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Letter To An Atheist

September 13, 2012

I understand you having doubts. I understand having doubts because I’ve had many. I’ve questioned the existence of God. I’ve questioned the character of God. I’ve questioned if Jesus was God incarnate. I’ve questioned what’s in the Bible. I’ve questioned if faiths other than Christianity were true. I’ve questioned if atheism were true. I’ve doubted these things very, very strongly at times, and at times the questions I’ve had enveloped my mind fully, and tore at my heart.

I doubt there’s anything you doubt about God, the Bible, Jesus, creation, or anything you doubt that I haven’t doubted. If there are any doubts you have that I haven’t considered I’ll probably get to them.

I doubt, and question, because that’s the way I am. Call it what you like, critical thinking, an open mind, being logical, or just being careful with this life that I have, wanting to live it to the fullest, most meaningful and productive way I can. Living it in the most truthful way I can, my human faults notwithstanding. I think we can both agree that these are good things. I hope so.

I’m not ashamed to admit I have had, and likely will have more doubts or at least questions about this faith I hold to. John the Baptist, who was Jesus harbinger as well as cousin, had his own doubts about who Jesus was, despite his previous personal experience with Jesus. When John the Baptist was in prison, he sent messengers to Jesus to ask Him “Are you the One who was to come, or should we expect somebody else?”. I’m in good company.

You may be thinking I’m wrong to characterize you as having doubts. You may be thinking “I don’t doubt that there is a God, I’m sure there isn’t”. Maybe you don’t have doubts. I would suggest to you that doubting is healthy, that doubting what we believe–or don’t–is a vital and important part of life, and loving and seeking truth. Stagnation of the heart or mind is a terrible thing, and a waste of who we are, or could become.

I would also suggest that as human beings we are all prone to bias. At our best, and sometimes with help, we’re prone to bias but not tethered by it, not held back by bias.

See, bias can, as it always does, blind us to the truth, or stop us from seeking it. Sometimes in ways we don’t even realize, because, again, bias blinds us. We may investigate or research a subject, and then when we find information or evidence that agrees with our bias we’ll stop right there, not going any further, and setting aside the possibility that there may be information or evidence that disagrees with our bias. Walking away, sometimes running, from the possibility that the beliefs of our bias could be wrong. That WE could be wrong.

I would ask, implore you even, to consider–without bias–earnestly and thoroughly investigating and researching the aspects of Christianity. This may entail researching information put forth by “the other side”, and an abundance of it. This may entail conversation with learned Christian apologists. This may be hard to do. And sometimes, having an open heart is much harder an engagement than having an open mind. But both are necessary if we are to authentically seek truth.

Maybe you’ve had bad experiences with Christians. I would think it’s quite likely. Join the club. I, and every Christian, has had bad experiences with Christians. I and every Christian is guilty of being part of, of causing a bad experience. We’re human, with all the faults and frailties that come with being so. We call it sin, or having a sinful nature. To say otherwise is to let our ego lie to you and to ourselves. And to God. Make no mistake, those lies have been told. To say otherwise is, again, to lie to you, ourselves and God. If you were to tell me you have not been the cause of someone’s bad experience, I would not believe you. I think it’s fair to believe that our human nature is on equal ground; that is, that we’re both far from perfect. Our imperfections will have similarities, and we also will have our own unique imperfections; the point is we have them nonetheless.

Allow me to make this statement: You are loved. You may not believe me; you may have had personal experiences that lead you to think otherwise; or perhaps you may have a bias that prevents you from believing it, but it is true.

You are not my enemy. Even if you want to be. Even if you insist on trying to be. Even if other Christians acted as if you were. Even if other Christians acted as if they were your enemy. The reason for this is that I see you as God sees you: precious, no matter what you say, no matter what you do. Because of this, I cannot hate you, even if you try to make me hate you.

I know it’s unlikely that you’ll believe this now, but Jesus loves you too. More than you can conceive. So let me put it to you this way: If there is the possibility, even if you think it’s remote, of there being a love so great as to be infinite and nearly inconceivable, a love so abundant that it inspires and compels the heart of a sinful man like me to love someone I don’t even know and who might even hate me, or at least what I represent, isn’t that love worth investigating? If love is the highest and best thing in the universe, isn’t it rational to seek out such a love?

The great challenge is to doubt that which we think is undoubtable, and question that which we think is unquestionable. We must ask ourselves if we’ve done that. I’m asking you to do so.

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74 Comments
  1. Well done. I grew up in a tradition that taught it was a sin to doubt. Honesty is refreshing and brings freedom.

    • Thank you Mark. John the Baptist isn’t the only example either. When God promised Abraham the Promised Land, Abraham’s immediate response was “how will I know?”. Abraham was questioning if God could, or maybe even would, come through with His promise. I wrote about that in the post titled “Jesus and Abraham”.

      If we are not able to face our doubts and questions head-on, these things can wreck us in many ways. That’s one of the reasons I love apologetics, it enables Christians to face those doubts and questions.

  2. Jay Morgan permalink

    Well said Marc. This is the gap that needs to be bridged. If we love like Christ loves that is enough to convince any sceptic. They will no longer see us but Christ in us. Thanks for your faithfulness brother.

    • Jay, you touched on a topic that was inferred and specifically meant for Christians and Christian apologists. We can get caught up in the “debate” and “argument” side of it and totally forget WHY we’re doing what we’re doing in the first place.More often than not, it’s our own ego that prevents us from loving the way we should.

      Respectfully, I think there are skeptics that need, or at least desire, evidence. Some modern-day apologists became apologists because they were once atheists who dug deep into the evidence.

