How Much Faith to Be an Atheist? A Response to Geisler and Turek (Part 3).

How Much Faith to Be an Atheist? A Response to Geisler and Turek (Part 3). September 17, 2019

This is a continuation of my response to the Christian apologetics book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Norm Geisler and Frank Turek. Read part 1 here.

Fine Tuning Argument (the Anthropic Principle)

Geisler and Turek (I’ll refer to the book as GT) make the typical fine-tuning argument.

If the gravitational force were altered by 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000001 percent, our sun would not exist, and, therefore, neither would we. Talk about precision! (p. 102)

Science is working on lots of puzzles, and it tends to resolve them. Let’s give it time.

As for the part about we being a result of the universe, if we reran the Big Bang to get another universe with the same fundamental constants, humans wouldn’t exist. A universe with humans is like being dealt a particular hand of cards, and if the deck were reshuffled and dealt again, we’d get a different hand. We care that we exist, but nature doesn’t. The only interesting question is whether life (or intelligent life) would exist in a different universe.

The most effective arguments from the Christian side are obtuse ones like this fine-tuning argument, and that shows the weakness of their position. Instead of obvious evidence for God (we’re told God deeply wants us to know him, so why isn’t his existence indisputable?), Christians must point to some oddity within nature as a clue. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, God has (for these apologists) devolved into “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Maybe God is telling you he doesn’t exist.

GT next rambles on about the fine tuning of the Earth’s conditions, but I wonder, what fine tuning? Over the Earth’s 4.6 billion-year life, conditions have changed dramatically. For example, the oxygen level in the atmosphere is now 21%, but it’s varied wildly over the last 600 million years. Initially 0%, it has risen to over 30% for two long periods. The temperature has also changed, and the Snowball Earth hypothesis speculates that most or all of the water on earth may have been frozen in one or more periods before 650 million years ago. If life can continue through these chaotic conditions, perhaps it’s a lot more robust than we imagine.

The Multiverse hypothesis—that our universe is just one of uncountably many other universes governed by different constants—is a corollary of well-established science (cosmic inflation) and nicely rebuts the challenge of fine tuning. To avoid repeating additional responses I’ve made before, I’ll just provide links: Sean M. Carroll’s response to fine tuning, some other innovative responses, and my response to a previous Frank Turek argument for fine tuning.

Problem of Divine Hiddenness

GT parrots the free-will argument given by C. S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters:

The Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of [God’s] scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. (p. 31)

Oh, please. God is forbidden from making his presence known because then we’d know for sure that he exists? Adam, Eve, Abraham, Moses, and the others in the Old Testament had direct experience of God, and they didn’t complain. The disciples not only saw Jesus but watched him do miracles, and their free will wasn’t violated. A stranger doesn’t impose on my free will when he comes into my sight. This childish argument is what you’d fall back on if there were no god.

This is Stupid Argument #19a, “God’s making himself plainly known would impose on your free will.”

The Road Runner Tactic

This is GT’s name for the trick of exposing a self-refuting statement, of turning a sweeping generalization back on itself. For example, if someone said, “There is no truth,” GT would ask in response, “Is that statement true?” to show that the statement refutes itself (p. 38). Or to “All truth is relative,” ask, “Is that a relative truth?”

If we supposed that GT encourages us to use precise language, this observation about self-refuting statements is helpful, but that’s not their goal. GT is more interested in sidestepping tough questions. Many of these self-refuting statements are simply poorly worded and can be easily salvaged into an incisive challenge. For example:

Bob the Atheist: “There is no absolute truth.”

Christian apologist: “That sounds like a pretty absolute statement to me, smart guy—you’ve undercut your own statement!”

Bob the Atheist: “Okay, fair point. Let me rephrase: I see no evidence for absolute moral truth. If you claim otherwise, provide the evidence.”

And then the conversation proceeds beyond this little roadblock. More.

Awe

We’re all subject to powerful feelings like awe, and GT imagine this as a point in their favor.

A recitation of [some scientific theory] certainly wouldn’t have expressed the awe the astronauts were experiencing [when they saw the Earth rise over the Moon]. (p. 111)

And analyzing love or courage or selflessness through brain chemistry or quantum mechanics might also be a bland explanation, but it could still be correct. Scientific theories don’t give awe, but science certainly does. Let’s remember that we got to the moon using science! The Bible’s insight about the moon is to describe it as “the lesser light to govern the night.” Uh huh—awe inspiring.

