Bad Argument for God: Why is there something instead of nothing?



This is the second in a series of bad arguments in support of a theistic god.

Argument: The universe exists, therefore God exists.

I will start by restating my premise for this series...that this is a deconstruction of some common arguments for a theistic god that intervenes in our world...a personal god that answers prayers...a god that has ostensibly revealed himself, his codes of conduct, and his dietary preferences. The theistic gods that have significant market share these days are 1) the god of Abraham [Judaism, Christianity, Islam] and 2) the gods of Hinduism. We smart apes claim to know something about these gods...their desires...their intents...their previous/current activity.

For this brief discussion, I will be using Christian/Abrahamic references...because, being in the U.S., it is what I am typically surrounded with. The examples and arguments, though, can be similarly applied to any theistic god.

FAILURE 1: The argument relies on the presupposition that it is only an intelligent creator that could have created "something from nothing". Certainly, the origin of the universe is probably the least well understood aspect of our cosmology...but saying that God did it is unambiguous hubris. By saying so; one ostensibly knows all the other possibilities of what preceded the Big Bang and has dismissed them in favor of their own God. The finest minds in the world are barely teasing the most preliminary flecks of understanding from the earliest moments of our universe. I suggest that our species will go extinct well before we have any compelling evidence as to what preceded the Big Bang.

The professionally curious scientists [i.e. Stenger, Hawking] have, at best, hypothesized various scenarios that, by their nature, are deeply unsatisfying and non-intuitive to the lay person...myself included. It's important to recognize, though, that their hypotheses are grounded in empirical understanding of the nature of matter. We have tested the non-intuitive idea that matter is another form of energy elegantly described in E=MC2 and successfully leveraged that to create nuclear bombs. Stenger and others have suggested that this duality and our observations would suggest that the net sum of our universe, even today, is zero. In effect; our universe is 'nothing' separated into its component parts. Of course that is a completely non-intuitive definition of 'nothing' for a lay person. We need to recognize, though, that non-intuitive does not mean non-true. Consider Einstein's idea that time was not constant and and varied with your rate of speed. We eventually proved it to be true and many of us rely on it daily by using GPS navigation.

This is classic god-of-the-gaps thinking. Just because we don't know what may have preceded the Big Bang is not evidence in support of God. It only means that the religious apologist and the theoretical physicist have nearer the same amount of evidence...and it is objectively wrong thinking to insert an explanation in the absence of evidence and wait to be disproved.

FAILURE 2: Such an argument only supports the idea of a deistic god...not a theistic God. This is a classic false dichotomy (the understanding of which seems totally lost of many many religious apologists). The range of options here is not No god or My God, but rather No god or Some god. The believer is still light-years away from demonstrating that their creation story is true while every other creation story is a myth.

I should say, too, that I do not concern myself with deistic explanations of the universe. For the most part, I only argue against theistic explanations because theism is what insinuates itself into public policy. The deist, I feel, is a much nearer to being an atheist, than a theist. (To pick nits: word deconstruction means that a deist IS an atheist) In matters of morality and policy, the deist (not claiming to know the mind of god) relies on the same introspective exercises that the atheist so well exploits. While I hold the position that deism is an invalid mode of thought; it cannot lead to the extremism and xenophobia that theism seems so well suited for.

Next time: The effectiveness of prayer.

17 comments:

Ryan Jennings said...

You write: "While I hold the position that deism is an invalid mode of thought; it cannot lead to the extremism and xenophobia that theism seems so well suited for."

Or... won't lead u there any more than athiesm may lead you to extremism or christophobia or worse. Both belief systems have plenty of historical wackos to prove this.

Enjoy your writing...looking forward to your take on prayer...peace.

FVThinker said...

Don't make me whip out a can of evidence on you. It is clear that your go-to argument is the crimes of Mao and Stalin (Hitler was Catholic, invoked God frequently, the troops' belt buckles were emblazoned with "God With Us")

As I have eluded to before; If you think the only defining characteristic of those regimes is atheism, then you don't really know anything about those regimes and are ill qualified to comment on them.

Ryan Jennings said...

You have already whipped a can of hooey with the above statement (from my Christian worldview perspective--nice to throw in a Hitler reference there...which I did not...but if you aim to prove Hitler was a Christian you have a mighty tall hill to climb...if you say he invoked the name of God at times...then, not unlike every man you may have a point)... a can of evidence would be nice...such as how the atheistic worldview leads to peace and non-extremism as implied in your blog?

FVThinker said...