  3. Brian Westley permalink

    Sorry, your letter is trying to use emotional arguments to be convincing. Emotional arguments are fallacies. If you have any evidence for gods, have at it.

    • Hi Brian. Respectfully, my main point is asking an atheist to doubt what he or she holds to be true or not true. This is not from an emotional perspective, but one of not being stagnant intellectually. The easiet thing to do is to think we’re always right. As far as evidence, that’s where my suggestion of looking at apologetic material and discussions with apologists come into play. If you’re willing, I can offer some good links, or even have a discussion with you if you would like. Thank you for replying. I sincerely mean that.

      • Brian Westley permalink

        Your later statements are emotional arguments:
        “Maybe you’ve had bad experiences with Christians. I would think it’s quite likely”
        “Allow me to make this statement: You are loved. You may not believe me; you may have had personal experiences that lead you to think otherwise; or perhaps you may have a bias that prevents you from believing it, but it is true.”

        Neither of the above are valid arguments, they’re trying to play on human emotions.

        I’m fairly familiar with apologetic arguments and find none of them convincing. Which ones do you think are convincing to an atheist?

      • The inclusuion of emotional arguments doesn’t detract from the intellectual arguments. The parts you cite aren’t meant to be arguments in and of themselves. I’m fully aware that there’s often tension (to put it mildly) in interaction between atheists and christians. My desire, in writing the above, is to request that an atheist doesn’t get soured on the experience to the point of avoiding rational discussion.

        As far as your comment about apologetic arguments, here is (as the post stated) my thought on that: I could attempt to provide arguments, but are you fully willing to consider them? *This* is where the part I wrote about an open heart being as important as an open mind comes into play. Because often (and I’m not accusing you) someone will “listen”, but only with the expactation and intent of immediate dismissal. That would seem to go against the scientific method.

        Also, what are the biggest obstacles you have as far as apologetic arguments? Which ones fail, in your opinion?

        And finally, have you *really* ever sincerely doubted that which you hold to be true (or, as the case of atheism often goes, not true)? That, I believe is as important (to anyone, no matter what they believe–or not) as anything else. Thanks again for replying.

      • Brian Westley permalink

        “The inclusuion of emotional arguments doesn’t detract from the intellectual arguments.”

        It doesn’t invalidate them, but I’d say it detracts from the overall argument.

        “I could attempt to provide arguments, but are you fully willing to consider them?”

        I will consider them.

        “This* is where the part I wrote about an open heart being as important as an open mind comes into play.”

        It’s also where equivocation can come into play. You might provide an argument that you find entirely convincing that I find completely unconvincing, for example.

        “Because often (and I’m not accusing you) someone will “listen”, but only with the expactation and intent of immediate dismissal.”

        I will say that I doubt you’ll convince me, but if your argument really is intellectual and not emotional, it supposedly would convince me even if I’m very skeptical going into it. My degree of gullibility shouldn’t be a factor.

        “That would seem to go against the scientific method.”

        The scientific method is ALWAYS skeptical of every claim; every claim can (and should) be tested over and over.

        “Also, what are the biggest obstacles you have as far as apologetic arguments? Which ones fail, in your opinion?”

        ALL of them fail. Kalam, ontological, transcendental, first cause, etc.

        “And finally, have you *really* ever sincerely doubted that which you hold to be true (or, as the case of atheism often goes, not true)?”

        So far, I’ve had no reason to think gods exist, so as far as my atheism goes, no. I’ve yet to see any reason to think otherwise.

        “That, I believe is as important (to anyone, no matter what they believe–or not) as anything else.”

        Like I say, I have no reason to think gods exist. I likewise don’t believe that leprechauns exist, either, but I wouldn’t say that this means I don’t have an open mind. As a line from the old TV show Night Court says, “I like to have an open mind, but not so open my brains fall out.”

      • Thanks again for replying. Which argument would you like to tackle first? I’m hesitant to start and possibly start with something irrelevant, or seemingly irrelevant to you. You mentioned Kalam and first cause, two very related subjects that I have some familiarity with. But whatever you would like.

        As a “full disclosure” type thing, and to be transparent and honest, I am not so naive or arrogant as to think I have the answers to everything–as pleasant an experience as that might be. There may be times in our conversation where I’ll think “Huh. Good point. Let me look into that”. I have access to a fair amount of very knowledgable apologists, and may at times ask them for an opinion. I’ve done this before. After reading Christopher Hitchens “God Is Not Great” the question of the two genealogies of Jesus perplexed me, as well as Johns seemingly different account of the feeding of the 5000. (Which also perplexed me in this way: John was fully aware of the other previous accounts, so if he was going to lie, why not “get our story straight”?). There’s been other examples, but it’s not necessary to list them all. The point is, I have a certain well-rounded knowledge of apologetics but am in no way an expert in any one field. Sound fair?

      • Brian Westley permalink

        Sounds fair enough. Did you want to start with arguments for a generic god or argue specifically for the Christian god? You can start with Kalam and first cause if you like.

      • My arguments will be specifically for the God of Christianity. There may be times that an argument references the possibility of a “god” in the general sense. For instance, a reference to the “genetic fallacy” would be an argument to the existence of a “god” in general.

        We can start with Kalam/first cause. I’m fairly certain you already know the argument, since you mentioned it, but I’ll briefly go through it here for the sake of anyone else who might be following along.

        Basically, the Kalam can be summed up as follows:

        1) Whatever begins to exist must have a cause.

        Simply, everything that exists was brought into existence by some sort of cause. An example may be that you and I exist because our father and mother, um, “loved each other in that ‘special way”. That’s a simplification, of course, because we know there’s other circumstances regarding procreation (I myself am adopted, for instance).

        2) The universe exists.