Genesis gives the uninformed speculations of a primitive desert tribe from 3000 years ago. If you want awe, use science. Try this experiment: go outside on a clear night. Hold out your hand, arm extended, and look at the nail of your little finger. That fingernail covers roughly 18 million galaxies, and each galaxy has roughly 100 billion stars. Imagine how many planets are behind your fingernail. Imagine how many of those might be inhabited by intelligent beings! Look at how vast the sky is compared to that one tiny patch.

And how does the Bible treat this inconceivable vastness? With a single word in Hebrew that is translated, “[God] also made the stars” (Gen. 1:16). Yawn. I get my awe from science, not from the Bible.

Science gives you the vastness of the universe, the energy of a supernova, the bizarreness of quantum physics, and the complexity of the human body. The writers of the Bible were constrained by their imagination, and there is so much out there that they couldn’t begin to imagine.

Continued in part 4.

Hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side?
And hain’t that a big enough majority in any town?
— Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 8/31/15.)

Image from Gisela Giardino, CC license

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  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    Adam, Eve, Abraham, Moses, and the others in the Old Testament had direct experience of God, and they didn’t complain. The disciples not only saw Jesus but watched him do miracles, and their free will wasn’t violated. A stranger doesn’t impose on my free will when he comes into my sight.

    There is also the “if you knew for sure God existed, you would spend your life praising him”

    A realize the story of Lucifer as the Fallen Angel is not exactly biblical canon, but the fact that there is even such a story shows how this claim is not so obvious. Lucifer was hanging out in heaven, apparently praising God, and still decides to rebel? Apparently, he still had free will despite being in heaven!

    I mean, Lucifer should have been full aware of God’s omnipotence and omniscience, yet he decides he wants to take over the world.

    What did Lucifer know that we don’t know?

    As I said, I realize these are folklore stories, but if you go along with the idea of Lucifer as the Fallen Angel, what does that say about God, omnipotence and free will?

    • ThaneOfDrones

      Lucifer appears in teh Bible (KJV) only once (Isaiah 14:12)
      The Genesis serpent and Satan are separate characters who are co-identified only in two verses of the wacky acid trip known as Revelation.

      • islandbrewer

        Meh, they’re all the same to the True Believers, right? Satan, Lucifer, Mohammed, Hillary, Obama, Dawkins …

    • b s

      I asked a priest about that one time. God creates angels, they rebel. God creates humans, they rebel. 0-2, is god bad at things?

      He changed the subject.

      • NS Alito

        Another seed is planted. The Clergy Project recently announced having 1000 members.

    • epicurus

      And lucifer hanging out in heaven in God’s presence and yet still rebelling doesn’t bode well for the future of eternal post judgement heaven. Someone there is bound to rebel, given enough time – since being in God’s presence is apparently not a guarantee of good behaviour. I’m betting it’s a TV evangelicalist – They love attention and running the show.

    • wannabe

      What did Lucifer know that we don’t know?

      Maybe he knew what we’ve known since Jesus: that God is planning to torture billions of humans—sentient beings like himself—forever! Something worth fighting even if the odds are heavily stacked against you.

    • Actually it is. That story is a part of Revelation. Regardless there’s also the story of Judas etc.

  • Lex Lata

    “Oh, please. God is forbidden from making his presence known because then we’d know for sure that he exists? Adam, Eve, Abraham, Moses, and the others in the Old Testament had direct experience of God, and they didn’t complain. The disciples not only saw Jesus but watched him do miracles, and their free will wasn’t violated. A stranger doesn’t impose on my free will when he comes into my sight. This childish argument is what you’d fall back on if there were no god.”

    Ayup. It’s a shiny, brittle rationalization for divine hiddenness–attractive to believers on its face, but unable to withstand contact with serious comparative reasoning.

    Moreover, I can’t help but note how selective apologists’ reverence for free will and voluntary faith is, from an historical perspective. For most of the past two millennia, being a Christian was legally required throughout Christendom. Nonbelief, or even the wrong kind of belief, could result not only in various social consequences, but also in the lawful loss of employment, property, liberty, skin, or even life. No less an authority than St. Augustine justified torture to correct materially erroneous heterodoxy, and St. Aquinas similarly justified capital punishment for heretics. (See also Torquemada, Calvin, et al.).

    Today’s apologists are essentially trying to justify divine hiddeness by leaning on an Enlightenment concept–freedom of conscience–that countless orthodox Christians (Catholics and Protestants alike) rejected and resisted, century after century.

    • epicurus

      Yeah, Paul would most likely be roasting in hell if his free will was not violated on the road to Damacus.

      • Lex Lata

        And that segues into yet another free will discrepancy. Orthodox soteriology teaches that the chief consequence for unbelief is eternal damnation. Isn’t the threat of hell essentially the use of terror to compel belief (especially when the audience consists of impressionable children)?

