This is a reply to Christian Apologist’s rebuttal to “Why I Am Not A Christian” By Bertrand Russell(@lead1225). Her original post is here:
“In all fairness to Bertrand Russell, when he delivered his speech in 1927, scientists had not reached the conclusion that the universe had a start date yet”
I believe you are mischaracterizing Russell’s point.
Notice that Russell never said anything about when the universe began. He said “when the world” began… Clearly, he was not speaking about the planet Earth, but a broader concept. This was a metaphor for what we now call the cosmos – all of existence (to date we have a hard time agreeing on a word for it).
That we have since discovered a “beginning point” for the universe has no bearing on his argument. Whether you call it the universe, the cosmos, the multi-verse, “the world”, you end up with the exact same problem of infinite regression.
At no point did Russell ever say that the universe had no start date. He suggested that the world had no start date, but by the world he meant something far bigger than even the universe. You are artificially restricting his argument.
That we do not know what was before the Big Bang is not in any way evidence for God (you are back to a god of the gaps argument… that somehow our ignorance proves your god). Indeed, we already have some theories, and now multiple pieces of evidence suggest that we may exist in a multi-verse, that there are in fact other universes being created around us.
Russell already anticipated the problem even with multiverse theory… What created the multiverse? Again, our ignorance will be used as “proof” of God, and once again, as gaps arguments have always done, it will have to fall back as we learn where that came from. Apparently that the universe is infinite in complexity, but that our brains are limited–that indeed we ourselves will always have ignorance (that we ourselves are not god, seems proof that there is a God).
This leads us to what Russell was saying… To the best of our understanding there will be no start date for any of this.
Now… The universe appears to be infinite in complexity. Our minds are finite. That we cannot understand how to resolve the problem of infinite regression does not mean that there is no solution. Nor does it mean that whatever the solution may be, it must necessarily be a consciousness, and that God is in fact that consciousness.
Can the universe or the multi-verse be self starting? We don’t know. I have a hard time fathom and how it could possibly be. But the solution of “God” does not solve this problem. Then you can simply ask – what started God? If the answer is nothing, that he can be self starting (or we don’t care). This begs the question… If God can be self starting (or we don’t care), why not the universe? Why add a second, superfluous component?
Further, I think Russell understands just fine that God – as imagined in Christianity – is not subject to any laws. He is pointing out that this creates a conundrum very similar to the problem of evil. If he is subject to no laws himself, then he need not make any laws. That we have laws, as opposed to not, suggests that if there were a creator, he must have some limitations on himself.
Since this is essentially the identical problem to the problem of evil, which I explained prior, I will not expound any further.
“Stephen Hawking states, ‘Thus (for the universe to be 6,000 years old), it would require the direct intervention of God'”
This shocks me.
You agree with him. Either you do not understand Hawking, or I do not understand your objection.
He is simply saying that the laws as we understand them require the existence of the Big Bang, and that we have sufficient understanding to know how we got from there to here. If the biblical timeline of 6000 years is in fact correct, it would require the existence of God, since there is no other means by which we could understand nature as it exists, and have the universe be only 6000 years old.
I do not think you disagree with that statement, it is not inconsistent with your beliefs to the best of my understanding, so I do not know what it is you are attempting to refute. Indeed nothing in that statement is incompatible with your reputation either. As far as I can tell Hawking would not disagree with your description of God – in fact he’s using it himself.
“In this argument, Russell discounts (1) free will, (2) our purpose in this existence, and (3) intelligent design”
I again think you are missing the point, but since I’m not sure Russell made it as well as he could have, I will argue your refutation, not what I think he said or meant.
First of all, there is no evidence for free will, and it most likely does not exist. There is no such thing as randomness – but we function really quite fine operating as though it is real – certainly a coin flip would appear random. The same is true for free will. That there are consequences for our “choices” has absolutely no bearing on the existence of free will. Our actions are the result of an unfathomable number of calculations and complex neural patterns, but they are deterministic none the less. You are no more the conscious author of your thoughts at this exact moment as you read this than you are of me as I type it. An essay on free will is pending.
Secondly, your question as to purpose is a leading question (as it was in your last article, as I pointed out here) – and assumes the antecedent in the conclusion.
Why must there be a reason? The second you argue that there must be a reason, then you have, in the way you’ve framed the question, necessarily defined a “reasoner”. It reminds me of the legal trick “tell me, Mr. Smith, do you still beat your wife?” A loaded question which cannot be answered yes or no without necessarily implying that which may not be true in the first place.
You cannot ask our purpose here without assuming that there is one. You’ve no evidence that there is, I see no reason to believe that there is, and Russell clearly would not accept that premise. I’ll not rehash the argument much further, it’s in my previous reply.
As to intelligent design… There are a number of issues with this… Not the least of which is that if it is indistinguishable from nature, then again, we are simply adding a superfluous element.
It is true that a number of things which we had thought to be vestigial are in fact not. However, there are a great many things which we know have been done poorly because rather than be designed, they evolved.
If you take a look at the recurrent laryngeal nerve you’ll see that it can be as long as 3 feet. However, this nerve goes from the base of your skull to your larynx – a distance of only two or 3 inches. Instead of taking the most direct route it goes down your throat, under the aortic arch, and back again up to your larynx. This is the most circuitous route possible. From a design perspective, it makes absolutely no sense.
In a giraffe, this nerve can be over 12 feet long to reach a target 6 inches away.
But we know how and why it is this long. In fish, and animals without a neck, the nerve takes a straight route. As the neck developed, the nerve was incapable of simply breaking and reattaching itself over the aortic arch. Therefore, as the arch grew further away from the head, it dragged the nerve with it. Thus, you have a nerve traveling 12 feet where it should only go 6 inches.
Does this disprove God? No. Does this disprove ID? No. But again, the burden of proof would be on intelligent designers to prove that there is such a design, and the more we look at the inefficiencies in the human body, the harder that becomes.
“Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”
Ah ha! It’s the only thing that makes possible love or goodness? That can’t be true.
If it’s the only thing that makes possible love or goodness, then god is limited. He must be because he can not find another way to make love or goodness or joy worth having without it.
This highlights the problem of law above, and the problem of good and evil, which I believe you continually underestimate. If god REQUIRES evil for any purpose, then he is not all powerful, you admit upon him a limitation. If not, if all ends from evil can be achieved without evil, then he is not all good. He can not be both.
For a second time I suggest you’ve drastically underestimated the problem of evil argument listed above.
In either case, I am perfectly happy to accept that if there were a God, anything he commands would be good a priori (divine command theory). I would believe that position to be unassailable. However, knowing exactly what he commanded and what is good is a whole another problem. Indeed, if there is a God and all his commandments are just by definition, then our objection to ISIS isn’t that rape, murder and torture are evil, but that they’re praying to the wrong God. If they had the right God, the right interpretation, then they would be doing good.
This leads to a staggering problem – any action is justifiable so long as you can reasonably interpret God as wanting you to do that action. While there are over 50,000 sects of Christianity alone (according to the Catholic encyclopedia), only about 3000 are communicative of other sects (meaning that they believe that they alone understand salvation, and other Christians are going to hell). That Christianity itself cannot agree on what is right and what is wrong is one of the fundamental problems, both with divine command theory, and with religion in general.
I’m told at least five or six times a week by someone that “true Christians would never [insert moral act here]”. I never fail to ask them to define what makes a “true Christian”, I’ve never met a Christian that did not have a well rehearsed and prepared definition, and I’ve never seen two definitions completely identical.
Thank you for your time.