Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18: “I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox: “If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . .
Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But by 10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me, encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.
Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could! He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 70 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.
Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 12-21-20: “I love people who can make cogent arguments against mine or point out data I hadn’t considered before. What I dislike (and ban) are $#&*%@s who . . . refuse to learn/adapt . . . ignore compelling arguments against their position, and so on.”
In his post, Defending 10 Atheist Arguments (4 of 5) (2-1-21), Bob opines:
7. What is God made of?
Atheist argument: “There is no evidence that spiritual energy exists, so we can conclude that psychics, ghosts, and gods are non-existent. Otherwise, God has nothing to be made of.”
Christian response: “Not this again. An immaterial being, by definition, is not made of material.”
My response: Not this again. You can’t just magic something into existence with a definition. Do you think “God is an immaterial being” is a spell that will create such a being?
Don’t waste our time with, “Well, God might exist” or “You haven’t proven he doesn’t exist.” God’s existence is the topic here, and you need to show it. Yes, I realize that the atheist is making the argument and you’re responding, but responses need evidence, too. Your response is no more compelling than “Because I said so.”
“I’m not going too quickly here, am I? God is not made of anything. God is spirit. God is spirit, but he’s not made of spiritual energy. He’s immaterial, so this is a straw man.”
God is not made of anything, least of all spiritual energy, but he’s made of spirit? Or he is spirit? Or something?
“Not made of anything”—that sounds like your rhetorical weapons. And it sounds like they’re loaded with not-evidence. This is the problem with just handwaving stuff into existence. Your embarrassing ad hoc arguments will mean you’ll no longer be able to sit at the adult table.
So God is not made of matter or (heaven forbid!) spiritual energy . . . but he’s made of something, right? You’re the expert—if not “spiritual energy,” then what? Don’t play Simon Says, just tell us. And whatever you say God is made of, show us that it exists. One atheist responded, “Can someone tell me what the word ‘spirit’ means without saying what it is not?”
How intensely ironic (the last sentence)! It’s our beloved atheist critics who are constantly informing us lowly, ignorant Christians that atheism itself is, alas, not a formulated position, but only the absence of a position (belief in God). It’s not a worldview, etc. I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that. It’s not true (see just one reason of many, why I think it isn’t), but we hear it all the time.
Yet lo and behold, now we are immensely privileged enough to witness an atheist complain that we can’t define spirit in a way other than what it is not (matter). It’s precious and a double standard for the ages, for sure. We are “embarrassing” and can’t “sit at the adult table”: so sez Bible-Basher Bob (ever the charitable and fair-minded one), but atheists making the exact same sorts of arguments somehow are not. Maybe one day, some kind atheist will deign to explain to me what the profound logical difference is. Or some logically consistent one can save my sanity and patience alike by conceding that these “arguments” (i.e., actually, bald assertions) are dead wrong.
It’s one thing to challenge theists with producing arguments in favor of the existence of God (we’ve produced dozens; none are ever good enough for hard-core atheists); quite another to make the “argument” that a spiritual being (the very category or notion or hypothetical) is absurd. The latter is what is taking place above, but Bob, logically clueless as usual, couldn’t resist inappropriately mixing in a little of the first question, too (“You can’t just magic something into existence with a definition” / “God’s existence is the topic here” / “And whatever you say God is made of, show us that it exists”). The initial argument, that Bob himself framed (see above), had the following logical structure:
1) Spiritual energy is nonexistent.
2) Gods as well as ghosts consist of such spiritual energy.
3) Therefore, God cannot exist, since he is said to consist of a thing which itself doesn’t exist.
Or, more broadly, as a purely logical thought-experiment:
1) X is non-existent.
2) Y is allegedly entirely composed of X.
3) Therefore Y doesn’t exist.
One thing at a time . . . I am dealing with the question of spirit and the above formulation of Bob’s, not God’s existence per se. He may not be able to comprehend the difference, but I trust that the vast bulk of my readers can. I won’t play the game of bouncing back-and-forth between entirely distinct topics. That’s child’s play and not serious philosophical / theological / scientific discussion.
As usual, the atheist is merely assuming that certain things aren’t true; can’t possibly be true. They habitually do this with miracles and the supernatural. But this is blind faith and not reason. They also do it with the question of whether there is something other than matter. They are philosophical materialists and physicalists, as opposed to dualists. Well, most of them are. Some atheists (and in my opinion, the sharper and more thoughtful ones) are actually dualists. I always mention the brilliant atheist philosopher David Chalmers (four books with Oxford University Press and one with MIT) — who looks like he ought to be the lead singer of a rock band — as one prominent example. His Wikipedia page states about him:
Chalmers argues for an “explanatory gap” from the objective to the subjective, and criticizes physicalist explanations of mental experience, making him a dualist. Chalmers characterizes his view as “naturalistic dualism”: naturalistic because he believes mental states supervene “naturally” on physical systems (such as brains); dualist because he believes mental states are ontologically distinct from and not reducible to physical systems.