        • Yep. If having a gun to the head is coercion, then Hell is far more so.

    • MR

      This is an interesting perspective. Thank you.

      • Lex Lata

        Thanks for the kind words.

    • I Came To Bring The Paine

      Simple, this argument contradicts the stories of god appearing to and personally interacting with individuals and multitudes depicted in the bible. These apologists are not defending Judeo-Christianity but some sort of Neo-Platonism. Their arguments make sense if you assume they are appealing to the god of Plato and Aristotle rather than the god of Abraham and Moses.

      Of course the talking point about God not making his presence plainly known because it would violate free will contradicts the talking point about atheists having no excuse for rejecting the existence of God because he has made his existence plainly known to everybody.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    Merely to over-ride a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo.

    Woo is an appropriate word here.
    YHWH ‘hardened the heart’ of Pharaoh in order to show off His powers by killing more people and animals (Exodus, multiple verses).

    Oh, please. God is forbidden…

    Right. And who is making these rules that God is obliged to follow? Clearly the rule-maker is more powerful than God.

    • b s

      I read it described that “god hardened the heart” meant god allowed his heart to be hardened because of free will. As if that makes sense.

      • ThaneOfDrones

        That’s someone making s*** up and pretending YHWH said it. That is literally the definition of blasphemy.

        The plain text is clear; there is nothing about “allowed” or “enabled” or any such weasel words. YHWH explains what he did and why (just one example):

        Exodus 10
        [1] And the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him:
        [2] And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD.

        [20] But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.

        [27] But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go.

  • ephemerol

    The problem with cosmological arguments is that at best they could be evidence for the god of deism, not the god of christianity. Why do they waste their time on arguments that don’t advance their cause in the slightest?

    The problem with saying you don’t have enough faith to be an atheist is the implicit shifting of the burden of proof. It doesn’t take faith to reject unsupported supernatural claims. That is called skepticism. It is called faith when you accept them. But mixing these up and saying you don’t have enough faith to be an atheist implies the burden of proof doesn’t fall on the christians who make the claim, but that instead it is incumbent upon non-christians to disprove christianity’s claims first before a legitimate warrant exists to reject them. But then GT have to turn around and employ a double standard to reject the competing religious claims of other people of faith without first disproving those claims. Only christians have the exact right quantity of faith: any less and they’d be a muslim, hindu, or deist, any more and they’d be atheists!

  • ThaneOfDrones

    If the gravitational force were altered by 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000001 percent, our sun would not exist, and, therefore, neither would we. Talk about precision! (p. 102)

    It would be a mistake to take at face value the word of Creationists on a scientific question; so I wouldn’t bother trying to explore the implications of that without first verifying it.

    If you want to read up on the fine-tuning question from someone who is a competent physicist, try Victor Stenger:
    The Fallacy of Fine Tuning
    ISBN13: 9781616144432

    • Greg G.

      Isn’t God wonderful for making the possible range for the Weak Nuclear Force so large? /s

  • …if we reran the Big Bang to get another universe with the same fundamental constants, humans wouldn’t exist.

    Doesn’t this depend on whether Quantum Mechanics is deterministic or not? I wasn’t sure we had a definitive answer to that?!

    • epeeist

      Doesn’t this depend on whether Quantum Mechanics is deterministic or not?

      I am not sure that you even need to bring QM into it, sensitivity to initial conditions would be enough.

      • Hmm. I had assumed that by Bob’s description that the initial conditions would be the same, but I guess that need not be true.

        • epeeist

          “The same” is the critical bit, how accurately do we have to specify the position and momenta (QM does kick in here of course) for each particle in the universe for us to say one configuration is the same as the another?

          The motion of the planets is chaotic, can one say that if we ran two scenarios that the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs would strike in both scenarios?

  • ThaneOfDrones

    Hold out your hand, arm extended, and look at the nail of your little finger.

    Not the finger I would be extending to GT.

    https://i.kym-cdn.com/entries/icons/original/000/016/986/xl1XYq8.jpg

    • Jack the Sandwichmaker

      It’s STILL full of stars.

  • Fine tuning arguments are putting the cart before the horse. We exist as we do because the Universe is the way it is. The Universe isn’t the way it is so we can exist. And even if the Universe was fine tuned for some purpose it doesn’t automatically follow that the purpose in question was to allow us to exist.

    Not knowing that God exists, or what he wants if he does, interferes with free will as well. There are all sorts of things a lot of people would do if they knew God had no problems with them, like eat certain sorts of food.

