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Lord Sacks is right: 21st-century atheism is descending into nihilism

Many of today’s God-haters have nothing of significance to say about life

By on Thursday, 27 June 2013

The outgoing Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks (PA)

The outgoing Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks (PA)

There is a superb article over at the Spectator written by the outgoing Chief Rabbi on the failure of atheism. If you have not read it yet, please do so at once.

Lord Sacks reveals himself as a man of great intellect, and one quite understands what he means when he laments the fact that discussion about God has now descended to the level of a school debating society. Atheists are simply not what they once were. There is no one around today who has the intellectual weight of Nietzsche, for example. Atheist he might have been, but he was also a great existential philosopher who thought long and heard about human existence. By contrast, many of the God-haters of today have nothing of significance to say about life. Indeed, many of them claim philosophy itself is unimportant.

But the chief concern of Lord Sacks is the question of morality. Is there a pre-existing moral order, or is there not? Do we create morality? Or as Alasdair MacIntyre once put it: Aristotle or Nietzsche? I do not think there can be a third way. Either meaning is intrinsic to things, or else it is something that we impose on them as an act of will, and nature is completely malleable.

But this last simply cannot be true. There is meaning in the universe which we discover, and which we do not create. Well, how did that meaning get there?

Of course, atheists could argue that these are stupid questions, a tale of sound and fury told by an idiot and signifying nothing. This nihilist position seems to me to be the position towards which most contemporary atheism is tending. Instead of answering the question, the tendency is to mock, ridicule and belittle the question. But the question – What does it all mean? – presupposes that there is meaning of some sort, and it is this surely that should form the basis for discussion amongst all people, whatever their beliefs about God: there should be a common search for meaning and for truth.

The Chief Rabbi speaks of the threat of contemporary barbarism. He is right about that. But if we are to build civilisation, or to reinforce it, we have to have agreed foundations, and where are we to find them, unless in some shared metaphysical belief? This metaphysical belief does not have to be in God, but it does have to be in some shared value. It must at least be based on an admission that values, absolute values, exist.

Incidentally, it has to be admitted, and as a religious person I have no difficulty admitting it, that several avowed theists in our world may well be the sort of people who have no real value system whatever, or indeed may be the proponents of a system of profound ‘disvalues’ (as they are called). Cameron, Haig and others, in their desire to arm the Syrian “rebels”, show a profound lack of common sense, as well as a failure to grasp what is at stake here; they have advanced no proper argument for their position, at least none that would sound good outside a school debating chamber, to the level of which our Mother of Parliaments has long descended.

Right can never be reduced to the concept of “because I will it so.” Right must rest upon some reasoning process, and must have some reference to something that is greater than ourselves. Metaphysical truths represent a break, perhaps the only break on human stupidity, and human barbarism. They hold back the tide, they command us to think again, and sometimes to stop what we are doing. To deny any such absolute truths and values is to open ourselves up the ultimate horrors of the Holocaust, to which the former Chief Rabbi alludes.

  • Spheny

    Philosophy is self-centred anyone following those ideas which they practise will eventually self implode as they not Triune God centred . Philosophy is limited by the human mind .the human mind however clever it was created , is limited by our senses . It is time to realise that our view of the world is limited by our senses and it does not matter how powerful our brain is limiting our understanding of everything unless revealed to us by God the Father ,the Son and the Holy Spirit.
    Any system,idea,philosophy which is created by the human mind ( the self/ego) will never survived and will always self implode . As such atheism will self implode as the best atheist if there are honest disciples will always become more and more selfish ,more hedonistic,more greedy,megalomaniac . Atheism is a belief system that have only two options in the end. It is true and exist or it is false and does not exist. One is true one is a lie.

  • $24570317

    [except this one]:

    Not even the Earth is all that well always benign to human life in some ways: Natural disasters: tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, asteroid impacts, volcanoes, lethal pathogens etc.
    The sooner the human race gets off this planet, maybe the better.

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    Cripes. Are you OD-ing on Red Bull or something?

    1) If you don’t give a monkeys about our delusions, why are you on here rabbiting on in this way?

    2) I have no idea if you personally have, or will, produce the sort of interesting discussion of MacIntyre, Nietzsche and Aristotle in relation to atheism that I’ve suggested elsewhere in this combox spat might well be rather a good discussion to have. But your comment above indulges in the usual Dawkinsian insult fest accusing Catholics of ‘frightened defensiveness’ and ‘delusions’ with nothing of intellectual substance. I rather suspect that most Catholics will be able to weather heavyweight intellectual onslaughts of such a kidney.

    3) .As I’ve said ad nauseam in relation to this current nu-atheist mobbing of the Catholic Herald site and previous attacks, in the end, I suppose don’t really mind nu-atheists sounding off in this way: it boosts the Herald’s website audience and it allows you to work out whatever is going on inside you that leads to a fascination with Catholicism. But surely even you realize that there is something profoundly odd in the need to mob Catholic sites with insults and mockery every time someone says something slightly critical about you? Particularly when the article in question is precisely one accusing you of a ‘tendency…to mock, ridicule and belittle’.

