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With us in mind

Today I am planning to take on a specific argument for God with which I think many of you will be familiar. It is one of the favorite arguments made by Christians, because they think that with this argument they’ve beaten the nonbelievers at their own game. It is one of the arguments in which Theists want to derive God from the field of science of all places, which is one of the major things which has put Theism into doubt to begin with. I am talking about the fine tuning argument.

Now for reference of the argument please click on this link which will send you to the Video version of the argument from Dr William Lane Craig’s YouTube channel. I hope this will be faithful enough to you. Before I begin tackling it I have to say this though: I do not claim any expertise in the fields relating to the “fine tuning” of the Universe. I will not bother with the technicalities (which I would most likely get wrong anyways) but instead outline where the argument fails (at least in the presented form) and what would need to be established. On another note I also have to say that I do not necessarily endorse all the ideas which I will outline. They merely serve to illustrate why the argument isn’t sound.

With that out of the way:

At 26 seconds into the video the person presenting the argument claims that certain values fall into an exceedingly narrow life permitting range. He further claims that if anyone of these numbers were altered by even a hairspread no life of any kind could exist.

Right of the bat I gotta ask: How does he know?

For one thing how does he know what the life permitting range is if we only have one example of life namely the carbon based human life? This person neglects to define what exact conditions life requires and not just our life mind you but all possible life including the life which may or may not exist, which we have not examined yet and likely will never examine. If we do not know what life forms besides ours are physically possible, then we do not have a firm grasp on what life is and therefore we do not know what conditions are required for it. Which would render the entire argument moot.

Now it may be the case that I’m wrong and that we do know what conditions are required for all possible life forms but that is an extraordinary claim which needs some evidence to back it up. At the very least a peer reviewed paper.

Continuing with the video he asserts that there would be no stars and therefore no life and no chemistry.

Besides him just asserting it blank the footage of the video seems to suggest that there is a causal chain involved:

There would be no stars, therefore no planets, life or chemistry. It is clarified later that this is the case. The problem I see with that is that it assumes that stellar nucleosynthesis is the only way we could get heavier elements.

Don’t get me wrong it IS the way heavier elements were produced within our Universe but who is to say that the only way heavier elements in all Universes could form is via stars? How could one possibly know that when we have only one Universe to go by? If there are other possible unknown methods then we don’t have a problem with our chemistry for one thing. Needless to say that this argument also assumes that planets are a necessary precondition for all possible life forms which is also something that needs to be established.

At 1:30 in the narrator asserts that if the gravitational force had been “out of tune” ever so slightly then life couldn’t exist.

Of course this assumes that the gravitational force is subject to vary. Who says that it is and what is the evidence? I have the same objections to the expansion rate as well as the mass and energy distribution.

Without clearing the first few hurdles I see no reason to buy into the fine tuning argument.

However there’s still more to get into when the narrator presents his trichotomy at the 3 minute mark:

  • the first option presented is phyiscal necessity: In other words the Universe must be life permitting. He asserts that this option fails because the “constants and quantities are not determined by the laws of nature” . Once again he just asserts this without any evidence at all. He also says that a life prohibiting Universe is far more likely than a life permitting one. But wait a minute if the constants are not subject to change as this option suggests then there is no such thing as probability concerning our Universe. After all it couldn’t have been otherwise. In that case the odds would be 1. Even if there is no reason or evidence to suggest it he has still failed to knock this pillar down.
  • As far as chance goes I have nothing more to say other than that his “can’t be so” assertion is based on his incredulity. As for the Multiverse talked about at the 4:10 mark he suggests that there is no evidence for the multiverse. While it is true that we cannot detect it, the claim of a multiverse is not entirely baseless. As for the claim of the “Multiverse generator having to be fine tuned” this of course would be the case if we were talking about a machine. But we are not. As for the “Boltzmann brain problem” I find this to be entirely besides the point. Conceding that the single observer in a small Universe is more likely does nothing to invalidate the chances of 1 Universe in a gazillion being such as we find it while the other ones containing just one observer.

