Thursday, March 12, 2009

The return of the breakdown: Number of Gods Issue

This is a summary of the number-of-gods subject. I sincerely apologize for neglecting this subject and this whole blog for months. Other things were going on.
Here is the outline, approximately.

Number of gods issue:
If one is most powerful:
And if they always agree
then the result would be indistinguishable from the effect of one god
If one is most powerful
And if they disagree
then the most powerful could annihilate or restrain or diminish the others; there would then be just one God
or the most powerful could freely choose to compromise or mitigate the effects of the actions of the others, but the results would include a universe with compromised, varied laws and patterns that don't hold. This is not the case. Conclusion: There are not many gods of unequal power and in disagreement among themselves.
If all are equally powerful
and if they always agree
then the effect would be indistinct from that of one God
If all are equally powerful
And if they ever disagree
then they would always agree to disagree and compromise
or there would be an endless war among them, resulting in a disjointed and chaotic universe with laws hostile to intelligent life anywhere due to constant breakdown in the laws of nature. This is not the case. Conclusion: There are not multiple gods of equal power unwilling to work together.
If there are many gods who always agree
Either they would work as a harmonious team
and then there would be no way of distinguishing the result from that of one god
or they would have specialized domains and functions in the universe.
In which case the universe would be disjointed and its rules and patterns would vary from domain to domain.
This is not the case. Conclusion: There are not multiple gods controlling the universe together with separate domains.

The evidence says there are not:
Multiple gods with varying domains and conflicts (Classical paganism).
Apathetic gods with major areas of domain.
Anti-human gods with major areas of power.
A single apathetic god.
A single anti-human god.
An impersonal force (God as something that{whatever}; God as a way of {whatever}; God as the best aspects of our emotional lives etc.)
No God.
An incompetent or error-making God.
A totally controlling God.
A limited God.
However many gods there are, we know we have:
At least one, loving, pro-human, involved, conscious, individual, limitlessly powerful and wise, freedom-giving, eternal, uncreated, either lone or fully cooperating, gods or God of everyone and everything all the time forever.

Let us now bring Occam's Razor to the situation. This is a principle that one must not assume entities beyond those necessary to explain all the data. Though it isn't an infallible law of reason, the Razor is used because it tends to produce right answers more often than the opposite principle. People argue all the time without resolution about how many and which entities are necessary to account for all the data, so it can't really even be defined whether one is using the Razor correctly.
However, suppose a house stands in a field with the door open. Knowing nothing else about the case, should we assume someone has a home in a meadow and has opened the door to air out the house? Or should we decide that there is a Cub Scout meeting inside a house that is really just the upper story of a much bigger, mainly subterranean, clubhouse with the meadow around it a sprouting alfalfa field by which the meeting house is supported? Well, the data of a house in a field with the door open can be accounted for by the first hypothesis. If we then learn that there are many signs pointing to the house, the meters say it consumes several times more electricity than a normal house of the apparent size of it and a Scout's badge has been found near the road, say the neighbors, then the second makes sense.
Likewise, the laws of nature and the patterns in the universe suggest no more than a single God of the description I've given above. One, loving, intelligent, individual, rule-making, rule-keeping, rule-giving, life-loving, creative, humanity-sustaining, humanity-helping, humanity-teaching, communicating, merciful, caring, involved, conscious, eternal, almighty, wise-beyond-any-possible-mortal-wisdom, unchanging, consistent (and therefore consistently good, consistently wise, consistently right) God exists.
In the next segment (sorry once again about the delay) I'll start discussing the Incarnation.
Let me summarize a few of the major fallacies and frauds the New Atheists and New Age Movement seem to be competing to put forth as fast as they possibly can. These are just some of the common ones, so don't fear the end of the fallacy record. It will go on a long time.
Straw man
a. "The Bible didn't fall from the sky."
b. "Science shouldn't be forbidden."
c. "Didn't you know there are other belief systems?"
d. "Priests/ministers/pastors aren't perfect."
e. "Sex isn't a bad thing."
f. "Why have you decided against reason/thinking for yourself?"
g. "Why do you base your life on hatred and bitterness against non-believers?"
h. "Do you really think you're the good people and we're all bad people?"
i. "Why do you want everyone else to go to Hell so badly?"
False dichotomy
a. "What this comes down to is blind faith versus clear independent thinking."
b. "Do you believe in acceptance of everything anyone wants to do or are you a hatemonger who wants to control everyone's life?"
c. "So you admit there are different beliefs, and now you're abandoning yours at last? Make up your mind; either your beliefs are the only ones to exist or someone else is right and you are wrong."
d. "There are two kinds of people in the world. There are people who think for themselves and believe in freedom of thought and there are people who join cults to escape from the pain of thinking. The first are atheists and the second are religious people. Which are you going to be?"
e. "So you would side with people who torture and kill for inquisitions and crusades and conquests, not with peaceful indigenous peoples who just want to worship nature and be let be? Why?"
a. "Over ten million/ 40 million/ 330 million/ a billion women were killed by the Church in the witch hunts, which targeted intelligent independent women, Gnostics, nature lovers, surviving Wiccan herbalists, healers, midwives…all to solidify the Church's male-dominant control over the whole world."
b. "Didn't you know that the pagans were the ones being killed for saying the earth is round into the early Renaissance? And the Church has never officially retracted. To be a Christian is to side with people who think the earth is flat and the sky is a bowl and the sun and moon fly overhead every day. How can you be so ignorant?"
c. "Over ten million/ 40 million/330 million/ a billion people were killed in the Inquisition for disagreeing on trivial theological issues."
d. "The Crusades and Inquisitions were frenzies of anti-semitism."
e. "The Church persecuted and murdered Copernicus and Galileo for saying the earth wasn't at the center of the universe, because they were threatened by the challenge to the what the Bible says about man being the only intelligent being."
f. "Why do you support the Church when it breeds more child abuse and domestic violence than any institution in any culture on earth?"
g. "You don't see child molesters working for Buddhist/ pagan/ New Age/ Hindu/ skeptic/ atheist groups, only for Christians."
h. "Atheists don't start wars or kill those who disagree with them."
i. "If religion is so great, how come atheists give more to charity?"
j. "Islam and Christianity are the same religion, and look at the record of Islam in human rights"
k. "The Bible was written in the Fourth Century to preserve the political power of a tiny secretive group of men who wrote it in a highly secret council. They killed all the witnesses to the previous belief systems and took over the world by brutal bloodshed. A remnant of Gnostic/ Manichean/ pagan/ other people hid in the woods and passed on their secret knowledge. All the religious wars in history have been an attempt to wipe that fragile remnant off the planet, but NOW the truth can be told at last."
l. "Why doesn't God heal amputees?"
m. "How come no one has claimed any of the prize money for proven miracles? It shows there are no miracles, doesn't it?"
n. "Atheists have higher IQs."
o. "Religion put Europe into the Dark Ages and it is now what keeps the Third World poor."
p. "Without religion, the Middle East would be at peace."
q. "Religion promotes unhappiness."
r. "No reputable scientist is a Christian and few are religious in any way."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Flowcharting the religious stream of consciousness, part II