        I think we can all agree on this. See? We have common ground already! 🙂

        Some may get metaphysical and say that it’s possible that they exist in consciousness and are only imagining the physical world, but that’s beyond the scope of science or the scientific method. I think we can all agree that the belief that the physical world exists is rational.

        3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

        Because an expanding universe implies that there once was a singularity, we have the theory of the Big Bang. The Big Bang implies that the universe did not always exist, but rather exploded into being billions of years ago.

        The argument here is this: What caused the Big Bang, or the energy and matter that exploded into the universe we know today? This points to an uncaused being transcendent of space and time, a being of at least enough power and ability to cause the energy and matter. An uncaused first cause. Otherwise we have energy and matter that have no explanation for existence.

        Some have made the argument “what created God?” which, respectfully, misses the point of the transcendent being of God, a being transcendent of space and time. For instance, space and time did not exist before the Big Bang. In physics we often see space-time, referring to their close relationship. We see this in the flexibility of time, like the experiment that used two atomic clocks and sent one into orbit, and when it came back down it was behind the terrestrial clock because it’s speed in space had effectively “slowed time an put it behind the stationary clock. So God, being transcendent, being out of space is also “out of time”, as it were.

        I likely am not as articulate in the argument as some, but I hope I represented it well enough. I have to go start preparing three bowls of chili for a ministry outing Saturday, so I likely won’t be back until Saturday afternoon.

        Thanks again for the opportunity to dialogue with you Brian. I mean that.

      • Brian Westley permalink

        “1) Whatever begins to exist must have a cause.

        Simply, everything that exists was brought into existence by some sort of cause.”

        This does not appear to be true (virtual particles). Even without QM, I see no reason to grant it, since I don’t see things “brought into existence” from nothing, at least not as an everyday experience. Even begin to exist is a problem, using a baby, since the baby can be traced back to a sperm and egg in two humans, so at what point does it begin to exist?

      • I’ll set aside (unless you’d like to delve deeper into it) the QM theory of virtual particles too, the reason being that there’s no empirical evidence for them.

        A main point of Kalam/first cause is that the Big Bang was the only instance of something from nothing.

        To say that everything that begins to exist must have a cause is not the same thing as saying that everything that begins to exist came from nothing. Birth is a good example. A baby comes from the joining together of the egg and sperm, which came from people who had come into existence through the same means, etc.

        The thrust of it is that everything that exists, came into existence by some act, or cause. So this brings us to the question of what caused the Big Bang.

        I feel I should, if not for you, Brian, but for anybody following along, address the issue of a Christian supporting the Big Bang (as reasonable) when the BB states that creation took billions of years, and the Bible gives us a “seven day” account.

        The Biblical account and the Big Bang theory are not at odds with each other. This may surprise some.

        We have to look deeper into what the Genesis account actually says. For one thing, it was written by a man–inspired by God–that wrote the account in line with his limited understanding of the natural world, or what we might call scientific knowledge. Not due to any superstition or such thing, but it’s important to realize that this was a man in the ancient world.

        Next, the Biblical creation account lists the forming of the sun and moon on the *fourth* “day”, so there could not have been 24 days as we know them before that.

        And finally, the word that’s interpreted into English as “day” is “yom”. “Yom” can mean a literal 24-hour day, a week, a month, or–and this is important– an undetermined amount of time. So each “day” that’s mentioned could easily be a period of billions of years.

        I hope I understood your objection correctly and answered it articulately enough.

  4. “I’ll set aside (unless you’d like to delve deeper into it) the QM theory of virtual particles too, the reason being that there’s no empirical evidence for them.”

    Wrong.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_particle
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v479/n7373/full/nature10561.html

    “A main point of Kalam/first cause is that the Big Bang was the only instance of something from nothing.”

    I haven’t even gotten that far. I was objecting to this first statement:
    “1) Whatever begins to exist must have a cause.”

    Virtual particles do not appear to be caused. If you don’t like QM, radioactive decay also appears to be causeless.

    “The thrust of it is that everything that exists, came into existence by some act, or cause.”

    And I don’t accept that. There are observations that contradict that statement. It’s not a true statement.

    “So this brings us to the question of what caused the Big Bang.”

    No, it doesn’t. You’ve arrived there using statement that you think is true but that I think is false.

    • I am skeptical that radio active decay is causeless. I mean think about it. There are specific half lives of each isotope, and they can be known. If radioactive decay events were uncaused, then they would have to be completely random. No antecedent causes or conditions could determine them. So the half life of one isotope shouldn’t be any different than the half life of another isotope, and there shouldn’t any specific half life of any isotope. The fact that there are specific half lives for specific isotopes seems to suggest that there are antecedent causes or conditions that determine decay events.

      I suppose you might accuse me of committing the fallacy of composition, but this seems to me to be analogous to a red brick wall. While the shape of each individual brick may not determine the shape of the wall, nevertheless the colour of each individual brick does determine the colour of the wall. Unless there is something deterministic about each individual decay event in a sample of one isotope, it doesn’t seem like there could be a specific known half life in a sample of one isotope.

      • “I am skeptical that radio active decay is causeless.”

        That’s not really relevant; since radioactive decay does not (at least not yet) have a causal explanation and appears to be causeless, it’s enough to not grant “Whatever begins to exist must have a cause” as a beginning assumption. Why should I grant an assumption that seems to contradict reality?

      • Brian, I’m responding to the argument of radioactive decay here, and posting a response to the argument of virtual particles separately.

        Whenever something is caused something is changed. Conversely, whenever something is changed something is caused (by that change) (action/reaction). These two truths cannot exist without each other.

        Radioactive decay is a change in material in that the measurement of radiation within the material is different (changed) from what it previously was.

