Debate on the existence of God – 14 April 2020. My notes from the debate.
In my first talk I will present 7 positive arguments for disbelief in the Abrahamic God, including some arguments many will know but at least one argument that’s new.
First, a quick story to set the scene. Let’s cast our minds to the superstitious Pre-Enlightenment middle ages – when we thought storms and lightning were caused by demons and evil spirits. Of course, according to Christianity there were ways of warding off these evil spirits: prayer, exorcisms, Chanting over bonfires, large processions through the streets. The stormbusting Pope even made and sold his own products – Agnus Dei – discs of wax, with lamb of god + cross.
But, the main way of thwarting Satan became the consecrating and ringing of church bells. Typical inscriptions on church bells described their power to “vanquish tempests, and repel demons.” Of course, churches themselves are vulnerable to lightning strikes and many were destroyed.
Thankfully science intervened when Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod in 1752. But, Unfortunately, the clergy opposed these “heretical” rods. So, bell ringing continued and in France alone over the next 30 years, 103 bell-ringers were electrocuted holding on to wet bell ropes. Lightning struck the Church of San Nazaro, near Venice, igniting 200,000 pounds of powder which had been stored there causing an explosion which wiped out one sixth of the city of Brescia and killed 3,000 people.
The comedy and tragedy of these events illustrates the folly of false belief. Most of what we thought we knew scientifically before the 17th century was flat out wrong. Many superstitions of old have since evaporated under the bright light of the scientific method.
So, let’s bear in mind, the pre-Enlightenment enchanted world which gave rise to Abrahamic religion as we consider the arguments this evening.
What is God?
He is (1) a person, (2) supremely powerful, (3) morally perfect, (4) all-knowing, (5) the uncreated creator of the universe, (6) specifically concerned with human beings, (7) the only deity, and (8) essentially immaterial or non-physical.
- More than two options
Intrinsic to this debate is what grounds existence. And It is NOT just a “God or not” question. There are various potential solutions.
- Creation could have a seed within existence
- Non personal creator, a Force,
- Quantum theory & Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle – extreme positive and negative quantities of energy randomly fluctuated into existence
- Impossibility of nothingness
- Eternal Universe
- Big Crunch Closed universe which expands, contracts and starts again
- A brute fact, such as eternal quantum field or dimension
- Multiverse scenario
- Pantheism – god is the whole universe
- Deism – some sort of God but non-interventionist
- Finally, & most likely, something that we humans are incapable of imagining
So Matthew must not only show that God is a reasonable proposition, he must also show why the other possibilities are unreasonable.
- The burden of proof.
For any proposition, the onus is on the claim maker to provide evidence to support it. As Hitchens noted, “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”
The god hypothesis is unfalsifiable. No evidence can be provided to prove it false.
WE cannot disprove it, we simply choose not to believe in a God in the absence of sufficient evidence.
Just as we presume the nonexistence of unicorns, big foot, the loch ness monster, fairies at the bottom of the garden, Bertrand Russell’s floating tea pots in space…
the DEFAULT position are that they are not there.
The default position, is that God does not exist.
- No evidence.
Not only is there no empirical evidence of God, but by theisms own definition of the Abrahamic creator, he sits outside Spacetime and therefore we can necessarily know nothing of him directly.
Lacking any evidence, the default position that God does not exist holds.
How’s God looking so far? Not good.
- Effects of god?
Scientist Victor Stenger has also argued that if an Abrahamic interventionist God exists then we should easily be able to detect, and observe the effects of his existence. Alas, we cannot. And not for want of trying.
Prayer has been scientifically studied and does not work. Miracles remain unverified. Where there should be evidence of supernatural events, there is none.
- Many Gods –
10,000 religions, and 1000 or so Gods in recorded history.
Which is ore likely:
- Only 1 God exists, and all the others are fake
- None exist.
So, Matthew’s rationale must show why the Abrahamic God exists, and also why he rejects all other Gods.
- Problem of evil – why can’t a God who is all good, allpowerful and has free will, make humans all good and with free will? Why does he create a world where indifferent nature lays waste to thousands in natural disasters.
- Human evolution conflicts with special creation
We all know that under the Abrahamic God, humans are specially created as the principal focus of God’s creation. Genesis: “God willed for his own sake”. If special creation is false then the Abrahamic God is false.
The following brief account of our evolution stands in direct contrast to special creation,
We can fully account for the advent and development of humans, through the fossil record and genetics. We diverged from other primates approximately 5 million years ago. From proto-humans, walking apes we evolved into to stone tool wielding cave men 2.5 million years ago to 700,000 years ago including species such as Homo erectus, Homo habilis, Homo heidelbergensis. These evolved into more modern human species including Neanderthals, Homo Sapien Idaltu, Denisovans, Homo Floresiensis, Red Deer Cave People and the extant Homo sapien sapiens.
Human traits and phenotypes evolved through random mutations and natural selection. Evolution is an extremely gradual process – there was no special day when an ape birthed a human. We are a continuous unbroken line, indivisible in kind or nature, from those who preceded us – contrast to set aside or special.
Other human species came from the same ancestors as us and who existed alongside us, shows that other outcomes were possible – defying the belief that we are predetermined, and that our traits were predetermined to be a specific kind.
Modern humans are called Homo sapien sapiens. We share a common ancestor with Neanderthals – Homo Heidelbergensis. Originating in Africa some of these moved to Europe 800,000 years ago becoming Neanderthals, and some stayed in Africa and became, Homo sapien sapiens (us).
All non-African humans have a % of Neanderthal DNA (4% or so), due to interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans. Neanderthals were 99.7% genetically identical to humans, but were distinct with larger brain cases, stronger bones, stocky, slower, and lived in smaller communities.
Neanderthals buried their dead with flowers, they were capable of symbolic thought, they had cave paintings, they complex stone tools (similar to modern humans), and using rudimentary chemistry they developed a synthetic glue out of a complex process to fixing their arrow tips.
Yet Neanderthals, so similar to modern humans, became extinct about 40,000 years ago.
In summary, Evolution provides a sufficient explanation for humans, we are not predetermined in nature, we are indivisible from our ancestors, and we continue to evolve one day becoming different species.
So, the questions is, why would God chose to create Homo sapien sapiens in his own image, through an uncertain and random natural process over 5 million years, allowing several other human species to become extinct, before intervening supernaturally insert the immortal soul into modern humans? Does not make any sense.
Meteorology displaced the belief in ghosts and devils of the air,
Evolution should similarly supercede special creation. Since special creation is implausible then the Abrahamic God is implausible.
The Abrahamic God does not exist.
That’s the end of my first argument.