Am I Being Dishonest About Fine-Tuning?

In recent discussions with atheists on Twitter, I’ve encountered objections to the term “fine-tuning.” This term refers to the fact that, according to physics and cosmology, the fundamental physical constants and forces of the universe (the strength of gravity, the strength of electromagnetism, the cosmological constant, the number of spatial dimensions, and so forth) all appear to be precisely “tuned” within an extremely narrow range—an incredibly delicate balance that permits the existence of life in the universe. There are dozens of these constants and forces, and if just one of them had a slightly different value—if it were altered by as little as one part in billions or even trillions—life could not exist.

I find that most of the atheists I encounter have never heard of fine-tuning or the anthropic principle. When I explain it to them, they are aghast and refuse to believe what I’m saying. They frequently accuse me of lying or ignorance.

Those who are more astute and well-read will frequently object to the term “fine-tuning” because they think that even using that term is stacking the deck. “‘Fine-tuning’ requires a Fine-Tuner,” wrote one. “The term ‘fine tuning’ is a conclusion disguised as a premise: the argument is truly, technically circular.”

To his thinking, the term “fine-tuning” implies intentional tinkering with the laws of physics by a deity. That’s not how the term is commonly used and understood within the scientific community. “Fine-tuning” is actually a values-neutral, secular, scientific term that describes the nature of the constants and forces of the universe. Physicists, cosmologists, and astronomers actually do observe the universe to be “fine-tuned” without regard to how it got that way. It’s a description of the state of the universe, and does not presuppose how the universe got that way.

Whether or not there was a “Fine-Tuner” (i.e., God), the universe is fine-tuned. It is certainly conceivable that the universe could have come into existence by random-chance processes—with all of its physical constants and forces balanced within that incredibly narrow range, and without the intentional intervention of a “Fine-Tuner.”

Let me say that again for emphasis: Even if there was no intelligent “Fine-Tuner,” the universe is undeniably fine-tuned.

Atheists who wrongly accuse me of trying to bias the discussion with the term “fine-tuning” are themselves guilty of trying to force the discussion toward their conclusion by taking a perfectly common, descriptive, and neutral term, and trying to rule it out of bounds. If you read the literature on cosmic fine-tuning and the anthropic principle, it becomes clear that the term is used by scientists as the best way to describe the condition of the universe, and without any hint or suggestion of theistic propaganda. Some examples:

In The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, physicists John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler write:

Hoyle realized that this remarkable chain of coincidences—the unusual longevity of beryllium, the existence of an advantageous resonance level in C12 and the nonexistence of a disadvantageous level in O16— were necessary, and remarkably fine-tuned, conditions for our own existence and indeed the existence of any carbon-based life in the universe.

These coincidences could, in principle, be traced back to their roots where they would reveal a meticulous fine-tuning between the strengths of the nuclear and electromagnetic interactions along with the relative masses of electrons and nucleons.

—John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (New York: Oxford, 1988) 253.

Barrow and Tipler aren’t using “fine-tuning” to promote theism. They are simply describing some of the fine-tuned conditions in the cosmos that make life possible. Similarly, cosmologist Martin Rees, Britain’s Astronomer Royal (and definitely not a theist), also uses “fine-tuning” in a purely objective, scientific fashion:

These six numbers constitute a “recipe” for a universe. Moreover, the outcome is sensitive to their values: if any one of them were to be “untuned,” there would be no stars and no life. Is this tuning just a brute fact, a coincidence? Or is it the providence of a benign Creator? I take the view that it is neither. An infinity of other universes may well exist where the numbers are different. Most would be stillborn or sterile. We could only have emerged (and therefore we naturally now find ourselves) in a universe with the “right” combination. This realization offers a radically new perspective on our universe, on our place in it, and on the nature of physical laws. . . . If you imagine setting up a universe by adjusting six dials, then the tuning must be precise in order to yield a universe that could harbour life.

—Martin Rees, Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe (New York: Basic Books, 2001), 4 and 22.

In The First Three Minutes, Nobel-winning physicist (and atheist) Steven Weinberg writes about the fine-tuned nature of the cosmological constant:

There may be a cosmological constant in the field equations whose value just cancels the effects of the vacuum mass density produced by quantum fluctuations. But to avoid conflict with astronomical observation, this cancellation would have to be accurate to at least 120 decimal places. Why in the world should the cosmological constant be so precisely fine-tuned?

—Steven Weinberg, The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe (New York: Basic Books, 1993), 186-187.

In The Grand Design, physicists Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow also write about the fine-tuning of the cosmological constant in Einstein’s general relativity equations, calling it “the most impressive fine-tuning coincidence” in cosmology. They go on to describe other fine-tuning problems in cosmology:

Most of the fundamental constants in our theories appear fine-tuned in the sense that if they were altered by only modest amounts, the universe would be qualitatively different, and in many cases unsuitable for the development of life. . . . The emergence of the complex structures capable of supporting intelligent observers seems to be very fragile. The laws of nature form a system that is extremely fine-tuned, and very little in physical law can be altered without destroying the possibility of the development of life as we know it. Were it not for a series of startling coincidences in the precise details of physical law, it seems, humans and similar life-forms would never have come into being.

—Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design (New York: Bantam, 2012), 160-161.

So, to answer the question “Am I being dishonest about fine-tuning?,” the answer is no. I’m using the term “fine-tuning” in exactly the same way physicists and cosmologists Barrow, Tipler, Rees, Weinberg, Hawking and Mlodinow use it. I’m not playing word games to force a preordained conclusion. I lay out the evidence, I tell you what I think it means, and you are free to draw a different conclusion.

One of the most annoying experiences I have on Twitter is when atheists who don’t understand my views accuse me of lying. Why would I lie? For one thing, I’m morally and ethically committed to the truth. For another thing, I’m convinced that the evidence stacks up on my side. I believe that if I honestly present the evidence, including the sources and footnotes, the evidence will speak for itself.

I hope you’ll examine the evidence rationally and skeptically. If you are intellectually honest, you’ll at least see that I have valid reasons for my views. You may not be persuaded. You may not agree with me. You may have some counter-arguments to toss my way. Please do. All I ask is that you think critically, challenge everything, demand evidence—then be willing to follow that evidence wherever it leads.

Does Atheism Make You Stupid?

“If there is any consistent enemy of science,
it is not religion, but irrationalism.”

Stephen Jay Gould

Richard Dawkins, the author of The God Delusion, fancies himself to be “bright.” In a 2012 interview with Playboy magazine, the interviewer asked, “Is there a better word for a nonbeliever than atheist?”

“The word ‘bright’ was suggested by a California couple,” Dawkins replied. “I think it’s rather a good word, though most of my atheist friends think it suggests religious people are ‘dims.’ I say, ‘What’s wrong with that?’ [laughs]”1

(For more information on the Brights movement founded by Paul Geisert and Mynga Futrell, see the Wikipedia entry on the Brights movement.) 

(See also Professor Dawkins’ own article on the Brights movement at Edge.org.)

Richard Dawkins, a British subject, is so pleased with himself and his self-proclaimed “brightness” that he feels emboldened to speak out on the American election, calling Mitt Romney a “massively gullible fool” whom no thinking person should vote for, based purely on the fact that Romney subscribes to the Mormon faith. Reporter Raf Sanchez of Britain’s London Telegraph explained Richard Dawkins’ views on Romney:

“No matter how much you agree with Romney’s economic policy, can you really vote for such a massively gullible fool?” asked Prof Dawkins during an outburst on Twitter that lasted several hours.

The Oxford academic focused his criticism on the Church’s belief that its founder, Joseph Smith, was visited by an angel in 1820s New York, who guided him to a set of golden plates buried in a hill.

Smith claimed to have translated runes engraved on the plates, and compiled them into the Book of Mormon. The text describes how Jesus Christ appeared in the United States after the Crucifixion and how Adam and Eve went to the site of present-day Missouri after being expelled from the Garden of Eden. . . . “Could you really vote for a man who thinks the Garden of Eden was in Missouri?” he said.2

(Read the entire report at the Telegraph website.)

Let’s consider Dawkins’ central question: “No matter how much you agree with Romney’s economic policy, can you really vote for such a massively gullible fool?”

Well, any truly informed, thoughtful, rational person would have to answer YES. We Americans have been presented with a binary choice, Obama or Romney. And voting for Barack Obama is simply not a rational option for any informed, thinking individual.

President Obama has produced a four-year record of abject failure. There were 2.7 million long-term unemployed when he took office; there are 5 million today. Middle class income has fallen almost $4,000 under Obama, from $54,962 to $51,002. Gasoline prices have more than doubled under Obama, from $1.85 a gallon to $3.86. Home values have dropped 11 percent, health insurance costs have risen 23 percent, college tuition rates have risen 25 percent, the number of Americans in poverty has risen from 39.8 million to 46.2 million, up 6.4 million. We’ve gone from 32 million to 47 million people on food stamps under Obama—up 46 percent. The consumer price index has increased 9.1 percent. The federal debt has soared from $10.6 trillion to $16 trillion, a 51 percent increase. And the United States has dropped from first to seventh place in global competitiveness. That is the most massive record of failure since the Great Depression.

There’s a reason why Barack Obama has failed so spectacularly. He believes in a superstition that is infinitely more pernicious and destructive to our society than any Mormon doctrine. Barack Obama is a Keynesian, and history has shown that Keynesianomics has never worked, not once, in the entire history of mankind. And logic tells us why it cannot work: the core idea of Keynesianomics is the economic equivalent of trying to raise the level of a swimming pool by bailing water out of one end and pouring it into the other.

Only the private sector can create wealth. Government can print money, but money isn’t wealth, and government cannot create wealth. So when the government tries to “stimulate” the economy through government spending, it is only injecting money it has already taken out of the economy through taxing and borrowing. That’s bailing water out of one end of the pool and pouring it into the other—and that’s why the massive Obama stimulus package, the biggest Keynesian stimulus experiment in the history of mankind, failed utterly. It did not increase the net amount of wealth in the economy.

