I actually really enjoyed this debate. I enjoyed both Michael and David’s presentation. Michael was mellow, mostly pleasant and he gave old classical arguments against God. I did have some concerns when he tried to talk about quantum waves and origins, I felt it was not sound, but admittedly, Michael did admit that he was a social scientist, not a physicist as he tried to talk about it. I was a Chemical Engineer and Physics teacher in my past life, so I am very familiar with quantum mechanics. My question is not about how they could fluctuate and thus produce energy states and other things. My question was always, why were those quantum waves there in the first place. The argument for how can something come from nothing actually still applies here. The most serious scientific minds will acknowledge this problem. Trust me. Up to now, there is still no way of getting around this logical problem though some of the ‘new atheists’ have tried to skirt around the problem. Their arguments can fool the common, but the serious scientific minds don’t take it seriously.
Note that the ‘something out of nothing’ argument is way stronger than the already strong ‘design’ argument. Yet even the ‘Richard Dawkins’ before Richard Dawkins, famous atheist Anthony Flew, renounced his atheism because of the design argument. He saw that newer development in science discovery was pointing to a beginning of the universe. Without an infinite universe, this implied that the design of life by random forces had a probability close to zero. See Flew’s interview here. See the probabilities here.
The ‘something out of nothing’ argument is virtually impenetrable (probability of a natural reason is zero) in that there is absolutely no natural way for the spontaneous creation of the universe to come from nothing. ‘Energy cannot be created just transferred in a close system’ goes one of Newton’s Laws. But the beginning of the universe totally violates that.
I’ll summarize the point with Francis Bacon’s realization. Bacon was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, and author. He served both as Attorney General and as Lord Chancellor of England in the 1500s. After his death, he remained extremely influential through his works, especially as philosophical advocate and practitioner of the scientific method during the scientific revolution.
A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.
In my own humble opinion, the most brilliant scientist of modern times was Einstein – a father of modern physics and the originator of the theory of Relativity. He recognized the impossibility of a non-created universe.
“The more I study science, the more I believe in God.”
–Albert Einstein The Wall Street Journal, Dec 24, 1997, article by Jim Holt, “Science Resurrects God.”
As a Chemical Engineer, I have an affinity to Kelvin due to my years of having to study theormodynamics.
“I believe that the more thoroughly science is studied, the further does it take us from anything comparable to atheism.”
“If you study science deep enough and long enough, it will force you to believe in God.”
—Lord William Kelvin, who was noted for his theoretical work on thermodynamics, the concept of absolute zero and the Kelvin temperature scale based upon it.
But where has modern scientific findings led us to? The purpose of science is to follow it’s conclusion. To follow it’s findings before, but leave out the most recent because it’s inconvenient to your presuppositions defeats the purpose of science. It’s intellectually dishonest. So the burden of proof now lies on the atheists. We have a beginning that defies all the Laws of Physics. Once you get past the that, you have a near zero probability of design by randomness.So the smart informed person leans towards a timeless, powerful, higher dimensional, design oriented beginning (which is what I define as God). That is the standard today. That is where the smart money is. If you believe otherwise, the burden of truth is on you. If it turns out that somehow future findings lean us in other direction, so be it.
“Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover…. That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”
–Astronomer, physicist and founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies Robert Jastrow. Please see Jastrow’s book God and the Astronomers for further reading.
I think I got carried away.
Getting back to the debate, Michael’s approach was like attacking with a hundred small cuts, jumping from problems with a creator in general, to specific problems with Christian theology (which was a little oblique in my opinion for the debate topic was, “if God exists”). David was quite methodical and tried to focus his points to a central theme. His exposition into how most of the great scientific originators of thought like Newton and Bacon were theistic was great. I think David did this better than other apologists in this regard. I loved the way he quoted these scientific fathers – it’s obvious that as scientists, they had already considered atheism and had rejected it on intellectual grounds. David linked how theistic thought was a great pre-cursor to present day scientific thought and argued that proving scientific hypothesis today reaffirms its theistic philosophical building block. One of the quotes David said which made me chuckle was something like, “Let’s take a trip to Planet Reality. The pioneers of the scientific revolution and arguably the greatest scientist of them all, Newton, would be falling over their graves over these 18-year-old champions of science following Richard Dawkins on Twitter”… or something like that. Oh, and David’s video of this is seriously brilliant… PLEASE PLEASE, for the love of everything small and Asian (that would be me ) watch this video God, Science and Atheism.