 

Now we come to the last option namely “design” at the 5 minute mark and behold we have just proven God’s existence because the other 2 options are just so unlikely that only this option remains… which kinda begs the question: Is design via an Omnipotent God possible let alone plausible? As far as I’m concerned the mere possibility is not yet established. Even if it were shown that it is possible (and I have no idea how one could do it) we would also have to calculate whether option 3 is plausible. If it is less plausible than the other 2 implausible ones then God still loses. In other words: Even if everything else I said in my post was wrong, I need not accept God’s existence based on this argument as long as it isn’t established that “Goddidit” is even a possible option let alone a more plausible than the other 2.

 

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

 

 

 

Lions, Psalms and a Strange Messiah

I don’t write on this blog regularly anymore and this has two reasons: First, I simply lack inspiration. I feel like I have covered so many things already and I don’t intend on writing the same thing 5 times just using a different wording.

Second and this shouldn’t be news to anyone of you who follows me on Twitter (which is probably the majority of my readers) I simply don’t have much time.

But today is Saturday (at least for me) and I actually do have some time right now and a topic so I feel like addressing it.

It never ceases to amaze me how badly Christians can distort their own holy book in order to meet their agenda of preserving Biblical inerrancy.

I have observed this in many instances and the following is no exception:

Let’s talk about Psalm 22 and the crucifixion of Jesus. Christians claim that this Psalm prophecises Jesus fate on the cross namely his crucifixion.

Now whether it actually does (spoiler alert: it doesn’t) is not a trivial issue for the Christian. After all at the beginning of this Psalm the first person narrator asks “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These words appear again in Matthew 27: 46 :

About the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,e lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”

If Psalm 22 isn’t actually Jesus speaking then not only does this mean that Jesus crucifixion is not prophecised in Psalm 22 it also means that the author of Matthew is deliberately deceitful for drawing a parallel between the Psalm 22 and Jesus.

Needless to say then, that the stakes are high so I suggest we dig right into the reasons why I don’t think that Psalm 22 refers to Jesus.

When we move on from the first sentence of the Psalm we get to this particular assertion:

” Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.”

Now the person saying this is Jesus. The Jesus who (supposedly) healed the blind, the man who walked on water, the man who fed thousands of people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Yet Christian would have us believe, that this same Jesus who “cries by day” (the word cries in Hebrew can be translated to call ) receives no answer but whatsoever by his father. He worked miracle after miracle after miracle yet God doesn’t listen to him?

Besides that, this stands in direct contradiction to John 11: 41-42:

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

If I as a Skeptic am to be convinced that we are indeed dealing with a messianic Prophecy here, this needs to be accounted for.

Moving on from this in my view problematic verse, right onto the next. Psalm 22: 6 :

“But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me”

Again this is Jesus speaking. The man whom (most) Christians not only believe to be the son of God but literally God incarnate. Most Christians claim that Jesus believed himself to be God. Yet this same Jesus who thought so highly of himself now references to himself as a worm? In what world do these two things fit together?

Now for the record it is true that Jesus did have one or two enemies (he wouldn’t have been crucified if he didn’t) but he also had a lot of supporters. Do the 12 disciples ring a bell? I am also not persuaded to believe that all the people whom he healed and for whom he worked miracles were in direct opposition to him.

The asserion that Jesus was “scorned by mankind and despised by the people.” is not just a little bit of a stretch it is outright false!

Now, after having shown my positive reasons why Psalm 22 cannot possibly refer to Jesus I think it may be worthwhile to address the elephant in the room:

Where do Christians get the idea from, that Psalm 22 prophecises the crucifixion?

The answer lies within the verses 12 to 21.

“Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws;you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet I can count all my bones they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!”

It seems strange right from the get-go that there were “Bulls of Bashan” present at the crucifixion. The same thing goes for the dogs, the lion as well as the wild oxen. Now of course one may argue that these animals are just symbols for the people who crucified Christ but what animal stands for whom or what exactly? Are these 4 animals representative of 4 people groups. As far as I know the only people present at the Crucifixion were the Jews and the Romans. Are these 4 animals merely representatives of 4 individuals? If so which animal stands for which person and why? How does one account for the “evildoers” who are presumably humans, if the animals are just symbols for other humans? If the animals are not symbols but real animals then why are the gospels silent on the fact, that there were wild and dangerous animals present for this incident?

