Science Doesn’t Distinguish Between “Historical” and “Observational”

A charge I’ve heard from some apologists (like Frank Turek and Ken Ham) is that there are fundamentally two different kinds of science.  There’s “historical” (sometimes called “forensic”) science, which deals with science claims of the past, and “observational” (sometimes called “empirical”) science, which deals with what we can observe. I think the fundamental reason that religious apologists make this nonsense claim is so that they can discredit the science that they fundamentally disagree with (like evolution), while still holding onto the science that they do agree with (like the germ theory of disease.)  I’d like to take a tiny bit to address this claim, and try to explain why it’s nonsense.

All science deals with empirical evidence, because that is what science does.  Science is a rational method of investigating natural causes by examining empirical evidence.  Regardless of whether science is investigating the diversity of life, or why the planets move the way that they do, empirical evidence is all that matters.

Nothing In Science Is Provable

One of the first things I want to get out of the way is that science doesn’t actually prove anything.  Only mathematics and logic can actually prove anything, because that is how analytic systems work.  You start with something and try to show what can be logically deduced from your premises.  Valid logic, with sound premises, means that your conclusion is sound.  Science, on the other hand, being empirical in nature, can’t do that.  Science has to work with induction, and simply doesn’t have the ability to prove anything.

What is important to realize is that while science cannot prove anything, it does give us incredible confidence that its theories, and surrounding facts, are very likely to be true, even if we cannot be 100% sure that the theories are correct.

All Conclusions In Science Are Tentative

Nothing in science is absolute, and no theory is beyond question, because we’re dealing with inductive conclusions, rather than deductive ones.  There simply is no current theory of science that couldn’t (at least hypothetically) be falsified tomorrow with some new data. Why? Because models are a simplification for how reality actually is, and can never be complete. Even the most solid theories we have could be overturned tomorrow with one new piece of evidence that falsifies the theory.

That said, a lot of work has gone into testing every current theory of science, and to make sure that the evidence supports the models.  This is why peer review, and replication, are so critical to science.  If honest scientists, working with what you’ve published, can’t reproduce what you claim to have produced, then your findings should be considered to be in error.

Conclusion

There really is no difference between the science that built the theory that germs are the cause of diseases, and the theory that the diversity of life can be explained by the genetic variations between organisms and that these variations can (largely) be explained by natural selection and mutations.  Both of these theories are built upon models, and the testing of these models.  The theory of evolution stands on over 150 years of hard work done by scientists to support the theory, and that support is now pretty much universal.

The only people who are trying to push the idea that science makes any distinction between “historical” science and “empirical” science are religious apologists, and pseudo-scientists  who are trying to confuse the subject.  These people aren’t interested in real science, or giving out good information.  Their goal is to convince you that you have good reasons to believe their nonsense, and get you to reject solid science.

Please, dear reader, there is no reason (yet) to accept supernatural claims.  Take my advice and please stop listening to religious apologists.  They have very little to offer you.

Investigating The Resurrection

Christians love to assert that the evidence leads them to believe that Jesus really was God, and that he was raised (supernaturally) from the dead.  I’d like to take a look at this and investigate some other possibilities, one natural and one supernatural.

The main problem with supernatural explanations is that we have no way to confirm that any of them are right; We are, effectively, stuck with no reliable way to confirm supernatural causation.  This leaves us in a little bit of an epistemic pickle when it comes to accepting the “Jesus is God” hypothesis, unless one makes some really big assumptions.  One has to assume that God exists, that God has the power to raise Jesus, that God can incarnate itself as a human, that Jesus’ death can serve atonement for sins, and that God would want to do any of these things.  None of these can be known.

Possible Supernatural Alternative

The first I’d like to examine the possibility that the movie Highlander is roughly true.  For those unfamiliar, Highlander is a movie about a bunch of immortal warriors who battle it out to become the last of their race, and the winner gets the prize of enslaving humanity.  Each of the warriors can only be killed through decapitation.  Let’s ignore the bit about enslaving the human race, and just focus on the idea of immortal warriors who can only be killed by decapitation.  If this is true then it’s quite possible Jesus actually understood that he was going to be killed, but that his body would magically recover.  If he made predictions about his resurrection, it could be that these predictions were based on his understanding of his special physiology. Being put on the cross is of little concern because it’s unlikely that he’d die by decapitation.