        Cause comes from necessary objects; objects that are necessary for there to be existence of something in the physical world.

        What’s important to remember when discussing Kalam/cause(or causeless) is that the Kalam doesn’t only refer to the BB itself, that is, the “explosion” itself, but also to the creation of the singularity from whence we have the BB. Obviously, without a singularity there is no possibility of the BB.

        So the argument from radioactive decay misses the point of “whatever begins to exist must have a cause” in comparison to Kalam (I’m also, obviously, addressing the radioactive decay argument directly elsewhere in this reply) that without material there is no possibility of radioactive decay. Radioactive decay can only exist within a physical object. In other words, to put it simply, no singularity=no Big Bang, no material=no radioactive decay. Radioactive decay is a process that can only exist if physical material exists. Radioactive decay cannot exist without physical material. So the physical material is then a necessary object for radioactive decay. In Kalam, God is the necessary being (object) for the (creation of) the singularity.

        Further, besides material, a necessary object of radioactive decay is time. Radioactive decay cannot exist without time, it’s part of its very nature, so to speak.

        So we see that radioactive decay cannot exist without the necessary objects of material and time, that radioactive decay cannot come into existence in and of itself, but needs these two objects to exist. Kalam, on the other hand, states God as the necessary being for the existence of the singularity and the resulting Big Bang.

        The separate argument can also be made that time is a cause of sorts of radioactive decay. Unlike material, a necessary object for radioactive decay, which of course has physical properties, time is a dimensional object, a dimension unto itself, and again, a necessary object for radioactive decay. The material itself may not cause radioactive decay, but time, in effect, does.

        Every cause has at least one necessary object, and that object or objects act as the agent(s) for cause. Time is an object of, and agent for radioactive decay; so therefore time is a cause of radioactive decay.

      • “Whenever something is caused something is changed. Conversely, whenever something is changed something is caused (by that change) (action/reaction). These two truths cannot exist without each other.”

        Sorry, I don’t accept your “truth” as actually being true; I still don’t accept premise 1) as stated for reasons I’ve already stated.

      • The premise you quoted is not the same as Kalam. What do you specifically refute about it?

      • I’ve just been quoting what you wrote above:

        “Basically, the Kalam can be summed up as follows:

        1) Whatever begins to exist must have a cause.

      • But Kalam is not the same as “Whenever something is caused something is changed. Conversely, whenever something is changed something is caused (by that change) (action/reaction). These two truths cannot exist without each other.”

        These are two entirely different premises.

      • Right. I disagree with both. I’ve already said why I disagree with your premise (1)

      • “Right. I disagree with both. I’ve already said why I disagree with your premise (1)”

        But what you said was: “Sorry, I don’t accept your “truth” as actually being true; I still don’t accept premise 1) as stated for reasons I’ve already stated.”

        The reasons you stated had to do with Kalam, not the relationship of cause and change in my premise. You still haven’t refuted the cause/change relationship.

      • Here, I’ll break it down:

        “Whenever something is caused something is changed. Conversely, whenever something is changed something is caused (by that change) (action/reaction). These two truths cannot exist without each other.”

        The above statement I don’t accept as true.

        “I still don’t accept premise 1) as stated for reasons I’ve already stated.”

        I don’t accept premise 1) for entirely different reasons. Here’s the reason I gave in an earlier message:

        “since radioactive decay does not (at least not yet) have a causal explanation and appears to be causeless, it’s enough to not grant “Whatever begins to exist must have a cause” as a beginning assumption. Why should I grant an assumption that seems to contradict reality?”

      • Here in my premise you must also refute that when something is changed, something is caused. Thats the difference I think you’re missing. That relationship between cause and change, or change and cause.

      • “Here in my premise you must also refute that when something is changed, something is caused.”

        No, I don’t. All I need to do is show a reason why I don’t accept the Kalam argument. I don’t accept premise 1), which is sufficient to reject the argument. You’re bringing in an entirely irrelevant statement; I don’t need to address it to reject Kalam.

      • And I refuted your reason given for rejecting Kalam. Thats what I did with that set of premises, and you have not offered anything at all to refute them.

      • “And I refuted your reason given for rejecting Kalam.”

        No, you didn’t.

        Virtual particles and radioactive decay appear to be two uncaused phenomena; I reject premise 1) on that basis.

        “Thats what I did with that set of premises, and you have not offered anything at all to refute them.”

        First, it’s irrelevant, and second, I have refuted them. I don’t accept the following statement of yours:

        “Whenever something is caused something is changed. Conversely, whenever something is changed something is caused (by that change) (action/reaction). These two truths cannot exist without each other.”

        You can believe it if you like; I don’t.

        Now, if you really think you’ve shown that radioactive decay is caused, publish your results and collect your Nobel. I remain unconvinced.

      • Respectfully, Brian, saying “I don’t accept them” is not refuting them. You still haven’t offered anything at all to counter my premises; beyond “I don’t accept them”, or “I don’t believe…”

      • “Respectfully, Brian, saying “I don’t accept them” is not refuting them.”

        Yes, it is. If I don’t agree with any one of your premises, your argument fails. A premise is a statement that is agreed upon as true — you CANNOT automatically assume your opponent will agree with your premises. Why not just start with a premise “god exists” and complain when I don’t agree?

      • Brian, you have not gone *beyond* “I dont accept/believe” with my premises that refute your RD arguments. You are basically saying “no” while offering nothing at all in the way of proof to dispute what I’ve laid out.

      • Brian, by your reasoning all I have to do is say “I don’t accept…” and everything you’ve claimed fails. I hope you can see that, and how it fails at any type of refutation.