So you rounded the rapids and bounced off the rocks. Now we can take another couple of bends in the theological stream.

We left off with the question of whether most supernatural power is good or bad, tending to help or harm life.
We exist. Many living things exist. If beings who wished to wipe out life (or even just didn't care to let it thrive so much) wielded the majority power or had an even match with those who want life to prosper, we would be dead by now. Life has blossomed a long, long time now. Nothing has ever wiped it out.
So, the natural, the supernatural and life exist, the supernatural is conscious and the dominant supernatural power loves life, including us.
Was the supernatural involved in any way in our coming to existence?
If not, we must explain abiogenesis, the appearance of time, space, energy and matter from a pure singularity -- wait! Come back. It's exciting.
Before the universe began, the state of things (rather, of nothing) was what we call a singularity. This is a condition that cannot be truly remade without ending the universe. But we have made almost-singularities, and true to theory, change doesn't happen in them without outside intervention.
It doesn't help to run away to another universe, either. The question of what changed the singularity just follows us from level to level like an opponent in a video game, popping out of the light fixture and facing us. Quantum theory has no escape either. Nor relativity, which is what tells us the singularity was absolute and therefore totally unable to change without intervention.
The change had to come from somewhere when there was nowhere, something when there was nothing, somehow. What if there was Someone? Our chance to come to be depended on Someone who wasn't subject to the laws of nature, but sovereign over them -- Someone supernatural, above the natural.

Once in a while you may still hear the terms "evolutionist" and "creationist". These are outdated ideas, because it's a very rare creationist who doubts that species change, and a rare evolutionist who really totally accepts the random-accident theory of everything. What most of us are is eveationists, or crutionists or whatever the term ought to be. We live on a long continuum of choices in how much supernatural intervention we understand to be needed to bring us where we are. The key facts now stand: The greatest supernatural Power, Who loves us and loves life, invaded an absence of energy, matter, time or space to bring into being a universe that can support life, and then kept that universe from destroying itself. A Creator, Sustainer, supernatural ally of life and of humanity -- God.
Let us devote the next post to reasoning about how many gods may exist.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Flow Charting the Religious Stream of Consciousness

