Seven Refutations: Follow Up

WonkaSeven Refutations got some attention from the oxymoronically entitled ‘Reasonable Faith’ forum. Predictably the majority of replies are scoffing and misdirection but there’s a few bits and pieces there worth replying to, so this is a follow up. I don’t want to support WLC in any way as I think he’s a morally repugnant charlatan, so I won’t be posting in that forum but I’ll address what – few – pertinent points there are here.

1. Why is there something instead of nothing?

Objection: You don’t answer the question!
Counter: ‘I don’t know’ is an answer, you can substitute ‘we don’t know’ if you like. Saying ‘goddidit’ is still a god of the gaps and fallacious however you want to put it. The rest of this objection missed the point entirely.

Objection: False (WLC is making claims, not providing evidence), you’re currently trying to dispute part of his evidence.  To try to suggest that he therefore has no evidence either shows a deficient understand of what constitutes evidence, or disengenoussness (sic).
Counter: A claim (god did it) is not evidence, no matter how many times you claim it is. The deficiency in understanding of what words mean seems to be a big problem amongst apologists.

Objection: Further, isn’t “I don’t know” a tad bit antithetical to the truth? Do you actually care about the truth, or only about making yourself feel like you’re an intellectual?
Counter: It is honest and in pursuit of truth you can’t allow your preference or desire to shape what you think. I care enough about truth not to make things up or settle for shitty arguments.

Objection: “But what about those that think the brute fact that anything exists may be evidence for something else?”
Counter: It may or may not be. If you want to say the universe is evidence for god/Nyx/enormous quantum computer you’ll need to provide evidence.  Asserting it is ‘god’ without such backing is pointless, bald assertion.

Objection: “If you truly knew the arguments for the cause of why anything exists at all (the universe, time, space, etc…) like the Kalam, or the argument from contingency, you’d know that eventually there has to be a first cause to all this stuff in order to avoid infinite regression.”
Counter: I do, I have – in particular – addressed the nonsensical Kalam argument several times before. I reject the assertion that there HAS to be a first cause to all this stuff in general and that it is god in particular. Evidence still required. Otherwise – again – it’s just assertion.

2. Cause and Effect

Objection: You’re not addressing the ‘actual‘ cosmological argument.
Counter: Fuck me that’s a long-winded way of saying nothing at all. Saying ‘contingent’ doesn’t alter the objections to the claim in any way it just means you’re now claiming the universe is contingent and god is not. Still no evidence for a god and you’re now making two claims about two things without evidence. The refutation stands unchallenged even by this long-winded article. In the end it comes down to this ‘Everything has a cause’ may be a simplification but it is the core of the argument that is universal from WLC to stupid creationists on social media. The objections to it apply to every form of the cosmological argument so far presented whether long-winded and pseudo-intellectual or not. Here’s a longer-winded way of saying the same thing from my POV.

Objection: There are no exceptions within the scientific literature.  If you’re refering to quatum (sic) events like the creation and annihilation of virtual particles, then you’re confusing indeterminacy with being uncaused (sic).
Counter: ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous things’. Virtual particle pairs are not to to with indeterminacy. Here’s a brief, accessible overview of how this applies.

Objection: Please address the actual Kalam cosmological argument, “everything has a cause,” is not a part of the Kalam cosmological argument.  Neither is, “everything has a cause, except God.”  These are not premises to the argument, and as such your criticism does not address the argument.
Counter: Not using your preferred phrasing is not the same as not addressing the argument. Also it is by no means clear that the universe ‘began to exist’ in any meaningful sense, spacetime being what it is.

Objection: This argument is flawed from the start. You are implying these are contingent “gods.” Of course, if you are arguing against someone that holds the position that their God is contingent, your argument is a very good one. Unfortunately, as a Christian, I hold that God is uncreated. An eternal, uncaused God. Or, as Aristotle would put it, the unmoved mover. A necessary being that exists by its own necessity. Therefore, your argument is null and void against a non-contingent God(s).
Counter: This is covered in the original refutation being replied to.