    Anyone, please do go and have a nice lie down. You really will feel a lot better afterwards.

  • dbwheeler

    Never Nietzsche! His admirers always end up killing everybody else. I suppose some of the more lovable atheists such as George Barnard Shaw or Aldous Huxley at least kept a keen sense of humor. Nietzsche and his modern disciples lack a sense of humor and the ability of taking themselves lightly. It’s all heavy going over heavy ground. ugh. What these modern nihilists need is the ability to laugh at themselves and some good belly laughs. Barbarians are never funny.

  • Peter

    Many would argue that some of the above phenomena are necessary in order to keep the planet overall benign to life. Are earthquakes and volcanoes not a sign of plate tectonics which have helped keep the temperature of the planet constant?

  • Peter

    Nothing from de Chardin, just from orthodox Catholic teaching which is that God drew the world (universe) into being for the purpose of creating sentient species in his own (intellectual) image, such as human beings, who would come to know their Creator by the light of reason through a comprehension of his works.

    The inevitability of matter towards life-constituting and life-supporting elements and cosmic rays exposure, together with the intelligibility of the cosmos, support this position.

    As scientific discovery advances, and new discoveries are made such as perhaps that the building blocks of life were created from the elements inside the icy interiors of comets by intense cosmic ray bombardment over hundreds of millions of years as the earth cooled, this will reinforce the Church’s position even further.

  • Peter

    Thanks for the “Strange Notions” link.

    One poster there says that there is no fine-tuning of the universe. It is merely our back-tracking and adjusting the laws of the universe to fit the results.

    I can’t understand that. Stellar nucleosynthesis is an objective reality, as are supernovae and quasars, element rich gas clouds and cosmic rays.

    We know they are objective reality because we observe them as existing in some cases so far away that they existed well before the arrival of man.

    Plainly then the laws of the universe existed as we understand them well before we were around to observe them, which sort of disproves the back-tracking adjustment hypothesis.

  • Tjaart Blignaut

    And someone who makes no points and just insults others is winning the argument? Maybe you don’t understand how meaningful argumentation works. I understand that you are overwhelmed by anger at me for challenging your strongly held beliefs. I also know that you can’t see anything I say in any objective sense, but few here have even attempted to.

    I don’t harbour any hard feelings against you, but I don’t care that you are offended because being offended does not make your ideas immune to criticism.

    The “jesus loves you” comment was a bit of a joke, because the thing I have least experienced is the so called love of christ that christians keep talking about, and the kind of thing I never got from other christians when I was still one. I am so happy that I don’t have to be hateful toward others because they believe differently anymore, and for the record I don’t hate you or anyone else here. JabbaPappa included, even though he takes every opportunity to try and insult and belittle.

    Articles like this one are divisive and backward, and indicate a general kind of intolerance that many of us have to live with daily. It’s no surprise that the comments reflect the same kind of hypocrisy and self righteousness that many of us were glad to leave behind when we lost our faith.

    So when I insult your faith I am not disrespecting YOU, just an idea that you hold. If you are unable to evaluate your ideas objectively and react with aggression every time someone challenges them then that is your problem, not mine.

    Good day

  • Peter

    “there is no indication other than your puddle thinking to make us believe that the universe is purpose built”

    The notion of puddle thinking is flawed.

    All the ingredients for life have existed well before we came on the scene to observe them. We know this by observing phenomena millions of light years away.

    Instead of life being retrospectively adapted to the universe by our existence, we observe a universe which is adapted for life independently of us. It was adapted for life in the past when we did not exist and even if we did not exist now, it would still be adapted for life.

  • Tjaart Blignaut

    If someone keeps barking personal insults at me then sure I will get angry, and maybe a passive aggressive statement will slip through. However considering the abuse I have endured here I think I have handled myself quite well. I don’t understand how my anger seems to be wrong but the overt and constant aggression from people like Christopher and Jabba is acceptable.

    People here seem to not understand that if they are part of any social group, especially one that gets a lot of flack and intolerance, that we will not stand by apathetically as our names get smeared and we get unfairly stereotyped. Our participation in this forum is just an expression of our need to defend ourselves. If this post was “Homosexuality leads to nihilism” or “Feminism leads to nihilism” I would not have been here, but I expect you would have been fighting off the backlash from a different crowd.

    If this was a private forum not open to the public then you can say what you want, but because it is public we are just exercising our speech just as the author here did.

  • Tjaart Blignaut

    What, in your hypothesis, fine tuned the universe for life?