The most obvious problem with this hypothesis is that we have no reason to believe that immortal alien warriors, who only die by decapitation, even exist. Even so, I would charge that we also don’t know that any gods exist, or that any gods can incarnate themselves into humans, making both supernatural hypotheses implausible.  Until we actually have good reason to believe that either of these scenarios is even possible, what reason should we ever have to accept that they are possible, let alone plausible, explanations for the Easter story?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t accept that the supernatural exists, or that it has any causal power in our universe.  Until somebody can actually establish this, I axiomatically rule out all supernatural explanations as being impossible, because the basis for them has not yet been established.  If you can establish the “supernatural”, and show that it really does have the kinds of causal powers needed, I’d love to see you do this.

Possible Natural Alternative

I think there are lots of possible natural alternatives to the resurrection. I think all of them are reasonably implausible, but I do contend that many of them are vastly more likely than any supernatural explanation. Here’s one natural alternative I’d like to considered: Roman conspiracy.

Consider this.  The Gospels tell us that Pilate could see no reason to find Jesus guilty.  We also know, from other sources, that Pilate was terribly unsympathetic to the Jewish authorities, and would often do exactly the opposite of what they wanted.  Consider this: What if Pilate actually offered Jesus a way to possibly live though his ordeal?  Pilate has Jesus scourged, and put up on the cross, but the scourging was not too severe.  Jesus is then put on the cross, and Pilate also ordered Jesus taken down early when Jesus feigns death.  The soldiers may have been ordered to pull him down, put him in a cloth, and hand him over to the Jews.  Jesus is then moved by cart to the tomb, by the Jewish authorities.

Darkness then comes along, and suddenly it’s the Sabbath. The Romans, not being Jewish, have no reason to obey the Sabbath and open up the tomb, and bring Jesus back to Pilate’s estate, where he is cleaned up, and given medical attention.  After a day, on the Sunday Morning, Jesus is now instructed by Pilate to leave the country, and to never return under the threat of a long, and painful, execution. Jesus agrees with this demand, and plans to go east.

When Jesus leaves he passes by the tomb, and notices a woman who shows up to prepare his body.  That woman is Mary Magdalene, who he greets, and tells her that he’s returned, but that he has to leave.  She’s confused, scared, and doesn’t understand.  She runs away to tell the other disciples.  At this point Jesus leaves the country and is never seen again.

The disciples, having heard that Jesus was seen alive, are also very confused, and still distraught at the death of their friend.  The travel to the tomb, and find that it’s now empty, but they understand that he was killed by the Romans.  Shortly after this they begin having dreams, and other types of hallucinations, that Jesus is visiting them. In one of the dreams, several weeks, or even months, later, Jesus tells Peter that he’s been resurrected by God, and that Peter is to preach this message to everyone who will listen.  Peter begins to preach that Jesus is the raised messiah.  Other people, including the other disciples, begin having visions, dreams, and other hallucinations, that Jesus is visiting them.  All the while Jesus, living in another country, has no idea what’s been happening.  As time passes more and more legendary parts are added to the story, and it slowly changes until we have the gospel stories.

Now, I want to point out that I think this story is an extremely unlikely natural explanation for what happened.  That said, I think it’s almost infinitely more probable than the idea that God, who we don’t know exists or even can raise people from the dead, is the explanation.  It’s also extremely ad hoc, and we have no little reason to believe that Pilate would ever do such a thing.  That said, if Pilate wanted to mess with the Jewish authorities, this might be a way to make it happen.

Now, please, tell me.  What is it about this, and all other, naturalistic explanations,  makes it so much more unlikely that the idea of an unknowable supernatural, all knowing, all powerful, immaterial, space-less, timeless, God becoming human to die for our sins is so much more likely?  I really do have a hard time accepting that the Christian explanation is the best one.