(For a historical lesson in why Keynesianomics has not and cannot ever work, read “The Kennedy-Reagan Truth vs. the Obama Delusion” by this author.)

The superstitious economic fantasies of Barack Obama are destroying the American economy, harming generations of Americans, plunging the American republic into an unrecoverable tailspin of debt, and threatening the global economy with meltdown. The massively gullible fool in this race is President Obama, who clings to a false religion of redistribution and “trickle-down government.”

I’m not a Mormon and I do not believe in Mormon doctrines. But history shows that Mormon people are clearly able to engage in rational, productive, socially responsible activities.

Some of the greatest business minds of our times have been Latter-Day Saints, including former Dell CEO Kevin Rollins, plastics entrepreneur and philanthropist Jon Huntsman, Sr., hotel executives J. Willard Marriott and J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr., and JetBlue founder David Neeleman. Journalist Jack Anderson and motivational writer Stephen R. Covey were Mormons. Celebrated science fiction novelist Orson Scott Card is a Mormon, as is Ken Jennings, who won a record 74 straight matches on TVs Jeopardy quiz show.

Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of television, was a devout Mormon. World-renowned cardio-thoracic surgeon Russell Marion Nelson is Mormon. Howard Tracy Hall, the inventor of synthetic diamonds, and Robert B. Ingebretsen, a pioneer developer of digital sound and robotics, were Mormons.

NASA computer scientist David Harold Bailey and NASA astronaut Don Leslie Lind are both Mormons. So was theoretical chemist Henry Eyring; he probably would have won the Nobel Prize for his transition state theory of chemical reactions if not for Dawkins-style anti-Mormon bias at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

So I ask you, Professor Dawkins, are all of these people “massively gullible fools” who ought to be disqualified simply because of their religion? Personally, I would trust a Mormon over a Keynesian any day of the week.

Professor Dawkins, there is much that I admire about your work. I have read and enjoyed your writings, especially The Selfish Gene. I even have a few nice things to say about your massively flawed screed The God Delusion. I love your invention of the concept of the meme, and I use it all the time.

But when it comes to economics and politics, I’m sorry, sir, but you are not “bright” at all. Your atheism has blinded you to facts and reason. It has made you stupid. It has even made you (to purloin a phrase) a massively gullible fool.

Notes

1. Chip Rowe, “Playboy Interview with Richard Dawkins,” Playboy, August 20, 2012, http://richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2012/8/20/playboy-interview-with-richard-dawkins#.UE-E8FGri9K.

2. Raf Sanchez, “US Election 2012: Richard Dawkins calls Mitt Romney ‘Gullible Fool’ over Mormon faith,” The Telegraph, September 9, 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/us-election/9532199/US-election-2012-Richard-Dawkins-calls-Mitt-Romney-gullible-fool-over-Mormon-faith.html.

An Atheist’s Admiration for Jesus

I’m convinced that if everyone in the world practiced the Sermon on the Mount (found in Matthew chapters 5 through 7), 95 percent of the world’s problems would be solved. It might surprise you to know that even atheist extraordinaire Richard Dawkins shares my admiration for the Sermon on the Mount. In The God Delusion, Dawkins writes:

“Jesus, if he existed . . . was surely one of the great ethical innovators of history. The Sermon on the Mount is way ahead of its time. His ‘turn the other cheek’ anticipated Gandhi and Martin Luther King by two thousand years.”

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2008), 283.

_________________________

Addendum, September 30, 2012:

I recently discovered a blogpage written by Richard Dawkins entitled “Atheists for Jesus” (April 10, 2006). At the top of the page is a photo of Dawkins wearing a T-shirt that reads “Atheists for Jesus.” In the article, Dawkins explains in greater depth his admiration for Jesus as an ethical teacher, while dismissing the theistic worldview of Jesus. Here’s an excerpt:

Of course Jesus was a theist, but that is the least interesting thing about him. He was a theist because, in his time, everybody was. Atheism was not an option, even for so radical a thinker as Jesus. What was interesting and remarkable about Jesus was not the obvious fact that he believed in the God of his Jewish religion, but that he rebelled against many aspects of Yahweh’s vengeful nastiness. At least in the teachings that are attributed to him, he publicly advocated niceness and was one of the first to do so. To those steeped in the Sharia-like cruelties of Leviticus and Deuteronomy; to those brought up to fear the vindictive, Ayatollah-like God of Abraham and Isaac, a charismatic young preacher who advocated generous forgiveness must have seemed radical to the point of subversion. No wonder they nailed him.

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” . . .