  • Peter

    The order, the methodology and the direction of the universe are signs of intelligence. We can recognise this intelligence because we possess the same kind of intelligence by virtue of the universe being intelligible to us, as it must have been to the intelligence that created it.

    Did aliens similar to us but vastly advanced artificially construct our universe? There is no evidence of other universes so we can rule that out. This leaves, by default, an intelligence which does not reside in any universe, and must therefore be immaterial.

  • Tjaart Blignaut

    “The order, the methodology and the direction of the universe are signs of intelligence.”

    Only if your conclusion leads you to retrospectively apply the evidence. This thinking is no different to the blind watchmaker analogy, except that it has retreated to the edge of the known universe.

    “We can recognise this intelligence because we possess the same kind of intelligence by virtue of the universe being intelligible to us, as it must have been to the intelligence that created it.”

    The leaves do not grow high up in the trees so that the giraffe can have something to eat. Similarly our minds evolved as a survival mechanism in our environment. A mind that did not find our universe intelligible would not have been adapted for survival in it. You cannot therefore logically conclude that finding the universe intelligible is the result of an intelligent universe(or creator).

    “Did aliens similar to us but vastly advanced artificially construct our universe? There is no evidence of other universes so we can rule that out.”

    You cannot, by your own rules, rule something out if there is no evidence for it. You are jumping to a conclusion here. Even if you logically conclude a prime mover, unless you can provide solid evidence for such an intelligence you cannot dismiss other explanations.

    “This leaves, by default, an intelligence which does not reside in any universe, and must therefore be immaterial.”

    There were many thinkers in past centuries who tried to logically explain nature and came to false conclusions, you are simply asking others to believe in your explanation. Faith bridges the gap between your actual demonstrable knowledge and the real answer to the question.

    Science does not have an answer to this question yet, and maybe it never will, but don’t you think it arrogant to conclude that your explanation is correct without evidence, only logical trains of thought based on highly debatable premises? I concede that you might be right, but the probability of a superbeing (complex phenomena) creating a simpler phenomena(our universe) seems infinitesimally low to me, surely because of the vast amounts of absent evidence for such a being and the fact that we generally find the universe working in the reverse order, simple phenomena resulting in more complex structures. To hold faith that such a highly improbable being is real seems to me to be extremely illogical.

    The evidence for an all powerful supernatural being needs to be overwhelming; even if your evidence is acceptable it is merely a grain of salt in the ocean you need to fill. IF you consider your deity to be immaterial and unfalsifiable then your only argument is essentially faith, because a deity that has no demonstrable effect on matter is out of the range of science to discover. Then you are left with saying that it is true because you believe it, and I should just trust you on this one, as you trusted those that taught you in the first place.

  • Peter

    At the end of the day it all comes down to the fact that the universe is intelligible to us, far over and above the necessary requirements for survival in our environment.

    For example, what survival purposes does our understanding of the carbon resonance serve, or of the accretion disk in a quasar? Or of the gravitational radius of a black hole? Or that cosmic particles striking the earth driving evolution were emitted from distant sources millions of years ago? Or of distant supernovae and gas clouds which existed millions of years before did?

    That the universe is intelligible to us in this manner means that it is objectively rational and ordered, irrespective of our existence to observe it and remark how coincidentally suitable it is. This suggests a rational orderer, an intelligence, a mind, who exists independently of us.

    As I said, such a mind cannot live in another universe and therefore must by default be immaterial and therefore, as such, cannot be complex. Consequently such a mind cannot be highly improbable because of complexity. On the contrary, its lack of complexity should make it more probable.

  • Tjaart Blignaut

    “far over and above the necessary requirements for survival in our environment.

    For example, what survival purposes does our understanding of the [...] Or of distant supernovae and gas clouds which existed millions of years before did?”

    Firstly: our understanding of such phenomena was not intuitive, and took collective thinking over thousands of years, methods that contradict our intuition (the scientific method and formal logic), and instruments that measured things that we cannot sense.

    Secondly: We have a particularly bad view of objective reality, as proven by simple mind tricks like optical illusions, differences in our moral judgement based on psychological priming, and various cognitive biases that cloud our judgement. Rational thought is the hardest undertaking of the human species, and without a substantial basis of knowledge we find the world strange and unintelligible, blaming clouds and earthquakes on the wrath of gods. A conscious and collective effort has brought us the intelligible explanations we have now, and we still lack explanations for many things, as your example of the source of the universe illustrates.

    Thirdly: Evolving to survive in your environment does not only mean avoiding lions, thunder storms and poisonous berries. A substantial part of our environment includes members of our species. The peacock’s feathers are deleterious to its survival in many ways, yet sexual selection drives it. Intelligence could have had a strong sexual selection component. Violent competition between neighbouring tribes or local enemies can make intelligence indispensable. More is better, up until the point where you can’t find enough nutrients to feed an ever growing brain or carry the weight practically. Social animals are particularly devious and being outsmarted in a primate group almost always results in your genes meeting a dead end.

