe existing is very low. It’s entirely possible that the vast majority of universes in the multiverse are hostile to life. Our particular universe isn’t may be just a fluke but since we’re here it shows that, however improbable, there is at least one life bearing universe.

        That’s the advantage of space. It’s big enough to hold practically anything, and so, eventually, it does. –Terry Pratchett The Last Hero

      • wtfwjtd

        If I understand Michael correctly, I see it as a refutation of the Christian assertion that low probability=goddunit. There are plenty of extremely low probability events that occur in our ordinary lives every day–all with perfectly plausible and reasonable non-supernatural explanations.
        Dark Matter’s short video explains better than I can:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcpuUeO-xIY

        • Any particular bridge hand would be an example of an extremely low-probability event.

        • Michael Neville

          a refutation of the Christian assertion that low probability=goddunit.

          Thank you for summing up my argument in a single phrase.

    • MNb

      You must distinguish between a priori probability and a posteriori probability. The second is indeed exactly 100%. The first one though cannot really be determined due to lack of data. This is something apologists – including Turek – abuse to do a statistical “analysis” based on population one.
      That’s as thick as manure and less than half as useful.

      Comparison: I’ve thrown a dice. I tell you exactly nothing about it. I only tell you the outcome is a six. The a posteriori probability is 100%. The a priori probability is anyone’s guess (for instance I might have glued a six on all sides; I might as well have used a dice with a gazillion sides).
      As a result an argument like “the expansion rate from the Big Bang were different by 10^–15” is totally meaningless.

  • JBSchmidt

    Aren’t the atheists just kicking the ‘creation’ can down the street by ‘predicting’ a multiverse? Where did it come from?

    Additionally, what reason is given for the various scientific laws to exist outside our own universe? While quantum events do happen, they happen within our universe and its laws. How do we know they happen prior to our universe existing?

    • Herald Newman

      > Aren’t the atheists just kicking the ‘creation’ can down the street
      > by ‘predicting’ a multiverse?

      Not really. If there is a multiverse, it’s possible that it’s eternal. Creationists are happy to say that eternal things (like they believe God to be) don’t need to be created, so why do they have such a problem with an eternal multiverse?

      • Michael Neville

        It’s not just creationists who claim that God is eternal. All Christians, Jews and Muslims do.

    • Greg G.

      If the conditions are right for one universe to exist, then it is more likely that many universes exist as a universe that could prevent other universes from existing would be far more complex than one that could do that remarkable thing.

      If you have the right conditions (water, soap, air, and agitation) it is much easier to make many bubbles than it is to make one and only one bubble.

      But they are limited by the amount of ingredients. Universes are made of space and energy which seem to be the negative of each other with equal magnitudes, so you can make a universe out of nothing.

      • We don’t have just one electron. Or photon or planet or black hole or galaxy. It’d be curious if we had just one universe.

        • Greg G.

          There may be some very short-lived universes that have but one electron and one positron with a few photons and bosons being exchanged. There’s a nanoBig Bang followed by a nanoBig Crunch.

        • TheNuszAbides

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-electron_universe

          this comment is going to be held, innit? or do i have to do a third?

        • Greg G.

          this comment is going to be held, innit? or do i have to do a third?

          Did you have trouble posting? I got only one email notification.

        • TheNuszAbides

          no, it’s just that i was posting the same link in each of two comments in rapid succession.

        • RichardSRussell

          Actually, there’s one hypothesis that says there really is only a single electron in the entire Universe, and that it travels in a closed loop from the beginning of time to the end, when it reflects off and returns via a different route (during which it appears as a positron), then rebounds forward again, and on and on until it’s traveled every possible path an electron can take. Pretty fanciful, to be sure, but no harder to believe than all the God bullshit.

        • Michael Neville

          There’s a similar hypothesis that magnetic monopoles can’t be detected because there’s only one of them in the entire universe.

        • TheNuszAbides
    • Susan

      Aren’t the atheists just kicking the ‘creation’ can down the street by ‘predicting’ a multiverse?

      If you were only sincerely interested in the answers JB. You’ve shown you’re not.

      Atheists do not predict multiverses. Atheist don’t believe that god(s) exist.

      If you are interested in multiverse hypotheses, you would look into the cosmology involved in them. But you don’t.

      Where did it come from?

      No one knows.

    • Nope. Science follows the evidence. There’s evidence for a multiverse; that’s why it is postulated. What other reason would there be? In religion, sure, there are all sorts of agendas, but in science, following the evidence is how it works.

      If your point is that science has unanswered questions, sure. I don’t see how that’s any advantage for your position. You’ve got lots of made-up answers with nothing backing them up but faith. That’s equivalent to nothing.