My Biggest Frustration With Many Christians

If I had to point to one thing that I find incredibly frustrating in dealing with Christians about their beliefs is how seriously convicted they are about their beliefs, and how few will ever ask questions to actually understand what point you’re trying to make.  As far as they’re concerned you’re wrong, and they have already found Truth™.

There Is A Difference Between Confidence And Knowledge

I cannot stress this enough.  Just because you are extremely confident about your beliefs does not mean that your beliefs are something that is considered knowledge.  All of the confidence in the world that you’re going to go to heaven after you die, or that the world is only 6,000 years old, does not justify those beliefs.  You can have all the confidence in the world and still be wrong!  As Hume pointed out over 200 years ago, “a wise man proportions his belief to the evidence”, and there is very little that we should have complete confidence in!

What I’d Like To See Change

If I could change anything it would be to have people be more willing to ask questions when they are engaged in dialogue.  It’s like people don’t understand that asking honest questions of your interlocutor can help shed light on what they’re saying.  Being frustrated because the person you’re talking to doesn’t seem to care at all about what you’re saying makes having a conversation painful, and almost impossible to determine what you believe, and why.

Why do I care?  Because I genuinely want to know if any gods exist, and if any person actually has a reliable means of knowing that any gods exist.  While I would accept that a god does exist, I doubt I would join any religious sect, but I really do want to know if what you believe is actually true.  Even more than that, I want this to be a two way street.  I want you to be willing to consider my point of view, and consider the possibility that you’re wrong in what you believe.  Be intellectually honest, and be skeptical about what you believe.

The Moral Argument For God

While not as popular as other arguments, the moral argument is one that I do encounter relatively frequently, either informally with statements like “morality cannot be explained without God”, or more formally with the moral argument which goes:

1. If God does not exist then objective moral values and duties do not exist
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist
3. Therefore God does exist

It’s a fairly simple argument, but one which presents several problems, which I want to go over in this post.

Is Morality Objective?

This is really the million dollar question.  As somebody who holds to consequentialism, I hold that our moral judgements can be objective, but our moral values are ultimately subjective.  Let me try to explain using an analogy:  Suppose that I want to put a screw into a block of wood. If that is my goal then there are objectively good ways to achieve that goal, and objective poor ways to achieve that goal.  If you don’t believe me on this, try putting a screw into a block of wood with a hammer, or a paint brush, versus using a screwdriver of the correct type.  The judgement over whether some action is good at putting screws into a block of wood is objective.  The desire, or goal, to put screws into a block of wood is subjective.

If we’re talking about the values that give us the ability to form moral judgements, then I don’t see how we can be talking about something that is objective. It’s simply not possible. We desire to be healthy, and happy,  but these desires represent our subjective preference. Please note that our values being subjective does not, in any way, imply that moral values are completely arbitrary!  It’s not arbitrary that we want to survive, given that we’ve evolved, and that we have evolved as a social species, over millions of years, to work with others for survival, and that because of this we share many common moral values.  If I want to continue to survive, I really do depend on others and others depend on me.  I don’t want to put my survival into the hands of somebody who is not interested in either mine, or their own, survival.  Please don’t post anything in the comments about how subjectivity means that morality is completely arbitrary, because this is simply a non-sequitur.

What Does Morality Mean To Me

When I’m talking about morality I’m almost always talking about how we, as humans, judge human actions for their consequences with respect to human well being, and suffering. Actions which cause unnecessary suffering are generally called “evil”, and actions which promote well being are called “good.”  I believe this to be consistent with the how the vast majority of humans evaluate morality, even if they don’t consciously recognize this.

Morality Is Not Intrinsic To The Universe

When I talk to some Christians about “objective morality”, they seem to believe that there is something intrinsic about certain actions that makes them good or evil.  I don’t see how this can be the case, and it makes no sense.  It’s like they believe that genocide is wrong because there’s some ethereal force in the universe that makes it wrong.  That even if there were no humans left in the universe, genocide would still be wrong.  I can’t quite express how misguided I think this idea is.