But now to the heart of my objection. I shall turn the table by using a scientific analogy (I love doing both things in my apologetics, so I’m having a grand ol’ time). Bob had a field day mocking Christians for believing that God is a spirit, immaterial, composed of spirit, which isn’t a physical thing (with atoms, etc.). Once again, Christians are made out to be anti-scientific ignoramuses, dummies, and imbeciles. It’s Bob’s constant methodology and what motivates him (and his legions of rah-rahing sycophants in his ranting, pathetic comboxes) to get out of bed every morning. I hope he had his fun. Now we shall have ours.
Please keep the above in mind as I make my argument now (as my entire argument is an analogy). Scientists are currently quite excited about new phenomena called dark energy and dark matter. The very notions have only made their appearance over the last 25-30 years or so. The term dark energy was coined by cosmologist Michael Turner in 1998: which is more recent than the life of this blog (1997). But — recent or not — it’s now widely accepted and represents the cutting edge and most fascinating field of study in cosmology and astronomy (superseding black holes). A NASA web page comments upon it as follows:
What Is Dark Energy? More is unknown than is known. We know how much dark energy there is because we know how it affects the universe’s expansion. Other than that, it is a complete mystery. But it is an important mystery. It turns out that roughly 68% of the universe is dark energy. Dark matter makes up about 27%. The rest – everything on Earth, everything ever observed with all of our instruments, all normal matter – adds up to less than 5% of the universe. Come to think of it, maybe it shouldn’t be called “normal” matter at all, since it is such a small fraction of the universe.
One explanation for dark energy is that it is a property of space. Albert Einstein was the first person to realize that empty space is not nothing. Space has amazing properties, many of which are just beginning to be understood. The first property that Einstein discovered is that it is possible for more space to come into existence. Then one version of Einstein’s gravity theory, the version that contains a cosmological constant, makes a second prediction: “empty space” can possess its own energy. Because this energy is a property of space itself, it would not be diluted as space expands. As more space comes into existence, more of this energy-of-space would appear. . . .
Another explanation for how space acquires energy comes from the quantum theory of matter. In this theory, “empty space” is actually full of temporary (“virtual”) particles that continually form and then disappear. . . .
Another explanation for dark energy is that it is a new kind of dynamical energy fluid or field, something that fills all of space but something whose effect on the expansion of the universe is the opposite of that of matter and normal energy. Some theorists have named this “quintessence,” after the fifth element of the Greek philosophers. But, if quintessence is the answer, we still don’t know what it is like, what it interacts with, or why it exists. So the mystery continues. (“Dark Energy, Dark Matter”, no date)
A similar National Geographic page adds in befuddlement:
Now that we see the expansion of the universe is accelerating, adding in dark energy as a cosmological constant could neatly explain how space-time is being stretched apart. But that explanation still leaves scientists clueless as to why the strange force exists in the first place.
So it’s considered to be 68% of the universe, yet it is almost a complete “mystery” and scientists are “clueless” about its origin. And “everything on Earth, everything ever observed with all of our instruments, all normal matter – adds up to less than 5% of the universe.” So if this is true, it turns out that science in all its glory (the atheist’s epistemological “god” and religion) has been dealing with a mere 1/20th of all that there is in the universe.
Likewise, dark matter (thought to make up 27% of the universe) is “completely invisible to light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation, making dark matter impossible to detect with current instruments” (National Geographic). The EarthSky site adds to the collection of “duh!” comments from science on dark energy:
In this case, dark means unknown rather than literally dark, as is the case with dark matter. . . . Dark energy is one of the great unsolved mysteries of cosmology. . . . Dark energy does behave like Einstein’s anti-gravity force, but its nature and origin remain unknown. One of its greatest mysteries is why dark energy started to dominate the rate of expansion of the universe at a particular point in time billions of years after the Big Bang. If it exists now, why wasn’t it there all along?
And yet science is to be regarded as our final appeal, authority-wise? Some think dark energy is “a property of space.” Others think space is “full of temporary (‘virtual’) particles that continually form and then disappear.” Some appeal to Greek philosophy and call the mystery “quintessence.” How interesting. So we have this phenomenon, and it is serious science (which I am not doubting at all; sure, bring it on!). The admitted ignorance is extraordinary.
Yet all that is fine and dandy, while Christians are mocked and derided and considered simpletons simply because we have believed all along that God is an eternal spirit, Who created the world? What is the difference? I’d love for some atheist to tell me and come dialogue, but I know they are very averse to that: having just been banned again from Debunking Christianity because I had the gall to ask someone in the combox if Dr. David Madison (the big cheese on that site, along with John Loftus, who has ignored 23 of my critiques) should or would make any attempt to answer my 44 critiques of his anti-theist bilge, posing as supposed “arguments.”