  • Michael Neville

    Essentially the fine tuning argument is an argument from incredulity. “It’s impossible that our universe and world could have the necessary parameters to support life so it must have been our favorite god what created everything.”

    There are several flaws with the fine tuning argument. One that comes immediately to mind is that the universe and the world aren’t fine tuned for humans, humans are fine tuned for the universe and world, specifically the African savannah of half-a-million years ago with some slight modifications since then.

    Another problem with fine tuning is it looks at physics equations and inserts the constants found in the universe, then proclaims that if the constants were changed then life would be impossible. However let’s consider what happens if the equations are changed. We don’t know what would happen. Even if the current equations with changed constants make life impossible completely different equations (and constants) might be life-producing. We don’t know enough about physics to say either way. Arbitrarily requiring that only the constants may be changed is begging the question.

    • Jim Jones

      Experience teaches us that the answer to fine tuning will be obvious once we understand it.

    • Thanks4AllTheFish

      “This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.”

      ― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

      • Michael Murray

        Presumably at some point the puddle thought: “evaporation is a natural process, it has evaporated in the past, nothing to worry about, plenty of time yet until things get tricky, science will find an answer, … “

        • NS Alito

          ISWYDT

        • Michael Murray

          🙂

    • eric

      One that comes immediately to mind is that the universe and the world aren’t fine tuned for humans

      Exactly. The universe is fine-tuned for lifeforms that love near-perfect vacuum, an average temperature of about 3 kelvin, and lots of cosmic radiation. After all, that’s what 99.999999+% of the universe’s living space is.

      Even just considering the Earth, there’s pretty much no empirical metric you can use that arrives at the conclusion ‘fine tuned for humans’. Time on planet? We lose. Number of organisms? We lose. Surface area that’s hospitable to us? We lose. Unlikeliness of environment? We lose that one…to our own gut bacteria. Because however improbable the conditions and sequence of events needed to produce a place good for humans, our gut bacteria need that exact sequence and set of conditions to develop…plus they then need humans to evolve in it. So always more improbable, no matter how you do the calculation.

      • Martin Penwald

        And it’s before considering gamma ray bursts or other cosmic events that could destroy all life on Earth.
        Death by black hole from Neal DeGrasse Tyson is an interesting read in this regard.

    • epeeist

      There are several flaws with the fine tuning argument.

      Another than comes to mind is the assumption that the universe was fine tuned for life and in particular for us, a piece of hubris writ exceedingly large.

      Another problem with fine tuning is it looks at physics equations and inserts the constants found in the universe, then proclaims that if the constants were changed then life would be impossible.

      It does this by varying one constant at a time. However there is some work to show that if you allow something like Martin Rees’ “six numbers” to covary then there are islands of stability

      Arbitrarily requiring that only the constants may be changed is begging the question.

      We don’t know whether the constants can be changed and if they can over what range and with what probability distribution.

    • rationalobservations?

      The problem for those who imagine a fine tuned and harmonious universe is that there is no evidence of such a place.
      We observe whole Galaxies of billions of stars and planets crashing into each other and comets and asteroids smashing into planets and stars all the time.
      On Earth there is one natural disaster after another as our fragile and violently unstable planet erupts and boils, shakes and crumbles and is ravaged by, volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunami, flood, drought, plague and famine.

      Galaxies colliding all over the universe:
      https://static.scientificamerican.com/sciam/cache/file/3DE7F2CC-1AEC-411D-AD520B43702FF760_source.jpg?w=590&h=800&EEF9E662-7506-41B6-AB6344CFE26DAD2F

      • Michael Neville

        In a mere four or so billion years the Andromeda Galaxy will collide with our very own Milky Way Galaxy. It shows the laxness of our government that nobody is doing anything about this impending disaster.

        • rationalobservations?

          Haha.
          Indeed!
          So much for the deluded myth of fine tuned intelligent design..?

        • rationalobservations?

          Our so very recently evolved species of ape has been around from the common ancestor we share with our nearest cousins through hominid to “human” for such a short time and yet another of the series of mass extinction events is already well under way so that future disaster will not be of concern to any unlikely potential successors to our genetic mutation.

          So much for all that religiot “fine tuning” garbage,,?

          https://edition.cnn.com/2019/10/02/world/andromeda-galaxy-collision-scn/index.html
          https://i.ytimg.com/vi/DBWk7HD3F7Q/maxresdefault.jpg

  • Greg G.

    Try this experiment: go outside on a clear night. Hold out your hand, arm extended, and look at the nail of your little finger.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDW6vkuqGLg

    It is like a finger pointing away to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will all the heavenly glory. –Bruce Lee

    • Michael Neville

      “It is like a finger pointing away to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all the heavenly glory. –Bruce Lee”

      FIFY

      • Greg G.

