Sunday, October 31, 2010

Eight Questions (Part 2)

Back to my answering Michael Egnor's "Eight Questions for Atheists":

2. What caused the universe?

The universe has no cause. See my original post for more on this.

3. Why is there regularity (law) in nature?

At the quantum level things don't behave lawfully: sometimes one thing happens, sometimes another thing happens. Human beings only see things that result from millions of quantum events. The basic result brought about by large numbers of chance events is more predictable than any single chance event alone is. Casinos know this. What happens when any one person sits down to play is largely unpredictable. They may very well win some money. They may very well lose some money. But when thousands of people sit down to play, the casino knows the end result. And that's why we observe regularity in the universe.

4) Of the Four Causes in nature proposed by Aristotle (material, formal, efficient, and final), which of them are real? Do final causes exist?

Having had a look at the Wikipedia article, I will answer according to the definitions given there. All of these causes are real in many, though perhaps not all, situations. The final cause of a thing (ie its purpose) exists only when there is an agent who has made the thing with some purpose in mind, or when an agent uses something to achieve some goal. Things which are not made by an agent can't really be said to have a purpose unless an agent uses them for a purpose. Rocks don't have purpose unless someone uses them as a paper weight, or as something else. I was not created with a purpose, however, I can use my body and mind (which are ME) to achieve happiness in life, which is my goal. And that means that I have purpose.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Another Natural Explanation for Jesus' Alleged Resurrection

Is available here:

I think this man's suggestion about what happened is completely plausible. The only potential problem I can see for his explanation is that Christians are going to beat on the dead horse of the empty tomb. They'll say, "His explanation isn't valid because it doesn't explain the empty tomb. His explanation isn't valid because it doesn't explain the empty tomb. His explanation isn't valid because it doesn't explain the empty tomb. And by the way, aren't you forgetting about the empty tomb? Explain it."

But all of this is really a non-issue. Kris Komarnitsky's book Doubting Jesus' Resurrection already shows that there isn't any good evidence for the empty tomb but there is good evidence against the empty tomb. My advice to the writer of this natural explanation: read Komarnitsky's book. You can take up his defenses and defeat any Christian in a debate over this issue.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Should I?

I'm going to Skepticon 3 this year, and I've been thinking about ordering 10-15 copies of my book. I'm not sure if I will, but here are the pro's and con's, as I see them.

Pro's :
Might get to give a few copies to the speakers, who might read it and review it, and a review would expand my audience.

Might get to sell a few copies, which would offset the expense of the trip.

Con's :
Might get seen as a shameless self-promoter.

Might spend over 80-100 dollars and never see anything for it, if I'm not able to sell any copies or give them away.

Might be very awkward to find a way to sell the book. Do I just tell people that I meet about it or what?

So: What do you guys think? Should I do it or not?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Eight Questions...

So, I haven't been posting a lot in the past few months. It's because I've been very busy, and had limited access to the computer. But I'm coming around again, I really am. And so I thought I'd take the time to answer Michael Egnor's "Eight Questions for Atheists". Bear in mind that, as I answer these questions, I am not always totally sure that my answers are right. Also: As I started writing this, I realized it would be necessary to break this post into several parts.

One more thing: I realize that what I am writing today is very deep and hard to convey. To some people it will look like rambling, incoherent nonsense. Well, it isn't. It's damn difficult to understand or to write about in a clear way, but I did my best. Rest assured that my mind is still completely fine ; )

Here is the answer to the first question:

1) Why is there anything?

Something must exist.

To elaborate: What is the difference between things that exist and things that do not exist? We say that things exist when we can, at least possibly, interact with them in some way. Things that we cannot possibly interact with in any way are things which do not exist, or at least do not exist to us.

Let's do a thought experiment: Imagine that you "invent" your own universe. You write down the physical laws of your imaginary universe, and you work out the equations to figure out how it would evolve over time. Eventually your equations show that your universe develops planets and life at some point in its history. Further equations prove that intelligent, humanoid creatures would evolve in this universe. Working even more equations reveals that a pair of these humanoids are having a conversation about their universe, wondering why it exists. They are not troubled, or even aware, that their universe "doesn't exist." In their eyes, their universe does exist. It is quite real to them. Their "imaginary" universe seems just as real to them as our "real" universe seems to us. We have no way to tell what "exists" except our experiences. And yet experiences exist within universes that we would call "imaginary": For as our thought experiement shows, 'imaginary' beings in 'imaginary' universes still experience their universe as real. And therefore they have the same evidence that their universe exists as we have that our universe exists.

That leads us to the conclusion that there is no objective difference between real and imaginary universes. The only difference between our "real" universe and other "imaginary" universes is that we directly experience and interact with our universe, but we do not do so with things that are "imaginary". The inhabitants of "imaginary" universes also call their universe "real" and have every right to: It is real to them. Our universe is real to us. "Real" cannot be defined in any other meaningful way.

With that in mind: A completely objective and impartial judge would look at this universe (which would be called "imaginary" by those who do not live in it) as well as other universes (which we say are "imaginary") and would conclude that there is no fundamental difference between them. They are just as "real" (whatver that means) as we are, and we are just as real as they. And if that's the case, then our universe is truly are the same as imaginary universes.

Think about imaginary universes: How would we classify them? We could classify them as abstract objects. Extremely complex abstract objects. Since our universe is the same as they are, our universe is an extremely complicated abstraction. This seems strange at first, but think about it. Think of another imaginary object: for example, a pink room with ten aliens having tea. The room does not exist, yet you could say that the aliens do exist WITHIN the pink room. It's the same for us: our universe doesn't "exist" although we exist within it.

Think of how well this whole idea fits in with "I think, therefore I am." If I can think, I must exist in some sense. Beings in imaginary universes can also think within that universe. Therefore, they exist within that universe.

If this is right, then our universe is essentially just a complex abstract object. Those things "within" the abstract object "exist" (in the proper sense of the word) even if the abstract object itself does not "exist" in any sense of the word. All of this is very interesting, and has profound implications. Christian apologist William Lane Craig often talks about how the universe must have been caused by something immaterial, and that the only things which are immaterial are spirits and abstract objects. Craig says that abstract objects cannot cause things to exist, and so the only possible cause for the universe is a spirit. Yet my line of reasoning would throw Craig a huge curveball: The universe was not caused by an abstract object, it IS an abstract object. Abstract objects do not need to be caused. Therefore, the universe does not need to be caused.

And the implications continue: Abstract objects are not simply things that don't need a cause. Abstract objects cannot be caused period. If abstracts cannot be caused, and our universe is an abstract, then our universe cannot be caused.

God is defined as the cause of the universe. The universe does not and cannot have a cause. Therefore God cannot and does not exist.

Those who are perceptive and have followed this the whole way through will realize, without my having to our articulate, that the ideas presented here mean that there is logically no way at all that we could fail to exist. And our universe does not possess any status of existence which would require explanation. At long last the two ultimate questions of philosophy have been solved.

P.S. I must thank Gary Drescher for explaining the core idea of this post. He writes about it very clearly in the last chapter of his bookGood and Real: Demystifying Paradoxes from Physics to Ethics (Bradford Books).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Looking Forward to Skepticon

I will be attending Skepticon 3 this year. And I am super psyched about it! James Randi, Richard Carrier, PZ Myers and more will be there. I'm even thinking about designing a few "AiG Busted" T-shirts to wear to the event. I mean, plenty of skeptics know my blog, and it'd be cool to let 'em know who I am right off the bat.