Monday, November 23, 2009

Debunking Dinesh D'Souza

I'm going to correct some very common errors that Dinesh D'Souza has repeated over and over, most recently in his debate with Dan Barker.

Dinesh says that Science confirms that "once there was nothing, then there was a universe." Not true. No one knows what happened before the Big Bang, or even if there was a 'before'. It may be that the Big Bang is the first moment and no moments exist prior to it, or it may be that there was a 'before' and that perhaps the universe is eternal. In fact, there are cosmologists who defend the notion that the Big Bang was part of an epic cycle within eternity, see: Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang. But even if Dinesh was right that "once there was nothing, then there was something" why does that point to God? Why couldn't the nothing-to-something transition be a natural event? As Victor Stenger has pointed out, Physics tells us that simple states tend to transition to more complex ones. Since "nothing" is as simple as it gets, it would be expected to transition to something. And in fact, this would not break any of the laws of Conservation, since we know that the universe contains equal amounts of positive and negative energy and electric charge (meaning the total NET energy and charge of the universe is ZERO).

Dinesh says that the ancient Hebrews also said that "once there was nothing, then there was a unvierse" even while other cultures believed that a creator had fashioned the universe from pre-existing material. That may not be true, because one scholar thinks that the Hebrews did in fact believe that God fashioned the universe from pre-existent material.

Dinesh also brings up the old fine-tuning argument, about how the speed of light is so well fine tuned. I recommend watching this video for a good refutation of that particular example. I've debunked Dinesh's argument further in my book.

He brings up arguments for the resurrection of Jesus. He asks, "Why would Christ's disciples die for a lie?" I recommend reading Ken Daniels' book for a good refutation of that:

[T]he assertion that Jesus' disciples died for their faith has no historical foundation; it is mere hearsay, as Bart Ehrman informs us:

And an earlier point that Bill made was that the disciples were all willing to die for their faith. I didn't hear one piece of evidence for that. I hear that claim a lot, but having read every Christian source from the first five hundred years of Christianity, I'd like him to tell us what the piece of evidence is that the disciples died for their belief in the resurrection (Craig and Ehrman 2006, 28-29).

What Erhman is saying is that we have no historical grounding for the martyrdom of even one of Jesus' disciples. All details regarding their manner of dying emerge years later in accounts that are far removed from the actual events. Even if it could be proven historically that some of the earliest disciples were martyred, we would still be unable to look into their minds and know they died specifically for their belief in Jesus' Resurrection.

Joseph Smith was murdered by a mob in 1844 in Nauvoo, Illinois. Latter Day Saints believe he was martyred for his unwavering conviction that God revealed himself through golden tablets that Smith had discovered in 1830. Many non-Mormons believe he was killed because he was a criminal. If the facts are so readily disputed for a relatively recent and well-documented event like Joseph Smith's death, how can we say with any confidence how or why Jesus' disciples perished, let alone what was in their minds when they died?

I've debunked arguments for the resurrection of Jesus in my book and also here.