      And as Susan said, you never show any actual curiosity behind your questions. The “Checkmate, atheists!” is always a subtext.

      • JBSchmidt

        There is no evidence for multiverse, only predictions. Nor is there a consensus. Further, to claim that science doesn’t have any agenda is not completely true. There is at minimum an interest at self preservation regardless of the validity of the study.

        There is a difference between unanswered questions and hanging your hopes on an untestable prediction. There is a word for that…..

        “you never show any actual curiosity behind your questions. The “Checkmate, atheists!” is always a subtext.”

        Isn’t that point of your blog? “Checkmate, Christian!” I have yet to see a blog offer genuine curiosity.

        • Michael Neville

          I have yet to see a blog offer genuine curiosity.

          What should we be genuinely curious about? I’m curious about many things but I rarely bring them to this blog because it’s not about curiosity. It’s about discussions of the problems of Christianity with various Christians, like you, wandering in to preach to the heathens.

        • There is no evidence for multiverse, only predictions.

          Wrong again. Inflation predicts the multiverse, and inflation is backed by lots of evidence.

          There is a difference between unanswered questions and hanging your hopes on an untestable prediction.

          Just making conversation? Or is this relevant?

          Isn’t that point of your blog? “Checkmate, Christian!” I have yet to see a blog offer genuine curiosity.

          I summarize a point, often one that I’ve only just then come to understand (fairly) thoroughly. And then I put it out there in a post in the public for all to see and critique.

          I got banned today from a Catholic blog for asking uncomfortable questions. That’s not the way it works here. If you find errors in my posts, I want to hear about them. That’s what the comments are for.

          Not that I’ll ever satisfy you, but I’m not sure how much more curiosity I can show.

        • Kevin K

          This is kinda cart-and-horse territory. You have a series of observations, and you form a general statement about what explains those observations. But in order to prove that your general statement is actually real and not just post hoc rationalization, you need to do something really, really important. You need to make predictions about what might be observed in the future if your general statement (aka, a theory) is true.

          Einstein’s theories of general and special relativity weren’t proved when he proposed them. They were proved when the predictions he made were validated and verified.

          To say that some scientist “only” makes predictions belies a complete and utter lack of understanding of the basics of scientific inquiry.

        • JBSchmidt

          “Wrong again. Inflation predicts the multiverse”

          That’s what I said. A prediction, not evidence. Supposed evidence for inflation (on loose footing itself) is not evidence for multiverse. Moreover, inflation is still a theory. Hence, you are trying to assume that a prediction, based off an assumption, is somehow settled science. Faith anyone?

          “I got banned today from a Catholic blog for asking uncomfortable questions.”

          I am sorry to hear that, can I ask what your ‘uncomfortable questions’ were?

        • MNb

          “Supposed evidence for inflation (on loose footing itself) is not evidence for multiverse.”
          Like falling bodies are not evidence for gravity, you mean?

          “inflation is still a theory”
          Ah – just like the good creacrapper you are you refuse to understand what words like evidence, hypothesis and theory mean in science but still feel qualified to bring up criticism.
          You know how I call someone who criticizes something he doesn’t understand? You have three guesses. Hints: six letters, the first one is an s and the last one a d.
          Btw BobS never claimed the multiverse is settled science. Unsurprisingly you’re lying once again as well.
          You’re uncurable. Were you cured you would cease to be a creationist.

        • TheNuszAbides

          six letters, the first one is an s and the last one a d.

          i can think of eight letters fitting the rest of that template, that describe the part of JB he(? the particular flavor of nimrod has a whiff of male but i don’t have that kind of certainty the same way i don’t particularly have ‘gaydar’) exposes here with similar accuracy.

        • can I ask what your ‘uncomfortable questions’ were?

          Take a look. This was on the hilariously named “Biblical Evidence for Catholicism.”

          You’d think that this blog would encourage evidence, but you’d be wrong.

        • Pofarmer

          I asked him about Numbers 5 a month or so ago. And all you really get is hand waving. His list of bible verses, which he also linked me to, are mostly Red Herrings about specific acts. Considering that adulterers were to be stoned, and a women even accused of adultery could be submitted to a procedure that’s pretty clearly abortive, kind of undercuts their whole shtick. The only babies God is worried about are the Genuine sons and daughters of Israel begotten by a genuine Jewish father. The rest he doesn’t really seem all that concerned about.

        • Joe

          I could not be bothered to waste my time arguing on there, so I declined to comment.

          It does strike me as odd that he quotes an example of God directly intervening in a pregnancy (Genesis 25:1-2) to help a woman that is barren, but won’t intervene to prevent roughly 75% of pregnancies ending in miscarriage.

        • Pofarmer

          I imagine if you pushed at all you’d get some kind of Fall theology.