Well...I only invoked Hitler because of your invocation of the great human crimes of the 20th century. The list is typically capped off with Mao, Stalin and Hitler and I preemptively addressed the Hitler-was-an-atheist spin that is almost universally extolled by apologists such as yourself. Please pardon my presumption.

But while we are on the topic....
I might argue that it really doesn't matter whether Hitler was a believer or not. If he weren't a believer, it still shines an unflattering light on the credulity of his believing audience that his God-steeped rhetoric could be so darkly effective. Debating whether he was a sincere believer or a manipulator of the religious is a dead end anyway. You have already displayed your readiness to invoke the No True Scotsman fallacy (Hitler wasn't a TRUE Christian). I've yet to find anybody that can well define some minimum standards for being a card-carrying Christian. It was once thrown out that the Nicene Creed would be that standard but, in my experience, very few "Christians" buy into every bit of that creed. If really pressed; I find that 1/3 to 1/2 of professing Christians are really deists just sticking with church of their upbringing.

I have never ever ever ever said or implied that atheism leads to peace or non-extremism (or anything else). Similarly, NOT believing in unicorns or Zeus does not lead to anything. I merely argue that not believing in the god of Abraham removes one significant engine for intolerance. Humanity will always find ways to be nasty. As Mr. Pascal (of the 'wager') said "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction."

As far as evidence; would it not be compelling if a religious university conducted a survey of prosperous democracies and measured their health of their societies and correlated it to the level of religion? (Your probably already ahead of me). Well Creighton University did such a study and were quite red-faced. http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.html

Societal health was INVERSELY correlated to religiosity on [I think] every measure (sometimes dramatically). Sorry....people are entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.

Anonymous said...

New location for the Creighton Study: http://moses.creighton.edu/jrs/2005/2005-11.pdf

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable that you have taken wonderful words from a wonderful man like Christopher Hitchens and tried to pass them off as your own. Why didn't you think anyone would notice?

FVThinker said...

Where did I invoke Hitchens? I would be happy to credit him.

Anonymous said...

The whole argument here is do you believe in someone or something greater than yourself or not? There is no rock hard evidence proving one way or another. For all the theologists out there may be able to look at every "fact" of the universe and say "I know, that's the 'how', but He is the 'why'".
If there is a God, then there must be a devil. And that devil's main objective is to take away any and all credit away from such a being. How does he do this? I'm glad you asked, pride. Us thinking that we are the top of the respective food chain. "For those who hope in God can have a hope for a better life." I would like to point out the opposite, that those who don't believe in a God, have no such hope. They are left to their own vices. Whereas you may not be there at the point where you know that you can't do it on your own, let it be known that there will come a time in your life. When you realize you are absolutely powerless. There's that saying "there are no such things as atheists in a foxhole". That is because in that situation, you realize how powerless you really are in regards to your own existence. In order to see something greater than yourself, you must realize how low you already are. "I am wise because I know that I know nothing"-Socrates.
This all being said, if you want to know the truth about an "all powerful being" we need not look for the actual being but rather than the effect he has on this earth. The same thing is done in science when we are looking for something that we can't see. And his effect is everywhere, you just have to be humble enough to see it. Oh I'm sorry, humility isn't a word that is commonly used among atheist's. At least any that I've ever known. At least not in true meaning. I hope that someday you'll be able to stop for one second and see how beautiful this world really is, and realize how beautiful it is that we are able to be a part of it. I hope that you will someday strive to make the world a better place. The only way that that has ever been possible has been through "righteous", "moral" means. I'm sorry, that's just how it works in history. Has there been a lot of terrible things done in the name of religion? Of course. I think something bad has been done in virtually every single name out there including science. But just because people have tarnished the name of religion and God, that does not mean that they represented them well. Quite the opposite actually.

FVThinker said...

@Anonymous
It's ironic that you would throw around "humility" as though it is the non-believer that lacks it. It is the non-believer that that says "I don't know what happened prior to the Big Bang." It is the believer that says they DO know what happened prior to the Big Bang (if one is even OF the religious stripe that acknowledges the empirical age of the universe).

It is precisely BECAUSE I have looked for the effects of God that I have dismissed His existence as wishful thinking. I can't even find the effect of a deistic god.

Anonymous said...