I am no memetic engineer, and I have very little idea how to increase the numbers of the super nice and spread their memes through the meme pool. The best I can offer is what I hope may be a catchy slogan. “Atheists for Jesus” would grace a T-shirt. There is no strong reason to choose Jesus as icon, rather than some other role model from the ranks of the super nice such as Mahatma Gandhi (not the odiously self-righteous Mother Teresa, heavens no). I think we owe Jesus the honour of separating his genuinely original and radical ethics from the supernatural nonsense which he inevitably espoused as a man of his time. And perhaps the oxymoronic impact of “Atheists for Jesus” might be just what is needed to kick-start the meme of super niceness in a post-Christian society. If we play our cards right—could we lead society away from the nether regions of its Darwinian origins into kinder and more compassionate uplands of post-singularity enlightenment?

I think a reborn Jesus would wear the T-shirt. It has become a commonplace that, were he to return today, he would be appalled at what is being done in his name, by Christians ranging from the Catholic Church to the fundamentalist Religious Right. Less obviously but still plausibly, in the light of modern scientific knowledge I think he would see through supernaturalist obscurantism. But of course, modesty would compel him to turn his T-shirt around: Jesus for Atheists.

Dawkins is wrong, of course, when he claims that a “reborn Jesus” would not be a theist. Jesus would know all about the anthropic, fine-tuned universe—a body of evidence that Dawkins actively misleads his readers about in The God Delusion. In fact, I think it is likely that Jesus, being the absolute exemplar of intellectual honesty, would connect his ethical teachings to the evidence for a Cosmic Designer that permeates our growing understanding of cosmology and quantum mechanics.

But I do agree with Dawkins on this: Jesus might well wear a “Jesus for Atheists” T-shirt, because Jesus is for all people, weak and strong, young and old, male and female, believer and nonbeliever. The one who said “Love your enemies,” the one who forgave those who crucified him, would certainly be for atheists. He would not be for atheism, of course, because atheism doesn’t square with reality. He would want everyone to know the truth.

But Jesus welcomed the Samaritan woman at the well, the Roman centurion, the woman caught in adultery, the tax collector, the rich and the poor, the drunks and prostitutes. So why wouldn’t he welcome an atheist as well?

Read Richard Dawkins’ “Atheists for Jesus” in its entirety at RichardDawkins.net.

“Nothing New Here”

After posting my previous entry, “Who Made God?,” I went to Twitter and tweeted about the blog (I’m @AnswersAuthor, and there’s a “follow” button at the bottom of this page). Here’s a typical message I tweeted: “#Atheists like #ChristopherHitchens ask, ‘If God made the universe, who made God?’ Find the answer to that question at https://thetruthwillmakeyoumad.wordpress.com.”

I got a wide range of responses, both complimentary and otherwise. The uncomplimentary tweets included: “Claptrap. Self-devolving prose.” “What a pathetic specimen you are, clinging to your superstition for dear life.” “I feel ever so slightly dumber after reading some of that.”

To the twitterer who felt “ever so slightly dumber,” I replied, “Sorry my blog made you feel dumb. That was not my intent. Reread two more times—I’m sure you’ll feel smarter.” He tweeted back, “I’m afraid if I read more the result will irreversible.” To which I replied, “Then, by all means, avoid exposure to new ideas and information. I wish you well.” Ah, but we weren’t quite done. He tweeted back: “Nothing in your writing was new.”

At that point, I knew exactly how this thing would play out. I’ve spent the past 25 years studying the evidence and assembling my own case for God. I know for an absolute fact that I’ve put together a case (especially the “Who Made God?” argument) that is not in print anywhere else. I know how groundbreaking these ideas are. So for this twitterer to say there’s nothing new here is so obviously false that I knew he was bluffing. He either hadn’t read the blog, or he didn’t understand the blog, or he was pretending to have knowledge he just didn’t have.

Well, it was time for him to put up or shut up, so I tweeted back: “Excellent. You can cite for me which ideas in the article you’ve seen before and where you read them?” And, as I knew he would, he tweeted back: “Or I could waste no more of my time on you.” To which I replied, “That’s fine. As I said a few tweets ago, I wish you well.”

And I meant it. I do wish him well. I wish nothing but the best for all of my critics on Twitter and elsewhere. I hope they find the truth they are so strenuously, belligerently trying to avoid and suppress.

For some reason, my atheist critics on Twitter are usually angry and hostile, and their attacks are disproportionately personal and vindictive. I don’t know why that is. Is it the atheist mindset itself that makes people so hostile? Or is it something about Twitter, and its 140-character limitations, that makes people behave badly? I really don’t know.

One twitterer attacked my Twitter profile bio, saying, “Even his bio is a self-aggrandizing word salad.” My bio reads: “Skeptical believer, Christian anthropicist, Hayek-Friedman-Reagan small-gummint classical liberal, post-partisan author.” A word salad is defined as a string of incomprehensible words having no apparent connection to one another. But my Twitter bio is a highly succinct and accurate summation of who I am. It describes me.

So I replied (in a series of tweets), “You are kidding me! Attacking my bio, dude? Really? A rational response would be: Examine my sources, confront any faulty logic, and show me the error of my ways. I don’t know why my humble little blog is so threatening to you, but feel free to simply avoid new ideas and reject new information. Ad hominem attack is so weak and anti-rational.”

The twitterer replied, “But so apropos in this case and so enjoyable, Skippy!”

