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So Edward Johns, wrote this:
responded by writing this 8-minute article:
After that Edward responded with this: https://edward-john.medium.com/someone-wrote-an-8-minute-response-to-3-reasons-god-cannot-possibly-exist-67d91d36044
I wanted to say first of all Edward- thanks for your time in getting back to me. You write thought provoking and interesting pieces and I’m glad to be able to talk through these issues with a prolific writer like yourself. 3 things I appreciate about your articles: short and to the point, thought provoking and engaging.
Why is there something rather than nothing?
“Why there is something rather than nothing. The universe does not exist by necessity as it had a beginning. The beginning must be timeless, spaceless, immaterial as the beginning of the universe represents the beginning of time, space and matter as we know it.”
How does that in any way prove there is a God? What you say could be true without there needing to be a conscious being that listens to people’s prayers.
Out of nothing nothing comes. When talking about the timeless, spaceless and immaterial you have two possibilities- an unembodied mind or an abstract object (eg. the no 7). Abstract objects do not exist in causal relationships. Given this represents agent not event causation and the effect is not unceasingly flowing from the explanatory cause it illustrates the timeless, spaceless, immaterial unembodied mind is also personal.
Are we more than chemicals?
“The existence of will, intent and mind. These point to the fact one can detach themselves from the chemical processes in their head which make no sense if one is simply a result of material physical forces. The existence of an immaterial cause driving this consciousness would point to God.”
You’ve made two logical leaps here:
- What evidence do you have that will, intent and mind are not possible as merely brain processes?
- Even if that were true, how does it prove that a God created us, watches over us, and listens to our prayers?
For question 1, I have a simple question that shows the intuitive answer. Did you will to write that question to me? Was it purely predetermined by unguided chemicals or did you decide how much time to spend focusing on it and what you miss out on doing so you could write instead (eg. gym, Netflix, walking, socialising etc.)? Sure several factors impact our decisions but there is a big difference between saying we have maximal autonomy and no free will.
If the will, intent and mind are not merely brain processes your only logical option is that you stem from a cosmic conscious like mind (aka God). Mind would not come from non mind, people with intentions and personality from intentionless non personal objects, a purpose from purposelessness.
“If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. Objective moral values exist, therefore, God exists.”
No. We evolved moral values so that we are able to function properly as groups and societies. No need for a God for that to be true. Just the evolutionary necessity for us to be able to cooperate with other people.
Do moral values also evolve? If they progress what do you measure that progress against? Surely history also shows the “progress” is not linear no matter what reference point you use? If you happen to find a more evolved species somewhere or it can be demonstrated some races are more evolved than others how can you say it is wrong to kill of people who are less evolved or deformed if they are holding back the evolution of the human species? How is a shark eating a seal sufficiently different from humans killing each other? Animals have been fine surviving with their values and it could be argued they are better at propagating their DNA.
Also do you believe in objective moral values or not? Some atheists do, some don’t.
I never said you can’t do moral good without God so you’re link is not relevant. You’re confusing ontology with epistemology. I’m not talking about how you precisely you know which moral values exist and specifics around them rather pointing to the idea some objective moral values do exist.
“From a naturalistic perspective, there is nothing much more to evil — say the sheer horror of the Holocaust, of Pol Pot, or a thousand other villains — than there is to the way in which animals savage each other. A natural outgrowth of natural processes.” -Plantinga
“The value of love. It is noble to limit your own wellbeing or survival to help another. It makes far more sense for love to be something objectively good if the universe is created by a loving Creator than by unguided chemical forces which produce life and only the fittest creatures remain even if unloving and selfish.”
Why can’t love just be the result of a chemical process?
Love evolved as means to promote cohesion and thus maximise our chances of survival. If we were incapable of love, we wouldn’t have the same ability to stick together and take care of our offspring. And as I said above, we don’t need God for that to happen. Just the necessity for us to be able to take care of each other to maximise the survival of our species.
If someone is fitter than someone else and their genes are more beneficial to the human race and they choose to die so someone less fit with poorer genes can live is their anything noble about this? According to your view is human love much like the love between two hippopotami just with a bit more time to develop? Animals can do a better job propagating their DNA as I mentioned before. They rape each other, can soon after be friends, then look after their offspring soon after and have no issues propagating their DNA. According to your view there is nothing transcendent, no transcendent beauty through love, art or music, no transcendent laws of logic or mathematics for all of that goes beyond chemicals in an individual’s head at a point in time.
What are the chances?
“The fine tuning of the universe. Alter the concentration of certain chemicals on this planet, the tilt of the earth’s axis, the earth’s distance from the sun, various constants and you have no life. Nothing. The fact this would pop into being from nothing and maintain a state favourable to life, another accident seems highly improbable indeed.”