I liked Michael Shermer’s demeaner, I could see the humanity in him as he raised his points. We even shared a laugh when I told him after the debate that I thought he really mellowed down over the years. His friend joked that I meant he was getting old. Haha. I actually think he is still searching. But all of us are, and the closer we are to death, the more the search becomes inevitable. But I can see why don’t want to search, I didn’t because I didn’t know what I would find. Because what we find at the end of our logical thought, can either free us or devastate us. There is a reason Bertrand Russell said:
That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair can the soul’s habitation be safely built.
Bertrand Russell (from A Free Man’s Worship, 1903)
Innately, the logical extension of atheism is seriously gloomy. There is nothing else but human pursuits. But it is when darkness starts to befall us, that’s when you are almost forced to consider the stars. The older we are, the close we see impending death, the more we know than the human experience is just “vanity”. Solomon, the richest king that ever lived said that. That’s seriously gloomy, because as far as naturalists go, no one had the means and intellect to experience the limits of the human experience as him.
But… there’s a reason why there’s a saying that “there are no Atheists in fox-holes”.
That being said, back to the debate. Michael did mention a couple of typical new atheist arguments, including this one, which really surprised me because I thought everyone knew it would be debunked by now. Michael essentially asked who created the Creator? He added to this that if there is no infinite regress (who created the creator that created the creator), then why can’t the universe be the originator that is eternal? Fact: all new science points to the universe having a beginning, so the universe cannot be the thing that is eternal. It must be something else. Frank Turek does a masterful job to explain that here. As a Chemical Engineer and Physics teacher, this is totally correct. Logic dictates that if we follow the rules of cause and effect (which all naturalists do), then the cause of the universe must have some characteristics by necessity. By NECESSITY. It must be greater than the time dimension. It must possess more energy than the entire universe itself (2nd law of Thermodynamics). If one can measure intelligence, the cause must have more more design than the design of the universe. For example, the brain of the architect is more intelligent and complex than the building he is building. The fourth argument that he all of us have a moral code then the cause also must have a moral code is fair, but that it not necessary for me. The first 3 is enough.
A timeless, powerful and intelligent being is what I refer to by God – and I am forced here by necessity, not because I believe the Bible. It’s just a happy coincidence that fits the characteristics of the God in the Bible.
Back to the debate, I liked that Michael was quite measured, light-hearted and humorous for most of the debate. I mean, he has been doing such debates for years. He’s “been there and done that” so to speak. But what was really striking to me was that twice, his demeanor cracked a little to reveal what I thought was a longing. It was almost a child-like reaction (not childish, child-like… a big difference) … a sincerity. It occurred twice when he raised the point “If God is good, why is there evil.” It happened once at the beginning and the again at the end. He also stated that this problem is likely the most significant one of all… which I totally agree with him.
You guys know my story. I lost everything in a long drawn out process. But what was destructive was that I experienced many people, including Christians, didn’t understand left me aside. For years, I echoed the same lament. In fact, like a Korean drama, I remember one time I was actually standing in an empty outdoor basketball court in a college campus at midnight. In the drizzling rain I actually cried out-loud, “why God? Where the hell are you? How could you leave me like this?” Haha. That’s drama for you. Hmm… maybe I should make a movie about my life. I’ll get Brad Pitt to play me. I mean, look at us, we have so many similarities. If you take Brad, and remove his looks, his riches, his celebrity status and make him Asian, you get me.
Back to the debate. Actually, at the moment Shermer ‘cracked’, I actually felt for him. For those questions were very real for me too, especially when I lost EVERYTHING. The funny thing is, I actually have a thesis for that question which I have been preparing for some time, which is slightly different from the classical answers. I was going to ask him during the open-mic time. I lined up, but before it got to my turn, it was times up. So I spoke to Michael after the debate. After I shared my story, and then gave my opinion on how to solve the syllogism… I was very surprised when he said,” I really liked that answer”… he didn’t even give any counter point! (Which he was doing to almost everyone). I think I will post a video on my answer soon.
Your fellow journeyman,
PS: What was GREAT was that many Christians came up to Michael after the debate, and had great conversations with him… they were trading opinions and lovingly agreeing to disagree. I think such behavior is what wins people over.
PPS: Please do follow my blog through email. If you have WordPress, do follow as well. Do check out my FB page and like / comment. It really helps get the word out. THANK YOU!
14 thoughts on “Thoughts on David Wood vs Michael Shermer @ KSU, GA 10/10/2016”
It’s highly unlikely Michael cracked. I’ve heard these two debate a number of times (not together) and Michael wins hands down in reason and logic; as do every atheist. I recommend you watch Shermer’s video “Why Intelligent People Believe Weird Things.” I will never understand why theists claim there is lots of evidence when to the rational thinking person there clearly isn’t. If there was there would be no atheists and only one religion.