        When I post from my phone, sometimes I leave a out. Thanks.

  • Martin Penwald

    A recitation of [some scientific theory] certainly wouldn’t have expressed the awe the astronauts were experiencing [when they saw the Earth rise over the Moon].

    The Moon is tidal-locked (not sure it’s the correct spelling) with the Earth. There isn’t any Earth rise when you stay on the same area on the Moon, which all the astronauts did.

    • Illithid

      They orbited first. Perhaps that’s what’s being referenced.

      • Jim Bales

        Yes to both!

        When standing on the moon, the Earth stays (basically) in the same position overhead.

        From the Apollo capsule, it’s orbit took it behind the Moon and so the Earth “set”. Then as the orbit continued, the Earth appeared to rise from behind the moon.

        Note that the famous Apollo 11 photo is called Earthrise.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthrise

        Best
        Jim

    • That’s a good point. I never thought of that. But they do call that earth-rise in the photo, right?

      https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a8/NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-Earthrise.jpg/450px-NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-Earthrise.jpg

      • Martin Penwald

        Jim Bales answer just up is the good one.

        I just have a slight semantic trouble to say that Earth rises over the Moon when the viewer is orbiting the Moon.

        For examples, when i drive west toward the Rockies Mountains, I don’t feel that it would be right to say that the mountains rise from the Earth because I move. If i don’t move, they won’t ”rise”.

  • Brian Curtis

    The ‘anthropic principle’ argument for god usually boils down to “If things were different, they’d be different. But they’re not. (pause) Praise Jesus–it’s a miracle!

    • NS Alito

      The response to the Anthropic Principle includes arguing that organisms more common than humans (e.g., nematodes) are the point of the universe, organisms less common than humans (e.g., siberian tigers) are the point of the universe, or that organisms completely dependent on humans (e.g., bulldogs, some parasites) are the point of the universe.

      Based on the decreasing likelihood that we will prevent the world’s permafrost from putting uncontrollable amounts of CO2 and CH4 in the air and grossly acidifying the ocean, maybe the point of the universe is jellyfish.

      • epeeist

        organisms completely dependent on humans

        My favourite example here would be pubic lice.

  • RichardSRussell

    The odds against getting any particular 13-card hand (out of 52) in a bridge deal are 1 in 53,644,737,765,488,792,839,237,440,000. And yet, every single time the cards are dealt out, 4 of those miracles occur.

  • Otto

    Apparently we have free will, but we have to be punished if we use it wrong.

    • TheNuszAbides

      Right? Being direct and open with us would ruin that ~priceless~gift~ …

      But ~the~evidence~ is ~all~around~you~!

      And a “plain” reading of the original Greek makes the Correct Answer to “How Will You Enjoy Your Afterlife?” quite clear!

  • epeeist

    Bob the Atheist: “There is no absolute truth.”

    I can’t recall any atheist making such a statement. What tends to be made is a position of epistemic modesty. Take the proposition, “Gods do not exist”, could this be (absolutely) true? Of course it could. Can we know that it is true? No, we cannot.

    I have however heard theists make truth relative claims, both in terms of Kuhnian paradigms and Nietzschean perspectives, claiming that science and religion are true with respect to their own paradigms or perspectives.

    EDIT: Posted too early.

    • Bob the Atheist: “There is no absolute truth.”

      I can’t recall any atheist making such a statement.

      https://casualentropy.blogspot.com/2012/08/part-2-absolute-truth.html

      • TheNuszAbides

        I used to say that all the time in my early sophomoric phase (still at the tail end of that 20-odd years later) – usually just before or after “all generalizations suck.”

        But I was not an atheist then! Nor any kind of skeptic.

    • Doubting Thomas

      Take the proposition, “Gods do not exist”, could this be (absolutely)
      true? Of course it could. Can we know that it is true? No, we cannot.

      Why not? Does the same hold true for ewoks or klingons?

      I think we can definitively say that ewoks don’t exist. We can say this because we have overwhelming evidence that ewoks are fictional manmade creatures. I don’t feel the need to withhold judgement on the proposition until a universe-wide search has been conducted to rule out their existence.

      I consider myself a gnostic atheist for the same reason. Gods are obviously fictional creatures. I can say that with confidence because of the overwhelming evidence of it and I see no reason to give theistic claims any epistemological deference.

      • JustAnotherAtheist2

        Yes, of all the entities that cannot be definitely disproven, only gods seem to require such high levels of epistemological caution. Funny that.

      • epeeist

        Why not?