I’m going to come out right here and state, unequivocally, that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with genocide.  I do believe that genocide is wrong, but it is not intrinsically wrong, because such an idea is absurd.  The only thing that makes morality happen is our subjective desire for survival, health, and happiness.  That’s it.  Morality is not some framework built into reality, or a force that makes things right or wrong.

The First Premise Is A Non-Sequitur

The first premise of the argument gets us off on the wrong foot right at the outset.  Even if God does exist, how does that make moral values and duties objective?  How does the existence of God have the power to make our subjective values become objective, and binding?  I really don’t understand this kind of thinking, because even if God does exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.  It’s really that simple folks.  The fact that we have morality says nothing about the existence of any gods, let alone the God of Christianity.

I’d also like to point out that this problem has been known about, for over 2400 years, in the form of the Euthyphro dilemma:

Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?

If the former is true, then God is unnecessary for morality and we can appeal to whatever standard God is using.  If the latter then morality is simply arbitrary.  Attempts to split the horns by appealing to something like “God’s natural”, then we simply end up with the same kind of dilemma.

The Second Premise Is An Assertion

A one that I think is false to begin with. As I’ve stated above, moral values are not objective.  This premise is, as far as I can tell, an assertion with little to no basis in reality. Knowing what I do about Christian apologetics, this is hardly a surprise.  They’re willing to assert just about anything they can in order to try and justify their belief in God, no matter how silly it is.  After all, apologetics isn’t meant to convert those who are not Christian, but to keep those who are Christian inside the fold.

My Challenge

If you are a Christian moral realist, and you believe that moral values are actually objective, can you prove it, and not make any references to God (which would make the moral argument circular)? How do you go about this?  If so, please, tell me what it means to say that moral values are objective, and how you know this to be true.  Assuming you can do this, tell me how these “objective moral values” are only explainable by your God?

Why Do So Many People Deny Scientific Consensus?

A troubling thing that I’ve noticed over the past decade is the staggering number of people who deny the consensus of scientist.  Whether it’s the science on global warming, Evolution, Big Bang, GMO safety, or the effectiveness of homeopathy, you can find a lot of people who hold superstitious, and unscientific, views even when the consensus of scientists is in strong opposition.

At the heart of this problem are a number of factors, each one contributing, but I doubt that any is likely the root cause. I see several likely contributors, but this list is by no means exclusive: Scientific ignorance, the Dunning-Kruger effect, various personal biases like confirmation and self-serving, along with religious influence.

Evolution

Visiting the social media pages of various conservative Christian apologists, I see many, but not all, seem to reject Evolution outright. I don’t know if this is because it’s what they believe, or if it’s because of their fundamentalist audience they want to appeal to.  Even when I find an apologist who rejects Young Earth Creationism, or accepting that Evolution is true, it’s not uncommon for them to receive a lot of flack for not holding to a literal interpretation of Genesis. Interestingly, a January 31st poll, done over at Capturing Christianity’s Facebook page, had about 600 responses with 85% in accepting Intelligent Design, and 15% rejecting it.  I find these numbers to be absolutely staggering.  While there are a lot of mainline Protestants (who largely accept evolution) in the US, there is a scary number of fundamentalists who reject certain areas of science.

Whenever I try to point a creationist towards the very strong evidence we have for Evolution, they will largely deny it and declare it to be non-science.  They’re convinced that some super intelligent supernatural being created life, and no amount of evidence, or even the consensus of scientists, will ever convince these people that Evolution is real, and explains the diversity of life we see today.  As far as fundamentalist Christians are concerned, the Bible is infallible, and we should believe a very literal interpretation about the origins of Humans.

We All Rely On The Consensus Of Experts

None of us has the time, or the capability, to become experts in every single field.  There are simply too many areas where extensive study is required to have enough background to evaluate the evidence.  Science is complicated, and in order to have sufficient background to even properly evaluate the evidence can take at least a decade to obtain the necessary credentials.  Strangely, many people think that just reading a little bit on the Internet gives them sufficient background in order to inform their beliefs.

One of the reasons that science has become so successful is because each scientist is incredibly specialized, and are effectively masters of a very tiny subdomain.  These experts have enough knowledge of their domain to be able to effectively debate, among themselves, the evidence, and the theories that are supported by the evidence.

It is, quite simply, impossible to become a master of every possible domain that we want to examine, and therefore must rely on the consensus of experts to tell us what is most likely to be true.

“But That’s Just An Appeal To Authority”

While this may be a common charge, it’s actually not an appeal to authority to appeal to scientific consensus.  Scientists are almost always extremely conservative, and don’t make scientific statements lightly.  If a scientific theory has the consensus of scientists then you almost certainly have a theory that has been debated, and examined thoroughly, by scientists, and that the theory is strongly supported by the evidence.

It’s also important to note that the consensus of scientists is not a proclamation of truth, as science does not make proclamations of truth.  Science makes evaluations of evidence, and tentatively accepts or rejects theories based on the current evidence.  Any scientific theory could be overturned with new evidence, however, we can be reasonably confident that scientific consensus tells us what is most likely to be true about the natural world.

If you care about truth, and want to believe what is most likely to be true, you really have no reason to reject scientific consensus.

Have I Personally Investigated The Genesis Flood?

I’ve been asked if I’ve personally investigated the Genesis flood, and to show my research.  The person didn’t want me to link to other web sites, but rather to list the evidence that I had that the Genesis flood never happened.

Of course, I can’t do that.  I’ve never personally investigated the evidence for, or against the flood, directly.  I’m not a scientist, and this is far from my area of expertise. I’m no geologist, and short of becoming a publishing PhD (which isn’t going to happen) I’m simply not qualified to asses the evidence.

What I can say though is that I respect the consensus position of scientists in the area of geology that the Earth is about 4.55 billion years old, and that there is no credible evidence that any type of worldwide flood ever occurred.  I also respect the position of geneticists who agree that there is no credible evidence that there was ever a population bottleneck of less than 10 of every “kind” (whatever the word “kind” means to Creationists, because they never give a clear definition.)

The short of the story is that I trust the consensus of experts who, having spent years of their lives dedicating themselves to the systematic study of a particular aspect of the natural world, can look at the evidence objectively, and form rational conclusions about it that are most likely to be correct.  All relevant areas of science are in agreement:  The flood in Genesis could not possibly have happened as described in the Bible.

Doesn’t it also seem strange that neither the Chinese, or the Egyptians, or any other culture, took any notice of their civilizations being wiped out by a super massive flood?

Why I Care About Beliefs

Many times, while engaging with Christians, I’m asked something like “why do you care?  If what you believe is true we just go to the ground and rot.  Why can’t you just leave our beliefs alone?

The answer is really easy.  I care because what we believe matters.  Our beliefs inform our actions, and our actions have objective consequences for both ourselves and others around us.  When we believe things that aren’t actually true we risk causing real harm to other people, including those we care about.  I care about what I believe because I do not want to cause harm to others.  I care about what I believe because I’d be a hypocrite if I told people to believe something that I myself didn’t care about. As Matt Dillahunty has said many times “I want to know as many true things and as few false things as possible.

If you value truth, and you care about yourself and those around you, then it stands to reason that one should try to make sure that all of their beliefs are true, or at least very likely to be true.

I Make Mistakes Sometimes

I’ll admit that I make plenty of mistakes, including mistakes about beliefs.  Even at this moment I almost certainly hold beliefs that are not actually good descriptions of reality.  I hope that these beliefs are benign, but ultimately it’s hard to know.  Knowing what’s actually true is hard, and we make a lot of errors in the process.  After all, nobody ever said that learning was easy.  We should all be willing to admit that we could be wrong about just about anything we believe!

Why I’m A Skeptic

Because knowing what is true is so difficult, and reliable means to establish truth are so limited, I try to be very careful about what I “allow” myself to believe (not that belief is actually a choice.)  Being a skeptic, and forcing your brain to justify every belief, seems to be one of the best tools we have to protect ourselves from bad beliefs, but even that isn’t perfect.