      • “Brian, you have not gone *beyond* “I dont accept/believe” with my premises that refute your RD arguments.”

        I don’t HAVE to. I don’t agree with your assumptions.

        Here:
        “Conversely, whenever something is changed something is caused (by that change)”

        You seem to be trying to define virtual particles as caused with wordplay.

        Consider a QM vacuum at time t0

        At time t1, a virtual particle pair appear. This is a change, and, according to the best physics of today, is uncaused.

        That refutes your quoted statement above.

      • “Brian, by your reasoning all I have to do is say “I don’t accept…” and everything you’ve claimed fails. I hope you can see that, and how it fails at any type of refutation.”

        You don’t understand how logical arguments work.

        Logical arguments are: a set of premises (P), a set of valid logical statements (L), and a conclusion (C). If the premises are true and the logic is sound, the conclusion must be true.

        However, to argue with another person, you have to agree on the premises, and that the logic is valid.

        All I need to do is point to a premise that I don’t personally agree with, and, as far as I’m concerned, the argument fails and the conclusion has not been shown.

        I don’t agree with your premise (1), because there are physics experiments that appear to contradict it, so I will not grant that premise as true. I don’t CARE if you think it’s true and you accept the argument — I do NOT think it’s true, and that’s sufficient to strike down the argument.

        And again, if you try to form a new, side argument to show premise (1) is true, you need to see if I agree with all your premises.

        However, since there are thousands of physics experiments that support non-causality of virtual particles and radioactive decay, I will believe what the experiments appear to show, which is incompatible with your premise (1).

        So yes, REALLY, all I need to do is not agree with your first premise, and I can say that your conclusion does not follow. That’s how real logical arguments work.

      • Respectfully, Brian, you misunderstand how this type of discussion works. It is not merely enough to say “I don’t agree” with a premise. You’ve offered no credible reason for anybody to take your “I don’t agree” seriously because you haven’t refuted the premises you say you don’t agree with. There’s absolutely no credibility in merely saying “I don’t agree” with a premise without pointing out where the premise fails. The closest you’ve come is some vague reference to “physics experiments that appear to contradict it”. Where is the information on these physics experiments? It’s not reasonable to put out a denial without any evidence or material to back it up that can be looked at for its own errors. Respectfully, you’re expecting me to take your word for it that your stance is correct, and that’s not reasonable in any sense.

      • “Respectfully, Brian, you misunderstand how this type of discussion works.”

        No, I don’t.

        “It is not merely enough to say “I don’t agree” with a premise.”

        Of course it is. Here, let me demonstrate:

        My premises:
        1) the sun orbits the earth
        2) everything that orbits the earth is closer than 10,000,000 miles from earth
        By 1) and 2), I conclude that the sun is closer than 10,000,000 miles from earth

        Now, statement 2) should be correct, and the logic is correct. However, premise 1) is incorrect. And all you need to do to show that this argument is invalid is show that premise 1) is wrong. You don’t need to do anything else.

        “You’ve offered no credible reason for anybody to take your “I don’t agree” seriously because you haven’t refuted the premises you say you don’t agree with.”

        YES, I HAVE.

        I disagree with this statement:
        “1) Whatever begins to exist must have a cause.”
        BECAUSE THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF PHYSICS EXPERIMENTS THAT CONTRADICT IT.

        This is JUST as if you started with “1) the sun orbits the earth” and I KEEP TELLING YOU that your first premise is CONTRADICTED BY PHYSICS.

        Your first premise is WRONG.

        “Where is the information on these physics experiments?”

        It’s standard QM physics. Virtual particle pairs are uncaused, radioactive decay is uncaused.

        By the way, how do you support your statement:
        “1) Whatever begins to exist must have a cause.”

        ?
        You’ve given me no proof of the above, you’ve only asserted it.

        “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” — Christopher Hitchens

      • Brian, my last posts were refuting your claim that radioactive decay and virtual particles refute Kalam. They were not proving the premise of Kalam.

        So…

        As far as radioactive decay:

        Refute the following:

        Radioactive decay is a phenomenon, not material; that is, not a physical substance.

        Radioactive decay can only occur in material; so material is an object of radioactive decay.

        Radioactive decay occurs over time; so time is an object of RD.

        Whenever there is change there is cause. Change creates something new that had not existed before. THIS IS NOT SOMETHING FROM NOTHING.

        Conversely, whenever there is cause there is change. THIS IS NOT SOMETHING FROM NOTHING.

        Time is an object of RD. RD cannot exist without it. Time is also an agent then, effectively causing change.

        Therefore RD does have a cause.

        After you can refute that. We’ll move on to virtual particles.

      • We’re working on exactly that. And regarding Hitchens statement: what proof is there for atheism?

      • “Brian, my last posts were refuting your claim that radioactive decay and virtual particles refute Kalam.”

        They refute “1) Whatever begins to exist must have a cause.”

        Do you have any evidence to support your premise 1) above? I don’t accept it as true.

        “Refute the following:”

        “Whenever there is change there is cause.”

        I don’t agree with this premise of yours.

      • Again, simply saying “I dont agree” is asking me to take your word for it that the premise is false. Why should anyone consider the premise false?

      • “Again, simply saying “I dont agree” is asking me to take your word for it that the premise is false.”

        NO. You STILL don’t understand.

        ***I*** DON’T BELIEVE IT. I don’t CARE if you believe it or not.

        “Why should anyone consider the premise false?”

        Because physics experiments show that uncaused events DO happen, so affirming something that contradicts reality is simply dumb.

      • Brian, you have offered nothing at all that any rational, reasonable person would take seriously. Even your supposed argument of “physics experiments” offers no information whatsoever as to what these experiments were, what the data was, etc. It’s all your opinion, which is not empirical and (respectfully) not worth anything. You’ve failed to refute even one of my premises.