        • Joe

          That would mean that the foetal cells were not innocent, so any ‘soul’ they possess would be going straight to hell without a chance of redemption. Alternatively, most theists insist that they are innocent. In that case, God is killing innocent people.

          I think their defense would be the ‘greater good’ (in that case see my reply to JBS above), or that God somehow knows that all the miscarried foetuses would end up being sinners anyway. Special pleading.

          I’m really glad I don’t have to think like this on a daily basis.

        • Pofarmer

          Why allow the conception and ensoulment at all if the out come is only going to be non-implantation or abortion? As another poster on that site said, if something like 75% of all fertilized eggs are already aborted, then that’s God’s will, right? So how do you know that the ones that we abort aren’t God’s will too? I mean, this is the tri-omni God we’re talking about.

          Or, to Quote Godisimaginary.com

          Because God made you for a reason, he also decided when you would be born and how long
          you would live. He planned the days of your life in advance, choosing
          the exact time of your birth and death. The Bible says, “You saw me
          before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to
          breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!” [Psalm 139:16]

          There is also this:

          Regardless of the circumstances of your birth or who your parents are, God had a plan in creating you.

          Under this view of the universe, God plans everything.

          Take a moment and think about what Rick Warren said. Rick said, “He
          planned the days of your life in advance, choosing the exact time of
          your birth and death.” Let’s examine one simple implication of this
          statement. What this means is that God has pre-planned every abortion
          that has taken place on our planet.

          If the concept of “God’s plan” is true, you can first of all see that
          God wants us to be aborting children. Every single abortion is planned
          by God, so God must be doing it for a reason. Second, you can see that
          both the mother who requests the abortion and the doctor who performs it
          are blameless. Since it is God who planned the abortion of the child
          (God chose the “exact time” of the death, according to Rick Warren), the
          mother and doctor are simply puppets who are fulfilling God’s plan, are
          they not? What about all the Christians who are fighting against
          abortion? If abortion is part of God’s plan, why are they fighting it?
          God is the all-powerful ruler of the universe, and his plan is for more
          than a million children a year to die in the United States through
          abortion. [ref] If God’s plan is true, then each one of those abortions was meticulously planned by God.

          If God does not intend for us to perform abortions, is Rick Warren then
          wrong that God has a plan? If God has a plan, is he not the direct cause
          of every abortion? Simply think it through, and you will begin to see
          the problems in Rick’s proposition.

          But this is my favorite

          Now let’s imagine that you say a
          prayer in this sort of universe. What difference does it make? God has
          his plan, and that plan is running down its track like a freight train.
          If God has a plan, then everyone who died in the Holocaust died for a
          reason. They had to die, and each death had meaning. Therefore,
          Holocaust victims could pray all day, and they would still die. The idea
          of a “plan” makes the idea of a “prayer-answering relationship with
          God” a contradiction, doesn’t it? Yet Christians seem to attach
          themselves to both ideas, despite the irresolvable problem the two ideas
          create.

        • Kodie

          God’s plan is the worst kind. People can practically torture themselves trying to guess if they’re doing what god planned for them to do. Duh. People justify bad decisions they’ve made because they think they can’t go against god’s plan. Why punish killers? They were obviously chosen to enact that plan, to cause the grief and suffering in someone so they could come to Jesus, or some other bullshit. If anyone could honestly look around, what could possibly be the ultimate plan and meaning or purpose – that someone else couldn’t do. I’m talking about people with decent lives. Sure, things are going well but something feels like it’s still missing. Maybe you’re not fulfilling god’s plan! Maybe you’re supposed to have another kid or change jobs or be married to someone else, or whatever it is that other people do that you do, and from space, nobody can tell the difference between you and your neighbor.

          That’s what this whole “god” thing attempts to resolve. I think people know that their “purpose” is to function within society and spawn more humans* and don’t feel like either of those things really stands out as special. And we’re kind of obsessed with the purpose thing, especially with the division of labor. People don’t feel special, so they make up someone who appreciates all their uniqueness, even when they are trained to suppress uniqueness and be like everyone else. I notice singers are especially prone to thinking their singing voice is a special gift that they are supposed to share with the world, because of god’s will. But god doesn’t make them all famous and probably a lot of them can’t sing as well as they think they can or as well as other deaftone relatives think they can. No, not everyone can entertain others with their particular artistic expression, and as a society, we require purposes be served, like delivery and sweeping and assembly. Life’s just not that glamorous, but we’re all in it.