Now, here’s a weird thing I’ve noticed: For some reason, atheists on Twitter like to call their opponents “Skippy.” I’ve encountered that multiple times. I replied (over several tweets): “Atheists’ Handbook, p. 37: ‘When out of intellectual ammo, call the other guy Skippy.’ You’re the third atheist to call me that. Weak, irrational ad hominem attack is never logically apropos, but when that’s all you’ve got . . .”

I didn’t hear back.

Another atheist looked at my blog and tweeted, “An ignorant response which fails horribly. The atheist Hitchens’ question still stands, even though you word-play. Pathetic.”

So I responded, “Know what’s really pathetic? Asserting that something ‘fails horribly’ or is ignorant wordplay without backing up the assertion. Christopher Hitchens said, ‘What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.’ Where’s your evidence? #Weak”

The atheist replied, “What do #atheists need evidence for? When Hitchens said that, he was speaking of theists and their assertions. Pay attention.”

Well, of course, Hitchens was speaking of theists and their assertions. But the Hitchens principle cuts both ways. If a theist makes an assertion without evidence, it can be dismissed without evidence. And if an atheist or anti-theist makes an assertion, it too can be dismissed on the same basis.

My atheist friend on Twitter asserted that my blog was failed, ignorant wordplay. Okay, that’s an assertion. Now, back up your assertion with facts. What did I write that demonstrates ignorance? Where does my logic fail? Where does my evidence fail? If you just flatly assert that I’m wrong, yet you can’t tell me why I’m wrong and where I went wrong (especially when everything I’ve written is sourced and footnoted), then frankly, you’re the one who looks pathetic.

So I replied: “Hitchens was stating a broad principle: If you make a claim, back it up with fact. And yes, atheism makes assertions.”

The atheist tweeted back, “#Atheism doesn’t make assertions. You seem confused.”

I replied, “Atheism is your dogma. It blinds you to new information and new ideas.”

The atheist replied: “Why are you confused over the definition of #atheism? It’s very clear. There is no mistake. I can help you if you want. #Atheism is the position where one lacks belief in a god. Therefore, it’s not dogma. To say it’s dogma makes you look ignorant.”

Rather than reply within the 140-character restraints of Twitter, I decided to write this blog entry. I understand why my atheist friend thinks only theists need to provide evidence. I understand why he thinks that atheism makes no assertions. I understand why he denies that atheism is dogma. And I can explain why he’s wrong.

Atheist philosopher Antony Flew (who, late in life, converted to theism) divided the atheist community into two camps, “strong atheism” and “weak atheism.” Strong atheism asserts that no deities exist. Weak atheism is lack of belief in a deity without an explicit assertion that no deities exist. So my atheist friend on Twitter claims to be (by Flew’s definition) a “weak atheist.”

An assertion that is common to both strong and weak atheism is the assertion of materialism. This assertion states that the entire universe consists of nothing but matter and energy, and all phenomena in the universe, including human consciousness, result from material interactions. Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov typified the materialist view when he wrote:

The molecules of my body, after my conception, added other molecules and arranged the whole into more and more complex form. . . . In the process, I developed, little by little, into a conscious something I call “I” that exists only as the arrangement. When the arrangement is lost forever, as it will be when I die, the “I” will be lost forever, too.

And that suits me fine. No concept I have ever heard, of either a Hell or of a Heaven, has seemed to me to be suitable for a civilized rational mind to inhabit, and I would rather have the nothingness.

In my blog entry, “Who Made God?,” I present what I consider to be a compelling case that this atheist assertion is FALSE. The evidence shows that there is more to the universe than materialism, and that Mind is the ground of all reality. Any fair-minded, objective reader would have to agree that I have presented ideas and evidence that are AT LEAST worthy of consideration.

If, however, you are blinded by your dogma, if you are closed to new ideas and new information and your mind is set in stone, you will not give my ideas fair consideration. You’ll dismiss those ideas in knee-jerk fashion as “claptrap” and “ignorant wordplay.” You’ll mock the author of those ideas as “a pathetic specimen clinging to superstition.” You’ll claim that reading it actually makes you dumber. You’ll say it’s nothing new.

The one thing you will not do is actually examine those ideas and consider the evidence. You won’t even try to challenge the author’s reasoning, because to actually think about these ideas would threaten your dogma. It would mean honestly and objectively asking yourself, “What if the author is right?”

Many people assume the word dogma applies only to religious belief and doctrine. Not true. A dogma is a set of opinions or beliefs that are held with such tenacity that one becomes closed to new ideas and new information. If you find yourself feeling angry or annoyed by the ideas I presented in “Who Made God?,” there’s a good chance you are blinded by your dogma. A non-dogmatic person might disagree and calmly challenge those ideas. Or a non-dogmatic person might simply shrug and walk away. But only a dogmatist becomes hostile and insulting in response to a reasonably expressed viewpoint.