With the amount of stuff in the universe, it’s almost certain that somewhere life would happen. To say it’s improbable is vastly underestimating the sheer size of the universe.
There are at least 200 billion galaxies out there. This means there are likely about 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets. It’s almost certain that at least one of those would have the ideal conditions for life.
In a universe of this size, we don’t need a God to intentionally create liveable planets. We just need enough rocks spread out in different places.
First of all what sort of life are you talking about? Does chance flip a coin or does it reflect the probability when a coin is flipped? If you have a look at the amount of parameters finely tuned your numbers don’t even get close. You’d have to say it’s more likely you are seeing an illusion than all this came from a few rocks (Boltzmann brain?!). The cosmological constant, the ratio of masses between protons and electrons, the gravitational force, our distance from the sun etc etc etc we could easily name at least 22. Try multiplying these together and see if you get a no under 1 in 200 bn. In The Road to Reality, physicist Roger Penrose estimates that the odds of the initial low entropy state of our universe occurring by chance alone are around 1 in 10¹⁰(123). The cosmological constant being different by 1 part in 10¹²⁰ would lead to non life permitting conditions.
For more info on Fine tuning: https://www.discovery.org/m/securepdfs/2018/12/List-of-Fine-Tuning-Parameters-Jay-Richards.pdf
Besides appealing to your galaxies alone will not do it. How can you know what is producing the galaxies is enabling for sufficiently different life or non life permitting conditions? For example you could produce 100 billion galaxies with a similar range of terrible constants it’s not as if there’s some mastermind altering each galaxies constant by a tiny fraction when they begin to exist under your view.
So let’s get this straight.. You think you came from a rock? Just with enough time, chance and chemicals smashing together?
As the hypothetical poker dealer who deals 20 consecutive sets of 4 aces to one individual in a row says to those who complain, “Possibly there is an infinite succession of universes, so that for any possible distribution of possible poker hands, there is a universe in which that possibility is realized; we just happened to find ourselves in one where someone like me always deals himself only aces and wild cards without ever cheating.” Plantinga, Dennett’s Dangerous Idea
It evolved over a VERY long time. It didn’t suddenly appear or emerge over a short period of time.
There’s a few issues I feel you could be oversimplifying here. 1. Evolution is chemically constrained- it is not an unconstrained random process which you would expect from rocks uncontrollably smashing together. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12468283/
2. Numerous mathematicians have raised the serious concern of billions of years not being enough time for evolution meaning there’s more complexity in play. For example, the conference of biologists and mathematicians (“Mathematical Challenges to the NeoDarwinian Interpretation of Evolution,” ed. Paul Morehead and Martin Kaplan, Philadelphia, Wistar Institute Press; the piece by Houston Smith.)
3. We could go into plenty more but I’m interested to hear how you think an eye could evolve from a couple of cells fast enough that it is of practical use to the next generation? This would need some sort of rapid evolution or emergence to be possible. We have to be careful how far we extrapolate natural selection which are very helpful in many contexts as I feel you have oversimplified things.
Again, none of this is needed to show fine tuning of the universe so we are still very much left with the same arguments which point to God regardless of this point. I don’t think this is critical to disproving your point about God definitely not existing at all..
“Man has free will”.
No, actually we don’t have free will. I’ve explained why here:
I find it rather baffling that people sometimes use free will as an argument for the existence of God. And yet, we can be even more certain that free will doesn’t exist.
Did you will to write this? You’re more certain than ever? Have you got control over that level of certainty? Have you read Bait and Switch by Plantinga which refutes Harris?
Here’s a quote from Plantinga, “Harris is certainly right that we don’t have that maximal autonomy; but nothing follows about our having freedom, i.e., the sort of freedom we ordinarily think we have, the sort required for moral responsibility. What we have here looks like a classic bait and switch: announce that you will show that we don’t have freedom in the ordinary sense required by moral responsibility, and then proceed to argue that we don’t have freedom in the sense of maximal autonomy.”
Can you help finding it baffling? If you can’t and that idea is driven by unguided chemical processes should we take your point seriously? If so why?
Have you asked yourself how you can change your actions and reflect on your past?
Ayn Rand argued in her Lexicon, “A social environment can neither force a man to think nor prevent him from thinking. But a social environment can offer incentives or impediments; it can make the exercise of one’s rational faculty easier or harder; it can encourage thinking and penalize evasion or vice versa.” Thus, by free will we don’t mean maximal autonomy but rather a level of control over your thoughts and focus levels.
“How can you hold someone with no will or intent but who is simply fizzing with predetermined chemical reactions responsible for doing something they couldn’t help?”