    “That the universe is intelligible to us in this manner means that it is objectively rational and ordered, irrespective of our existence to observe it and remark how coincidentally suitable it is. This suggests a rational orderer, an intelligence, a mind, who exists independently of us.”

    That is an article of faith. As far as evidence is concerned you simply don’t have enough.

    “As I said, such a mind cannot live in another universe and therefore must by default be immaterial and therefore, as such, cannot be complex. Consequently such a mind cannot be highly improbable because of complexity. On the contrary, its lack of complexity should make it more probable.”

    By immaterial what exactly do you mean? Something spooky and undetectable? In that case it is something that you either believe or don’t, because it is out of the reach of science. It would be utterly foolish to try and prove something that you have no evidence for. To claim that a mind that materialises an entire universe is not complex is ludicrous. To even attempt to imagine something immaterial even more so. An immaterial mind is unintelligible.

  • Peter

    Since God is not material you cannot perceive him by direct material means. You can only arrive at God by a process of logical deduction, discounting all the impossible until God is the only option.

    If it is impossible that the universe is not designed, and if it is impossible that the designers come from another universe, then the only option is a designer who is immaterial, which also overcomes the improbability-through-complexity hurdle.

    To deny God you must show that the universe is not designed and/or that other universes exist. Unfortunately all the evidence is stacked against you.

  • Tjaart Blignaut

    ” You can only arrive at God by a process of logical deduction, discounting all the impossible until God is the only option.”

    That is too easy for you since you decide what is impossible by no other means than feeling. You started with the premise that there is a god, and deduced through non sequiturs like “the universe is made by a mind because we understand it”(I paraphrase), relying on gaps in scientific knowledge (such as the prevalence of life in the universe and the curtain behind which lies the answer of how the universe came to be), and unimaginatively concluding that life could only exist in the narrow conditions that we know life exists in currently.

    “If it is impossible that the universe is not designed, and if it is impossible that the designers come from another universe, then the only option is a designer who is immaterial, which also overcomes the improbability-through-complexity hurdle.”

    The foundations of your argument are so shaky, yet you make conclusions based on those very foundations. Of course I could make up a bunch of statements like “it is impossible that the designers come from another universe” and then make conclusions based on my assumptions: then! voila! victory! erm no.

    “To deny God you must show that the universe is not designed and/or that other universes exist. Unfortunately all the evidence is stacked against you.”

    First of all, I do not deny god, I merely lack belief in a god. Excised like a vestigial organ. I concede that there is a probability of such a superbeing but the probability is small based on any conventional method of reason (yours does not make any sense).

    Secondly: you have no evidence, only logical conclusions based on dubious assumptions and faith.

    The fact is that like you, I was told that there was a god when I was a little kid and I believed it. At some point however you have to realise that no matter how complicated your rationalisations become (yours is particularly complicated and contrived) that blind faith is untenable to anyone who is intelligent and willing to apply scepticism to every idea they hold, and not just selectively applying it to everything but faith in an immaterial, unprovable god. Not believing in god is a far cry from disproving god or denying in god, it is just the admission that there is no rational argument for believing in something unprovable.

    If the evidence for god was so overwhelmingly strong there would be a flood of corroborating paths to the same conclusion. Your argument has rested almost entirely on one single method. You have a choice: either keep retreating beyond the borders of scientific understanding, relinquish your faith, or admit that your religion is purely an article of faith, requiring no logic or rational thought to conclude whether it is true or not.

  • Peter

    Do you have evidence that the universe is not designed for life? No, while I have evidence that the universe is designed for life.

    Do you have evidence that other universes exist? No, while I have evidence that only one universe exists.

    I have evidence that the universe is designed for life and that it is the only one that exists, therefore the designer must be immaterial.

  • Tjaart Blignaut

    “Do you have evidence that the universe is not designed for life? No, while I have evidence that the universe is designed for life.”

    Your evidence is extremely poor and rests on too many assumptions, as I have highlighted before. You just assume the universe is designed for life because a small blue planet in the middle of nowhere has some life. Your evidence is not compelling enough. You refuse to accept the evidence that points the other way, like the fact that only simple mutating replicators are needed for life to begin evolving and adapting to our environment.

    “Do you have evidence that other universes exist? No, while I have evidence that only one universe exists.”

    Even if a multiverse was proven, you would just retreat your argument further to insulate it from rational inquiry: “what created the multiverse? the multiverse created this universe so life could exist. hence god”. I don’t have evidence of a multiverse but my arguments don’t rest on such far flung theoretical branches of science. It seems that you have resolved the scientific question. What are you doing here? Your nobel prize awaits! Do you realise that you are essentially saying that your faith relies on there being a single universe. What if, hypothetically, another universe is proven to exist in our lifetime. Would you relinquish your faith in a god?

