“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.

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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

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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?

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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.

Floatin’ ‘Round the Sun, Lookin’ for a Handout

Surfing the Twitterfeed this morning, I came across a revealing tweet—revealing in that I’m amazed that grownups really do engage in such childish thinking. I’m reproducing that tweet below. Because of the hypercompressed 140-character limit of a tweet, the original message took some effort to read, so I’ve decompressed it for ease of reading:

“Do you really believe we’re supposed to work 8 to 14 hours a day to live on a planet that floats around the sun in this vast universe?”

I tweeted back:

” To restate: ‘The universe owes me a living.’ Defies ancient wisdom. Good luck w/ that. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ant_and_the_Grasshopper .”

Good luck with that, Grasshopper.

It’s discouraging to realize how many people in this world have no concept of how human civilization functions. Things like wealth, food, transportation, computers, smart phones, and the other accoutrements of our culture do not simply pop into existence because our planet “floats around the sun in this vast universe.”

All of these things exist because people work, create, sacrifice, invest, and produce. Productive people make it possible for us to enjoy the benefits of civilization. Willfully nonproductive people—those who are able to be productive but choose not to—are a drag on the economy and a detriment to society. (Obviously, a compassionate society takes care of those who are mentally or physically incapable of work, so I’m not referring to those who, through no fault of their own, are incapable of being productive.) 

Wealth doesn’t simply exist. It doesn’t fall out of the sky. It doesn’t come from nowhere. Wealth must be created, and wealth is created through work. If you think the universe owes you a living, you are profoundly ignorant. And if you, an able-minded and able-bodied human being, are not doing your part to create wealth for the benefit of yourself, your family, and your society, then you are a parasite, living off the productivity, creativity, and industriousness of others.  

So the answer is yes, I really do believe you’re supposed to work 8 to 14 hours a day to live on this planet. That is real-world wisdom. Defy this ancient wisdom at your own risk.