Thursday, July 28, 2011

Andrew the Atheist's thought on the Angry Atheists

I think background helps a lot.  It helps give perspective on why the opposing side holds the opposing viewpoint.  It gives clarity into what needs to be said, and what does not.  See, now that I know you've attended christian schools, I know we share that in common, and I don't have to describe the level of indoctrination that goes on there.

I just want to clarify why the atheist is more likely to both comment here, and be angry.  First, why are atheists more likely to be here?

Most atheists I know, and certainly myself, would really like to see an argument from a christian, or any believer, that we have not already heard and considered.  One of the objections to going over all the apologetics at my atheist group meetings was that it's so easy to just google them.  Spend some time at wikipedia and you'll be an expert.  They are all the same; we've heard them before; they never change; and even after they are refutted to peices, they come back.  And NOBODY is conviced by them, not even believers. 

Because the arguments are used so often, and the rebuttals are so easy, and we all tend to hang around people that agree with us, the atheist is hungry to test these rebuttals in a real debate.  We go looking for people that seem intellegent enough to debate, and wonder how in the world they have never considered the opposing side's argument.  And everyone loves a train wreck.

Christians, by contrast, have little to gain from these debates.  Especially if they are going against an atheist who can clearly outgun them.  Just look at what happend on Empire Avenue.  Phillippe's blocked me.  Frank can do nothing but insult me as he rambles blibber blubber. 

If you think that you have the truth, and try to share it with an atheist, and get torn to bits because the atheist knows your argument better than you do, you stop wanting to share it with atheists.  Better to try other brands of christians instead.  At least they partially agree, and they only disagree on things that cannot be proved through science, and therefore there was no good reason to believe them anyway.

Atheists are angry because we see real HARM that comes from religion, in particular christianity, though other religions are dangerous as well.  When Harold Camping makes people beleive that the world is going to end, that's real harm.  People lost their life savings; one lady tried to kill herself and her children.  That's BAD, and it happened because a religious nut made a nutty claim that held some credit because of a religious theme.  That's just one example.

So I'm not surprised that the atheists are flocking here.  And I'm not surprised there are angry comments.  And I, too, am disappointed there are not more christians here.  But I am not surprised.

Tim, The Christian's, Background

Fair enough regarding the need for introductions. In some sense, I object, because in a very real sense our backgrounds are irrelevant. In other words, I hope that people will analyze the merits of the arguments themselves, rather than look at the background of the person who is making the argument. Nevertheless, I am willing to talk about my background so you do not believe that I am shirking the issue.

I got my B.A. in philosophy from a Christian college, Westmont College.  Philosophy includes many other things besides apologetics, but because I was at a Christian college, apologetics was a major emphasis.  As a result I am very familiar with the arguments for the existence of God, and I am fairly familiar with opposing arguments. I have read a lot of the major atheists from Nietzsche to Freud to Darrow.   I also have had some discussions with modern atheism proponent, Sam Harris.  Until recently I lived close to another Christian university, Biola, and have taken several master's level apologetic classes.  All that being said, I have knowledge but wish I had more, and there are plenty of people out there who can defend the positions I am taking better than me.

I also was, until recently, a trial attorney, so I am used to a good argument.

Unfortunately, I agree with your assessment that most atheists are more well read than Christians.  To be honest, it troubles me and disturbs me.  It is evident even on our blog so far.  We have had one Christian comment and all the rest have been atheists.  I have been trying to figure out why that is the case.

I will say that most atheists I know, and it is even apparent from the comments, are surprisingly belligerent and angry.  I find that often they fail to directly address the argument and instead choose to become defensive or viscous.  I do not mean to offend when I say this, but I think it is because for most atheists, atheism is their religion.  I do not think that about you, however, and thus I was willing to do this blog with you. So far I have been pleased to note that you, for the most part, address the arguments.  And I have been very pleased about the civility of the discourse. 

So here is to an open, honest and civil debate. Like you said, I believe we are off to a good start.  I have been disappointed so far about the lack of response from "my side", but nevertheless, think that we have a good thing going.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Andrew the Atheist asks: How much do you, Tim, know about apologetics?

Things are really taking off on this blog, and I'm really excited.  But before we go too far, I wanted to ask a question that will bring to the front some background on both the debaters here.  I think introductions are overdue.

Atheists, certainly THIS atheist, are often accused of being angry, arrogant, close-minded people.  I did a blog on this here.  It appears as though the atheist dismisses the argument out-of-hand, without really considering the idea.  I don't think this is what is really happening.  I think that the atheist has heard the argument before but the believer has never heard the rebuttal. 