For all intends and purposes the setting of the event doesn’t sound like a crucifixion at all. It sounds more like a person who is being eaten up in a Roman Arena (but maybe that’s just me).

So it all comes down to what the author means when he says that the evildoers have “pierced my hands and feet” . Long story short the word in question “pierced” ( כָּ֝אֲרִ֗י ) can be translated in many different ways (Yeah I know Wikipedia isn’t exactly scholarly) but as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t matter anyways due to the discrepancies surrounding it.

Besides this one word there is nothing which hints on this being a messianic Prophecy and as I hope to have shown there is a a lot which goes against that Hypothesis.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

 

Possible Greatness

Today I want to take the time to discuss the first premise of a very popular argument for the existence of God namely the onto(il)logical argument for the existence of God or to be more precise the modal version of it.

The first premise within the argument as I want to discuss it is the following ( there are of course many versions of the argument in general):

“There is a possible world in which there is an entity which possesses maximal greatness.”

Now, for an argument to be sound only one premise needs to be invalid and I reject the premise that a being with maximal greatness can exist. And here’s why:

When we consider the term “greatness” what do we mean by that? It means that an entity has certain properties which make it great. There are properties which make people great. Among them I would say are Intelligence, Courage, knowledgability, honesty, fearlessness (at least to a certain degree in our case), generosity, strength and many others.

If there were a maximally great being, this being would have to possess all these qualities and of course many more to a maximal degree. As I will try to argue this is not possible and even if it were, we would have to conclude that this being cannot be the Abrahamic God.

Let’s for example look at being knowledgeable and being intelligent: If you have maximal knowledge then one would say you’re omniscient i.e. you know everything. However if we differentiate between what I call propositional knowledge like me knowing that the Bible has 66 books and experiental knowledge e.g. I know what love feels like because I have experienced it then omniscience itself becomes self refuting at least if that being has always been omniscient. A being that has always known everything doesn’t know what it’s like to learn, it lacks experiental knowledge of the learning experience. Additionally many Christians will say that God is unable to lie so he lacks this experiental knowledge too.

Now, it’s of course possible to escape what I outlined by defining omniscience such, that it escapes my problems. But if we hold it to be true, that an omniscient being has all propositional knowledge, then it follows that this being is unable to learn new facts and make new discoveries.

Yet intelligence requires a being to not be omniscient. Intelligence is after all our application of our limited knowledge to reason towards new conclusions to discover new facts and to apply it to get new and better results. This means necessarily that a being can only be intelligent if it is able to learn and if it doesn’t have all facts.

In other words omniscience cancels out intelligence.

Let’s look at Courage and fearlessness: If God has no fears whatsoever ( as many Christians will argue ) then he doesn’t have courage. A being can only be courageous if it stands up to its fears and looks them in the eye and hopefully overcomes them. Yet God doesn’t fear anything so his actions do never require any courage at all.

If we talk about honesty then the Christian will tell you, that God can’t lie. I think it’s not a big secret, that some lies can be virtuous. Think about parents lying to their child about Santa’s existence, because the child will be more excited that way. Yet if you have maximal honesty then any virtuous lie is impossible for you to tell. It is not good or great to always say the truth in every situation. Yes honesty is a virtue but it doesn’t remain one, when it’s applied in a maximal degree.

As far as generosity goes let me ask this: How can a being that possesses everything there is to possess be possibly generous? If God gives me a Ferrari then he isn’t generous because he owns an infinite amount of them.

I think as I established it is not possible for a being to be maximally knowledgeable, maximally intelligent, maximally courageous and maximally fearless. Furthermore maximal honesty diminishes greatness.

However one may argue, that perhaps it isn’t true that a being can possess all those properties to a maximal degree simultaneously but maybe a being can have the “perfect balance” e.g. being as knowledgeable and intelligent as it is possible to be without the two cancelling each other out.