        This seems to indicate that you’re stubbornly holding on to what you believe, and expect me to believe it as well, with nothing offered from you beyond your opinion.

      • By the way, can we move this to the bottom? It’s easier to use the reply at the bottom vs. finding the right subthread ‘reply’…

      • I’ll try. I’m on mobile now, so if it happens it won’t be until tomorrow. Sorry about that.

        FWIW, it’s even more of a hassle on mobile :/

    • As far as virtual particles as evidence of refuting Kalam, I found the following (well [full disclosure] someone suggested the following from William Lane Craig) which I’ll just quote instead of putting it in my own words, and then briefly sum up afterwards:

      For virtual particles do not literally come into existence spontaneously out of nothing. Rather the energy locked up in a vacuum fluctuates spontaneously in such a way as to convert into evanescent particles that return almost immediately to the vacuum. As John Barrow and Frank Tipler comment, “. . . the modern picture of the quantum vacuum differs radically from the classical and everyday meaning of a vacuum– nothing. . . . The quantum vacuum (or vacuua, as there can exist many) states . . . are defined simply as local, or global, energy minima (V'(O)= O, V”(O)>O)” ([1986], p. 440). The microstructure of the quantum vacuum is a sea of continually forming and dissolving particles which borrow energy from the vacuum for their brief existence. A quantum vacuum is thus far from nothing, and vacuum fluctuations do not constitute an exception to the principle that whatever begins to exist has a cause.

      End quote.

      So virtual particles are the result of fluctuations in a quantum vacuum. The quantum vacuum is the necessary object and also agent (cause) of virtual particles, from which they get their energy, and thus existence.

      • William Lane Craig is not a physicist. I certainly won’t accept WLC as any kind of authority on QM.

        “So virtual particles are the result of fluctuations in a quantum vacuum. The quantum vacuum is the necessary object and also agent (cause) of virtual particles, from which they get their energy, and thus existence.”

        Even if I did accept it, this statement of yours doesn’t support your first premise (“1) Whatever begins to exist must have a cause”).

        In a quantum vacuum, virtual particle pairs appear and vanish randomly — that is, they begin to exist (and then mutually annihilate soon after). The appearance of these particle pairs seem to be uncaused.

        As I’ve explained before, since there appear to be uncaused events in the real world, I won’t accept (1) as a true premise. It’s contradicted by reality.

      • I don’t see how you think it doesn’t support my premise. Also, isn’t it a logical fallacy to dismiss an argument on the basis that the person (who, btw, didn’t originate said argument) because the person making it isn’t a physicist? By that standard, I should dismiss your argument.

        So where do you think Craig and the work he quoted fails, specifically?

  5. “I don’t see how you think it doesn’t support my premise.”

    Well, I explained why.

    “Also, isn’t it a logical fallacy to dismiss an argument on the basis that the person (who, btw, didn’t originate said argument) because the person making it isn’t a physicist?”

    Bring on his cites then; physics isn’t just people making up stuff.

    “By that standard, I should dismiss your argument.”

    I can cite everything I’ve stated.

    “So where do you think Craig and the work he quoted fails, specifically?”

    As I said, even if I accept his argument, that doesn’t explain the random appearance of virtual particles. They seem to appear uncaused (and no, the QM vacuum is not the “cause” of when they appear; the vacuum exists continuously, but particle pairs don’t appear continuously).

  6. Moving thread to the bottom….

    “Brian, you have offered nothing at all that any rational, reasonable person would take seriously.”

    WHAT??

    About all I’ve been doing is not accepting your first premise (ignoring all the sidetracks).

    I do not accept “Whatever begins to exist must have a cause” as true.

    I have given reasons why I don’t accept that as true.

    “Even your supposed argument of “physics experiments” offers no information whatsoever as to what these experiments were, what the data was, etc. It’s all your opinion,”

    No, it isn’t MY opinion, it the consensus of the physics community.

    “which is not empirical and (respectfully) not worth anything. You’ve failed to refute even one of my premises.”

    Your first premise is contradicted by reality.

    “This seems to indicate that you’re stubbornly holding on to what you believe, and expect me to believe it as well”

    For the last time, I DO NOT CARE WHAT YOU BELIEVE.

    “with nothing offered from you beyond your opinion.”

    Well, that’s all you’ve ever offered.

    • No, I offered solid premises *that do NOT say “everything is caused from nothing”. I put forth solid premises that refuted your claim that RD is not caused. These premises stand on their own merit (unless you can prove them wrong) and effectively dispute your claim (which you offered as a reason for not accepting Kalam, which again is not the argument said premises of mine argue for) that RD is not caused.

      Until said premises can be proven wrong, your claim about RD having no cause is without merit.

      I should also add that you made the claim that RD has no cause but offered nothing whatsoever to substantiate that claim. Do you have anything to substantiate the claim, or are you going by simple opinion or faith? What reason can you give me to believe your claim?

  7. Look, you obviously don’t know how to conduct a formal argument.

    If I presented an argument that started with a premise like this:
    1) the sun orbits the earth
    …you can simply state that you don’t accept the premise.

    I’m doing exactly the same thing with your first premise:
    “1) Whatever begins to exist must have a cause”
    …I don’t agree, because your premise contradicts current accepted physics.

    It’s pointless to continue.