    “I have evidence that the universe is designed for life and that it is the only one that exists, therefore the designer must be immaterial.”

    I challenge your premises, so I reject your conclusion. The greatest difference between our ways of thinking is that you are arrogant enough to assume you are right, while I am perfectly comfortable with not knowing. I don’t care to be proven wrong, in fact it would be revolutionary if there was a god thing! Sadly your evidence consists of the same tired old arguments now with 19″ rims and a spoiler.

    In the most unlikely situation that you actually prove a deity, you will still be a far cry away from proving that your specific one is the one true god.

  • Peter

    See my comment just below concerning your assertion about the the requirements for life.

  • Tjaart Blignaut

    If I missed it then quote it. If I already responded to it then don’t bother. I don’t know why you are ignoring most of what I say. For instance you haven’t answered my hypothetical question about multiple universes. Based on the poor level of feedback I am getting to my arguments I am thinking that maybe this argument has run its course?

  • Ed

    Dostoevsky summed up atheism & nihilism best in “The Brothers Karamazov” with his concise axiom:”if there is no God, everything is permissible.” Dostoevsky claimed that it is not within man’s power to overcome nihilism without God, because without God man will destroy himself. Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot are prime 20th Century examples of Nietzsche’s “will to power” and the egotism and brutality that it produces.

  • Peter

    If you can prove that a realm outside the space and time of our universe exists, not only do you open the door to a multiverse, you also open the door to God. Be careful what you wish for.

  • Tjaart Blignaut

    Just as I predicted. You would just change your arguments. Basically you are giving me no method of falsifying your claim that this god character exists. Because: it is not falsifiable, it falls outside the realm of science and rational inquiry, and it requires faith.

    If you, or anyone else can empirically prove that there is a god… man that would be something! Any increase in understanding is awesome and I welcome it, even if that means there is a god.

    I don’t think the opposite is true. I suspect that you desperately want there to be a god, but unfortunately wanting something to be true does not make it so. I don’t even state the negative, merely that it seems implausible.

    I once was a christian, who thought that god was the grand programmer of an engineered universe made to harbour the human species. I believed it. I had no evidence. When I sceptically questioned that belief it was another step toward losing my faith. Even if that god was real, he would be a pretty cold and distant “mind” floating somewhere out of reach, not having any impact on our daily lives.

  • Peter

    I’ve changed no argument. I’m just pointing out the impossibility of identifying a realm outside of our own space and time. The search for a multiverse by scientific means is a pointless as searching for God by scientific means. It’s best to forget it and admit that ours is the only universe.

    I’m not convinced that God would be a cold and distant mind for two reasons: First, why would God bother designing a universe which we would be capable of comprehending, in other words, where the intelligent life that ensued would have a mind similar to God’s?

    Second, the laws of the universe do not function of themselves; fire has to be put into the equations to make them work. If God did not care about the universe, he would not keep its laws in operation at every single moment and the universe would cease to exist.

    God cares enough about the universe to keep it in constant existence and to create intelligent species within it in his own (intellectual) image and likeness.

  • Tjaart Blignaut

    “The search for a multiverse by scientific means is a pointless as searching for God by scientific means. It’s best to forget it and admit that ours is the only universe.”

    I strongly disagree. Although the point of my question was hypothetical. It was a thought experiment. Please answer it.

    “I’m not convinced that God would be a cold and distant mind”

    Well that is the only god you have managed to put forward so far. To prove otherwise is to prove god’s influence on the material world beyond highly inefficient hypothetical fine tuning of a universe.

    “God cares enough about the universe to keep it in constant existence”

    Except that it is not constant, and will likely end.

    “and to create intelligent species ”

    Fancy creationism and anthropocentrism. You believe that a god exists solely for us? That seems silly and naive to me. Why would an omniscient being find humans in the least interesting. I don’t hang out with salamanders because they have nothing interesting to say. If I was omniscient the last people I would hang out with would be humans.

    Anyway. I am getting way too frustrated to carry this conversation on any longer. You refuse to admit that your BELIEF is just a BELIEF, it’s rare to encounter that level of … erm.. hell I don’t even know.

    You seem truly convinced that nothing can ever convince you of anything. You have not conceded a single point, and just stuck dogmatically to everything you have found to be “Self evident” somehow.

    Case in point: You still engage in puddle thinking, you just refuse to understand it. You have offered no good refutation of that initial argument. You can’t just go “It can’t be coincidence” because that is exactly what conspiracy theorists do, and look at how successful they are at finding the “truth”. You have to have much more substantial evidence. Which you don’t. Hence faith.

  • guestguy

    Why do you say there is no evidence? You obviously have not looked, and assumed there is none. Well you are wrong, the existence of God can be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt. Look into Thomas Aquinas 5 ways.