          I didn’t even get to people whose lives end tragically, as though they ever had a way out. That was god’s plan? And if god had a plan, why does he need so many people? If people are born to act out his plans, how is producing more humans to perpetuate ordinary lives, generation after generation, the way to accomplish it? Lots and lots and lots of people have lived and died on this earth and ostensibly did their part of god’s plan which ultimately is what? What could it possibly even be? The bible is some kind of epic tale of humanity in ancient times, and people want to think they are, in their rather dim lives, important characters in the epic sequel – the book is already written, but the characters have no idea what they’re supposed to be doing that’s at all interesting.

        • TheNuszAbides

          The bible is some kind of epic tale of humanity in ancient times, and people want to think they are, in their rather dim lives, important characters in the epic sequel – the book is already written, but the characters have no idea what they’re supposed to be doing that’s at all interesting.

          surely you’ve since used this, Bob?

        • I’ve used Kodie quotes 4 times, though not this one. Thanks for pointing it out.

        • Kodie

          Only 4 times!

        • Sadly, yes–a grotesque injustice that’s at the top of my New Year’s resolutions to rectify.

        • TheNuszAbides

          the book is already written, but the characters have no idea what they’re supposed to be doing that’s at all interesting.

          THIS is astonishingly close to a big chunk of my deconversion!

        • Joe

          Yep. The begging and borrowing of what god can-and-cant do, what he allows to happen vs what he wants to happen is one of the more frustrating aspects of dealing with theists.

          He’s always in control, except when he’s not, but he really is. But he’s not in control of the bad stuff.

          They even excuse inaction, when allegedly, in days of yore, he’d get personality involved in minor tribal disputes.

          I need to lie down.

        • MNb

          “I think their defense would be the ‘greater good’ ”
          Indeed I have met this. I think it funny when moral absolutists suddenly turn into utilitarians.

        • Pofarmer

          I couldn’t help myself but to throw in a couple posts. I may even have to link them to Godisimaginary.com ‘s great response to this argument.

        • Poking the very thin-skinned bear, are we? I’ll be curious to see the response.

          Godisimaginary is pretty great.

        • Pofarmer

          Godisimaginary is one that really got me to see the futility and illogical basis of intercessory pair.

        • I liked the “praying to a jug of milk” video in particular. I still use a jug of milk as the example of a useless prayer target as an homage.

        • TheNuszAbides

          intercessory pair

          not sure if typo or joke

          doesn’t matter

          +1

        • JBSchmidt

          I fail to see why he blocked you, that was a little childish. Having written blogs myself, I don’t think I ever block anyone, regardless of how I felt about them or their motives. Having read the remainder of the the authors posts, he seems overtly confrontational, not a good representation of Christianity.

          That being said, your reference to Numbers 5 is incorrect and based on a questionable rewrite for the 2011NIV. Looking back at the original Hebrew, it mentions nothing of pregnancy.

          As for the rest, you are claiming to know God by asserting what is right/wrong to do. It is a selfish approach to understanding God. For example, while miscarriage is horrible for a family, I have seen couples that after realizing they can’t have kids (through miscarriage) adopt/foster kids. From tragedy comes life. Both the miscarriage and the need for adoption are a result of sin, but in these instances God uses one to help the other. Could he stop all ill from befalling humanity, yes. My guess is we would be a bunch of spoiled rich kids destroying Dad’s property because we know there are no consequences.

        • Joe

          I have seen couples that after realizing they can’t have kids (through miscarriage) adopt/foster kids. From tragedy comes life.

          Is there no way for an omnipotent God to produce life without tragedy? I can think of a many ways.

          This results in certain ‘innocent people’, if you insist on using that term to describe a foetus, being merely pawns to achieve a greater good. So much for ‘free will’.

          Could he stop all ill from befalling humanity, yes. My guess is we would be a bunch of spoiled rich kids destroying Dad’s property because we know there are no consequences.

          If there are no consequences, what is the harm in that?

        • Show me how Num. 5 can’t be interpreted to have anything to do with abortion. Convince me that you’re not simply reshaping the Bible to satisfy your preconception here.

          you are claiming to know God by asserting what is right/wrong to do. It is a selfish approach to understanding God.

          I don’t see the error. When God says or does something, I will enthusiastically judge the morality of that position. What else can I do? Indeed, this is the most respect that I could possibly give the Bible—assume that it makes a valid contribution to moral discourse.

        • JBSchmidt

          In the new 2011NIV it says in verse 22 says ‘miscarries’ (unique to this interpretation); however, earlier in the chapter is states the reason for the test is that, “since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act” (vs13). Seems a pregnancy would be ‘witness’.

          In the previous 1984NIV, the King James, and even the more progressive The Message Bible does not include ‘miscarries’; but rather swollen belly and waisting of thighs. They, like the 2011NIV, also include the statement to no witness. So, no previous mention of pregnancy prior to the insertion of ‘miscarries’ by the 2011NIV.