        By “true” I mean universal, necessary and certain. Presumably you have looked underneath the sofa cushions for these “god”, behind the cupboard in the garage, inside the toilet U-bend? This still leaves an enormous number of places to look, as well a vast range of times. Can you be certain you have searched both everywhere and everywhen? If not then you cannot be certain that these god thingies do not exist.

        Of course we can be certain that particular types of god do not exist since they would be logically incoherent, omni-maximal ones would be a good example. But what about deist gods or dying gods?

        • Doubting Thomas

          That’s my point. I don’t need to search the universe for gods any more than I need to search the universe for ewoks to know with utter certainty that they both don’t exist. I can know this because I know the origin of both – people made them up.

          And since I don’t feel the need to be epistemologically cautious about all other fictitious entities I don’t see the need to be so with gods.

        • I Came To Bring The Paine

          Right. I know gods don’t exist the same way I know kryptonians don’t exist.

        • Michael Murray

          God’s planet blew up and he sent his son to earth ? That’s not how I remember it being explained. It’s been awhile since I went to Mass admittedly. Your version does sound more interesting.

  • epeeist

    If the gravitational force were altered by 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000001 percent, our sun would not exist, and, therefore, neither would we. Talk about precision! (p. 102)

    Let’s accept the first bit, namely that if the gravitational constant was minutely different then this would alter the state of the universe and hence we would not exist.

    However this doesn’t allow him to sneak in the claim that the universe was therefore “designed” and “created” with us in mind and that therefore this value for the gravitational constant was specifically chosen by his god.

    • eric

      Let’s accept the first bit

      IIRC, the scientists who came up with these numbers followed the process of: vary A, see what would happen. Reset A, vary B, see what would happen. And so on. But then some other scientist pointed out – hey, you’re only varying them one at a time. If you vary multiple universal constants at the same time, there are lots of stable solutions. They don’t look exactly like our universe, but they do allow for the formation of more complex structures.

      • Greg G.

        That is what Victor Stenger did. He found that about 25% of the variations allowed star formation and complex chemistry.

        • Jim Bales

          Thanks for the pointer, I was unaware of his work!

          Best,
          Jim Bales

      • epeeist

        If you vary multiple universal constants at the same time, there are lots of stable solutions.

        Yes, this is a point I made to Michael Neville the other day.

        I also pointed out that we don’t know if the “constants” could be varied and if they can, over what range and with what probability distribution.

  • JustAnotherAtheist2

    I might as well bring this comment forward from a prior post, seeing as it is more applicable here.

    Yes, silly word games and condescension are all Turek has in his arsenal. He particularly loves equivocation, with a go-to favorite being, “is it absolutely true that no absolute truth exists?”

    The ploy here is immediately transparent once you use less superficially similar labels to express the concepts.

    Is it accurate to say that there are no platonic truths that continue to exist in the absence of an underlying proposition or a mind to consider them?

    It’s genuinely disheartening that anyone buys his bullshit.

  • Michael Newsham

    Bob: You should marry my sister. She’s kind, funny, has a great personality, loves kids. is a wonderful cook, and a real looker.
    Tim:She sounds great! I’d like to meet her.
    Bob: Oh, you can’t meet her. You have to agree to marry her first. She’s so wonderful that you’d be swept off your feet if you met her, so it wouldn’t be fair to you. You just have to trust me.
    Tim: Bye.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Tim: I went to school with you for 12 years, and we rode the school bus every day. Why did I never see her?
      Bob: Oh, she just never wants to be seen. It would ruin the effect. But you can ask my friends about her.
      Tim: I asked your friends what she looked like, and they all gave me different answers. Some said she has blonde hair, some say red hair. Some say tall, some say short.
      Bob: I have a personal relationship with my sister, so you should believe me when I tell you what she is like.
      Tim: Others have claimed to have a relationship with her, too, why do they say she is different than you say she is?

      • I Came To Bring The Paine

        Bob: “I’ll pray for you.”

  • The fine tuning argument works just as well as an argument AGAINST god:

    1. Under theism, humans can exist under a wide range of values of the gravitational force (because god is all-powerful and so can make the sun shine no matter what G is).
    2. God has no particular reason to pick a value that is consistent with naturalism.
    3. Therefore, under theism it is highly unlikely that the value will be consistent with naturalism.
    4. Under naturalism, humans can only exist in a very narrow range of values of G.
    5. The value of G is in the range that is consistent with naturalism.
    6. Therefore, the value of the gravitational force is evidence for naturalism over theism.