    • Graceus permalink

      Brian, I’m just going to leave this here, which is definitely not just my opinion. Basically, you have tried to object to premise 1 with two examples: 1). virtual particles and 2). radioactive decay -both examples of quantum mechanical processes

      1). Throughout the universe we have a sea of quantum fluctuations which are characterized as self-collapsing functions. They occur everywhere, all the time, and were _thought_ to be spontaneous. However, that is now being disputed as scientists research further. According to William R. Wharton, Professor of Physics at Wheaton College, who researched nuclear physics for eighteen years, quantum events, are not uncaused. He writes that excluding causal chains would undermine quantum theory itself or make it difficult to correctly interpret. I quote his work here:

      “Because stationary states lack causal chains, the particle is _waiting_ for a causal chain, with a first _cause_ from outside, to give its non-conserved (accidental) properties a reality. All stationary state wave functions have a part which extends outside of the potential well, where the potential energy is greater than the total energy. The existence of the particle in this spatial region can only be made a reality if some outside probe, i.e. a scanning tunneling microscope, detects the position of the particle by imparting to it sufficient energy to actually exist where it is located. This is a first cause in a new causal chain; bringing reality to what previously was only a potentiality. To call this process tunneling through the barrier is a misnomer because the particle didn’t previously have a position inside the barrier. Similarly no bound particles in a stationary state can have momentum; otherwise they would be accelerating and giving off electromagnetic radiation, in contradiction to their stationary status. This rule that accelerating charge must emit or absorb radiation is no less sacred than is energy conservation. We must find an interpretation which holds both of these rules to be true. Whereas the absence of causality leaves the position and momentum of the electron undefined, its electric charge is usually causally related to the outside world. Therefore the spatial charge distribution must be a reality, distributed as a cloud given by the square of the QM wavefunction” (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=william+wharton%E2%80%99s+paper+causation+with+quantum+mechanics&source=web&cd=8&sqi=2&ved=0CF0QFjAH&url=http%3A%2F%2Fciteseerx.ist.psu.edu%2Fviewdoc%2Fdownload%3Fdoi%3D10.1.1.133.2208%26rep%3Drep1%26type%3Dpdf&ei=WUdjT8XWDOj50gGV_-mnCA&usg=AFQjCNF2eVH4RuPPMkcii8nzUlvIc_dYVA&cad=rja).

      • Graceus permalink

        Continued…
        The laws of quantum gravity necessitate the existence of a timeless “wave function of the universe”. The wave function is a probability distribution which allows for spontaneous fluctuations. Stephen Hawkings says in The Theory of Everything (New Millennium 2002) that “the total energy of the universe is zero.” In his book A Brief History of Time , Hawkings and James Hartle, created a mathematical rationalization for the entire universe popping into existence called the “universe as a wave function” (http://globalwebpost.com/farooqm/study_res/hawking/schaefer.html). What can cause a wave function sitting in a potential state to collapse and start the chain of events? According to Stephen Hawking’s colleague, Roger Penrose, self-collapsing wave functions are caused by minds, this goes with the “Consciousness causes collapse” theory. This is the Strong Copenhagen Interpretation which is the standard or orthodox view of quantum mechanics. You can read more about this here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_mind%E2%80%93body_problem.

        There are criticisms to the “Consciousness causes collapse” theory. Here are two criticisms from the link I provided: it is “inconsistent with the matieralist monism” and “does not allow for sensible discussion…on assumption of an _atheistic_ universe.” So the problems listed do not have to do with science, but philosophical or metaphysical reasons.

        So virtual particles do not come into existence uncaused out of nothing. They sit potentially on a quantum wavefunction (which is something), and according to the theory, consciousness causes the wave function to collapse, bringing the particle into existence.

        2). Regarding radioactive decay: “An atom of some radioactive substance such as radium will eventually decay, and in the process it will emit energy. But there is no known triggering event that could serve as the cause of this decay event. In a large collection of radium atoms the rate of decay can be accurately predicted, but the identity of the decayed atoms cannot be determined beforehand. **Their decay is random and _was_ considered_ to_ be_ uncaused_ in an older framework of quantum theory. Under the new formulation spontaneous emission, for example, is initiated by vacuum fluctuations” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causality_%28physics%29).

        So, if you look at the quantum mechanical processes of virtual particles and radioactive decay, you will see that these do not refute premise 1.

      • merlynleroy permalink

        (by the way, this is Brian Westley through a different account)

        “Throughout the universe we have a sea of quantum fluctuations which are characterized as self-collapsing functions. They occur everywhere, all the time, and were _thought_ to be spontaneous. However, that is now being disputed as scientists research further.”

        Disputed is not the same as overturned. Lots of principles of physics are disputed all the time.

        Also, if you’re going to quote wikipedia, I can too:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_particle
        “Vacuum polarization, which involves pair production or the decay of the vacuum, which is the spontaneous production of particle-antiparticle pairs”

      • Glad to see you offering evidence. I mean that.

        Also, being disputed is not solid evidence of being refuted.

        I don’t see how the wiki quote refutes the WLC quote.

      • merlynleroy permalink

        “Also, being disputed is not solid evidence of being refuted.”

        Being disputed means there’s disagreement. I happen to be on the other side of the disagreement.

        “I don’t see how the wiki quote refutes the WLC quote.”

        I wasn’t talking about WLC, I was pointing out a case of spontaneous production. This was in reply to the beginning quote:

        “1). Throughout the universe we have a sea of quantum fluctuations which are characterized as self-collapsing functions. They occur everywhere, all the time, and were _thought_ to be spontaneous.”

      • Which is also addressed in the WLC quote, and the quote WLC uses. Perhaps you missed that or misunderstood it.

    • Brian, I’m truly sorry that you refuse to accept that I refuted your reasons for not accepting Kalam. I hope and pray that one day you will allow your mind to be open, and move past your bias.