  • Peter

    If, miraculously, another universe were found to exist, then why not stop at one; perhaps there’s a million, a trillion, an infinite number?

    That would make the multiverse eternal, just as the universe was believed to be eternal by philosophers and scientists for centuries up to the discovery of the big bang, who wanted to do away with the notion of a Creator.

    However, this would not reduce believe in God but increase it, not so much in the Christian God who creates a finite universe, but in a pantheistic god who is one and the same as an infinite eternal multiverse.

    There would be a resurgence of pantheism across the human race, egged on by a scientific justification of their belief, which did not exist when the universe itself was thought to be eternal. Far from contributing to godlessness, an infinite eternal multiverse will promote widespread belief in the supernatural.

    Be careful what you wish for.

  • Peter

    A few more points to clarify your misunderstanding:

    The universe will end, but until then it will be constant.

    God does not exist solely for us, but probably for countless sentient species around the cosmos.

    Finally, I do not engage in “puddle” thinking but in “canal” thinking, knowing that my own channel and therefore the channels of countless canals across the landscape, have been cut out for a purpose.

  • Peter

    What is the meaning of the universe? The universe is fertile for life. Matter is on a one way street to synthesising into the elements of life which, with the help of unavoidable cosmic radiation, can transform into life itself and develop into higher forms. With ten billion trillion stars in the observable universe alone, the likelihood is of a universe teeming with sentient life which, like like our own, is capable of comprehending its workings. The meaning of the universe, then, is for the creation of intelligent life which can know and understand it and , in doing so, come to know the mind of its Designer.

  • Tjaart Blignaut

    I don’t see your other reply for some reason, but I did get it through e-mail.

    What in your view would falsify your hypothesis? What would prove you wrong?

    You previously stated that your hypothesis depended on there being one universe, and you make conclusions based on that premise, but you then deny that the existence of a multiverse will change your mind. In other words your entire line of argument was a waste of time because your god hypothesis does not actually rely on it.

    If there is no information or perspective that would change your mind then why are we arguing at all?

    My comparison to you with conspiracy theorists is also something you must take note of. Just like them, you take disparate facts, abusively correlate them, and then make deductions based on that. Sometimes everything that is claimed to be too much coincidence simply isn’t, and on the scale of cosmology I would expect that trying to connect unrelated values should be a cinch, there are so many to choose from!

    The primary vice of a conspiracy theorist is rationalising a conclusion, instead of rationally seeking real answers. This primes anyone with that mindset into extreme confirmation bias and tunnel vision. You seem to be wholly unable to even comprehend my point of view. It is as if you stare it down with a blank face.

    Sometimes you misread me completely. I have stated that if undeniable evidence for a god was to show up then it would be foolish for me to deny it. However no such evidence has been presented. You have something of a logical proof which in itself is weak, and based on false premises.

    You fail to offer anything more compelling than solipsism does, and even though that is somewhat logically consistent, it does not give us any demonstrably useful information to work with. In short, a solipsist could argue exactly everything you can with the only difference being that the world is all in his mind, similar to my point about simulations.

    WHy believe in naturalism instead of your hypothesis. Well so far every time a spirit has been put behind some natural phenomena, the spirit has been excorsized and good science remained. It has happened every time consistently since the beginning of rational inquiry. I have more confidence in this method than your wild idea. I am sure that early rational thinkers had the same arguments about the sun. Those early proto empiricists had no way of proving that the sun was not a god, so they were beaten down by superstition. BUT THIS TIME it is different right? This time… oh boy you are going to show me!

    It is extremely convenient that science does not have all the facts. I am at a loss for solid scienticific arguments as I am with anti-vaccers, new agers and creationists. I cannot disprove your hypothesis, and I can only attack it on logical grounds. There is a small chance that it is right, but it is ludicrously small, and the only way I see someone defending such a small chance so passionately is because faith fills the confidence gap.

  • Tjaart Blignaut

    Didn’t see this one for some reason.

    All your requirements stem from the assumption that all life works in the same manner as life as we know it. My statement did not assume any of those conditions, simply that if a replicating, mutating entity can start it’s journey then the conditions for life have been met.

    Isn’t it at all plausible that competing types of replicating life forms inhabited the earth, and the most successful one became dominant, cannibalising others. For instance replicators that mutated too slowly, or too randomly. How can we know if we cannot explain abiogenesis?

    Also: was oxygen really that important for life, considering anaerobic organisms?

    Also: What’s to say there are not non-carbon life forms elsewhere in the universe? On what basis can we assume that carbon is required for life?

    Aaaalso: Explain to me why YOU think cosmic rays are necessary for life?

    I think your hypothesis just raises more questions than it answers.

  • Peter

    First you have to explain how a replicating mutating entity came into existence in order to start its journey, and what caused its mutations.