    This works especially well for the value of the cosmological constant, another favorite target of the fine-tuning crowd. It is known that a system that is gravitationally bound will remain gravitationally bound, no matter how large the cosmological constant is. Therefore, under theism, any (positive) value of the cosmological constant is consistent with human existence. All god needed to do was create a single galaxy in the early universe, and it would proceed to develop completely naturalistically. Under naturalism, though, a large value of the cosmological constant would prevent galaxies from ever forming, and so preclude humans. The rest of the argument follows as above.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Oh, but see, now you are doing things like working from the assumption that God is omnipotent.

      It’s amazing how many apologetics for God resort to a non-omnipotent being. Why does God have to create humans with a fine-tuned gravitational constant? As you say, an omnipotent God could make humans compatible with any gravitational constant.

      Why do bad things happen? Because God is teaching us a lesson. When you teach your kids to ride a bike, don’t you let them fall?
      1) If I were omnipotent, I wouldn’t. I would teach my kids to ride a bike without ever having them fall.
      2) For that matter, despite the fact that I am not omnipotent, I DID teach my kids to ride a bike without them ever falling. What a stupid analogy.

      I am more powerful than God, apparently.

      • I Came To Bring The Paine

        Oh, but see, now you are doing things like working from the assumption that God is omnipotent.

        It’s amazing how many apologetics for God resort to a non-omnipotent
        being. Why does God have to create humans with a fine-tuned
        gravitational constant? As you say, an omnipotent God could make humans
        compatible with any gravitational constant.

        It’s also amazing that apologists shift and change God’s attributes according to which argument they’re using but hey, that’s Apologetics for you!

        • Michael Murray

          After awhile you see what they are apologising for.

  • Michael Murray

    So all those things had to happen just right or we’d be sitting here wondering why we didn’t exist.

  • Michael Neville

    The improbability of the present design argues that a whole bunch of coincidences happened. Recently I played bridge and got a hand with seven diamonds including ace, king, queen, jack. The odds of that happening are astronomical but that’s how the cards were dealt. Incidentally for any bridge players reading this I bid and made six diamonds doubled.

  • GShelley

    “Bob the Atheist: “There is no absolute truth.”

    Christian apologist: “That sounds like a pretty absolute statement to me, smart guy—you’ve undercut your own statement!”

    How about some variant of “other than statements about the existence of absolute truth there is no obsolete truth”?

  • Buckminsterfullerene

    your assertion presumes that the evolution of the universe was a wholly natural process

    Well you would have to present some evidence of the supernatural for us to think differently. The evolution of the universe is a natural process. Physicists don’t put “God done it” in their equations for a reason. You cite Penrose despite the fact you misrepresent him. The fact that Penrose is talking about the initial low entropy conditions of our universe in relation to the multiverse not the odds of us being here or evolution.

    • B The evolution of the universe is a natural process.

      Why do the guidance of God and the natural processes of the development of the universe or evolution have to be seen as mutually exclusive?
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDqny7UzyR4

      • Buckminsterfullerene

        Because they are mutually exclusive. God is a supernatural explanation and the universe operates according to natural processes. The only thing God could do is set up the initial conditions and kick things off but after that he is useless.

        You are right Bob doesn’t know that if we reran the universe with the same constants that we would get a different outcome. I would think with the same constants we would get very similar or exactly the same results. Where you err is that it is a natural process no matter what after the initial conditions. God could have even baked in the corny miracles of the Bible which I will grant is possible however unlikely. Basically even if God did exist, you could never tell because it is a natural process all the way back to the beginning of time.

        You still misrepresent Penrose, mainly because you don’t understand physics or what Penrose is saying. Penrose says at the end he is looking for a physical explanation for the existence of fine tuning, not some supernatural absentee sky daddy. It may be that the initial low entropy condition Penrose is describing is the ultimate brute fact.

        • Buck you could never tell because it is a natural process all the way back to the beginning of time.

          I think we can tell by the extraordinary improbability of the outcome. (See my reference to Roger Penrose.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDqny7UzyR4 ) If someone at a casino has an extraordinary run of luck, the security people suspect hacking. The odds here against a wholly natural and random process are far too great to conclude that a random process produced them.

          Yes. Penrose says he is looking for a natural explanation. But that is what scientists do; it is the expectation of the scientific method that there will be a natural explanation. But if there is not?

          My money is on supernatural involvement.

        • Greg G.

          The natural part of the universe is what we can potentially detect and evaluate. The supernatural is an imaginary belief to exempt imaginary beliefs from being evaluated.

          When you can do more that just imagine the supernatural, let us know.