Well, that’s the point. Maybe we aren’t responsible. After all, we didn’t create ourselves or the environment we find ourselves in.
Ok so Christians aren’t responsible in the slightest for what they believe or teach and can’t help it? Why try alter their views then? Why speak out against immoral acts?
“If you are the result of accidental chemical processes how can you have intent?”
We evolved over a very long time to be how we are. We are how we are because it enabled us to survive. The intentions we have tend to be those which are best for our survival.
Best for survival not truth according to the principles of natural selection. Usefulness and truth aren’t identical. In which case how can you know truth?
Wait so you have intentions? I thought you just said we have no free will? How can you have intent but no will? You intend to do something but don’t will to? You can alter your intentions but not your will?
“We are a bunch of atoms, like trees, and like donuts.. so, eat a donut, or eat a child. Anything goes.”
This is a total misunderstanding of what humans have evolved into. Eating a child is not the same as eating a doughnut. Eating a child will have terrible consequences for those that knew the child. Since humans have evolved to be social animals, we tend to not like doing things that will upset those around us.
Who or what defines a terrible consequence? What if the child is deformed and it’s genes won’t help with survival of the fittest? What intrinsic worth does it have then under your view?
So you define morality as what makes those around us happy and immorality as what makes those around us upset? If killing babies makes more people happy than it does sad in some contexts is it wrong?
Also how can you hold people accountable for actions if they have no free will? Further if you’re so concerned about what makes people upset what about the studies showing a deterministic mindset is more harmful to society and people are more likely to commit crimes.
When errors do not matter: Weakening belief in intentional control impairs cognitive reaction to errors https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010027713000231
Determined to conform: Disbelief in free will increases conformity https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0022103112001825
Why teach no free will if it makes people upset and more likely to act dangerous as they feel they shouldn’t be held accountable as they can’t help it?
“Conscious beings can be conscious of their own existence. If you were placed in a dark room with no sound of light you would still be conscious you are there.”
Darkness is not nothing. Darkness is still a thing that I can perceive. I would also still be able to feel my body, which is a thing. And I would still be able to think thoughts and feel emotions, which are things. Placing me in a silent, dark room is not placing me in nothingness.
But if you removed all my sensory organs, and my ability to think and feel, I would not experience anything. Not even myself. Pure nothingness would mean nothing at all. Not even the ability to perceive or experience.
Does that mean you think consciousness can exist alone as long as it is linked to physical properties? You seem to have shifted your focus on this point. Please clarify.
“In Christianity, God is Trinity. 3 persons one being. The 3 persons can be conscious of one another even if nothing else is around.”
Prove it. Without referring to the Bible.
I am simply showing how there is a possibility your point is wrong and thus not a definitive proof God does not exist. We could go into Richard Swinburne’s Trinitarian arguments here but I don’t think that’s needed to disprove your point.
“Things only exist when they are observed in quantum physics.”
This doesn’t scale up. The moon is still there whether we look at it or not.
With all due respect Edward I don’t think you have looked into this topic before. Eugene Wigner, a Nobel Prize winner in physics claimed, materialism is not logically consistent with present quantum mechanics. Max Planck who also won a Nobel Prize added, “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
“Oh and a question for you, how do morals, conscious beings and truth exist under your worldview?”
Why are we conscious? That is a good question. Theoretically, it should be possible for us to live without consciousness. Since we don’t have free will anyway.
In fact, how do you know that anyone other than you is conscious?
If no one other than you is conscious and the physical world is an illusion then all is mind and your materialistic worldview is false anyway.
As for truth, why is God required for truth? Things could easily be true without there being a God.
We evolve for survival not truth. You hold to useful ideas not necessarily true ones.
Patricia Churchland ( JP 84, Oct. 87) argues. “Boiled down to essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in the four F’s: feeding, fleeing, fighting and reproducing. The principle chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. … Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost.”
As Darwin’s horrid doubt reflected in his letter to William Graham, “Nevertheless you have expressed my inward conviction, though far more vividly and clearly than I could have done, that the Universe is not the result of chance. But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”
Richard Rorty echoes a similar note in, Untruth and Consequences, “The idea that one species of organism is, unlike all the others, oriented not just toward its own increased prosperity but towards Truth, is as un-Darwinian as the idea that every human being has a built-in moral compass-a conscience that swings free of both social history and individual luck.”
Also one last question to emphasise which I touched on earlier- you say God cannot possibly exist. God is supernatural you are natural. How can you know something outside of your own domain cannot possibly exist when all you can appeal to is the natural?
Thanks again for taking the time to reply- I really appreciate it. I value respectful and open dialogues. All the best with your future writing endeavours.
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