    Abiogenesis is only a question of time. Scientists in Hawai have noted that the building blocks of life could have been created from the elements in icy comets bombarded by intense cosmic rays (without the protection of atmosphere, ionosphere, or magnetic field) for hundreds of millions of years as they wandered around the solar system while the earth cooled. These comets would then have crashed into a newly-cooled element-rich earth, the impact itself creating pressures and temperatures which, according to other scientists in California, would have triggered even more complex building blocks of life. So life already had a head start by the time the earth was ready to develop it.

    Oxygen is important for life because of water.

    Other elements may create life but that would only add to the fertility of the universe, not detract from it, reinforcing the notion that the universe exists for the creation of life.

  • Peter

    Let’s be clear.

    An eternal infinite multiverse is inconsistent with the Christian religion which says that creation had a beginning and is finite. An eternal infinite multiverse is contrary to the Christian God.

    However, far from destroying the notion of God, it would be evidence that a God exists, not the Christian God but a pantheistic God who is one and the same as the multiverse, infinite and eternal. Such a God would not only be plausible but also be deemed necessary as the source of the infinite sets of laws which govern the multiverse.

    As an atheist in an infinite and eternal multiverse, you’d have a far more difficult task disproving a pantheistic God. So for the sake of your atheism and my Christianity, let’s hope the multiverse doesn’t exist.

  • Tjaart Blignaut

    “An eternal infinite multiverse is inconsistent with the Christian religion which says that creation had a beginning and is finite. An eternal infinite multiverse is contrary to the Christian God.”

    So if multiple universes were proven to be true you would cease to be a christian? Christianity is false regardless of that.

    “However, far from destroying the notion of God, it would be evidence that a God exists, not the Christian God but a pantheistic God”
    Unless additional unfounded mystic properties are assigned to the universe pantheism is just a form of atheism because pantheists consider nature to be god.

    “As an atheist in an infinite and eternal multiverse, you’d have a far more difficult task disproving a pantheistic God”

    Infinite and eternal? Sorry but those terms don’t really have meaning. Just because we find multiple universes that would not make it automatically eternal and infinite. Considering that our universe consists of spacetime, there is not even an indication that infinite and eternal are meaningful concepts outside of it. There is no need to disprove a pantheistic god since pantheism is atheistic and nature is god, so a pantheistic god exists already!

  • Tjaart Blignaut

    “First you have to explain[...] ready to develop it.”

    Abiogenesis happens. So what? The way that life formed on earth is quite irrelevant. In fact this entire point is irrelevant because your thinking goes:
    life common: god did it
    life uncommon: god did it

    Why don’t we just abandon this line of reasoning because it is a waste of both our time. If this does not involve a condition to falsify your beliefs then why argue it at all?

    “Other elements may create life but that would only add to the fertility of the universe, not detract from it, reinforcing the notion that the universe exists for the creation of life.”

    So why mention the elements as a prerequisite at all if you admit that life could form with other elements?

    You didn’t answer my question about cosmic rays.

    You need not prove that there are many coincidences, I am happy to concede that (even though I think it is highly contentious). You also need to prove to me that our universe is hospitable to life, clearly that is self evident. What you need to prove is HOW god fine tuned the universe.

    Even proving that there is this god thing does not prove that it is at all the immaterial superbeing YOU claim. Maybe this godlike thing is a natural mechanism of supercosmic evolution. Your defense of god hits a brick wall even if you are somehow by a miracle proven to be right because no more information than “there is this thing that created us” can be concluded from it. Concluding the christian god is a laughable leap of faith.

  • Peter

    Pantheists consider God to be immanent within nature. Thus all of nature, far from being naturalistic as atheists believe, is divine and therefore conscious. Pantheism is the opposite of atheism.

    Infinity and eternity is the inevitable consequence of a multiverse. Take whatever model you want and they all lead to the same conclusion.

    M theory allows for at least 10>500 different universes, could even be 10>1000 or more, and that’s not counting repeat universes. Eternal inflation speaks for itself. The many worlds scenario allows for infinite parallel worlds. The Feynman sum over paths allows for all possible spacetime configurations.

  • Peter

    “In an ultra-high vacuum chamber chilled to 10 degrees above absolute zero (10 Kelvin), Seol Kim and Ralf Kaiser of the Hawaiian team simulated an icy snowball in space including carbon dioxide, ammonia and various hydrocarbons such as methane, ethane and propane.
    When zapped with high-energy electrons to simulate the cosmic rays in space, the chemicals reacted to form complex, organic compounds, specifically dipeptides, essential to life.” (From the Daily Mail, 6 March 2013)

  • Tjaart Blignaut

    “Pantheists consider God to be immanent within nature. Thus all of nature, far from being naturalistic as atheists believe, is divine and therefore conscious. Pantheism is the opposite of atheism.”

    Fine. Keep telling yourself that!

    “Infinity and eternity is the inevitable consequence of a multiverse. [...] The Feynman sum over paths allows for all possible spacetime configurations.”