      • merlynleroy permalink

        “Brian, I’m truly sorry that you refuse to accept that I refuted your reasons for not accepting Kalam”

        Well, it’s because you didn’t. Standard physics still says that uncaused events happen, and I’ll stick with reality.

        “I hope and pray that one day you will allow your mind to be open, and move past your bias.”

        An “open mind” does not involved abandoning well-established scientific observations. You simply aren’t dealing with reality.

      • Brian, once you can refute, or at least attempt to refute, my premises that refute your assertion that radioactive decay is not caused–and only then–will I take you seriously. You’ve offered nothing at all to back your assertions, which, again, leads me to believe that you have a belief and bias that you stubbornly refuse to address.

  8. merlynleroy permalink

    “Brian, once you can refute, or at least attempt to refute, my premises that refute your assertion that radioactive decay is not caused–and only then–will I take you seriously”

    Well, you’re saying I HAVE to believe what you believe, or you won’t take me seriously.

    Why didn’t you say that at the start, and indicate that you were never interested in a real proof, you just wanted me to agree with you.

    “You’ve offered nothing at all to back your assertions”

    Just established physics. You keep asking me to believe something that contradicts known physics. That’s ridiculous.

    • I’m not saying you have to believe, and never did. How is asking you to refute my premises doing that?

      Again, Brian, *what* “established physics” are you referencing? You want me to believe you because you make a vague reference to “established physics” without anything whatsoever to back up your claim, an think that’s a reasonable, rational argument?

  9. merlynleroy permalink

    “I’m not saying you have to believe, and never did. How is asking you to refute my premises doing that?”

    “Premises” are your assumptions. I don’t agree with your assumptions. The burden of proof is on you, not me.

    “Again, Brian, *what* “established physics” are you referencing?”

    Virtual particle pairs and radioactive decay.

    • And you don’t agree with my premises because… See, Brian, this is where your argument loses all credibility. If you cannot articulate why you disagree with each premise, basically your argument is “I just don’t believe. And that’s final”, with no data, no counter-premise to back up your belief.

      It’s long been established that you reference virtual particles and radioactive decay. That’s not the question. You still fail to refute my assertion, through the premises and conclusion I laid out, my and others refutation of RD and VP. This leads me to believe that either you blindly believe in them, or are incapable of either understanding or refuting the arguments against them.

      • merlynleroy permalink

        “And you don’t agree with my premises because… ”

        Because they contradict reality.

        If you want to convince me with an argument, it’s pretty hard when you start out with an assumption that I think conflicts with the real world.

        “See, Brian, this is where your argument loses all credibility.”

        YOU are trying to convince ME, not the other way around.

        ” If you cannot articulate why you disagree with each premise”

        I HAVE BEEN.

        Actual physics experiments show that not everything has a cause.

        “This leads me to believe that either you blindly believe in them, or are incapable of either understanding or refuting them.”

        Believe whatever silliness you like.

      • What it comes down to, Brian, is this: You have completely failed to support your assertion that RD and VP refute Kalam because you have completely failed to refute the arguments that refute that RD and VP have no cause.

        When you can prove, or at least attempt to prove, that the arguments that refute your blind assertion that RD and VP are caused are wrong, then we’re partaking in an intelligent discussion free from blind belief and personal bias in place of an intelligent argument.

      • Brian, as per the comment policy, that states that spiteful or insulting comments will not be approved, I have not allowed your last comment to be published.

        I am going to take care of some things and will be back tomorrow. I suggest you get your emotions in order before commenting again.

  10. “I am going to take care of some things and will be back tomorrow. I suggest you get your emotions in order before commenting again.”

    Sorry, you literally aren’t worth arguing with. You simply won’t accept that I believe that uncaused events happen via QM.

    • I absolutely do accept your belief, Brian. And it seems to be very strong belief. So strong, that it seems to me that your belief rejects any notion of the possibility of anything else.

      Which makes me wonder: if you’re belief is so ingrained as to arbitrarily reject evidence that contradicts your convictions, why did you say you would consider rational, reasonable arguments and evidence, when in fact you just summarily reject anything that refutes your belief that Kalam isn’t true?

      • merlynleroy permalink

        “I absolutely do accept your belief, Brian. And it seems to be very strong belief. So strong, that it seems to me that your belief rejects any notion of the possibility of anything else.”

        I’m open to possibilities, but it takes quite a bit of convincing if you want me to abandon physics and believe a fallacy-laden argument written by a non-physicist. I explained why your argument was essentially nonsense but you deleted it.

        “Which makes me wonder: if you’re belief is so ingrained as to arbitrarily reject evidence that contradicts your convictions, why did you say you would consider rational, reasonable arguments and evidence, when in fact you just summarily reject anything that refutes your belief that Kalam isn’t true?”

        I certainly will consider rational arguments; your first premise contradicts reality, so it isn’t reasonable to grant it. I would likewise reject an argument that used a premise like “the sun orbits the earth” because that contradicts reality too, even though there are still people who believe that.

      • Brian, despite your claim that you’re willing to consider evidence and reason, your actions say otherwise. It seems futile to attempt to reason with you, and so, for now, instead of going in this circle, I think this discussion is finished.

  11. merlynleroy permalink

    “Brian, despite your claim that you’re willing to consider evidence and reason, your actions say otherwise.”

    No, my actions spell out why I’ve rejected your arguments. You can’t seem to accept that your arguments are totally unconvincing to me.

    • Brian, I’m saddened that our discussion couldn’t have been more productive, and hope an pray that in time God will move in your life.

      Despite the unraveling of the discussion, know this: You are loved. By God and myself. This is not a “getting the last word” or “killing them with kindness” type of thing: it’s sometime I felt moved to tell you.

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