Now if you define maximal greatness in this way, then this is a legitimate way out of contradictions but it is not without consequences. It would thereby follow that a maximally great being is not omniscient and is not all honest as for example in cases where lying is virtuous. Thereby a maximally great Being may be a god but this deity is not the God believed in by most Monotheists.

 

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

 

 

 

Of Death, lies and Sacrifice

Yeah I know… I haven’t written anything in weeks. The reason for that is that I lack motivation as well as inspiration currently. However this article is pretaining to a subject that I wanted to discuss a long time ago. I was either gonna write it now or not write it at all so I’m writing it now.

There is this one argument in favor of Christianity and the resurrection of Jesus, which seems to be quite popular:

I dupe it the ” Wouldn’t die for a lie” argument. What it argues is that the followers of Jesus in his day were in a unique position to know whether the resurrection indeed happened or not and they believed in it so strongly that they were willing to die for their beliefs. These disciples died gruesome martyr deaths as a result of their conviction.

Now, there are many stabs at the game I could take. One of which would be disputing, that their martyrdom is actually sufficiently established by history. While I do not think that this is actually the case, I want to take a different, more difficult and hopefully more fun approach:

I will concede, though I don’t think this is established, that the disciples did in fact die gruesome deaths that they were martyred as a result of professing Jesus resurrection.

I still don’t think the argument succeeds and here’s why:

I think there are at least 2 assumptions within the argument which aren’t spelled out and which would need to be established:

The first assumption is that the disciples only possible motivation for allowing themselves to be martyred was the bodily resurrection of Christ.

See I’m perfectly willing to accept, that they were martyred. What I cannot accept or at least not accept without a supporting argument is that the motivation for their martyrdom and the only possible explanation was the resurrection.

Let’s look for instance at another motivation which I take to be possible:

Maybe they were sacrificing themselves for their loved ones. Who knows maybe the disciples had children or a wife or whatever and out of love for them they were willing to die for them. Many people are willing to die for their children, why isn’t that a possibility in this case.

Now another apologist might respond with the following:

“Sure Rene, parents die for their children husbands die for their wives. But where is the connection? What plausible scenario do you have, under which there’s a connection with their martyrdom and the martyrs loved ones?”

So allow me to present a scenario:

Right after the events that led to Jesus death and supposed resurrection, the disciples started their church and they started to preach the Christian message. Why would they do that if it didn’t actually happen? Simple: Monetary reasons. The disciples were fishermen and peasants and didn’t make much money presumably. Now, if you start a religion and find adherents to it, then you can make more money and provide a better life for your loved ones. It’s evidently true, that the idea of a man being the son of God and coming back from the dead sells well. After all Christianity is still the dominant religion in the world. So what if the disciples just made it all up, in order to make money off of the people who would come to believe it? Later then, they reached a point where they were knee deep into the story. After all preaching is a full time job. They became financially dependent on their activity and they needed to financially secure their family. The only way to do that, was to continue. If the family is to survive and thrive they needed to continue preaching, even at the risk of their own death. For that they were martyred later.

This is just one scenario which I take to be a possible natural alternative to the resurrection. There might be other explanations but this is one of them.

There is a second assumption though within the argument:

There is the assumption that they were under the impression that had they stopped their preaching and had they recanted their statements that Jesus rose from the dead, they would’ve been spared their fates.

See if they had thought that they were going to be tortured and killed anyways regardless of whether they stopped preaching the gospel or not then they had no motivation at all to stop their activities.

For this argument to succeed the disciples must’ve believed that they actually had the opportunity to escape their fate. But maybe in their mind the damage had already been done. The world and especially the ancient world doesn’t work that way, that once you recant and admit that you lied you can get off scot free especially not after causing so much drama for the state. I mean just imagine the dialogue:

Persecutor: So did Jesus rise from the dead or not?

Disciple: Fine I admit it, he didn’t. We made it all up.

P: Oh in that case you can go. Never mind all the trouble you caused. Have a good one buddy.

D: Thanks, I’ll be on my way then. Gotta bake some cookies for the family. You too!

That is not how it works. When you cause trouble for the state, then it won’t just be forgiven. You will be punished whether you now admit to the lie or not is irrelevant and it’s not implausible to think, that the disciples knew that too.