And these comments aren’t directed only at atheists. I have found that there are two groups of people who are hostile to the scientific evidence for God. One group, of course, is dogmatic atheists. The other group is dogmatic Christians. For some reason, extremely dogmatic Christians tend to hate the idea that the existence of God might be provable. They seem to think there is something noble about “blind faith,” belief without evidence.

But without evidence, how can you know what to believe?

Elton Trueblood said, “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.” I agree. And once you’ve seen the evidence, once you’ve experienced the proof, then you can trust unreservedly. Whether believer or atheist, we must have the courage to follow the evidence. Bart D. Ehrman put it this way: “The search for truth takes you where the evidence leads you, even if, at first, you don’t want to go there.”

Dogmatic people invariably get mad when the truth pokes holes in their dogma. That’s why this blog is called, “The Truth Will Make You Mad.” Instead of getting mad, set yourself free. If you really want to know the truth, you owe it to yourself to open your mind and examine the evidence.

Who knows? If you actually THINK about my ideas and evidence, you just might find a way to prove me wrong.

______________________________________________

Postscript, September 3, 2012:

The atheist twitterer responded to my blog entry about as I expected. I’ll take the liberty of translating Twitterspeak to English—for example, changing “u” to “you,” “ur” to “your,” and so forth—for the sake of clarity. He tweeted:

“Your blog fails because you continue to be confused over what atheism means. Strong/weak are not real subcategories either.”

“An atheist is one without belief in a god. Strong/weak merely define what view atheists have in addition to atheism.”

“I refer you to my blog in response to your ignorance about atheism.”

His blog delves into the origin of the word atheism to explain the difference between “without belief in a god” versus “a belief that there is no god.” Yeah, I get that. And I explicitly acknowledged that distinction above.

As to whether strong/weak atheism (also called positive/negative atheism) are real subcategories, his argument is not with me but with atheist scholars like Antony Flew and Michael Martin. In the glossary to The Cambridge Companion to Atheism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007, pages xvii and xviii), Martin writes:

Negative atheism: absence of belief in any god or gods. More narrowly conceived, it is the absence of belief in the theistic God. Cf. positive atheism. . . .

Positive atheism: disbelief in any god or gods. More narrowly conceived, it is disbelief in the theistic God. Cf. negative atheism.

Okay, enough hair-splitting. My atheist friend’s next tweet:

“Until you can come up with actual evidence for a god, you will continue to have the burden of proof, and we will sit, point and laugh at you.”

That burden began to shift as far back as September 1973 when physicist Brandon Carter presented a paper (“Large Number Coincidences and the Anthropic Principle in Cosmology”) at the Copernicus symposium in Kraków, Poland. Carter described some of the odd coincidences in the universe—a multitude of seemingly unrelated laws of physics that appear to be coordinated and fine-tuned to produce life. Carter called this concept “the anthropic principle,” also known as the “fine-tuned universe” concept. I address it in greater detail in “Is Our Universe ‘the Ultimate Artifact’?”

In the years since Brandon Carter delivered that paper at the Kraków symposium, the evidence has been steadily growing that the universe seems to have been deliberately fine-tuned to produce life, and that Mind is essential to the existence of the universe. That is the foundation of the case I have assembled in my blog entries, “Is Our Universe ‘the Ultimate Artifact’?” and “Who Made God?” 

Is the fine-tuned universe proof of the existence of God? Some scientists find it convincing. Others do not. Those who are convinced include theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson, physicist Frank Tipler, astronomer Alan Sandage, and Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project and President Obama’s head of the National Institutes of Health.

Even scientists who are unconvinced recognize that the anthropic evidence is powerful and at least gives the unmistakable appearance of pointing to God. Atheist physicist George Greenstein wrote:

As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency—or, rather, Agency—must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit? …

It is a matter of taste how one deals with that notion. Those who wish are free to accept it, and I have no way to prove them wrong. But I know where I stand. . . . I reject it utterly.

[George Greenstein, The Symbiotic Universe (New York: William Morrow, 1988), pp. 27 and 87.]

So Greenstein clearly states that the anthropic evidence appears to point to God, though he himself rejects that notion. The evidence Greenstein refers to is essentially the evidence I present in “Is Our Universe ‘the Ultimate Artifact’?” I take those ideas even further in “Who Made God?”

Those two blog entries contain about 4800 words of rational scientific evidence, yet they form just a brief introduction to the mountain of evidence that exists. Even so, they dismantle the ignorant atheist canard that there’s “no evidence” for God.

If my atheist friend is correct and the burden of evidence is on me, then hey, no problem, I have delivered the goods. It’s there in those blogs. He and his fellow atheist twitterers are either unwilling or unable to deal with that evidence, because over the past few days, not one of them has challenged or refuted a single word in those blogs.

My atheist friend can continue splitting hairs about the definition of atheism if he likes, and he can “sit, point and laugh” at the evidence and the truth. But the burden is now on my atheist friend to put up or shut up—and to come up with some facts and intelligent reasoning to counter what I have presented.

The atheist twitterer concludes:

“There is no ‘scientific evidence’ for your god. Atheists appear hostile to your irrational beliefs, not your invisible evidence.”