3. Design & Complexity

Objection: You’re not accounting for the universe being the way it is.
Counter: Missing the point again. I don’t have to – though there is a lot of science on this it would be besides the point of this post and this counter. This is not an argument from ignorance, ‘I don’t know, therefore goddidit’ is.

Objection: What does my perspective have anything to do with observing nature and seeing that they are finely tuned? My perspective does nothing to change the brute fact that the laws of nature are expressed as mathematical equations, or that certain arbitrary quantities that were put in initial conditions for the laws of nature to run on were so precisely tuned, that it implies a designer like: the balance between matter and anti-matter, or the level of entropy.
Counter: This objection makes a good example of the problem of perspective. You are coming at it with the presupposition of design (still with no evidence, only fallacious argument from incredulity). That something can be described mathematically doesn’t make it designed, that qualities are what they are doesn’t mean they are designed. Fine tuning is ‘puddle thinking’ (ref: Douglas Adams) which is another example of distorting perspective.

Objection: What are you implying here? The oscillating model? The multiverse theorem? Even then, many of the multiverse models can’t account for fine-tunning.
Counter: No implication, just that things are as they are. If they were different they’d be different. We arose fitting the universe, not vice versa. There is no ‘fine tuning’.

4. Objective Morality

Objection: You say there’s no objective morality but you object to Craig on moral grounds!
Counter: No objective morality is not the same thing as no morality.

Objection: Saying there is a possible explanation, but not giving one, is the fallacy known as the Phantom Third Option.
Counter: The point is only that there are many possible explanations and zero reason to think, of this set, that yours is the one. At least not without evidence.

Objection: Also claiming that God rapes children? Have you actually read the bible?
Counter: Yes, and the history and observations thereof. This is why I say this. Mary would have been 12-14 (possibly even younger), too young to give meaningful consent. Furthermore she was not consulted or asked, but simply knocked up (at least according to your mythology). What else would we call this?

Objection: This seems like a rhetorical bluff, please provide information on what science investigates morality, and the relevant evidence.
Counter: For just one example, of many, check here. The objector has followed up in a manner that demonstrates they have no idea what they’re talking about. This – and other experiments like it – show that morality is not unique to humans and is determined by ev psych and conditions. It supports the point that there is no objective morality and that morality is ‘nothing more’ than a result of these things. Along with everything else it utterly destroys the idea that there’s anything objective about morality. The foundation and origin of morality is, like other traits, survival utility. In humans this is at the level of group selection and complicated by the separate evolution of social/moral systems and their exploitation by toxic memes (such as religion).

Objection: You then go on to accuse God of breaking his commandments. First, did he ever say that he was required to follow these commandments? I distinctly remember a “thou shalt” before each commandment.
Counter: If you’re arguing for an objective morality why would you make an exception for god? If the morality is truly universal and objective then it would also apply to god – how could it not? Entering into specific critique isn’t really relevant here save that WLC is trying to assert this one, particular, god. Point is there is no objective morality.

Objection: We really can’t point to anything that’s universally or objectively wrong? Really? What about torturing babies? Is that something that is “OK” at some point or another depending on the situation?
Counter: A terrorist has planted a nuclear bomb under New York and unless I torture the President’s newborn baby girl to death he will detonate it. The greater good is served by torturing the child to death. Perhaps a religious cult sacrifices a child once per year to ensure the harvest and has strong taboos about not doing this. Within their moral system this is not only the best option, but the only moral option, an honour and it would be immoral not to do it from their point of view. Morality is subjective, temporal, conditional. The closest we can seem to approach to objective morality – IMO – would be a combination of Utilitarianism and Epicureanism. The greatest good for the greatest number. That would still be subjective though – humanocentric if nothing else.

5. Ontological Argument

Objection: This does not answer the ontological argument. For one, a perfect roast beef sandwitch can be eaten, and so cannot be perfect. It also relies upon the existence of all the ingredients it is composed of, and so cannot be necessary. Making a mock version of an argument does not refute that argument, it simply refutes your understanding of the argument.
Counter: Reductio absurdum is a valid technique for exposing problems in the argument. A sandwich would not be perfect if it could NOT be eaten and why should there be only one, why shouldn’t it be a regenerating sandwich? For someone who has an imaginary friend you have a shockingly limited imagination. Stop limiting the OmNOMipotence of the ontological sandwich. The ingredients are intrinsic to the sandwich as the various qualities claimed for the god would be. This objection is absolutely groundless.