A flow chart is a chart with questions and answers. Like the children's Choose Your Own Adventure series, each answer directs you to a result or another question.
Let's kayak this flow starting with a religious question.
Does the supernatural exist?
If you choose "No", you must explain the origins of the life-coddling, harmonious non-eternal universe, the origins of consciousness, the origins of self-sacrificial instincts that transcend species, the origins of reason, the billions of reported miracles with no motivation but that those reporting them believed them, often corroborated by strangers with no contact, even by footage and medical records and the like, and why our brains have the faculty to experience the supernatural, and benefit from doing so, when all our other built-in observation faculties are there to help us perceive reality to survive, and when delusional thinking is extremely maladaptive. If there is a "God delusion", why is it built-in, adaptive and found in everyone? Especially since it can lead people to choose celibacy and early death?
Personally my own lifetime of empirical observation makes naturalistic thinking utterly impossible anyway. I've seen far too much to believe in a naturalistic universe.
If you choose "Yes", the next question is:
Do any supernatural entities have consciousness and free will?
If you choose "No", you must explain why the universe just happens to favor life and conscious life so overwhelmingly, why the conscience exists (again, beyond and in conflict with survival instinct, and trans-species), why so many millions have had independently corroborating experiences of communication and protection by unseen beings and so many millions have had independently corroborating experiences of attack by unseen beings, both often with material evidence.
If you choose "Yes", the next question is:
Are the most powerful supernatural entities for humanity or against us?
If you choose "Against us", you must explain why we are here.
If you choose "For us", that leads us to some questions for the next post.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Today's Atheist Fallacy: the False Dichotomy

Are you a reasonable person, or do you disagree? Is this an essay, or is it on a computer screen? Do you believe in reason, or religion? Do you attribute the behavior of the universe to natural causes,or supernatural?
Get your cold, stale false dichotomies while they're -- well, while -- well, anyway, there are plenty of false dichotomies around and plenty of people trying to sell them to you. If you are among the majority of people worldwide who have had supernatural experiences (no, Richard Dawkins, we're not talking about something done in a lab with electrodes), you are likely to meet many "new" atheists who pelt you with false dichotomies as part of a barrage of fallacies. Call them every time, even if the atheist screams and act as if he can't hear you. Call them. Say, "False dichotomy, false dichotomy, false dichotomy," until he stops to gasp for air and wonders why you haven't disappeared yet. Then you can show him gently what a false dichotomy is and how he has been using some.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Today's Atheist Fallacy: Argument From Ignorance

