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:

“…A few months ago, I encountered an atheist on Twitter who posed a challenge. He would read my favorite Christian author if I would read his favorite atheist. I was hesitant to agree…because I was fearful that something they would write would challenge my beliefs in a way I found uncomfortable. After some prodding, he finally convinced me to read Bertrand Russell. In exchange, he read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis… Afterwards this particular atheist, “Facepalmer,” wrote a rather long rebuttal of C.S. Lewis. I found Russell’s ‘arguments’ against God to be unsubstantiated. It was at this point that I was inspired to read rebuttals to other atheists’ arguments, since I figured I had seen their best in Russell…” ~Christian Apologist (@lead1225)

 

“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.

The God of the Gaps argument on which this relies can be found here:
Again, a primer on the problem with prime mover arguments can be found here.
The Problem of Evil argument, which is posits the identical problem to the “laws of the universe” argument, can be found here.
Evidence for the multiverse, as I pointed out last time, can be found here. More non-existent evidence is here.

“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.


These and other significant problems with Intelligent Design can be found here.

“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.

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Warren Kincaid
Member

Your logo simply has a spiritual component. The fact that you chose it for precise reasons links you to a spiritual nature that cannot be denied (actually it strengthens it). If the simpler reason is usually the right reason why does the complicated “scientific” explanation of a determined choice win over a free will position? The details can be the same… the conclusions can be different. I thought we already agreed on that definition.

Warren Kincaid
Member

Does anything change in the universe if we do have free will? Evidence in human behavior would suggest we do have it. Since when did we start to worry about simple explanations? To see the “spiritual component” within the details (and act on it) is a choice made by everyone. Again… I’ll point to your Logo.

J.S. MacLean
Member

The idea that questioning the idea of free will suggests that things happen with no reason is silly and just a dishonest ploy. I think we all have a general idea that we have the experience of ‘choosing’ but to link that to ‘God’ is just silly. The world is full of mystery, no need make up purely imaginary ones.

J.S. MacLean
Member

Exactly who is assuming free will?

Leonard Vine
Member

He’s my man !……https://youtu.be/tP4FDLegX9s

Bob Claxton
Member

Lacks depth. Fine for one individual to turn off the lights and ignore the obvious but does little to explain the majority of view of the world that disagrees. Even in the obscure reason “perception is reality” the majority perception cannot be dismissed. “Why I Am Not A Christian” is an ancient (90 year old) argument that does not hold water today. It probably really did not in the age it was considered but what one person accepts or rejects is and why is difficult to explain and of no value to the majority.

Warren Kincaid
Member

I’m always intrigued by the Atheists necessity to destroy the concept of “free will”. We don’t live that way, teach that way or nurture that way. Simply giving a scientific description of how we think something works does not mean that we don’t have power over it, or that it somehow doesn’t exist. “Free will” must be linked so closely to the existence of God that Atheists are scared of it.

Warren Kincaid
Member

Please use the direct and simple definition of “we” and “I” (just like you used it to me). However, it is possible, given the same details, to see a spiritual component in them….or not. And that’s where free will comes into play in a conversation like this. You may say that as an Atheist, science and a strictly humanistic understanding stands at the top (what else could there be?). I may say that science and humanism answers to, and is existent beholding to something above it. Same details, different conclusions. I’d claim that there’s a spiritual component both inside and outside the brain before we even attempt to define what a “spiritual component” is. It appears to be something mankind cannot divorce himself from. Not even denying it fully removes one from the “component”. No offense to you… it just seems to be the way things are. Even your FB home page logo seems to have a strong spiritual component to it. (it’s trying to tell me something that strict science cannot). This falls way short of defining any sort of religion. It only prods at the “free will” choice of seeing a “spiritual component” in details… or not, of course. And of course “free will” is not confined to only this subject.

Warren Kincaid
Member

I have no problem understanding free will at all. I hope my children love me out of a free will to do so and not some scientific theory that sterilizes it. Even when they don’t like me very much, they still chose to love me. It’s not about the scientific equation that leads us to where we are. It’s how we interpret the details. We have the free will to interpret and internalize things one way or another. Same details, different results. In that process we find free will. I don’t know how to put it any simpler.

J.S. MacLean
Member

These are just words. Sure there is the preception of free will…we all get that. But choosing the red shirt over the green one is not really free. The choice is limited, you cannot know all the pertinent information, and the decider is changing each instant. You cannot stop ‘deciding to actually ‘decide’ as the moment you do you limit the freedom. So yeah we all know what you are talking about but don’t trot it out as some proof of something completely unrelated. Cogitating is fun sometimes and is generally useful.

J.S. MacLean
Member

For indeterminism try radioactive decay, entanglement, and the general complexity of predicting something that does not yet exist. It might work well in the Newtonian world but at other levels, not so much. Chaos and probabilities are alive and well.

Warren Kincaid
Member

I think it’s the ultimate choice to do one thing over another. Of course it will be based on how a person reasons and views things obviously, but “free will” stands apart from a pre-determined point of reference that is solely based on a scientific definition. We seem to live in a time that everything needs to line up with science or be given a science based explanation. And somehow that science-based explanation disproves the existence of “God” in the biblical sense. I don’t buy that line of logic. Science seeks the “particulars” of how things are and how they function. I’m good with that as far as science can accurately describe them. But “universals” stand behind the particulars (just like laws stand behind actions). Free will is a human universal that is evidenced by our behavior, no matter how it’s scientifically explained. If anything…. “free will” proves that we are not pre-determined and we have the freedom to see things in a new light and change direction whenever we want. This moves us to the next step that we probably call “evidence”. ps: when I say “mean”, I mean what I mean. We have free will to look at our world and draw our own conclusions. If our conclusions don’t line up, or fail to complete what we see or think we understand (as we’re never mentally standing still) we have the free will to draw other conclusions and act on them. To me… the denial of free will is a cheap attempt to close the door of “choice” in the name of a scientific precept. Perhaps it’s semantics but the Atheist view-point seems to cling to it pretty heavily. I have my suspicions as to why.

Warren Kincaid
Member

Then why do Atheists deny the concept of free will so adamantly?

J.S. MacLean
Member

The whole ‘free will debate’ is silly. Obviously decisions are based at least in part on knowledge and experience so not totally free. On the other the world is not totally deterministic either. We do not understand the very space and time we live in, why make up crazy crap when we are still working on the basics. Physics is way more wonderful than religion’s inventions.

Warren Kincaid
Member

Respectfully… I am of the opinion that you used free will to state your views. If you did not, then they mean nothing as you were already pre-programmed to do so. How could you do any other? I, on the other hand, have been given the right to free will and have the option of acting on your words or not. Thanks.

John Termaten
Member

God gave man free will, but when he saw what they did, he did not liked it and drowned humanity. It is not me who is living scared, It is you. I for one do not need an empty promise for the after live. I live my life as a humanists, and good person. If your God wants me to praise hem every hour in the day then your god is to self centered and vain .

Pat Mc Ginley
Member

How do ‘believers’ reconcile the Bible account of human origins with the fact that most people have some Neanderthal DNA because some humans migrating from Africa – the birthplace of human evolution – mated with Neanderthals? Further proof is the fact that Africans whose ancestors never left Africa have no Neanderthal DNA.