        • Buckminsterfullerene

          Don will just word salad his way along and throw out buzz words like improbability, random process, and odds. He wants his deepity to appear profound when it is elementary grade Xtian apologetics that he borrows from William Lane Craig. Unlike Craig; Don doesn’t grasp what he is saying and just shows his ignorance to anybody with a clue.

        • Buckminsterfullerene

          Don,

          Again you misrepresent Penrose in your effort to shoehorn what he is saying into your Xtian worldview.

          https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1708/1708.03677.pdf

          I know your religion addled mind won’t understand so let me break it down for you from the summary:

          Penrose’s rejection of inflation prevents him from accepting the most strongly supported model of the early universe—one that produces the initial low gravitational entropy that he has championed.We argue that inflation, combined with expansion, cooling, and baryogenesis, produces a relatively smooth distribution of matter that is equivalent to the low gravitational entropy needed to explain the initial entropy problem. Thus, in addition to the flatness, horizon, and monopole problems, inflation solves the cosmic initial entropy problem.

          It’s no wonder for Penrose disbelief when he doesn’t accept inflationary cosmology. So your spouting about the ODDS is bunk because there is a natural explanation, you just don’t understand or accept because you are too gassed up on your God belief to get it.

      • Susan

        Why do the guidance of God and the natural processes of the development of the universe or evolution have to be seen as mutually exclusive?

        Why don’t homicide detectives consider the influence of ghosts (or leprechauns, or vampires)
        a possible factor in the deaths of humans?

        Sometimes, a death that looks like a homicide has evidence that means it might not be a homicide. Sometimes, a death looks like a homicide but it can’t be shown conclusively to be a homicide.

        In either case, there is no evidence for ghosts (or leprechauns or vampires) committing murder.

        If you want to introduce ghosts (or leprechauns or vampires) or a god, you’ll have to show your work.

        You can’t just whine about homicide detectives being closed-minded.

        Show your work.

        ======

        EDIT 1 minute later, to include leprechauns and vampires.

        • I’m glad you added leprechauns. The Irish would have been disappointed.

          And occasionally a homicide cannot be solved by the evidence available. But that does not mean it cannot be identified as a homicide. That is that place historians find themselves in when it comes to the resurrection. There is adequate evidence for the fact of the resurrection, but there is not enough evidence to determine a natural explanation.

          There have been a lot of guesses, of course, but all fail at some point to be persuasive, at least to a theist.

          Since historians are not about finding supernatural causes, they leave the question of cause open or do not attempt to explain it. Ehrman does that in Did Jesus Exist. He does suggest a natural explanation for the narrative in other places but I find his explanation more of a guess reflecting his atheistic worldview than an evidence based explanation.

        • Susan

          The Irish would have been disappointed.

          Leprechaun believers would have been disappointed. We can note that you haven’t addressed it.

          Occaisionally, a homicide cannote be solved by the evidence available. That is that place that historians find themselves in.

          Occasionally? Are you serious? Do you know how many cold cases remain unsolved? Does that mean ghosts did it?

          There is adequate evidence for the factmy unsupported claim (fixed that for you,.. unless you can show something is a fact, you don’t get to call it a fact)… of the resurrection.

          There is evidence that someone died?… I mean died… not went into coma.. not that they appeared to be dead.. but that they went into an incontrovertible state of entropy from which they could not possibly emerge, and then they wandered around in an enlivened state…that is to say, a living person.

          (I’m just going to make popcorn. Give me a few minutes. Hot air poppers are breathtakingly efficient. I will await your “adequate evidence” for what you claim.

          You don’t get to claim that the evidence is adequate for what you claim, if you can’t separate your evidence for Yahwehjesus from someone else’s “evidence” for leprechauns.

          What are you claiming and how do you support it?

  • David Evans

    It is also extremely unlikely that, starting with the first humans, all the random meetings and matings in history would have led to the birth of me. Just one misdirected sperm or one missed phone call, or… and whoever was born in the place and time I was born (if anyone) wouldn’t have been me.
    So what?

  • rationalobservations?

    There is no “faith” at all involved in being an atheist but it’s a lot of responsibility.
    We are totally and absolutely responsible for our own actions and have the burden of a million year long evolved human conscience that governs our actions and results in our superior charitable, empathetic, moral and ethical conduct.
    Oh for the absolute freedom to act as prejudiced, oppressive and evil as religionists in the knowledge that all we needed to do was believe in (an actually hypothetical undetected and imaginary) god and ask for forgiveness to have the slate of religionist depravity and corruption “wiped clean”.

    Religion – an expensive (but tax exempt) protection racket that supports all that is evil and anti-humanitarian in life.

    https://66.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m3s63prCz61rvhzj2o1_400.jpg

  • rationalobservations?