For example, in a comment, someone said that evolution works like putting parts in a box, shaking it, waiting, and out pops a watch.  This is so common an argument that I should be surprised the poster has never heard why that statement is absurd.  But I doubt that she has.  I would not be surprised if she has no idea.  This is what brings me to the question I've posed.

I am an apostate, not just an atheist.  I attended 12 years of private catholic schools.  I had multiple classes on the old and new testaments.  I even attended something very similar to jesus camp.  I know the bible.  I know the claims of christianity.  I know the arguments for christianity.  These are reasons why I am an atheist today. 

The first-cause argument, the ontological arguement, the argument from design, the cosmological argument, the lord-liar-lunatic argument, Pascal's wager, and a few others the titles of which I forget are all very familiar to me.  I've held classes on them.  I've argued both sides.

There was a Pew study about a year ago that showed that atheists and agnostics are FAR more knowledgable about religion than believers.  I think this is because most atheists have at least heard some of the claims of christianity, and have found them lacking.  However, I have found it is perfectly possible to be a believer, and never know why Pascal's wager fails.  Some don't even know what it is.

So the question here is simple, yet I hope the answer is long.  How familiar are you, Tim, on apologetics?  Why are you a christian?

If you want to read my apostasy story, it's in three parts.
Part1, Jesus Camp
Part 2, Finding my religion
Part 3, Falisfiable Evidence

Tim, The Christian's Rebuttal: Is Science The Only Source Of Truth

Let me begin by saying I am surprised at all the things that we agree on:

1. Yes, you were correct as to my definition of truth, that is, "what is 'real'".  The question, therefore, which I posed can be restated as, "How do we determine what is real?".  The main point of my post, however, was simply that science is not the only way to determine what is real.  Science cannot deal with certain things.  You rejected the love claim. I am not sure that I agree with your analysis, but for the sake of the argument, another example of what science cannot speak to is ethics. It is always and has always been wrong to commit murder (note that I said murder, not kill).  That is an "absolute truth", that is, a truth at all times and in all places.  It is a truth, however, about which science has nothing to say.

Science relies entirely on empiricism.  According to science, the only things that are real are those that we are able to touch, feel, see, and smell.  Empiricism is a valid route to discover truth, at least most of the time (we can always think of times when our senses have failed us).  Empiricism is not foolproof,  however, and it is not all encompassing.  My only point is that it seems to me the atheism relies too heavily on empiricism and does not allow for truth being arrived by any other method.

Will you agree that the scientific method is not the only source of discovering truth?

2. I am thankful that you do not object to my argument that it is false to say that there is no God because He cannot be necessarily proven via the scientific method. I believe, however, that this is a common position among atheists.

3.  We also agree that religion does make claims that can be scientifically proven.  I do, however, reject your example about proving "energy being release upon dying because I have never seen or heard any such claim by Christianity.  Currently I cannot think of an example, but I do think that Christianity probably makes some claims that are provable via the scientific method.

4. You are correct that I am attempting to "have my cake and eat it too" (is that so bad?).  Science is an important tool to arrive at the truth, but it is not the only source.  I do not completely discount science, however, and I believe that science points toward a Designer.  Now, in some of the comments, people have taken issue with that, but I am confused as to why.  All I am saying is that based on the intricacy of the design in nature, it makes it more likely that there was a Designer.  I choose to believe that Designer is what you would call the Christian God, yet, I am not making that claim in this context. All I am saying is that it is more rational than not to believe that Someone or Something designed the world we live in. Neither you or any of the commentators have provided me with an argument that contradicts my argument that it is more rational to believe in a Designer of the world than to believe we came from a primordial soup.

I would close this first round by simply asking, "Can we agree that science is not the only source of truth?"

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Andrew, The Atheist, Answers The Opening Question: What Is The Source Of Truth

I dig this beginning. First, I think we need to establish what we mean by "Truth". It seems to me that what you mean to say when you say, "truth", is "what is real", or what can be described as "reality". So to re-phrase the question for the purpose of my answer, the question can be stated, "What are the means of detecting what is real? Is science the only way to detect what can be described as reality?" If you meant something else by "truth", disregard the following and clarify, please.

The next term you use almost interchangedly is "absolute truth". I've no idea what you mean by this term. You seem to use it to say that science changes its views. Perhaps you mean to say that because science changes its views, it cannot be trusted. If so, this will be the first point I contend. To do so, we need to understand what science is, and what it is not.

Science is a method we use to determine what is real through hypothisis, tests, results and conclusions. To be sure this is a simple definition, and to be sure the method is far from perfect. But to date it is the BEST method we have for detecting what is true. Imagine if I claimed to be able to see through walls. How would you determine if my claim was true? Before any test was determined, you should be able to predict if my professed ability is or is not real. Then we would test it. We would compare my results to a standard or control. Then we would repeat.