You, the reader, can judge for yourself if these blogs begin to build a case for a Cosmic Designer, as I claim—or if they are nothing but “irrational beliefs” and “invisible evidence,” as my atheist friend claims.

Oh, and one more thing: Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great, has acknowledged that the fine-to universe evidence is “intriguing” and “not trivial.” You can hear it from Hitchens’ own lips at “Christopher Hitchens Makes a Startling Admission.”  Here’s the essential part of Hitchens’ statement [note: when Hitchens says “we,” he means leading atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and himself]:

At some point, certainly, we are all asked which is the best argument you come up against from the other side. I think every one of us picks the fine-tuning one as the most intriguing. . . . Even though it doesn’t prove design, doesn’t prove a Designer . . . you have to spend time thinking about it, working on it. It’s not a trivial [argument]. We all say that.

If Christopher Hitchens, the atheists’ atheist, acknowledged that the fine-tuning evidence is “not trivial,” that it is “most intriguing,” that “you have to spend time thinking about it, working on it,” then anyone who says there is “no scientific evidence” for God is either intellectually dishonest or ignorant.

______________________________________________

Post-postscript:

The atheist twitterer in question has asked that I give out his Twitter username (@TedTheAtheist) and the link to his blog reply. Done.

A person with a fixed idea will always find some way
of convincing himself in the end that he is right.”

Mathematician Atle Selberg

Christopher Hitchens Makes a Startling Admission

Here is an incredible two-minute video clip from the end of the documentary Collision, featuring Christopher Hitchens (author of God is Not Great) and Reformed pastor Douglas James Wilson (Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho). The video was recorded during their promotional tour for the book Is Christianity Good for the World?, based on their series of debates.

In my previous posts about Christopher Hitchens (Lament for an Atheist Part I” and Part II”), I made note of the strange fact that Hitchens, in God is Not Great, devotes an entire chapter to “Arguments from Design,” yet he doesn’t make even the slightest reference to the “fine-tuning” or “anthropic” evidence.

(For a thorough presentation of that evidence, see my book God and Soul: The Truthand the Proof; for a brief introduction, see my blog piece “Is Our Universe ‘the Ultimate Artifact’?”)

Ever since reading God is Not Great, I’ve wondered if Hitchens was completely unaware of the fine-tuning evidence or if he simply avoided the subject because it posed an insoluble problem for him. Here’s what I wrote:

Though Chapter 6 of God is Not Great is entitled “Arguments from Design,” he doesn’t devote even one word to the cosmological case for God. The evidence is hardly new or difficult to research. This concept has been around since 1973, when physicist Brandon Carter introduced an idea he called “the anthropic principle.” It has been explored extensively by such writers as Paul Davies, John Barrow, Frank Tipler, John Gribbin, Martin Rees, and others. I devoted an extensive section of my 2001 book Answers to Satisfy the Soul to the subject.

Why, then, does Hitchens completely ignore the subject in God is Not Great? As I read Hitchens and his fellow “New Atheists,” I’m struck by the fact that they don’t seem merely unpersuaded by the evidence. They seem to either misunderstand the evidence—or worse, they seem altogether ignorant of it. Writing a chapter called “Arguments from Design” without even one mention of the cosmological evidence is like writing a book on the history of Apple Computers without any mention of Steve Jobs. It’s downright bizarre.

Well, now we know that Hitchens did know about the fine-tuning argument—and what he says about fine-tuning in this video stunned me. It will shock anyone who truly groks the implications of Hitchens’ statement. Click “play” and hear it for yourself:

Here’s a transcript of the first part of the conversation between Hitchens and Wilson:

Hitchens: At some point, certainly, we are all asked which is the best argument you come up against from the other side. I think every one of us picks the fine-tuning one as the most intriguing.

Wilson: The Goldilocks idea. Yeah, okay.

Hitchens: Yeah. The fine-tuning, that one degree, well, one degree, one hair different of nothing—that even though it doesn’t prove design, doesn’t prove a Designer, [the fine-tuning] could have all happened without [God]— You have to spend time thinking about it, working on it. It’s not a trivial [argument]. We all say that.

(By the way, when Hitchens says, “We all say that,” he refers to himself, to Richard Dawkins, and to the rest of the New Atheists. And Wilson’s reference to “the Goldilocks idea” refers to the fact that our fine-tuned universe is “just right” for life.)

In this brief clip, Christopher Hitchens has given us all—theists, skeptics, agnostics, atheists, and anti-theists—a lot to think about. And the biggest question on my mind is this: If Hitchens and the other New Atheists know that fine-tuning is not a trivial argument, that you have to spend time thinking about it, why do they omit it or misrepresent it in their books? What are they afraid of?

____________________________

Addendum — Sunday, October 14, 2012 — “NO PROOF!”

Yesterday on Twitter, I sent out some tweets regarding the anthropic (fine-tuned universe) case for God. An atheist tweeted back two words in all caps: “NO PROOF!” I looked up the atheist tweeter’s profile and found that his profile consisted of a single quotation by Christopher Hitchens: “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence” (from page 150 of God is Not Great).