Objection: Please address the actual ontological argument.  Dr. Craig uses the argument formulated by Dr. Alvin Plantinga; the most charitable I can be of your above criticism is that it might invalidate Saint Anselm’s ontological argument, but the argument used by Dr. Craig is different.
Counter: It does. The rephrasings of the argument don’t invalidate the criticism which can be rephrased to meet every incarnation.
EG: 1.  It is possible that a maximally great roast beef sandwich exists.
2.  If it is possible for a maximally great roast beef sandwich to exist, then a Maximally Great roast beef sandwich exists in some possible world.
3.  If a maximally great roast beef sandwich exists in some possible world, then a maximally great roast beef sandwich exists in every possible world.
4.  If a maximally great roast beef sandwich exists in every possible world then a maximally great roast beef sandwich exists in the actual world.
5.  If a maximally great roast beef sandwich exists in the actual world then a maximally great roast beef sandwich exists.
6.  Therefore a maximally great roast beef sandwich exists.
7. Furthermore this is MY maximally great roast beef sandwich and therefore cannot be maximally great for me if it isn’t here for me to eat it.
8. Where the fuck is my roast beef sandwich?

Objection: You are using an outdated one so there are newer versions. Nonetheless, your argument still fails because it is talking about ontologically great properties of which a sandwich would not participate. Thus, the parody fails.
Counter: I’ve not seen any better ones and the basic problem is that the concept of a thing is not a thing. We can even imagine things which are logically and physically impossible (like various god definitions). The sandwich does not have to be an active participant. It must just be concievable.

6. Resurrection

Objection: JESUS MYTH! LOL! R U SRS?!?

Counter: Before I actually looked into it I assumed, as many do, that Jesus was a real person, just calcified in accrued myth over time. When I actually looked for evidence and applied historical and scientific method though, I found there was absolutely no evidence for him whatsoever. Now, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence but it is suspicious, especially given the contemporaneous historians, diarists etc make no mention and there’s no Roman record. Add that to analysis of the mystery cults of the period and the themes (Ref: Carrier, even though he’s a bit of a dickhead sometimes) and given the mythological nature of every single other religion – including modern ones – it seems a far more reasonable position that this Jesus character is pure fiction. Anyone who wants to claim otherwise is welcome to present evidence (NEW evidence please) that he existed. I cover this problem briefly here.

Objection: You can’t just wave your flag around and say “there’s no evidence” and act like you just refuted an argument. You have to refute the following facts about Jesus’ resurrection by merely naturalistic explanations- 1- Jesus’ tomb was found empty 3 days after his crucifixion. 2- On multiple occasions and in multiple settings, individuals and large GROUPS of people saw appearances of Jesus after He had died. 3- The disciples suddenly went from sheer doubt and depression about Jesus being who He says he was after He was killed to complete and utter confidence that Jesus was who He said he was, even to the point of death. People don’t die for things they know not to be true, and the disciples had the prime position to know whether or not Jesus’ resurrection was indeed true or not.
Counter: That you strongly believe your mythological events happened does not mean that they did. Until you can show that these supposed events did actually happen and were not simply stories, there is no case to answer.

7. Experiential

Objection: For the believer that has the inner-witness of the Holy Spirit, God’s existence is merely an axiomatic truth.
Counter: The same can be said for true believers of any and all religions. None of whom have any evidence. All of whom claim a unique handle on truth. Diax’s Rake applies.

8. Additional

Objection: “I don’t know” isn’t an answer.
Counter: It is an honest one. Having ‘an’ answer doesn’t make it a valid or reasonable answer. Insisting, loudly and at length, that 2+2=6.2759 doesn’t make it any more true. Point is ‘I don’t know’ doesn’t try to cram in an unsupported answer, as theism does.