Hell, maybe they even did recant, though History is silent about it but it just didn’t matter anymore. Maybe they were killed regardless of it.

There is tons more that could be said about this argument and maybe one day I will return to it but I want to end this with one final point:

Believe it or not but there are people out there to whom belief matters more than truth. There are people who will intentionally lie to you, in order to make you hold a false belief which they know to be false but they still think it’s virtuous that you believe it. One famous example are of course the Professional Creationists:

They know that they’re lying to children, they just don’t care. It’s so important to them, that they believe in Creation that they have no problems with it. Some of them know that they are wrong in their worldview but they believe it anyways.

It could be the case that the disciples intentionally lied, because other people believing it mattered more to them than the truth. Likewise if we look at some people today, maybe they even deceived themselves into believing it happened. Maybe they preached the story for so long, that they actually started to buy into it. Convinced as many people can be, conviction in and of itself is not evidence of whether the proposition believed in is actually true.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

The Unknown Yahweh and the Bible

Ever since becoming an Atheist I debated a lot of Christians on the existence of God and while not all of them were Presuppositionalists I was frequently accused of hating God and my Atheism being a result of my love for my sin. It seems to be the case that a lot of Christians think that everyone knows that a god exists and that Atheists are purposefully denying the Christian God specifically.

I can only say that this is not the case. However I do want to look at certain passages that Presupps provide in order to “show” that everyone knows God. I can inform everyone reading this, that if the Bible endorses Presuppositionalism then the Bible is wrong and the God of the Bible most certainly does not exist. My argument for this would be the following:

-P1: Either the God of the Bible exists or he does not exist

-P2: The Bible, proclaimed to be God’s word says that everyone knows that God exists

-P3: There are existing Humans who do not know that God exists (e.g. me)

C: The God of the Bible does not exist

The argument above is a strong deductive argument known as Modus Tollendo Ponens which means that if we have two options both of which can’t be true at the same time but one of them must be true and one of those two options is negated then the other one must be true by necessity.

There are two premises under dispute namely 2 and 3. If you are a Presuppositionalist then you can reject 3 and be done with the argument. If you’re not then you’ll have to reject 2.

Since this article is addressed to non-Presuppositionalists I’ll have a look at certain passages Presupps provide in order to support their conclusion that everyone knows God and whether their position has merit.

By doing this one of two things will happen: Either I conclude that the Bible does not support the Presuppositional stance in which case I know that their position is not biblically sound and I shall use this article in order to demonstrate this to them or I will conclude that their position is sound in which case premise 2 is supported and I know that the God of the Bible does not exist.

For this purpose I want to take a look at the Passage Presupps quite frequently pull out: Romans 1: 18-20.

Let’s look at Romans first. It is a letter from the Apostle Paul to Roman Saints.

At first Paul explains some tenets of his belief in Christianity and discusses his views on Jesus namely that Jesus was God’s son. After his introduction then he wants to teach the gospel to the people he writes to in this case the Romans. Then he starts preaching and this is where we approach the relevant part:

 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1: 18-20)

Similarly to my last post I once again want to examine a few relevant words in the orginal language in this case Greek. The words in question are “revealed” “known” “manifest” and “understood” .

the first word in question is “revealed”  ἀποκαλύπτεται ( apokaluptó ) and it means to bring to light or to uncover or to reveal.

The second word in question in is “known” or “to know” . the word used in this passage is γινώσκω (  ginóskó) and as you may have guessed it does translate to knowing something or  to realize something.

Up next is the word “manifest” in greek φανερός ( phaneros ) and once again we have definition which would seem to support Presuppositionalism as it means apparent or clear or evident or even well known.

Last but not least let’s look what we can find for the word “understood” . the word in question is νοέω ( noeó ). It has a few definitions such as “to perceive” or “to think” but one usage is also “to understand” which seems to make the most sense.

I think with what we read in Romans we have an open and shut case that the Bible indeed does support the notion that everyone knows that God exists. The implications of this are significant for Christianity:

When the Bible claims that the Bible is wrong and I can know that for certain and so can every nonbeliever in the world.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation