Probability vs Atheism

keep-calm-and-estimate-the-probability

Atheists have two basic arguments for the non-existence of God(s). The first is the problem of evil. God is omnipotent, omniscient and all good. If God as such exists, how can we explain the existence of evil? A good God would not create evil, an omnipotent God could erase evil and an omniscient God would find the evil wherever it tried to hide. After all, what sort of God would let my grandma or son or pet fish die? The religious thinker explains this by concluding that evil is secretly good (but should still be punished), which if you squint hard enough and invest heavily in tequila, becomes only 70-80% ridiculous.

The second argument is that God is an unnecessary hypothesis. The sky might have been purple before the first bacterium evolved, but purpleness is not a requirement for the theory of evolution and is thus not included in Darwin’s hypothesis. This applies to God as well. After all, we can know everything with science (or can we?) and don’t need a bearded man fond of smitings to make the universe work.

Adherents to the Abrahamic religions strike back with two basic arguments of their own. The first is that science requires an assumption of causality. If you don’t believe in cause and effect, science is of no use at all. Unfortunately, the existence of second causes (everything we see in nature) presupposes a first cause. The problem for the pure empiricist then becomes “how can I explain the first cause, which was caused by nothing” – a problem he mostly solves by ignoring. The atheist’s inability to deal with the unmoved mover, in my opinion, makes the unnecessary hypothesis argument collapse in on itself.

(In case you want to explore this problem more, I just gave you the Thomas Aquinas version of Aristotle’s unmoved mover problem.)

The second compelling theist attack on the atheists comes in the form of the “finely tuned universe.” The mass of an electron, slightly higher or lower, makes the formation of stars impossible. The strength of gravity, nudged just slightly higher, gives us a universe of black holes and not much else. A little lower and we have glowing brown globs of dust. Dark energy as well, making it just a tiny bit stronger and our friendly universe is sitting just above absolute zero. There is no apparent reason for the strength of gravity or the mass of electrons to be exactly as they are. In fact, the probability of such values lining up perfectly to make our friendly universe is effectively zero. This, the theist argues, implies design. Many theists attempt to stretch the implication into proof, but that doesn’t work for a variety of reasons.

Perhaps there’s a solution to the problems posed by both sides.

***

Storytelling might be a defining trait of humanity. At least, it’s very old – certainly predating the historical era. In a story, we create whole new people and put them in entirely novel worlds. We invent titans and set the sky upon their shoulders. We capture monkey gods and send Gilgamesh questing after immortality. These characters, these simulated people, are things we’ve made since our time in caves and recorded since the dawn of writing. They are present in every known culture.

As technology developed, our simulated people have changed form. They’ve gone from flat, heroic propaganda pieces like Heracles or Moses to more sophisticated people like Hamlet. They moved from clay tablets to paper and then to mass produced books. In the digital age they’ve gained a bit of independence, like the NPCs (non-player characters) you will find simulated in any video game. It might not be long before our simulations achieve what can realistically be called artificial intelligence.

And if they do, would it be surprising if we found our simulations, our characters, making their own simulations? If simulation building is a property of intelligent beings, and it seems to be, there would be no limit to the number of simulations possible. Just think about it, amazon.com currently stocks millions of simulations – books, video games, movies, model building programs. In a sufficiently advanced setting, you would expect there to be trillions of simulations for every “real” civilization.

And if there are so many trillions of simulations per real civilization, what is the probability that we, human beings, are real? What are the chances that we aren’t somebody else’s simulation. Not very high.

***

If we are simulations, the big attacks on theism more or less melt away. The problem of evil suddenly becomes easy. When I simulate a world in my novels, I don’t go out of my way to make my characters happy. I give them cancer. I blow them up with missile strikes. I cripple their family members. I don’t do so because I’m evil – or at least, not only because I’m evil – but because putting my simulated people into a state of placid happiness is both boring and useless. There’s simply no imperative that I’m all good when I run a simulation. It’s the same with omnipotence and omniscience. I don’t need to be able to program C++ to play Sim City and I don’t have to understand Chinese to read the works of Lu Xun. Why would it be different for the people simulating our universe?

Simulation also gets rid of the finely tuned universe problem. What would you do with a simulation that collapses into nothing? I would reset the values until I got something self-sustaining and interesting. I would keep tinkering until I got life and death and rebirth because that’s the stuff you learn from. That’s the stuff that’s interesting. And when I got it right, it would probably begin in a big bang, for no reason at all, from the perspective of my simulated beings.

All the theist needs to do is strip God down to the person or thing doing a simulation. Get rid of the omnipotence and the perfect benevolence. Hell, get rid of the perfection all together. Do away with the moral imperatives and the certainty and the fluffy cloud heaven. Get rid of those things and the atheist really doesn’t have anything on you except, of course, to wonder what such a God means to us. To answer that question, I’m afraid you’re very much on your own.

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19 comments

  1. Some Christians would say that God gave us the freewill to create evil (by turning from Him). If evil is the absence of good (or God) then we choose evil ourselves. I think we also associate death with evil. the promise of Christianity is that Christ overcame death for us despite the fact that we continually choose evil over God. Christians would quote Jesus when he said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

    1. Hey there, thanks for the comments.

      I think this is the standard Christian response to the problem of evil and I don’t think it really solves anything. After all, God’s still the source of us and thus also the source of evil. He, as the all powerful and all knowing creator, is responsible in any scenario.

      In order to make this work, you have to go St. Augustine and argue that evil is secretly good. This is fine, but it also makes the idea of an all good God meaningless.

      1. Hi Ben,
        You make some great points.
        I guess I disagree that an all powerful God has to step in and control us like robots.
        If God is relational–and the Old and New Testaments often times point out even a relational aspect to Father, Son, Spirit– then maybe God didn’t want a bunch of robots to look at. Dolls get boring after a while.
        So as a creator he allows for his creations to have minds of their own (it’s a risk definitely since some will turn away from him and do things that as a just God he cannot allow. Without justice God is not good. Maybe his all knowingness is more like he sets up a plan at the very beginning of his creation to redeem those who decide to turn to him (much more exciting than robots).

        Like writers, maybe God is a risk taker. It’s like giving a person a knife to cut their steak. In the right hands we all happily eat steak. In the wrong hands someone gets murdered. Is it the host’s fault that the person killed someone?

        I’ll make another standard Christian point: Just like any creator He gets to make the rules and change them at his will. In God’s case he can use horrible events for good, but I don’t believe he’s necessarily the source of human depravity.

        We all have to die–that’s in the rule book (and a good thing if there is something better beyond). The rules make a distinction between God taking us out and humans committing murder. Of course I understand that atheism and Christianity both take leaps of faith since none of it’s really provable. Even Jesus scolded the Jews for not believing even after many signs and wonders.

        I love thinking about this stuff so thanks for the very interesting post!
        A

      2. Hey Adrienne,

        I actually agree with you about the robots stuff. A God that does not create evil basically creates dolls. That said, by making something so much more complex and interesting, that God has also created evil. This is a trade off I’m willing to take because dolls are boring.

        The all good thing with God has never really made sense to me for these reasons. Isaac Asimov said something along these lines that I think relevant. All good (like the fluffy cloud heaven) is actually eternal boredom. All evil (like the fire and brimstone hell) is ridiculous.

        Justice, I’m not sure that works. Since God is supposedly all good, omniscient and omnipotent, everybody he throws in hell he created knowing they would be bound for hell. He would be punishing them for doing what he designed them to do. He would also be punishing them for making the universe more interesting than the doll collection you mentioned earlier.

        Ie, God made evil to make things interesting and then punishes the evil for making things interesting. That seems very perverse, does it not?

        Thanks for the comments. I hope you’re having as much fun as I am. 🙂

      3. Yep. Still having fun. 🙂 The Book of Job addresses this in a way I will assume atheists find annoying. When Job asks the same questions God finally answers and says, “Hey, look, I created the universe. You don’t know shit.”

        I’ve always been the sort of Christian to angrily raise my fist at God for not doing things in a rational way I want him to, but then I have to realize that even most of the stuff scientists say are unprovable theories (at least about the creation of the universe).
        I don’t buy into the notion that goodness evolved out of some survival need( tribalism etc). I see no evidence of that. We kill better now than ever in and out of our tribes.
        In the end, for me I see beauty in a redemptive God. I still struggle with predestination. My sense is that God predestined a way back to Him through Christ open to all who believe etc. Maybe He predetermined the roads and let the non-robots make the choices–even until the very last breath of life (like the thief on the cross).

        If God didn’t allow for evil then we’d be the dolls and if he wasn’t just there would be no reason to follow him. If a parent lets a child walk to school for the first time the parent knows the child might do something stupid or bad–but did the parent create that stupid or bad thing? Not a perfect comparison, of course, but it’s we who decide to do evil despite books and books written about morality, beauty etc. God sends prophets and teachers and most of us despite having consciences still opt for evil or at least easy.

        When I think of how small our minds are and how vast the universe I wonder if we don’t suffer from a crippling pride that keeps us from experiencing God’s fullness. I’m very prideful and often want to catch God out in some way, but then I go out in the garden and realize I don’t know anything. 🙂

        All the best~
        Adrienne

  2. Good post! You pushed my buttons. 😀

    Being a de facto atheist, I can say that I’ve never used, nor have I ever heard another atheist use, or make the argument that if there is a good god, then why do my loved one’s die. For the atheist, the world as it is, is exactly what one would expect to see as a result of stellar, geological, and biological evolution.

    The first part of your article, however, is quite correct. I would add, however, that if a god were omnipotent and omnibenevolent, then It could have made a world without “evil.” The Bible, for example, suggests that evil exists in order that we might have free will and that Yahweh uses that evil to “test” us so that he may know our fealty to It. The logic of this idea is dead on arrival. Were It omnipotent, then It would be omniscient. If Omniscient, then It already knows our thoughts, loyalties, and future actions. As for free will, we can, and do, make choices sans “evil” thoughts. We do not need evil to have free will.

    The atheist’s inability to deal with the unmoved mover, in my opinion, makes the unnecessary hypothesis argument collapse in on itself.

    Nay, not quite. The very notion of a first cause necessarily having sentience (especially omniscience), when you think about it, is ridiculous. What was there to know and whence did the entity derive such knowledge.

    Here is an excerpt from my novel–an argument made by the lead character (an atheist) as he attempts to explain his position to a preacher:

    ————————–

    “In my humble opinion, it is more reasonable to accept the possibility of the eternal existence of energy, manifesting in one form or another, or even to believe in energy as self-causing, than to suggest that a thinking mind, consisting of nothing, coming from nothing, popped out of nowhere, into nowhere, thought about it, and then made it somewhere.

    “For there to be a thought, or even a popping into existence, logic would say there must first be motion, and that which is in motion would have to become organized. There must be a causal link from movement to organization before a thought can organize.

    “And, for there to be motion, of course, there must be something that moves, which would necessarily be something energetic. There is an energetic precondition, Reverend, for every thought and memory in your head.

    “So, to boil all this down to its base element, even though I believe both propositions—existence caused by a god, and existence caused by no god—are irrational, I think the existence of an eternal energy field is less so because we know the energy field exists. We are a part of it. We have the observable evidence of its existence.”
    ————————–

    “[It is a problem the atheist] mostly solves by ignoring.”

    Not really. The atheist will speculate, as does the theist, but the theist has a far greater problem to solve–intelligence from nothing. For the theist to argue that his god was a self-causing intelligence, and leave it at that, is no answer at all, Aquinas notwithstanding.

    And as the excerpt above argues, intelligence simply is not necessary. And even if one were to strip omniperfection (which is chockablock with contradictions in the first place) from one’s god and proclaim it the “Programmer,” he would still have to explain the origin of the knowledge necessary for the programmer to program.

    ——————————

    And if there are so many trillions of simulations per real civilization, what is the probability that we, human beings, are real? What are the chances that we aren’t somebody else’s simulation. Not very high.

    This reminds me of the movie, The Thirteenth Floor. If you haven’t seen it, I think you would enjoy it. 😀

    ——————————–

    When I simulate a world in my novels, I don’t go out of my way to make my characters happy.

    Of course not. You are working within a matrix empirically constructed from the natural world (as we know it).

    My motivation for writing The Empathy Imperative, however, was triggered by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. As you probably know, in an attempt to reconcile the existence of evil with the idea that God is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient, he suggested that God gave this world the best balance of all possibilities, good and evil. So that humans might act as free agents, He gave us the ability to choose between the two. Therefore, Leibniz concluded, it must be that God blessed us with “the best of all possible worlds.”

    I came across this famous supposition in college, and the notion stuck in my craw and festered. I decided that this was not the best world possible and I argued that point for several years, using historical examples, until one day I realized that if this is not the best world possible, then could it be that we do not have the best of all possible gods.

    This thought pulled the trigger, setting up the scenario for my entire novel. Yet, even as I wrote, I hadn’t worked out what a better world would be like, until it came time in the epilogue, to describe it. Working from a lack of “evil,” I found that there is no reason, theologically or humanistically, that humanity could not, someday, achieve that better world. Yes, it likely will require another millennium of mental evolution and the demise of exclusive religious dogma, but I think that if we survive ourselves, it will happen.

    To your argument from Intelligent Design, check out the latest developments in theoretical physics regarding the string theory/multiverse hypotheses. Much progress has been made, and not only is there evidence for it’s support, but such a model can solve problems in the Big Bang theory.

    But then, that is the very reason science exists, isn’t it? We do not know everything and no atheists will ever say that science will supply all those answers. I am thrilled to know that every discovery generates more questions than it solved, adding to our drive to know more. Most of us are very curious creatures.

    1. Hey Max,

      Glad I pushed your buttons. If there’s an ideology I actually to embrace, it’s probably anti-certainty. If my article helped you recognize or think over your assumptions, I’m very happy to hear that.

      We don’t need sentience for an unmoved mover. We simply need a thing that exists outside of causality. We simply need a thing that breaks science. 😉

      In my observation and readings, the atheists arguments against deism are pretty weak. In order to make an argument against an unmoved mover God, there is a need to put on other, unnecessary things. In order to criticize a limited, deist God, atheists must go after more elaborated concepts like the problem of evil. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no necessity for the unmoved mover to be good, all powerful or all seeing. The unmoved mover could be a bowl of salad, so long as that bowl of salad can violate causality.

      As for my intelligent design idea, it’s a probability based attempt to account for the finely tuned universe problem. If you accept my probability based argument for the existence of many simulations per reality, it seems most likely that we are simulations. Is it possible that our simulation builders are not intelligent? I suppose so, but that would be awfully weird.

      The simulation postulate, in my opinion, solves a lot of these problems. No need for all good, no need to account for evil, no need for Leibniz. I don’t have to be all-anything to write a story or run a simulation.

      No need to solve the unmoved mover. If we’re a simulation, then yes, the beginning of a simulation would necessarily happen non-casually according to the rules of the system.

      A new game of Sim City, to the characters therein, appears from nothing because we, the people running the simulation, are not bound by the internal rules of the simulation.

      No need to explain the fine tuned universe. Anything that collapses on itself would be discarded as useless.

      As for explaining the origin of the unmoved mover, whether a programmer or God or whatever, I think the answer you’d get from multiverse theory and Thomas Aquinas is pretty much the same, it is beyond time and space and, thus, the entire concept of “origin.”

      That’s actually one of my favorite advanced astro-physics mind benders. It is, technically speaking, nonsense to talk about the time before the big bang. In order for “before” to make sense, you need a concept of time. The big bang created time and thus, there was no “before.”

  3. Hmm, actually, the article didn’t make me rethink anything, but well written articles like this always make me think. I do love debate and this is one of my very favorite subjects. 😀

    We don’t need sentience for an unmoved mover. We simply need a thing that exists outside of causality. We simply need a thing that breaks science.

    Why would that be necessarily so?

    Sentience: The quality or state of being conscious–the ability of any entity to have subjective perceptual experiences.

    Can a being think without consciousness? If it existed in nothingness, what would it think about and by what mechanism could thought, or even consciousness, manifest?

    Thus, the question remains; Whence did the entity obtain the knowledge to create anything. Indeed, how did it even gain the ability to think?

    In order to criticize a limited, deist God, atheists must go after more elaborated concepts like the problem of evil.

    Nay! This isn’t necessary at all. As I stated, the human condition as it is, is exactly what one would expect as a result of evolution. “Evil,” in and of itself does not exist. Of course, we can define evil as something humans do out of malicious intent, and even that is caused by any number of preconditions, many of which are manifest in varying degrees from genetic inheritance (e.g., aggression, territoriality, self-interest, self-preservation, dominance, etc.), all quite natural.

    My argument against a prime creator (unmoved mover), then, is a simple exercise of Occam’s Razor, and it was stated above. There must be sentience for there to be thought, and there must be thought in order to create. And, to create, there must be a plan involving knowledge. This is what is up to the deist to resolve.

    Of course the deist cannot resolve the problem anymore than the atheist can cite the first cause (if there was one). I tend to think that energy has having existed eternally just as many theists believe their god existed eternally–but then we loop back to the more difficult question for theists; Whence came sentience? I say that sentience was not necessary, and logically, awareness and thought cannot self-manifest except from sentience.

    To say, I don’t know and science doesn’t know why anything exists is not an argument, but an acknowledgement of ignorance. But again, that is why we have science in the first place–we want to know what we don’t know. To simply stick a sentient being at the bottom of it all is no answer. In fact, it is a dangerous answer. That is why science cannot simply say, “an intelligent creator did it,” but keeps on digging into the very fabric of the universe.

    Descartes, as you know, said “cogito ergo sum” (I think, therefore, I am). But from that germ of rationale, he decided that what he thought clearly and distinctly true, was Truth (subjectivity = objectivity), and then he proceeded to built his theology on what he thought it should be. It would not surprise me if it turned out to be very much what he was taught from childhood. Whattayathink?

    As for my intelligent design idea, it’s a probability based attempt to account for the finely tuned universe problem.

    I’m well versed in the ID hypothesis. That is why I suggested you look into (if you haven’t already) the latest developments in theoretical physics concerning the mulitverse hypothesis.

    Think about it. If energy has existed eternally, then the mulitverse hypothesis would say that there have been an infinite number of universes springing from an infinite number of Big Bangs far back into eternity past (for want of a better phrase), such that energy would manifest in each and every one of its possible permutations. I think of this a “Law” of Diminishing Improbabilities. Too, it would mean that your comment,

    It is, technically speaking, nonsense to talk about the time before the big bang.

    is quite wrong. It is, thus far, mathematically possible that time and universes have existed an unforeseeable distance into eternity past.

    The multiverse hypothesis is my model of a purely natural universe and I think completely destroys the ID hypothesis.

    As for the “first cause,” it is as inexplicable as existence itself. I’m not sure we will ever know how it occurred (if it did). And even if existence is all a hologram, then that, too, begs a ton of questions.

    Thank you for this debate. I love it!

    1. There are three things I want to address from your response.

      The first one is the “need” for sentience. I think sentience is likely (for the reasons I mentioned regarding simulations), but it’s not necessary. Just as unthinking bacteria can give birth to us, there’s nothing that says that an unthinking prime mover can’t give birth to the big bang and then, us.

      The only requirement of a prime mover is the violation of cause and effect. It must be an effect with no cause – nothing more.

      This is important because of the second thing I want to address – the assumptions of science.
      1. Objective reality exists.
      2. Our perceptions aren’t lying to us.
      3. Cause and effect is absolute.

      Quantum mechanics casts quite a bit of doubt on assumption 1. See the observer effect.