Objection: Don’t mock us!
Counter: ‘Ridicule is the only weapon which may be used against unintelligable propositions…’ – Jefferson

Objection: You’re so angry!
Counter: Of course I fucking am. Look at all the harm religion does in the world. My anger has fuck all to do with the content of my points.

Objection: You’re a troll!
Counter: No, trolls don’t really engage other than to wind people up but it’s a typical gambit to smear someone who doesn’t agree with you as a troll.

Objection: You just want traffic to your site!
Counter: I don’t gain anything from it. Really, genuinely, I think WLC is a huge wanker and don’t want to support him.

Objection: You’re not using the biblical meaning of faith!
Counter: I disagree. I define it thus: Faith=(belief-evidence) in the religio-spiritual context. Why? Because that is what it is in this context. See number 2 here. This differentiates religious faith from trust or belief, which can be based on evidence while faith is not. Your supposed biblical definition is Hebrews 11:1
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
This is not inconsistent with my definition, indeed, it meets it. Hope is not substantial, hope is a wish that things will turn out in a particular way. Faith then is substituted for substance in this instance, it is not substance itself. The ‘evidence of things unseen’. Things that are not sensed, detected, confirmable are not evidence. Again, this is a substitution.
So faith is a substitute for substance and a substitute for evidence – things that would rationally support a belief.
As I said then, Faith=(belief-evidence)

Objection: WLC is a scholar with impeccable credentials!
Counter: This doesn’t stop him being a wanker or being wrong. As to the things he holds qualifications in, I refer you to Mr Wonka above. Even if he wasn’t an irredeemable tosspot, charlatan and terrible human being none of these ‘accomplishments’ would make him correct. It is possible for someone to be clever in one regard (in this one, selling people on sub-Chopra bullshit) while an idiot in another (logical and rational thought). Lest we forget, one of the most Brilliant scientists in history, Newton, was also a ceremonial magician and an alchemist.

Summary

None of these objections undermine or remove the refutations in any way. We still have claims without any evidence to back them up by the bucketload along with various strawmen. Craig’s arguments are child’s play to dismantle and nothing in these objections has done anything to bolster them.

Seven Refutations

Seven-Dwarfs

Insomuch as is possible I will limit myself to simple atheism, that is ‘I do not believe in god/s’ without involving naturalism, science etc. This is a basic, sceptical stance wherein we require evidence for a god before we believe in one (or indeed anything else). William Lane Craig’s ‘Seven arguments for god‘ keep getting brought up as ‘evidence’ when they’re not evidence and they’re barely even arguments. I will now show why:

1. Why is there something instead of nothing?

Leaving aside the science for a moment, ‘I don’t know’ is a perfectly acceptable answer. Is there a reason? There may or may not be. Is it even possible for there to be ‘nothing’? There’s some suggestion otherwise. Whatever the case, whether there a reason, an actor, a natural force at play or otherwise if you’re going to say ‘god did it’ you need evidence that god did it. WLC only has an assertion which, without evidence to back it up, is useless.

One down.

2. Cause and Effect

Again, leaving aside the scientific examples of exceptions to this this is a poor argument and not evidence. IF everything requires a cause then this must also apply to god itself, leading to an infinite regression of gods each creating the next one. Clearly this is not a logical or rational position. Craig takes up the ‘Kalam’ argument, which I have covered before. This one says ‘everything needs a cause, except god’. Well then, if there can be exceptions then not everything requires a cause.

Even if everything does require a cause that could be natural, one of any number of gods or something else entirely. Asserting it is god doesn’t make it so. You would need evidence to prove that assertion. Again, this is just an assertion and again, without evidence to back it up, it is useless. This is without even getting into issues like the impossibility of cause and effect before time and context.

Two down.

3. Argument from Design & Complexity

Again, ignoring the fact that science can account for the appearance of design and for natural complexity we still find this to be a poor argument. Things certainly might appear designed or special but that’s just our perspective on them. If they were different, they’d be different. If you shuffle a deck of cards the odds of them coming out in any particular order are around 1 in 10 to the power of 68 (I think, the point is that they’re long odds). Yet every time we shuffle a pack those incredibly long odds are made manifest in that particular order. We just happen to observe them in the order they have happened into.

Even then, much of the natural world is interdependent and deterministic, shortening the odds and moves in building cycles.

So, we can certainly say things ‘appear designed’ but there are a multitude of possibilities for this. Again, natural laws and interactions, again, any number of possible gods and again, other things we maybe haven’t thought of. WLC presumes god and wedges it in there because that’s all he can think of. Yet again, this is an assertion. Yet again, this assertion requires evidence to back it up. Yet again, he has none.

Three down.

4. Objective Morality

There have been innumerable moral systems over time. Morality is subjective, conditional and contextual. We really cannot point to anything at all that would universally be bad or wrong (or the worst option) in any and every circumstance. Ignoring the science, again, all we have here is an assertion and yet again, one without evidence. Craig specifically believes the Abrahamic god to be true, and that god has tremendous problems when you look at its morality. It breaks virtually every one of its own commandments, it kills, it lies, it even rapes children (Mary being adjudged to be a child by modern standards). The very split between the OT and the NT undermines this suggestion of objective morality.

Even if there were an objective moral system there are many possible explanations, natural ones, theistic ones and others. Craig fails to provide evidence that there is an objective moral system or that his god is the one behind it.

Four down.

5. Ontological Argument

This one is really rather crazy so why anyone takes it seriously I don’t know. The basic idea runs something like this:

  • We can conceive of an all powerful, perfect being.
  • Existence is a prerequisite of being all powerful and perfect.
  • We can conceive of god.
  • Therefore god exists.

I call this the ‘if wishes were horses’ argument.

Here’s my formulation.

  • I can conceive of the perfect roast beef sandwich.
  • Existence is a prerequisite of being the perfect roast beef sandwich and it is MY perfect roast beef sandwich so it would have to be here right now for me to eat.
  • Where the fuck is my sandwich?

That we can conceive of a thing doesn’t, apparently, mean that thing actually exists outside of the conceptual space of our mind. Physical reality certainly appears to be much more limited. This conceptual being could also be anything from god to Allah to The Great Green Arkleseizure. We can also constantly improve on our concepts over time.

Yet again, no evidence here, just a theological/philosophical mind game that, in the end, provides no evidence.

Five down.

6. Resurrection

Here’s where Craig gets specifically into the Christian god. In brief there is:

  1. No historical evidence for the existence of Jesus, even as a mortal man.
  2. No historical evidence for the resurrection.

In short, again, these are claims which require evidence, not evidence themselves.

Six down.

7. Experiential

Subjective, personal experience is not evidence. Yes, people inculcated into a particular religion may claim to have a particular experience but this varies from person to person and culture to culture. The ‘spiritual experience’ of a Hindu is no more or less convincing than that of a Christian. While we give certain things a pass on the need for evidence (mundane, everyday experiences and so forth) really, we need evidence to rationally believe anything.

Your ‘encounter’ with god is no more convincing than my ‘encounter’ with an Aztec god after having taken mushrooms.

Seven down.

Summary

Every single one of WLC’s arguments are arguments from ignorance (I don’t know, therefore god did it) or arguments from personal incredulity (I can’t believe this happened any other way than god). These are, needless to say, fallacious lines of reasoning. There is no evidence here, just questions into which ‘god did it’ has been crudely rammed on absolutely no basis.

And yet WLC is considered the ‘best’ apologetics has to offer.

The Kalamatous intent of WLC

More Twitter discussions, this time with JustinRGrice.

Justin is a fan of that terrible human being, William Lane Craig who is well known for a) excusing genocide and b) continually restating the Kalam cosmological argument as though it were some trump card.

Justin’s version of the statement was this:

“The universe is all space, time and matter. So the cause is spaceless, timeless, and immaterial… …(and personal, to choose an effect in time)”

Whether you’re Justin or WLC this is all built on a huge number of assumptions which are treated as fact and then you go spinning off from these cherry picked assumptions towards the conclusion that you desire.