Now in this example, would the results be conclusive? No. Perhaps the experiment was flawed, the standard wrong, the execution compromised. So many things could skew the data. More tests, more data. Over time we should get a better and better idea if there is any reason to suspect there is valididty to my claim. Though I would expect very shortly there would be better evidence that there is no reason to think I have the ability to see through walls.

Now love is very commonly used as an example of something that is not measurable by science. This is actually a false claim. Science can measure the chemical reations in our brains that cause love. Science can provide evidence that mothers have a very specific chemical reation in the brain when they hear the sound of their child's voice, or see a picture of their child, or smell the child's clothing, etc. We have the ability to see into the organ that houses emotion, which is the brain, not the heart.

The idea the science has nothing to say about heaven, I think, is misplaced. The argument is usually that science and heaven are in separate "magisterium" (don't kill me for the spelling). The idea is that religion and science cannot intersect at all. I think this is flawed. Religion often makes claims that can be tested by science. Is there some mystical release of energy at the moment of death? Science can answer that question. The answer is no. Is there a magical place beyond the sky? Science can answer that question. The answer is no.

Finally, I would take issue with the one who says that we cannot prove God through the scientific method, therefore, He must not exist. I am not saying we can prove God through the scientific method. I am arguing, however, that science points toward a Creator" This quote, I think, illistrates the "have my cake and eat it too" kind of argument you are making. You want to use science when it suits you, but when it contradicts what you want to be true, you dimiss it as unable to reach the "truth". Still, the statement is better phrased, "If we cannot prove the existance of god, we HAVE NO GOOD REASON for believing he exists." You may have bad reasons, but without evidence, you have no good reason for believing it. Finally, I want to say that I see nothing in existance that points to a creator. However, let's say for argument's sake that I do. Fine. How do you differenciate between potential creators? What makes your god a more likely creator than the flying spaghetti monster? The invisible pink unicorn? Giants? Titans? Cosmic turtles? The problem is that when you allow for a supernatural answer, ANY supernatural answer will do. One creator is just as likely as another. This is why intellegent design is NOT science. It offers no testable hypothesis. All it does is make a claim: the universe had a designer. It offers no evidence, has no explanitory power, and fails utterly.

QUESTION ONE: What Is The Source(s) Of Truth? Or Is "Scientific Truth" The Only Source Of Truth

Andrew, my first question is what are the sources of truth?  Another way of asking that is, "Is science the only true source of truth?"

I think that atheists put a lot of stock into scientific truth and argue that because God cannot be proved scientifically, then He cannot be proven at all.  I think this is wrong for two reasons. First, science does not reach ultimate truth. Second, there are other sources of truth beyond science.  Also, science ultimately points toward a Creator.  So on one hand, I am arguing that science is not the end all of truth.  On the other hand, I also argue that if one wants to rely on science, ultimately it points to God.

Society tends to view science as the ultimate search for truth, and that "scientific laws" are absolutely true.  I am not so sure this is correct, however.  For example, we used to think that atoms are the smallest, most basic elements that make up everything. Now science is telling us that atoms are comprised of strings, and that the elements that make up everything are some sort of harmonic string theory.  The point is that there are few, if any, "laws" in science which will not be disposed of as science continues to investigate things.  Our society lauds scientific truth, yet that truth is rarely absolute.

Also, science cannot speak to certain things. For example, it is true that a mother loves a child, yet it could not be proved scientifically.  There may be evidence of love such as hugs and kisses, yet, science cannot measure the content of a person's heart.  Science, therefore, is not the only source of truth.  Recently, Stephen Hawking made headlines by essentially declaring that there was no heaven.  Yet, science has nothing to say about the existence of heaven.  There is no way to discover heaven through the scientific process. Thus, the atheist reliance on science to say that God does not exist is misplaced.

Finally, I would take issue with the one who says that we cannot prove God through the scientific method, therefore, He must not exist.  I am not saying we can prove God through the scientific method. I am arguing, however, that science points toward a Creator.  For example, I believe it is more rational to believe that God created the earth (perhaps through a Big Bang) than it is to believe that we came to exist through some primordial soup.

Are you willing to admit, then that science is not the only source of truth?  Are you willing to admit that science points to a design and that, therefore, there must be a Designer?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Welcome To The Debates

Welcome to our blog.  Andrew is the atheist, and Tim is the evangelical Christian.  We have never met in person, but have already had lively debates online concerning faith versus atheism.  This blog is simply an expansion of those debates.  We will argue back and forth, and hope that you will be willing to enter into the fray by posting comments.

Let the debates begin!