          To further check which is valid, we look back at the original Hebrew. There is no mention of pregnancy here, while it also includes the the ‘no witness statement. In addition, it makes no mention of miscarriage, but simply swollen belly and wasted thighs.

          If you wish to argue that the 2011NIV description of miscarriage, is accurate to the intent of the original writers, it would have appeared prior to 2011. However, it doesn’t and as such the proper conclusion using standard Biblical interpretation is to say that the 2011NIV got it wrong.

        • You’re saying that it’s not certain that miscarriage is the point of the trial? Even if that’s the case, isn’t it a possibility? The woman is claimed to have had sex, after all. And if it’s a possibility, the point remains that God doesn’t care about abortion (if it’s for a good cause).

        • JBSchmidt

          Nope. I sounded pretty certain and had clear evidence to prove my certainty.

          “isn’t it a possibility? The woman is claimed to have had sex, after all.”

          That’s a red herring.

        • Red herring? Then show me the consideration that pro-lifers would show. Show me that if the woman is pregnant (we do suspect that she had sex after all) the fetus is guaranteed to be protected.

          Although perhaps I’m misunderstanding your point. Perhaps by red herring you mean, “She might’ve committed adultery! Who the hell cares whether there’s a fetus or not?! Red herring!” In that case, I agree.

        • JBSchmidt

          The pregnancy is the red herring. If the narrative says nothing about pregnancy how does one prove it really means to say nothing about pregnancy.

          I am going to assume that the number of times men have had sex in their lives exceeds the number times they get a women pregnant. Since there is no 100% pregnancy rate, there is no need to infer anything into this story. The Bible is clear that there was no induced miscarriage, just a physical reaction in the woman’s body.

        • What the Bible is clear about is that God doesn’t give a shit about the nonzero chance that the woman is pregnant. And that’s exactly in keeping with the rest of the OT’s teaching about sex–there is no male/female symmetry. The woman belongs to the man, her offspring had better be his, and so on.

        • JBSchmidt

          “What the Bible is clear about is that God doesn’t give a shit about the nonzero chance that the woman is pregnant.”

          Do you have any proof? Or per your usual style are you trying to re-write the Bible the Seidensticker way?

          “And that’s exactly in keeping with the rest of the OT’s teaching about sex–there is no male/female symmetry. The woman belongs to the man, her offspring had better be his, and so on.”

          Nice rant, but complete off topic.

        • Proof? No, just good reading skills.

          Rant? No, that’s how we understand the Bible. If we can draw a unified message (in this case: the asymmetry of sexual power), that can be a tool in helping us understand a particular passage.

        • Myna

          Ancient biblical texts are NOT the blueprint for medical science, nor are they relevant to the issue of women’s physical and psychological health…or that of society.

          Even Yahweh’s sycophants ought to be, at some reasonable point, able to discern that it is now the 21st Century, the Age of Reason has long been upon us and science transcends the religions of antiquity. You are willing take all the benefits of innovation and invention of science, yet insist on narrowing, indeed, stagnating, the progress humanity has gained over the millennia by still attempting to strangle the process of the human psyche as we have come more and more to understand it.

          Women’s health and wellbeing is NOT the jurisdiction of religion. Stop making it one.

        • Pofarmer

          Looking back at the original Hebrew, it mentions nothing of pregnancy. It’s kinda/sorta obvious if the Husband suspects his wife of adultery their might be a reason.

          Various translations have it as “Uterus falls” or “Thigh falls away.” any of which could refer to a miscarriage caused by whatever the procedure is.

        • Joe

          I wonder what the Surgeon General’s advice on drinking bitter waters during pregnancy would be?

        • Myna

          And that guy called you a smart ass? http://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2016/10/the-bibles-teaching-on-abortion.html#comment-2997591501

          Better than being a dumb ass, I suppose. Stupid Atheist spun a clever weave around him, I thought.

          I never bother much with Christian sites. My comment was deleted on a video lecturing against demons once…for noting that the pink candle and lovely bouquet of flowers set on the guy’s table looked wonderfully witchy.

        • The Christian love was apparent. He ended his “you’re banned” comment with, “Bye and God bless you.” I’m pretty sure that’s Christianese for “Go fuck yourself and die.”

        • Myna

          He ended his “you’re banned” comment with, “Bye and God bless you.”

          Christians love to spew sewage like that as they light the match.

        • Pofarmer

          If you look at all, you’ll see that the majority of the Catholic sites on Patheos, expecially the really Egregious ones, have turned off comments entirely. I’ve complained to Patheos management to no avail. I do leave snide comments once in a while because I think the authors still have to moderate or delete them. I’ve even emailed on of the authors, and had a short exchange, where he made it clear he didn’t want to be challenged in the open.