My Kalam link goes over the cosmological argument and Kalam cosmological argument but to restate and refute very quickly:

The cosmological argument states that everything has a cause, therefore the universe has a cause. It then goes on to say that this cause must be god, for no readily fathomable reason.

The obvious objection to this is that if everything requires a cause, then this would also apply to god. Meaning an infinite chain of gods creating the god after them. Infinite regress, no solution, clearly nonsense. Plus even if everything does require a cause that cause could be anything, including a naturalistic process. All in all, no argument for god.

The Kalam version of the argument is essentially that everything requires a cause… except god. Quite why this is considered such a ‘gotcha’ I don’t know since you’re now allowing for exceptions – things that don’t require a cause – because you’ve allowed one for god. Again, this could apply to anything, including a natural process.

Both forms of the cosmological argument are, then, self-defeating from the get-go even taken by themselves but this isn’t the end of the problems with it. Modern science is discovering that there are naturally occurring causeless effects. Vacuum fluctuations and virtual particle pairs are one example, atomic decay is another. Indeed more and more research suggests that everything, matter, energy, the universe itself is one big vacuum fluctuation with a net energy value of zero. Positive and negative energy negating one another.

Other research in dark matter/energy and in cosmic background radiation has hints that may suggest the existence of other universes. This would support the many-universe interpretation. We’re not there yet, but the information is tantalising and holds out possibilities.

Speaking to a ’cause’ of the universe does not make a great deal of sense in any case. You cannot have effect following cause without a dimension of time in which one thing can follow another or without space,a context in which it must happen. Since space and time are one and come into existence along with the universe there is no ‘before time’ or ‘outside space’ in which this could occur. Its a null question, a useless and broken concept.

As to immaterial, nobody has yet been able to demonstrate the existence of anything immaterial. Our concepts and ideas, mathematics, logic etc come from observations and extrapolations of our examination of the physical universe. Numbers do not ‘exist’ save as how we name these observations and even the numerical concept is ultimately physical, encoded in the shape and energy of our physical brain.

Mind, also, is physical. An emergent quality of the physical brain. Tamper with the physical brain, you change the expression and capability of the mind. No brain, no mind.

WLC’s arguments are gossamer thin nonsense, spun out of presumption with nothing to back them up but his whim and fancy. There is no case to answer. As Hitchens once said: “That which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

As a courtesy to the chap I argued with I’m including WLCs wonking on about this for a full 20 minutes. I will also include a comedy video that demonstrates the physical origin of numbers.

Bad Arguments for God: Something from Nothing

So, says the theist. You can’t get something from nothing! Everything that exists has a beginning, a cause. So the universe has to come from somewhere. That cause is god!

Wrong.

  1. You can get something from nothing, vacuum fluctuations and virtual particles demonstrate this. There are also causeless events such as atomic decay that show you can, indeed, get something from nothing and uncaused events. So the claim that you can’t is bollocks.
  2. If you can’t get something from nothing, this argument would also apply to god meaning that you’d need an infinite amount of godly regression with each god being caused by a previous god forever, which is just stupid frankly.
  3. Any such cause needn’t be a god, let alone your god, even if you were right about it needing a cause.

Some theists who think they’re wily (the intellectual midget William Lane Craig for example) change this slightly from the cosmological argument (above) to the Kalaam cosmological argument which is essentially the same thing, but changes the wording slightly to say that anything that has a BEGINNING must have a cause and then conveniently says god doesn’t have a beginning. Obviously, this is still a childish argument and still doesn’t work.

  1. There’s nothing to say this uncaused cause has to be a god, any god, let alone yours, it could be anything.
  2. The universe can’t really be said to have a beginning per se as time and space are simultaneous and connected. There’s no ‘before time’ in which for any agency to act.
  3. There’s nothing to say non-existence is the default state of things in any case.Essentially these are all fallacious arguments from ignorance, based on presuppositions about the nature and state of the universe that we’re finding to be untrue.

The flaws of these arguments are so self-apparent and have been demolished for such a long time that it’s staggering that anyone would still use them.

Summary Judgement: Total bollocks.