      Number two is pure assumption. We have absolutely no way of knowing.

      Number three is wrong, which brings me to the third point I want to address.

      A singularity, as predicted by the physics we have, destroys time. Just as the earth’s gravity slows time down in proportion to its mass, an infinitely dense singularity would slow down time infinitely. Further, according to most theories, time is a thing that came into existence AT the big bang. This causes all sorts of logical weirdness because in order to talk about “before” we need a concept of time. Since there was no time, there was also, as a consequence, no before.

      Even if you accept the multiverse or big bounce or something like that and postulate an eternal universe(s), causality still breaks down due to the second law of thermodynamics. The arrow of time is defined by entropy. Low entropy is the past, high entropy is the future. This IS time as we know it. This IS the time we need to make science usable.

      Unfortunately for our beleaguered causal views of the universe, every single explanation for the big bang postulates extremely low entropy. This beginning was a setting of the arrow of time. So even if we are in an eternal circle, we are in an eternal circle that violates the concept of time necessary for causality. Eternal things can’t account for the second law of thermodynamics and thus can’t account for time. This seems like a pretty fundamental problem.

      People forget that the assumptions for science aren’t that old and they have come to believe that the philosophical assumptions of science are “the answer.”
      I think this is a mistake. If we still believe in causality and objectivity in a thousand years, I would be both shocked and dismayed. There almost has to be a better set of assumptions to work from.

      Thanks for keeping this up. Even if you aren’t reconsidering things, I sure am. 😛

  4. You make great points and I appreciate your clarification re sentience. If the mulitverse hypothesis (and I should have included the Brane) is not true, then I would have to tentatively come down on the first cause hypothesis, sans sentience. We still, however, must account for the quantum universe, especially understanding that Newtonian physics disappears that that level. And yes, I am familiar with the the observer effect.

    In any case, I see no reason at all that our universe must be the only one. In other words, if it can happen once, it can happen more than once.

    Yes, the increase in entropy defines time as we know it, in our universe. Yes, again, that by our current understanding, there was nothing “before.” But you, yourself, pointed out that quantum mechanics casts doubt on (1). I maintain that it may cast doubt, as well, on the time hypothesis, the infinitely regressed state of our singularity notwithstanding. Why would there necessarily have to be one singularity?

    If I may toss in another wild idea, you are probably familiar with the Brane Hypothesis. Perhaps quantum reality is an aspect of the brane from which our universe sprang, and possibly an incalculable number of others.

    Too, you and I seem to be seeing “objective reality” from different perspectives. I see it in empirical and practical terms, not holographic. If I am standing on a highway and I see a 35 ton truck moving directly at me at highway speed, I will certainly not hypothesize that the truck does not exist and that I will not wink out of existence in a couple of seconds. Even if I did not know the vehicle was coming, I would still wink out. Regardless of quantum mechanics, my brain would cease to function.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two “truths,” objective and subjective. The snakes that a drunk sees are subjective, but no one can say that he does not see them. They are “holograms” created by his altered state of mind. Even if he sees and feels one bite him, there will be no bite and no venom in his body. Objective truth is, of course, the opposite. Any number of people on the scene could independently verify the objective reality of the snakes and the snakes could certainly inject venom–very objectively.

    As for the “assumptions for science,” if you mean established theories, I cannot belittle them so. That is the modus operandi of the theist. Regardless of the universal substrate of objective reality, science must work within the matrix. It has no choice. But at least it is doing its best to examine objective reality (the matrix) and dig into its very fabric. I suspect, however, that the ultimate “truth” is nothing like any of us imagine.

    1. Interesting Max, I’ve not heard of the Brane. Please do explain.

      As for the assumptions of science, I was referring to causality, objectivity and the reliability of our senses. The theories, granted the assumptions, are on very good foundations. Science is, like Tina from Diotima’s Ladder posted elsewhere, a form of objectivity within subjectivity. That’s all I’m saying.

      About the holograms, I’m very much with you on the value of avoiding onrushing traffic. This doesn’t really depend on whether or not we’re simulations, though.