Funny that you say non-believers are "humble" because they admit to something that they don't know. That's not humility, that's honesty. Believers don't claim any such thing as to knowing the priors to the creation, but they do acknowledge that there is one that is greater than them. THAT is humility.
If you do not see God in this world, it is because you're not looking at the right places, or if you are, you aren't seeing them. If you want to go see god; go to a hospital and watch a family pray for a loved one before a surgery. Watch them hope for the best possible outcome. Want to see god, go to a church and see people give up a part of their income for the poor. You want to see god? Get down on your knees and ask him to open up your eyes. The problem isn't that you aren't able to see god. No. The problem is that you don't WANT to see God. That would require too much change to an already comfortable lifestyle. That would require too much admittance that you do not know as much as you would like to think you know.
Like I said before, there is no argument that can be said that will sway you to believe in a God if you actually don't want to believe in a God. You see what you want to see. You hear what you want to hear. That goes the same for me, there is no argument you can make that will sway me to NOT believe in God. I don't want to NOT believe in God. I have a hope that will not die just because I cannot see, or hear the existence of my Creator. A woman I ran into the other day told me, "If you don't see God in your life, that's your own fault."
I'm not trying to force you to believe one way or another, but the purpose for religion is to make "bad men into good men, and good men into better." For that reason, if none else, I will believe any teaching that teaches that.
I feel bad for you, for what do you do when a loved one dies? What do you do when you do not know what to do in life? When you don't know all the answers? How do you cope? Do you just push on without a hope that things will be alright? That there is a purpose to all of this? I'm sorry man, that must be really difficult.

FVThinker said...

I grew up a believer. I went into the sciences as I got older and started actually looking at the evidence. I have discovered that there isn't anything that would suggest that there is any active, involved deity in our world. Prayer doesn't work. Bad things happened with no regard to the person being good or evil. (I could go on endlessly). I would acknowledge that some deity might have breathed the universe into existence at [what we know as] the Big Bang, but that would only be a deistic god. That isn't even close to the god of the bible. Importantly...since I have no evidence for that deistic god...I will say "I don't know what happened prior to the Big Bang". You, on the other hand, say you do...or at least say you know of that here was some creator involved. It seems pure hubris to my mind and you seem utter blind to that hubris.

I just lost my father. I sat at his bedside when he died after years of suffering. I comforted him and I miss him. I felt relief that his suffering had ended.

I don't need all the answers nor do I have all the answers. As Thomas Jefferson said "Ignorance is preferable to error. He is nearer the truth that knows nothing, than he believes what is wrong."

I don't give myself the option of believing something on mere comfort of utility. Certainly I am not afforded the crutch of religion, but life is just perfectly fine in the real world. I experience love and awe and wonder just like everyone else. You needn't feel sorry for me.

I keep company with the brightest minds like the National Academy of Science of which only 3% believe in your personal god. And 74% of them don't even believe in a deistic god. Do you think our best scientists have turned their back to God? ...or do you think they just looked at the evidence?

Anonymous said...

You say the "real world" is preferable to what a religionist would be able to live in. The only reason why you might claim that is because you believe it's the truth. You have not seen anything to convince you otherwise. But really, compared to a life of religious endeavors, your life is empty. I'm sorry for accusing you of something so DRASTIC. But really, there's no real reason for you to reach outside of yourself and to others other than...well it's the right thing to do. It's empty. My religion and beliefs don't make me any better than you, but it allows me to believe in a version of you and I that is far better than what YOU can hope for. The belief in a God is the HOPE that there is some reasoning behind all the suffering, the death, and even purpose to this state of existence we find ourselves in. Who are YOU to deprive people of that. You may deprive yourself of that, but who are you to tell others that they are wrong just because you cannot understand their beliefs.
You say that your 74% of your scientists don't believe in a God due to the facts/hard evidence. That's specific to your area. 50% of scientists TOTAL believe in God and actually find proof of his existence EVERY DAY. There are certain area's where 74% of the scientists believe in a creator and cannot deny it. You claim to be seeing something that everyone who believes seems to not be able to see. But if you think about it, it's YOU who's not doing the seeing. You're the one claiming to not see something that others seem so keen to see. I am one of those people. I have seen, experienced, heard and felt things that render me incapable of denying His existence. Again, I say, I am SORRY for you. If you think for two seconds what you are doing, if there is a God, you are denying him the credit of what is His. How UNGRATEFUL! If you are right, then you will not have the opportunity to even prove me right anyway. For the only real way to see is to experience what happens after death.
So the question isn't, "can you see" as much as it is "do you WANT to see". And to be honest, you don't. For some reason you don't want to see. You keep telling yourself that there isn't anything to see, but the truth is, is that you don't want to see. What would you do if you DID see Him? Would you change yourself and become a Monk, following Him for the rest of your life strictly? Are you willing to do that? If you can't answer "yes", then you're choosing not to see. Again I repeat, I feel bad for you.

Anonymous said...