        • Myna

          I haven’t looked at any for awhile, only if one is linked to from here. I admit it is frustrating to be unable to comment or discuss on a site on Patheos when the purpose, as I understood it, is to be able to dialogue on a variety of belief, or lack thereof, systems. If one doesn’t wish to invite dialogue or challenge one can simply write on a web-space that presents essays only and the reader knows it is a monologue up front. The author you corresponded with would do better to just pontificate on one of those sites, because there doesn’t seem to be much purpose to do otherwise on Patheos.

          A blog I enjoy reading here on Patheos Atheist Channel is Sacred Naturalism, which offers a variety of authors, but one cannot dialogue, recommend or follow, only read, so it’s easy to miss an article, even two. You have to go through Facebook for any interaction, and if you don’t attend to Facebook much (as I do not), well, that is that, I guess. Maybe the authors don’t have time to moderate/engage, don’t wish to or are simply avoiding trolls, who knows.

        • MNb

          There is a simple remedy.
          I refuse to read any blog that disallows me to comment.

        • epeeist

          You know you could stop yourself looking stupid if you actually found out what constitutes a scientific theory. I would recommend a paper by Fr. Ernan McMullan called The Virtues of a Good Theory as a reasonable place to start.

        • MNb

          There would be one problem for JBS when he did – he would have to stop unloading creacrap.
          He rather remains stupid than admit Evolution Theory is correct.

        • MNb

          And …. you’re lying once again.
          I’m genuinely curious how you theists – how any theist – picture an immaterial entity interacting with our material reality, whether it’s “how does your god perform miracles?” or “how did your god created our Universe?” or “how did your god raise Jesus from death?” or “what’s the relation between the material human mind and the immaterial human soul and how do they affect each other?” The last one was “how does your god receive the message packed as prayer?”
          I usually specify this with “which means does your god use and which procedures does he follow?”
          I also have told you that I’m curious exactly because any answer would force me to rethink my atheism thoroughly. So whenever I get the chance I bring it up.
          The “best” answer I ever got was “we believers don’t need to answer those questions”, implicitly admitting they don’t have a method to research them bar unloading what bubbles up from their underbelly. And that’s specifically something what you do.

        • Kodie

          They don’t understand how or why anything is as it is unless they make up a person who did it on purpose the way it happens to be, but they can’t see the person, so he is invisible, but he can’t be detected, so he is immaterial. If you take away the person, it just doesn’t make any sense!!!!

        • Kevin K

          Not merely predictions, though, in a Jean Dixon “wild stab in the dark” sense.

          Predictions based on deep observations of the universe, an understanding of the laws of physics, and lots and lots of math.

          Lest we start opening the door for the “it’s just a theory” crowd.

          If someone wants to propose a non-natural entity that “created” the universe, I say let them. But they’re going to have to show their work. And that means a deep understanding of the laws of physics, AND the math.

        • Pofarmer

          math is hard. That’s really not fair.

        • Kevin K

          “Just predictions” is probably the silliest thing someone could say about a scientific question. As if those predictions weren’t based on 500 years of scientific exploration.

          It’s postmodernism writ stupid. Some noodlehead’s bullshit opinions are worth exactly the same as the proven experts. This is where chemtrail hysteria is born.

    • macaroonie

      Wow, I can’t answer those. That means Jesus is real! Where do I sign up!

      • Science has unanswered questions; therefore God.

        Checkmate, atheists!

    • epeeist

      Additionally, what reason is given for the various scientific laws to exist outside our own universe?

      Well done, I think you just stumbled on one of the counter-arguments to the “cosmological argument”. Only another few to go, why don’t you try coming up with a counter to the ontological argument next.

    • MNb

      Aren’t you capable of clicking hyperlinks anymore either? Click the Jerry Coyne link. You’ll find among others

      “The multiverse idea isn’t a “theory” at all; it’s a prediction made by other theories, which became popular for other reasons.”
      BobS also linked to Vilenkin, who did theoretical research after the hypothesis: “Why the multiverse, crazy as it sounds, is a solid scientific idea.”

    • Otto

      How about the question…What does it mean to ‘exist’ outside of space and time? How exactly can someone say God exists beyond space and time and how in the world would anybody claim to know about it?

      • Michael Neville

        This is just one of the problems that Christians (and other Abrahamists) have when they try to squeeze a creator of billions of galaxies and trillions of stars and planets into an iron age tribal god.

        • I’m frequently amazed that they don’t realize (or they ignore) how God has evolved. He was the dude who walked in the Garden and couldn’t find Adam and Eve when they were ashamed and playing hide ‘n seek. He was the dude who spoke to Moses face to face. But now they imagine that he’s outside of time and space, causeless, timeless, infinite, all-powerful, etc., etc. The Bronze Age people who first heard Yahweh’s name wouldn’t have any idea what these concepts even meant, let alone applied them to their god.