Ironically, it was outspoken atheist pop science TV personality Carl Sagan who said, in his book The Dragons of Eden, "absence of proof is not proof of absence." He spoke of space life. He easily handed to the mere extraterrestrial what he refused to grant to the supernatural : a reasonable probability that it was there and simply hadn't announced itself to everyone yet.
Sagan searched for answers to questions he thought all humanity had failed to frame intelligently so far: What is consciousness? Are we alone as self-aware, planning, moral beings? Is this world, or the universe, purposeful? What matters most? Why have we a desire to do more than survive and pass on our genes, even more than to acquire wealth and social standing? Why is there trans-species self-sacrifice? Who has seen what nature normally does not do -- and what really happened in these cases? Are we merely another part of nature or separate from it? What hurts when we try to live as if we had no souls, what is that emptiness, why do we find it intolerable? Is there a soul apart from the body? Where did everything and everyone and everyplace first come from? What makes a thing alive? When is a person a person?
He deserves some admiration for devoting a whole career to asking such questions, and for occasionally speaking of his own smallness and ignorance to the whole world, his audience. We should all be as willing to be small before the giant hole strewn with fire and rocks our planet spins through.
But he was no scientist. Science means always looking at the evidence and always letting it speak for itself; seeing what we want and what we don't want with the same straight-on gaze; consistent logic, equally level when applied to easy puzzles and to tough ones. He buckled when faced with what science could never address adequately. He would have been even more admirable if he had bowed before such mysteries as did Einstein, Schrodinger and Newton, and confessed that his sextet could not measure such spans, his needles spun helplessly before the gravest quests.
The argument from ignorance means putting one's worldview into the spaces between things one knows. Those who use such an argument look for spaces into which to wedge their theories. They feel surer of themselves when they deny evidence because less proven is less of their opinion crowded out of the puzzle.
Proof of absence is more than absence of proof.
It is impossible to prove a universal negative.
If I said there are zebras in my room, you could, if you were in my room, search for them. On finding no zebras and no room for zebras you could announce that it was false -- you had proof of absence of zebras in my room.
However, if I said there were zebra-unicorns, you could search the whole world, and even if you turned up no evidence of zebra-unicorns, it wouldn't prove there were none. One could have been born while you were searching elsewhere. There could be some hidden in a place that formed after you left the area. You might just have kept missing them. Even if there were none on earth, there could be some elsewhere.
If I could bring you one zebra-unicorn, and you could examine her and see that her horn was real and hers, a zebra-unicorn's existence would be established. But the absence of any would never be able to become solid knowledge.
Sagan didn't believe in God. He said everything anyone ascribes to God could be credited to some other origin. He had no proof of God. He violated Occam's Razor by ultimately multiplying factors prolifically to get rid of the need to include the supernatural. Many atheists do the same thing.
Here's a hypothetical example: A woman with a known, documented tumor in her ear goes to a faith healer and it vanishes. Her doctor confirms that it is gone. She announces the miracle. An atheist steps in to say the healer was merely a hypnotist using the suggestibility of crowds to make her feel healed. He posits that her doctor was getting a bribe to falsify the records. He says even if she never paid the healer and even if she was actually penniless, her family must have bought the phony miracle. Even if shown that she has no religious relations, the atheist will say she has been paid secretly by some organization. The lack of evidence of such will just be dismissed. He will fold his arms tightly, stick his lower lip out, squint, shake his head slowly and say, "You never proved to me that she even had a tumor. It's a blob on a piece of X-Ray film. Lots of doctors are wrong all the time." If you take him to the healer and his own broken toe is healed as he enters the room, he will say there is no proof it wasn't a coincidence. Plenty of bones heal after a delay. Granted it was a fantastically improbable coincidence that it would heal at that moment, but he will not accept any supernatural explanation. He will point to miracle after miracle and state in serious tones that in one room at one moment twenty people had mass hysteria, including several who came in skeptical, and had also somehow bribed or brainwashed their own doctors and medical staff all by sheer happenstance, ten were just ready to heal by coincidence at the same hour, five had been in mass hysteria despite no contact with or awareness of each other over a period of many years, and four are pathological liars, all just happening to come up with identical lies at the same time despite having nothing to gain but a moment's attention, and laying out travel expenses. He will posit sheer conjectures of mental processes that might exist, all to explain away part of what he sees here, part there, piecemeal until he cannot piece any more pieces and then he will say there are "lots of things that could be happening here," suggest vaporously that someone is irrational and something is all explained somewhere, refuse to explain anything further and walk away hugging himself. After deciding the evidence isn't evidence to him, he is likely to announce that "so far no one has been able to prove anything" supernatural and then he will say it is irrational to believe in the supernatural, for it has never been proved. Thus, he suggests, it has been proven not to be.
This Gordian Knot is a defense mechanism against recognizing his mental helplessness in the face of something -- indeed most likely Someone -- all his knowledge can't come close to comprehending. It would humble him far too much. Emotionally, he might not be ready.
Respond with reason and let him walk away if he gets too upset. He will wonder and one day, if he is intellectually honest, he will ask again, and perhaps let the facts speak.
Even if the atheist will not acknowledge proof, at least he must finally admit that absence of proof is not proof of absence, a universal negative canot be proven and the argument from ignorance is just an ignorant way to argue.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why DOES God Heal Amputees?

God Heals Amputee
A Spanish farm worker reportedly lost a leg -- and regained it.
Miguel Juan Pellicer, a farm laborer in the region of Valencia, Spain, had his leg amputated from four fingers below the knee in 1637 when a cart wheel fractured his tibia, according to the website of Clairval Abbey. Doctors removed the leg to prevent gangrene from spreading throughout Pellicer's body.
Pellicer spent the next three years begging, praying, attending daily Mass and smearing his right leg with oil from lamps that burned before a statue of the Virgin Mary.
In 1640, he returned according to custom despite his disability to his hometown, Calanda, to help his parents with the harvest. March 29, a feast day commemorating a visit from the Virgin Mary the townspeople believed had taken place in the area of Calanda, saw Pellicer struggle on his wooden leg to load baskets on a donkey for his family. Pellicer went to bed early. A soldier had taken Pellicer's bed and he set up a pallet on his parents' floor. The cloak under which he slept exposed his lower legs. Between half an hour and an hour after Pellicer lay down to rest, his mother entered the room. She smelled sweet oil. When she looked around, she saw two legs on her sleeping son. Pellicer's parents told a notary that they believed that the Virgin had prayed to God for the miracle and God had given their son a miraculously restored limb.
Pellicer paraded through the streets with a procession that included doctors and the local mayor. One hundred witnesses testified to the reality of the miracle. Their accounts matched.
The restored leg had scars and other wounds matching those from injuries Pellicer had received on his right leg over a lifetime. It was initially less strong than the left, but in three days both legs functioned well and looked healthy.
The leg had been removed three years previously, in a time when surgical limb reattachment was centuries in the future. The technology to reattach the limb and enable it to function didn't exist anywhere on Earth at the time, yet the leg worked perfectly.
Posted by Serena Rainey at 6:30 PM
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