To me, what stands as the biggest witness that there is a creator, is that if that idea were false, then why has it existed for as long as we can remember? Why has there always been a people somewhere that believes one way or another? If it was untrue, then, just as the world being flat this seemingly preposterous idea would die away. But this is the one idea that has always stuck around. Why? Because it's true. The reasons for Him not existing keep coming and going, yet there have always, and will always be a people that are seeing something that everyone else isn't seeing. Not because of any greatness on their part, but because of their desire. Granted, just cause I want God to exist, doesn't mean that all of the sudden he does exist. No...but just because if I were to NOT believe He exists, that wouldn't change the truth.
The beautiful part of all this is that this creator we're discussing is not going to take away that choice. He's going to let us believe, and he's going to let us NOT believe. He wants to see what we do with that belief. And if this belief that you've chosen helps you feed the poor, succor those in need and, in general, spread goodness, then that's all I care about. But this is the best way I know how to do so. Belief in a higher being instills responsibility, and a sense of duty to those around them in taking care of each other. I've seen this happen. You cannot say what it is I have seen, or say I haven't felt what I've felt and heard. But I can say, because I've experienced those things, that you ARE missing out on something. That you aren't seeing, for some reason, what I've seen. You're not feeling what I've felt. That is why I feel bad for you. If your belief's spread more goodness than what religion has the potential of doing (granted not all do so), then spread those beliefs. But I see what beliefs like yours have spread, and I am afraid.
So...yes I do think our "best" (relative) scientists have turned their backs on God. For the same persons that created Calculus, came up with the very laws of physics, and several other fundamental teachings, didn't turn their backs on God. They haven't looked at the evidence, they've ignored it.
Oh, and don't quote Jefferson as if he's credible to you, when you actually believe exactly the opposite of him. Thank you.

FVThinker said...

The idea has stuck around because we are inquisitive animals and we want answers to the unknown. As someone once said, "we prefer a conspiracy theory to no theory at all". You cannot deny that every god-theory preceding your own was wrong. Of all the thousands of gods that have been theorized throughout history, I believe in just one fewer than you.

Again; I cannot afford myself the luxury of believing something based on utility or personal comfort.

FVThinker said...

Oh...and Thomas Jefferson is a hero of mine. He was a deist gave theistic faith little quarter. Many of the founders held similar views. Pick up the book "Founding Faith" by Steven Waldman http://www.amazon.com/Founding-Faith-Fathers-Approach-Religious/dp/0812974743

Anonymous said...

"I cannot afford myself the luxury of believing something based on utility or personal comfort." Isn't that exactly what you're doing by saying there ISN'T a God. Think about it, your views on a God are based solely out of what makes you comfortable, your sense of sight. Just because you can't see Him, you would rather choose that he does not exist because to believe otherwise would be out of your comfort zone.
The fact of the matter here is the way I see it, there's two choices. God or no. You believe there is not enough evidence to prove his existence. Right? (Well to me I've seen and heard more than enough to argue otherwise). But I would like to submit also, that there is no evidence to prove the negation. There is nothing you bring to the table that will say "here, God doesn't exist because of this". Why? Because stubborn deist' like me will say to anything that is proven that these were merely the means for the creation of this world by which this God and Creator went about his creations. Stubborn people like me see science as the "how" and religion as the "why". "Religion without Science is ignorant. Science without Religion is blind."-Einstein.
Yes, there have been many theories behind who God is in the past, but just cause I believe in one, does not mean that I have to reject all others? The different theories of God don't necessarily contradict each other, nor do they have to. Anything that pushes towards a creator, I agree with. Anything else, well....not so much.
"If you can't see God in your life, you ain't looking hard enough." That's the truth, and it does require a little bit of looking outside of yourself. But hey, that would be uncomfortable.

This whole post is supposed to address the "bad arguments" for the existence of a God. But what about the bad arguments of there being no god? We were created quite coincidentally. We're accidents of nature. There was an explosion that created the helium atom, and from there started adding electrons to its outer shells creating more and more elements. (Sorry for my crude understanding of the Big Bang Theory). But ALL of that happened coincidentally. We don't know the reason why it happened. But we know it did happen, and because that is what happened, we can accurately assume that God doesn't exist.

FVThinker said...

Let's make sure we are clear on basic argument theory. 1) We can't disprove a negative. 2) The default position MUST be disbelief. I never claim that I can disprove God. If one decides to believe in fairies, trolls or unicorns, there no way that can those myths can be disproven. Growing up as a believer myself, I looked and looked for evidence that would indicate that there might be some other power that interacts with our world. It ain't there!