Moreover, we see that Bob Seidensticker — after directly challenging me to make them — has ignored 70 (yes: seventy!) of my counter-replies, and that Jonathan MS Pearce has just decided to start ignoring my critiques (five or six unanswered now) as well, whereas just a few weeks ago he was gung-ho in debating me. How the mighty have fallen . . . All four of these men are very prominent, influential, and “vocal” anti-theist atheists online. So any serious, point-by-point reply to this paper is highly unlikely, but it would be nice to engage in serious interaction on a matter like this (pun half-intended).
Lastly: if there is any reply at all, we’ll almost certainly be told that “dark energy is just now being investigated by science. Give it time; science always discovers and explains things in due course.” I don’t disagree all that much. Science does do that: though not as completely as the average atheist would make out (it being his or her religion and idol and [usually] sole epistemological guide).
But even if dark energy and dark matter are adequately, plausibly explained and much better understood by science in the near future, it makes no difference at all as to my present argument. The fact remains that conventionally understood matter makes up only 5% of the universe: so they tell us. Science has had up till very recently, literally nothing to tell us about 95% of the universe: all of which is other (spirit? energy?) than what we have known up till now as “matter”: with protons and neutrons and the whole nine yards.
And yet Christians (along with many reputable philosophers through the centuries, and virtually all religious views) are faulted for having believed that there is such a thing as a non-material Spirit-Creator, for 2000 years: following the ancient Israelites, who believed it for some 18 or more centuries before we did? Obviously, non-material entities or whatever we call them, have been a far more important aspect of the universe than we (least of all materialist atheists) had ever imagined.
And so God fits into this “new” schema very well, just as He fit into Big Bang cosmology, and even quantum mechanics, examined more closely, as well as something like irreducible complexity. Present-day scientific consensus is perfectly consistent with the biblical teaching of creation out of nothing too. I think the Bible and Christianity are doing pretty darn good, in terms of being consistent with science, as the latter advances. It seems that Christianity understood things (derived from revelation, communicated by God) for 2000 years that science has only recently come to figure out.
Albert Einstein and most scientists in the 1940s believed in an eternal universe (steady state). Einstein initially opposed the findings of the originator of the Big Bang theory: a Catholic priest. Now virtually no scientist denies that the present universe had a beginning (although some posit prior universes, with no hard evidence). Christians had said that the universe came into existence (by God) from nothing all along. And now science seems to be confirming that non-material spirit or “energy” is awfully important in the scheme of the universe as well: to the tune of 68% of all that exists. Better late than never . . .
In closing, I’ll mention another debate that was going on long before dark energy was posited: the nature of light: is it a particle or a wave? This has to do with the question of possible non-physical entities as well (the very thing that Bob mercilessly mocked above). And so a scientific web page dealt with this question, throwing out several competing theories as to what light even is (all bolding in original):
[ . . .]
I’m not sure if I would call light matter or not, however. Certainly it can do some of the things you would think only traditional matter can do – like carry momentum and transfer it in a collision. But it certainly has some properties that are fundamentally different than the stuff that makes up traditional matter (things that are made of atoms).
Answer 2 Light is not matter. Light is just light — it has its own qualities. Light is made up of “things” called photons, and these photons can possess some of the properties of matter. For example, they are always moving, and when they move, they can exert a (usually very small) force on an object (just like moving matter can). But most of the time, light is just light. It is not matter as much as it is energy.
[Dave: how is this a whit different from Christians saying, “God is not matter. God is just God — He has His own qualities”?]
Light is a form of energy, not matter. Matter is made up of atoms. Light is actually electromagnetic radiation. . . .
This is a fun question. There are two main theories of thought about light. The first is that light is a photon and the second is that light is a wave. Neither theory has been proven wrong. It would seem that photons would be matter whereas the waves wouldn’t. It turns out that for both theories light isn’t matter. A photon is not matter because it has no mass. This is different from matter such as electrons and neutrons which have masses. I hope this helps.
Yep. Light ain’t matter, it seems pretty clear. Nor is 95% of the universe matter as we have known and loved it from our chemistry and physics classes (me, I had a chemistry set when I was 12). So the notion of a merely spiritual, immaterial God seems all the more possible and even likely, doesn’t it?: just based on what science tells us: before we even get to philosophy and religion.
Why then is Bob prattling on as if matter (good old-fashioned matter before we get to dark matter and dark energy) is all there is? He needs to crack open any scientific textbook written since Einstein and get up to speed before embarrassing himself (and atheists along with him) further. Who’s against science? Christians have nothing to fear from it at all. It has always confirmed — or has at least been harmonious with — our views, and today it is doing so more than ever.