Perfect! I love that quote, because (a) it cuts both ways, and applies with equal force to atheist assertions, and (b) because the anthropic case for the theistic worldview consists of a mountain of irrefutable evidence. I also love that quote because (c) Hitchens HID that mountain of evidence from his readers when he wrote God is Not Great.

So I replied to my atheist friend (in a multi-part tweet):

Hi. Your profile quotes Hitchens, “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.” But Hitchens acknowledged that there IS evidence for the existence of God, that the evidence is “not trivial” and cannot be dismissed. See the Hitchens video at: [LINK].

This morning, I checked Twitter to see if my atheist friend had replied. In a way, he had. He had BLOCKED me.

Clearly, some atheists can’t handle the truth.

Lament for an Atheist (Part I)

In June 2010, I heard that Christopher Hitchens was scheduled to do a talk and book signing at a Borders bookstore in San Francisco. I considered going and having him sign a copy of his book Hitch-22, then hand him a copy of my 2001 book Answers to Satisfy the Soul. But just days before he was to appear, he canceled his book tour without explanation.

A couple of weeks later, I was saddened to hear that Hitchens had been diagnosed with cancer. He died two months ago, on December 15, 2011. His death was due to pneumonia, a complication of esophageal cancer.

I have admired Christopher Hitchens for years. It took great moral courage for him to shelter novelist Salman Rushdie in his home in 1993 after the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death. And it took great physical courage for Hitchens to voluntarily undergo waterboarding so that he could write about the experience in Vanity Fair. Unfortunately, Hitchens got it wrong about God and the soul.

After the publication of his book God Is Not Great, I frequently found myself in the odd position of defending the razor-tongued atheist from some of my devoutly religious friends who were exasperated with his views. I’d ask them, “How can you be angry with Hitchens for believing what he feels compelled to believe, based on the evidence he’s seen?”

And then my friends were exasperated with me!

Hitchens formulated his views on God in much the same way he arrived at his political views. He observed, read, and debated great minds. He’d follow logic and evidence wherever it led. Whenever I watched Hitchens debate, I came away convinced he was daring his opponents: “Prove me wrong.”

But as near as I can tell from his writings and speeches, Hitchens was completely unaware of the evidence I present in my book God and Soul. Though I didn’t agree with him on the question of God and soul, I genuinely liked him. I enjoyed reading his work and hearing him speak. I wanted him to live, and I’m very sad that he’s gone.

In God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Hitchens blamed much of the evil in the world on religion. And it’s true that many atrocities, savageries, and cruelties have been committed in the name of religion: The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the persecution of Galileo, the execution of Giordano Bruno, the Albigensian Crusade, Martin Luther’s rabidly anti-Semitic treatise On the Jews and Their Lies, the Salem Witch Trials, the 1066 Granada Massacre and other pogroms, the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland, the Lebanese Civil War, the Israel-Palestinian problem, Jonestown, India versus Pakistan, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Jihad, 9/11, and on and on—all of these evils were rationalized on religious grounds. But does religion really poison everything? It depends on how you define “religion.”

If, by “religion,” we mean a tribalistic social unit organized around certain beliefs, rites, rituals, and traditions, defended by figurative or literal “holy wars,” then yes, that sort of religion has a distinctly poisonous history. (And by tribalism, I mean any social structure that demands philosophical conformity within the group and that practices hostility toward those outside the group.)

But if, by “religion,” we mean a commitment to live according to the teachings of, say, the Sermon on the Mount—teachings that cut across the grain of our tribal instincts by commanding us to love our enemies, forgive those who sin against us, and pray for those who persecute us—then Christopher Hitchens was simply wrong. That kind of rational, selfless religion has never poisoned anything.

In fact, another prominent atheist, Richard Dawkins, writes in The God Delusion, “Jesus, if he existed . . . was surely one of the great ethical innovators of history. The Sermon on the Mount is way ahead of its time. His ‘turn the other cheek’ anticipated Gandhi and Martin Luther King by two thousand years.” In other words, the Sermon on the Mount is the sort of religion that even an atheist can endorse.

So Hitchens’ blanket statement that “religion poisons everything” couldn’t be more wrong. The Crusades and the Inquisition and the pogroms weren’t caused by the Sermon on the Mount or anything else said by Jesus of Nazareth. As physicist Freeman Dyson explains, “We have seen terrible wars and terrible persecutions conducted in the name of religion. We have also seen large numbers of people inspired by religion to lives of heroic virtue, bringing education and medical care to the poor, helping to abolish slavery and spread peace among nations. Religion amplifies the good and evil tendencies of individual souls.”

When evil people want to do evil things—when they want to commit acts of murder, genocide, oppression, or terror—they will grab any rationale to make their evil seem “good.” If it weren’t some twisted pretense of religion, it would have been some other excuse. But the evil would have happened in any case.

There is no evil in the Sermon on the Mount. The evil is in people—in human nature itself. That’s what poisons everything.

Next, in Part 2: How Hitchens Got It Wrong About God.