        • MNb

          What I think funny is that their god kept on evolving after the Holy Books were written. IIrc there is a theological school of thought that accepts this, but I can’t find it now.

        • Maybe one of God’s perfections is evolvability.

        • TheNuszAbides

          What I think funny is that their god kept on evolving after the Holy Books were written. IIrc there is a theological school of thought that accepts this, but I can’t find it now.

          have you (re)found it since? i’m wondering if it is an obscure sect of Islam or something.

        • epeeist

          I’m frequently amazed that they don’t realize (or they ignore) how God has evolved.

          But if scientific theories can improve as our observations and capabilities do then why should the concept of god also evolve?

          Of course what we accept when it comes to theories is that previous versions were at best inaccurate and at worst completely wrong. The theists might profess a “ground of all being” but let down your guard and there’s your interventionist god whose major occupation seems to be what we do with the tackle in our underpants.

          The phrase containing the words “cake” “eat it” and “have it” comes to mind.

        • Why can’t God change? Well, sure, that’s fine. Except for “For I the Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6) and a dozen other places where God is said to be unchanging.

      • MNb

        Remarkably that question also applies to quantum fields.

    • RichardSRussell

      Aren’t the atheists just kicking the ‘creation’ can down the street by ‘predicting’ a multiverse? Where did it come from?

      It isn’t atheists doing the kicking here, it’s cosmologists. And they’re not saying that for sure there’s a multiverse, they’re just saying that it’s a hypothesis worth exploring, since it would serve to explain things like “fine tuning”.

      There are other hypotheses as well, such as the one that claims that the entire Universe sprang into being spontaneously 5 seconds ago, including you and me with our memories completely intact.

      And then there’s the even more far-fetched and ridiculous hypothesis that some monumentally bored supernatural being created it all as a diversion, but I can see that I’ve already pushed credulity beyond the breaking point.

  • Jim Jones

    > Does everything have a cause?

    We have no examples of things popping into existence. All we see are rearrangements of existing materials. You can’t argue from non-occurring events.

  • MNb

    “But what is the probability of (2)??”
    Fortunately David Hume already has (Of Miracles) and he has concluded that it’s always lower than any given natural explanation, no matter how low it’s probability.

  • RichardSRussell

    I am always at pains to point out the distinction between physicist Sean M. Carroll of Caltech and evolutionary biologist Sean B. Carroll of my own beloved University of Wisconsin – Madison. Each is just as distinguished in his own field, equally respected, similarly articulate, with comparable-quality books under his name, and just as much death on the TBs as the other, so one might easily imagine it’s just a single almost super-human intellect named Sean Carroll. But it’s not.

    • You’ve scolded me on this before, and I’ve made that addition to at least one recent post.

      My consciousness is rising and my batting average is improving.

      • RichardSRussell

        Actually, it’s OK, because it gives me an excuse to make the point to a whole lot of people who might otherwise never encounter it. I also get a chance to plug UW-Madison.

        • Go Badgers!

        • Michael Neville

          At this point I want to slide in a note that I got my undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

  • The universe appears to be fine-tuned for lifeless empty space, filled by stars which collapse into black holes, phenomena which is hostile towards life as we know it. So if anything it appears to be fine-tuned against life. We are simply the fragile, lucky exception to this.

    • Michael Neville

      Well over 99.99 recurring % of the universe is hard vacuum at 3K. In just over a trillion years the ambient temperature of the universe will drop to 2K.

      • What is 3K? Is 2K more hostile to life or less?

        • 3K = 3 Kelvins (that is, 3 degrees C above absolute zero).

          2K is obviously worse, though it was already pretty darn cold at 3K.

        • Ah. Okay, thanks.

        • MNb

          I doubt if you and I would feel the difference between 3K and 2K if we were exposed to those temperatures. I even doubt if we would have the time to feel anything.

        • Michael Neville

          Degrees Kelvin, abbreviated K and not using the ° degree sign, are Celsius degrees using absolute zero as the beginning point. Absolute zero (0K) is equivalent to −273.15°C (−459.67°F).

          The average density of ordinary matter in the universe is believed to be one atom of hydrogen (essentially one proton) per four cubic meters. Since heat is the movement of matter, there isn’t a whole lot of matter in the universe to be moving.

    • Cygnus

      “We are simply the fragile, lucky exception to this.”
      ===
      Therefore… God…LOL!

  • Michael Neville

    Olaf Stapleton’s Star Maker is a 1937 science fiction novel where universe exploration and creation is extensively discussed. Stapleton’s god aka Star Maker is not a benevolent deity.

    • epeeist

      Or Kurt Vonnegut with his god the utterly indifferent in the Sirens of Titan.