I’m sure all of us like to think that our beliefs are a good modeling of reality.  Nobody wants to think that their beliefs are unfounded, or wrong.  The thing is every one of us almost certainly believe something incredibly stupid, and we’d probably feel embarrassed when we realize the truth about some of these things.  Here’s the rub: we all make mistakes, and it’s very unlikely that anybody is going to stop loving you, or is going to think less of you, for admitting that you held a wrong belief.

Commit yourself to having true beliefs, and always making sure that your most important beliefs are true.  Commit yourself to good epistemological methods, so that we can stop believing silly things.  We owe it to ourselves, and to those around us!

God Or Not God?

When I interact with Christians I often hear phrases like “God will not be tested” and “God is not a vending machine.”  I’m often forced to wonder at exactly what the difference is between a universe where God does exist, and a universe where God doesn’t exist?  After all, it’s not like I can call upon God to perform some arbitrary, and obvious, suspension of nature, since the believer has told me that God is not a vending machine.  I just have to trust that God really does exist, and really does care about what I believe.  Frankly, as far as I can tell, there is no difference between an undetectable God and a non-existent God.

So please, dear Christian reader, how exactly can I detect that your God exists?  If there is no reliable way to do this then I’m essentially forced, by the null hypothesis, to conclude that God doesn’t exist, and Christianity is false.

If you know of some reliable way to detect your particular God, I’d love to hear about it!  Let me know in the comments.

What Would Convince Me That Christianity Is True?

This is probably both the hardest, and easiest, questions for any atheist to answer.  Let me try to explain.

Ultimately, we would need a reliable method of investigation that could establish that any gods exist, and that your particular God, namely Jesus, is what you claim.  This methodology would need to show that this same Jesus lived about two millennia ago as described by your holy book, who is not only the creative force behind the universe, but is also the Lord and Master of the universe.  I’m at a loss, at the moment, to even offer up a suggestion for what this methodology could be.  If such a methodology is ever invented, and can establish your supernatural claims, you could convince me.  Short of that, I doubt I can be convinced.

Christians love to point to the fact that we have lots of people who claim (and went to their deaths claiming) that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, thereby proving that he was God.  The problem is that this is simply a non-sequitur.  Showing that Jesus rose from the dead does nothing to establish the truth of many of the claims of Christianity, namely that there is an afterlife, and that how we spend that afterlife depends on what we believe(d) about Jesus’ divinity and our “sins.”

If you believe you have a methodology that can establish the truth of Christianity I would suggest that you submit it for peer review, and let people who have the expertise evaluate your claim.  When you can show that Christianity is true, or at least very likely to be true, I’m willing to accept that Christianity is true, but not one moment before then.

The Cosmological Argument

I found the following argument on Capturing Christianity‘s FB page.

(1) If the universe began to exist, then the universe has a cause.
(2) The universe began to exist.
(3) The universe has a cause.
(4) The simplest and least arbitrary account of the cause in (3) is a perfect being.
(5) If (3) and (4), then God exists.
(6) God exists.

I have a few problems with this argument, namely the first, second, and fourth premises.  I don’t see why I should accept these premises. I’d like to take some time to explore these premises and show why they may not be as sound as theists tend to believe.

The First Premise: (If the universe began to exist, then the universe has a cause.)

Much like the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA), this argument asserts that if the universe began to exist then the universe would have a cause.  This is, essentially, an inductive premise, but it’s one that I don’t think we have any justification for.  On the surface it seems very intuitively true, yet there are subtle problems that I don’t really know how to overcome.

First, when we speak of things being caused inside the universe, we can talk about how things are made from preexisting stuff and reshaped into something else.  We observe this happen all the time inside the universe as material is rearranged to form new things like cakes, iPhones, and bicycles.  I don’t know about you, but if the universe is a container for all the stuff of our universe, then I don’t see that it makes sense to talk about it being formed from existing stuff.  If it wasn’t formed from existing stuff, what inductive experience do we have that tells us that universes need causes?  It’s fundamentally not like anything else we know about, and any inductive inference seems dubious.