    I’ve stated before that I am ignorant about theoretical physics, and I have also stated that making nay conclusions based on incomplete science is foolish. Yet you continue. Did you have to learn m theory in order to cling to your faith?

  • Tjaart Blignaut

    So what?

  • Peter

    You asked about cosmic rays. Here is evidence of their function.

  • Tjaart Blignaut

    [edit falsifiable should be unfalsifiable]
    Isn’t that a little too speculative to make conclusions from? Anyhow I don’t even mind if it is absolutely true. Your entire argument is too conveniently UNfalsifiable, and you would just integrate any new information as further proof.

    After such a long discussion I would like to know WHY you are taking part in it at all, since you seem 100% convinced and immovable in your position.

  • Peter

    All the evidence leads to the conclusion that the universe is designed, while there is not one shred of evidence anywhere which suggests that the universe is not designed. If the universe were not designed, despite the overwhelming evidence that it is, there is no evidence of that anywhere. There is no evidence to show that the appearance of design is an accident, none at all.

  • Tjaart Blignaut

    “All the evidence leads to the conclusion that the universe is designed”

    Let me correct that for you. For someone who believed something and then tried to prove it, any fractional amount of proof is enough, because no matter how small, or unlikely, or logically flawed, faith just comes along and fills the gaps.

    What you consider evidence is disputable, primarily because your thinking is flawed. You are an intellectual prisoner of the faith cop out. You have to see that much of the scientific world disagrees with you, and that alone should make you weary of your own idea. To hold any idea that is contrary to conventional wisdom requires immense amounts of evidence, not merely the trickle you provide.

    What’s worse is that your idea is just based on casual observation of the facts. “Look! Coincidences! The only conclusion is that god did it!” Non sequitur.

    Failing to address the argument that any alternative could just as comfortably hide in the shadows of science, like solipsism or living in a computer simulation. Your idea is no more acceptable than the Matrix. You keep skipping over that with the statement “other universes could not exist, therefore that explanation is false” yet in a solipsistic mind or a computer simulation conditions for life are artificially created, not by a god, but some other force in THE real universe, where none of your arguments can be explored because we have no knowledge of said universe.

    The only people who stick so dogmatically to the same arguments as you do are people who do not value rational inquiry, like conspiracy theorists, creationists and anti-vaccers. They also quote scientific articles when it suits them, only to contradict the methods of scientific inquiry by leaps of faith, cherry picking, failure to consider alternatives and most of all their unwillingness to accept that maybe they are wrong. The tragedy is that you can’t see you are doing these things, it comes naturally.

    “There is no evidence to show that the appearance of design is an accident, none at all.”

    Suddenly you are using the exact same methods of creationists (you are just a fancy one after all), demanding the proof of a negative, calling natural science accidental and shifting the burden of proof.

    Please stop using science to enforce your point if you abuse it’s methods so brazenly.

  • Peter

    I repeat:

    1. I have evidence that the universe is designed.
    2. I can find no evidence that it is not designed.

    I challenge you to:

    1. Present evidence that the universe is not designed.
    2. Demonstrate that there is no evidence that it is designed.

    I rest my case.

  • Tjaart Blignaut

    Unfortunately repeating the same bad arguments does not have the effect of improving them.

    Your facts may be correct, but you arrive at your conclusion by guessing. You get upset because I am simply holding you to the standards of scientific evidence when you are trying to scientifically prove god. Where is your reasonable evidence that the christian god exists? We haven’t moved past you trying to prove any deity, you still have the gargantuan task of proving all the other facts that get dragged along with christianity.

    There is NO scientific evidence for god, you need to either accept that and concede that your position is one of faith, relinquish your beliefs because they are not tenable as scientific theory, or hold a dualistic view that everything in the universe can be discovered scientifically, except god. Your current position is logically inconsistent, and it contradicts the teachings of your own religion where faith is held as the highest virtue.

    It’s good that you chose to question your own beliefs (why seek proof in the first place?), but it seems that you got half way through and now are trying to turn around. In order to maintain your faith you desperately need evidence, and you are clinging to anything you can find. That is just my evaluation. I could be totally wrong. *shrug*

    Whatever your reasons, you think it extremely important, because you have carried this discussion on for almost a week now. I have tried to end it out of sheer frustration several times, but you keep replying. I am happy to carry on, as I am happy to help anyone who wishes to find the truth and see the truth as important myself.

    I just have to ask honestly whether you think that this is productive at all? I am sure you have other things to do as have I.

  • Tjaart Blignaut

    As I understand it the church authorities interpret the scriptures and then enlighten the congregation with what they should believe. That is why the catholic church has such an elaborate management structures and red tape. It is the bureaucratic middle man between people and god.

    I could be wrong. *shrug*

  • Rebecca D. Costa