  • Myna

    Friends, do not forget these awesome Moon delight nights! Not since 1948 and not again until 2034. Tomorrow, the closest and brightest, but magnificent right now!

    http://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2016/novembers-spectacular-supermoon

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e05932d87b756d04dfd1105d848812cc1881dfcf9c7a4de3542119734bdd3c5d.jpg

    • Very nice, though I think it would look the same size to anyone but someone able to make careful measurements. No?

      • Myna

        Perhaps. Then again, have you never gone out and thought, wow, the Moon seems exceptionally bright and looming this night, and then come to find it was one of those so referred supermoons? It’s like one of those comets that come around every so often. It’s just fun. Party pooper.

        • Cygnus

          Meh, we went on the Moon and found out it’s not made from green cheese. I hope you still don’t believe it is made from green cheese, now that you can see it a little bit near to you.

        • Touche. Full moons are indeed fun.

      • Annerdr

        Well, if you measure by the tides, you may be able to tell.

    • Cygnus

      When a moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie that’s amore

      • Greg G.

        When you swim in the sea,
        And an eel bites your knee,
        That’s a moray…

    • Greg G.

      I remember what it looked like before they made all those footprints on the surface.

      • Myna

        LoL!!

  • Kevin K

    I’m quite sure that the error bars around the needed expansion rate are fairly wide, seeing as how we’re still trying to determine whether dark matter even exists (a recent provocative paper suggests no).

    https://room.eu.com/news/Are_our_ideas_of_Dark_Matter_wrong

    Or, to use a quote: “75% of statistics you see on the internet are made up on the spot.” — Abraham Lincoln.

    • Without Malice

      Old Abe was a smart fella. You’re right on the expansion rate, no one has of yet figured out exactly what that rate was or even if there was in fact an inflationary cycle.

  • Sophia Sadek

    There was a time when people considered the emergence of beetles from dung to be spontaneous. It was later discovered that eggs had been laid in the dung. Just because we do not know exactly why an electron drops to a lower energy level, thereby giving off a photon’s worth of energy, does not mean that there was no cause for that transition. The important thing is that stuff happens without us knowing why or having the capacity to determine why, but that there is probably a cause other than that of divine intervention.

    • Just because we do not know exactly why an electron drops to a lower energy level, thereby giving off a photon’s worth of energy, does not mean that there was no cause for that transition.

      Right, there could be a cause we don’t understand, but that’s not what quantum physics says at the moment. It says that there was no cause. It just happened. You can predict the probability of the event … but that’s it.

    • MNb

      “we do not know exactly why an electron drops to a lower energy level”
      The problem with this is that we can describe this phenomenon very well when we drop causality and accept probabilism.

  • Martin Zeichner

    The fine tuning argument boils down to an argument from ignorance, laziness, and vanity. “I can’t explain it so god did it.” “Our form of life must be the goal so god did it.” “The best explanation…” False dichotomies. Instead of getting up off your ass and actually doing the investigative work, you’ll just assert and assert and assert.

    • I do see the appeal of the fine-tuning argument. The option of the multiverse (a prediction of inflation theory, for which there is good evidence), nicely defeats it. I would like to find more arguments against fine tuning, though.

      • Martin Zeichner

        I also see the appeal of the fine-tuning argument. Its appeal is that it is saying that we already know the answer to any possible question under the guise of calling it “the best explanation”. That’s why I say that it is an argument from ignorance and vanity. If you already know the answer there’s no point in asking the question. That’s why I say that it is an argument from laziness, or you might prefer the word “complacency”.

        This is why, as I have written in the past, that it is the most convincing arguments that should be treated with the most skepticism. This might sound like a glib Oscar Wildean aphorism but what I mean is that it is those arguments that appeal to emotion that are the most insideous; they are convincing but only serve to prop up the authority of the speaker.

        In the case of the fine-tuning argument once you have striped away the appeal to emotion (OMG what a big number that is. Isn’t that impressive?) what have you got left?

        The fine-tuning argument carefully avoids saying the one thing that, without which, any kind of investigation, scientific or otherwise, would be impossible. That is saying, “I don’t know. Let’s find out.”

        • I’m amazed that I continue to see frequent appeals to common sense, as if common sense were a useful tool at the frontier of science.

          That is saying, “I don’t know. Let’s find out.”

          “But with Christianity, we can give you certain answers! Wouldn’t that appeal to you?”

        • Martin Zeichner

          This is why I’ve said in the past that the main difference between science and religion is that religion is interested in the answers while science is interested in the questions. As far as scientists are concerned answers are only interesting if they lead to more questions. Once a question is answered it’s no longer interesting. Scientists, that is people with the i’satiable curiousity of the elephant’s child move on.