I’m willing to change my mind here, but frankly, there’s a lot of work to do that.  My challenge, to any theist who believes this premise, is to show me that this is even possible.  Demonstrate for me at least one other thing that comes into existence from no previous material, and show that it is being caused.  Determine what that cause is, and then show me that this equally applies to the universe.  I don’t know how to do this.

Given that this first premise seems very dubious, the rest of the argument is already in trouble, but let’s continue anyway.

The Second Premise: (The universe began to exist.)

This premise may be more dubious, and even harder to justify, than the first premise.  Theists often point to established science like the Big Bang (BB) , or to mathematical theorems like the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin  theorem (BVG), as proof that the universe “began to exist.”  If it was this simple then cosmologists would readily accept that the universe began to exist, but the problem is that they don’t.  There is no current consensus that the universe ever began.  Here are a few of the reasons for that:

  • BB cosmology doesn’t actually tell us that the universe began to exist, as there is no consensus on any model that tells us this is the case.  There are plenty of cosmological models which predict that the universe is in fact eternal, many of which have not been ruled out.
  • Our current understand of the BB is not yet complete, and we don’t have a model for the very earliest moments of the universe.  Given that we haven’t been able to model the BB to the earliest moments it seems very premature to declare that the BB must have been the very beginning of the universe.
  • The BGV theorem is simply a mathematical theorem that starts with a particular set of axioms (assumptions) and deduces a conclusion from those axioms.  Start with different axioms, or show that some axioms don’t map onto reality, and the BGV theorem falls apart.  Ultimately, mathematics is only useful when the axioms map to reality, and I don’t yet know that the BVG does this.
    • It’s also interesting to note that Alan Guth’s, one of the authors of this theorem, seems to believe that the universe is probably eternal.
  • I think the most damning piece of evidence against this premise is that it ultimately depends on the A-theory of time (which I will refer to as Presentism from now on.)  Presentism is the view of time that says that only the present exist, and both the past and future do not yet exist.  The problem with this view is that it’s falsified by special relativity, and that Eternalism (that all points of time equally exist, along with the present) would seem to be more correct view of reality.  If the universe is eternal then it doesn’t need any god to create it.  The universe no more came into existence at the BB than a yard stick comes into existence at the first inch.

Given the various problems with this premise, I’m inclined to not accept it as true, at least not yet.  If there ever becomes a consensus of cosmologists that the universe began to exist then I’m willing to grant this premise.

The Fourth Premise: (The simplest and least arbitrary account of the cause in (3) is a perfect being.)

How did the author determine this?  This premise is even more bizarre than the previous two that I’ve highlighted my problems with.  What exactly does the argument mean by “perfect being”?  This isn’t really clear to me, although it’s pretty clear they are talking about the Christian God.

Really now, how is God the simplest, and least arbitrary, account of a cause?  This just seems to be an assertion, and goes way beyond my limited understanding.  The Christian God is far from simple, as it is a supernatural, all knowing, all powerful, mind without a physical brain that somehow exists outside of space, and time.  I don’t even know what it means for anything to exist outside of space-time, let alone be supernatural.  How is this the simplest explanation?  How did the author determine that there are no more simple natural explanations?

How is the Christian God not arbitrary?  Maybe to the Christian it’s not arbitrary, but to somebody who’s not a Christian this seems completely arbitrary.  Nothing has been done to justify this.

Further, my most pressing objection is that if this “being” is actually perfect, then it should have no needs (because it’s already perfect), let alone a need to create a universe, or to create humanity, in the first place.  To purpose that a perfect being does anything seems incoherent to me.

Conclusions

Assuming I was to accept this entire argument, I cannot conclude that the being in question is actually the Christian god Jesus.  This argument, at best, would force me to accept some type of deistic God, and says nothing about how likely this God is to intervene in reality, or how likely it is that this God would incarnate itself in order to come to some backwater of the universe to die for the salvation of humanity.

Even if I did conclude that some God did create the universe, I have no reason whatsoever to believe that any of the world’s religions are true, and I’m still stuck with no way to confirm the claims of any of the worlds religions.  The best I can say is that maybe one of the world’s religions is true, but this doesn’t move me from where I already was.