Mr. Rogers God, Pascal’s Lost Wager, The Sneaky Principle…

November 7, 2018

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Here’s a fresh batch of question from you, the readers…

 

Is it possible that we are just humanizing the word God and applying to a human concept instead of a universal energy, force, that mainstay the order and chaos simultaneously?? At the same time the religious people and atheists are both correct in some ways!
Hugo S.

Ahhh, yes… the thinking man’s (or woman’s) God. Maybe you’re a bit uncomfortable with the classic, angry, beard-sporting, genocidal guy who sits on a throne in Heaven and smites anyone who crosses him. (Aren’t we all?) He does seem an awful lot like some evangelical preachers I could name.

That guy – I say guy because we are made in his image after all – is easy not to believe in because not only is he a nut, but he’s profoundly contradictory. You simply can’t be an all-loving father figure and also be this blood-thirsty… unless your dad happens to be Ed Gein.

But I’m afraid good card-carrying atheists won’t buy into your fuzzy, new agey energy force either. The laws of physics in the universe we occupy are just the way matter and energy operate. There need not be any goddish overlay to those laws to help them make sense – even the stuff we don’t understand yet.

That’s classic God-of-the-gaps: Use “God” or some universal (as yet unexplained) energy as a place-holder to the real scientific explanation. A thousand years ago they thought lightning was God’s anger manifest because they didn’t know the science behind it. Now we know that it’s Thor, and not the God of the bible that does lightning.

So no, both groups are not correct. It’s better to withhold judgement than to believe in something indefensible.

Is it okay for a town school department to support one particular political party? (I realize this isn’t really a religion question, but related) The principal of our middle school sends out flyers and FYI emails to a list of parents and teachers. Usually school activity related. Yesterday, he sent out a flyer for fund raisers for 2 Republican candidates from the town. I asked him if this didn’t seem strange to him, he said they had to, because they also sent out flyers for organizations like Girl Scouts. Still doesn’t smell right to me. Is this constitutional? (Is that the wrong question?!) Thank you.
Jim Monaghan

Peeling Onions with Celestia Ward Logo

Your sense of smell is fine. That does stink to high heaven if you’ll forgive the metaphor.

I mentioned this to CFI’s legal director, Nick Little, who agrees that your principle’s actions are problematic. Using his position on the public payroll to hawk his pet candidates doesn’t sound like a reasonable expenditure of our government’s resources. Naturally, this would apply to anyone pushing Democratic (or any other party’s) candidates as well.

We suggest informing the local ACLU about this practice, and dropping a line to the superintendent of schools who oversees this principle. Don’t let that crap go without a challenge!

What is an appropriate response when a Christian says what if I’m right and you’re wrong?

Junk Science of the Polygraph 

My first thought was, “What if I’M right and YOU’RE wrong? Nah nah nah nah nah nah!”

Sorry. I lifted my listening-to-Trump moratorium today and he seeped into my brain.

Reset.

Here’s a more tightly-reasoned response:

“I might be wrong, sure. I’m only human and I may be missing something that would lead me to believe that (fill in the blank with their wacky belief.) Do you have any information that I have not considered that would change my mind? I’m willing to hear it.”

My atheism didn’t get really strong until I heard (and knew the refutations to) the BEST arguments for belief.

Then I might add…

“I’m open to the possibility of being wrong. Are you? What would it take for you to change your mind?” If they say their faith is immovable, then they are closed-minded and are beyond reason.

By the way, if this is about Pascal’s wager, believers should know that we atheists can’t simply pretend to believe in something just because it would reduce some alleged supernatural risk.

If you put a gun to my head, I’ll tell you I had BLTs with John The Baptist yesterday. But I could never really believe that…

How do you explain the Anthropic Constants? I have read The Multiple Universe Theory, it states that there are an infinite number of universes; but the Kalam Cosmological Argument says that it is impossible to have an infinite number of finite things. And the Universe is finite so there can’t be an infinite number of them. And even if there are many of them it still doesn’t explain where they came from.
High school student

The Anthropic Constants – the idea that the universe (or at least earth) is fined-tuned for human existence – is flawed at its core. I’ll get to the illogical part in a second.

It may be true that if the laws of physics or the characteristics of this planet were much different, we’d have a tough time of it or would never have evolved in the first place. But so what?

There aren’t a lot of humans in the Arctic Circle, and there aren’t a lot of polar bears at the equator. Life expands to wherever it can make a living. Places that are warm, wet, and have plenty of oxygen (think Amazon – the jungle not the seller of stuff) are packed with lifeforms. Any environment allows life to move in and thrive as well as it can. Or not.

Stay tuned. We may find pockets of life on Mars or in the liquid oceans of moons orbiting Saturn and Jupiter. If and when that happens, will people think that God decided on one of his 6 days of work to create some liquid water on Europa so some weird creature could swim by our probe’s camera? We now accept that there are billions of other planets out there. The universe may be teeming with life! I don’t see that in the bible anywhere…

What’s illogical about the whole concept of the Anthropic arguments is that they assume a creator/ designer because the odds seem long that the human-friendly universe could have formed any other way. But there may be lots of other universes, some of which non-human life forms may live in. A universe that supports some kind of life — including ours — may not be such a rare thing as you assume. This is speculation at this time, but it makes a point.

(By the way, how do you know the universe is finite? We see it expanding at a faster and faster rate. Where’s the end?)

Don’t think just because the odds are long that there is a creator/designer behind a rare event. If a gust of wind blows a can of paint off your roof and it happens to explode all over the new patio furniture your wife just bought at the OSH going-out-of-business sale, the spatter pattern it would (theoretically) generate would be unique… gazillions to one to ever re-create the exact same pattern. Did this rare and singular event have a creator or designer that fine-tuned that spill? No. It just happened. An accident. Nobody’s fault. Nobody at all…

Christians and believers seem – in my experience – to be uncomfortable with the idea that we just happened… probably because the bible spends so much energy telling them how special we are.

I don’t mind just happening. Nobody is responsible for how he or she got here, so what’s the difference?