      If I’m a character in an alien’s video game, I still want to keep living. I still want to preserve my existence within the framework of the simulation.

      1. Good morning Ben, sorry to be so long in reply. Our conversation has prompted me to find the latest updates on the memBrane/String/Multiverse hypotheses. Not a lot has changed since I read of this in the late 1990s except for mounting observable and mathematical evidence gleaned from fluctuations in the Cosmic Background Radiation and cosmic expansion.

        At the end of this reply is an excellent video explanation of string/brane/m-hypotheses for the general public. I’m attempting to provide it via embed code. If that does not work, I am providing the Youtube link. Personally, I cannot follow original scientific papers because I cannot follow the equations (math was the “bane” of my young life). I have to rely on science writers and scientists such as the late Carl Sagan and those currently who write for public consumption/education.

        Here is an article by the famous physicist, Dr. Michio Kaku: http://mkaku.org/home/articles/m-theory-the-mother-of-all-superstrings/

        Here is an interesting interview by science writer John Horgan with theoretical physicist, Edward Witten, a soft-skeptic of the Brane Theory/M-Theory (or as it is also called; a landscape interpretation of the universe). And actually, all scientists should be soft skeptics theoretical models, especially of new ones.

        As a side note, I continue to be uncomfortable with scientists calling these ideas for models of the origin of the universe, “theories.” Strictly speaking–and as you probably know–a scientific theory is derived from the process of applying hypotheses to the scientific method, which requires not only predictions, experiments, and verification or falsification, but independent verification as well. It is the use of the word “theory” in place of “hypothesis” that confuses the poorly science-educated public. Thus, we have creationists forever saying that “evolution is just a theory,” as though the popular definition (hunch or guess) applies. This, of course, shows that they have either no idea what an scientific theory is, or they do, but are riding that powerful engine of public ignorance for personal financial gain (e.g., neoconservatives and wealthy preachers).

        In any case, I have to live with it and continue to explain it to creation believers over and over.

  5. Hmm, they both worked. You can, of course, delete one if you wish.

    1. Ah, M theory. Yes, I’m familiar with this. Thanks for the links. 🙂

  6. Given the enormous amount of time, effort and brainpower involved in these comments I hate to stick my oar in and say you are all trying to answer the wrong questions. Writers such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris have only helped to promote the myth, firmly rooted in Western culture, that science and religion are opposites. The truth is that religion and science are not competitors. Religion begins where science leaves off. Science attempts to explain phenomena while religion attempts to provide meaning. Theories of how humanity or the universe came about are strictly beside the point. Even if all the problems of science are some day solved, humans will still be searching for purpose in their lives, for which they will continue to require religion.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Malcolm.

      I replied so slowly because I wanted to think it over.

      It dawned on me that my ethics and rationality do not seem to operate as you describe. I am a deist, I believe in God (though I don’t attempt to specify his/her/its properties beyond violating causality). In this sense, I’m religious.

      However, I don’t think my ethics, my purpose, is really religious at all. Unless you want to say that the existentialist is religious in someway?

    2. “…promote the myth, firmly rooted in Western culture, that science and religion are opposites.”
      Agreed. However one must also look at how this belief is constantly reinforced. Most people are not reading Dawkins and company. One only has to look at examples from pop culture like “The Big Bang Theory,” to see how science and religion are not only competitors, but also sworn enemies. Of course, pop culture also portrays religious characters as domineering-rigid-delusional-buffoons.
      Sometimes, I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry whenever I witness such a portrayal, because I know that the opposite is true.

      To Ben Garrido: I am subscribed to your blog, but I am not receiving email notification of new posts. I can’t believe that this one slipped by me for so long.

      1. Strange … I don’t know how to fix that, unfortunately. 😦

  7. “One only has to look at examples from pop culture like “The Big Bang Theory,” to see how science and are not only competitors, but also sworn enemies.”

    The Big Bang Theory is just another story that we tell ourselves, no different from our other stories in literature, poetry, drama, religion and philosophy, perhaps just little more ludicrous than the rest.

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