Hi friend, when I said ‘cracked’, I do not mean it negatively like it changed his faith. I meant that he was very slick and polished in most of the presentation, but he got a little emotional during those two points. It was most likely because these were the points that caused his own conversion to atheism. It was personal to him. I can easily see that, because it was the same for me. Thats why we could talk after the show, and I really enjoyed our conversation. Please note that I am also an ex-skeptic who is also science-trained/ has a minor stint in psychology and education and studied in a liberal college, so I am very well aware of arguments that you speak of. it’s useless saying “Michael wons hands down”, I could easily say something similar but it won’t get us anywhere, don’t you think? But I won’t address debate points here. I’m rushing to work.
But let me address your last statement. That’s totally illogical. Men have free will and so there will always be some people who don’t follow where the evidence leads. The key things is what the numbers show. Statistics have shown that children overwhelming lean towards a notion of God when young, why is that so? They could have easily been born with a sense that there is nothing else but the world… in fact, that is the most plausible. Historically, if you ever take a specialized course in ancient history, the earliest tribes were all theistic… atheist is actually a much newer development. The most brilliant scientists in history, like Newton; in which much of physics is based on today had thought about atheism and rejected it. Even Einstein had leanings that there was a God.
The numbers also clearly show that the probability that the universe was fine-tuned by random is almost 0%… but lets give it 1%. The numbers also clearly show that the probability that the universe came to exist by natural reasons is 0%. So the probability that the universe had a supernatural origin and there is a design is almost 99%. So the question is this, if you were to bet your life on a horse-race, and there are only 2 horses. One horse has a 1% chance of winning, but it looks so strong and handsome to you; the other horse has a 99% chance of winning, but it looks like crap. Which would you bet on? We rely on numbers to challenge our presuppositions. In the financial markets, many people lose tons of money because even though the stock they bought has hard evidence that it’s tanking, they couldn’t change their presuppositions because of how they convinced themselves how good they were earlier on. They kept thinking back on how good they thought the stock was even when newer, harder, evidence comes.
Having religions and there being a God are two very different things. None of the religions can be true and there still could be a God. Because there are so many flawed humans, there could be many false religions. But let me tell you something from experience. As a fund manager, I can tell you that counterfeit investments exist everywhere. They promise a good return, but it’s a scam. But the reason why people still buy these investments is because the real thing exists somewhere and people know it. Hundreds of counterfeits can only exist is there was a real one to begin with.
So in summary, the earliest men in history tended to believe in God. The younger you are you tend to believe in God (it’s hardwired). The smartest minds of the scientific realm believed in God.
But of course these are not absolute arguments for God. But they tell me that investigating God is definitely a smart thing to do. But I think I will produce more content in the future to talk about it… maybe you could wait for those? Cheers.
Thanks for your reply.
With respect Kenneth, I don’t know where you get those numbers from but they are absolute nonsense. Only a believer could come up with that.
Thanks for your reply. Read my sentences very carefully. Michael would actually agree with those points. Even Dawkins and Lawrence agrees that the probability of the design of the universe by random forces is almost zero… it’s just that they think that eventually there would be another reason to explain it than God. Natural laws of physics are not congruent with having something out of nothing. It’s by logic, science and necessity. Cheers.
We don’t know if there was ever such a thing as nothing. There might always have been something.
Before I forget, BL was being conservative in his numbers. The simplest cell is comprised of 200-300 proteins, that must all function together and reproduce itself. All this must “evolve at once” or else the cell will not survive. And even if some cells start to form, the natural laws of entropy and chaos are always wearing down these cells. It more natural for death than reproduction. The probability based on all these conservative numbers are staggeringly almost 0%. I got these numbers when I was in a liberal college, not as a Christian. These numbers are very apparent to me as a biomedical/chemical engineer and statistical engineer. And, I challenge you to take these numbers to any honest, intelligent biologist or bio-engineer, they will say the same thing.
This argument is so strong, that the Richard Dawkins before Richard Dawkins, Anthony Flew stopped bring an atheist because of it. Anthony Flew was a famous atheist debater, who was on the scene longer than Dawkins. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNkxpTIbCIw
You said, “We don’t know if there was ever such a thing as nothing. There might always have been something.”
You are free to believe that if you wish, but here’s where you get into the problem – you would be ignoring what decades of science have led us to… the majority of all scientists agree on, that the universe had a beginning. Hence, once again, by necessity, if there was “something” that something cannot be the universe and must be timeless, on a higher dimension, more powerful than the universe itself. This is based on the laws of logic and physics itself.
Ken, you crack me up with your Brad Pitt humor! I can see the resemblance 🙂 But seriously, I think the simple and truthful answer to the good God – evil question is Eve/Adam (in that order). Simply put, they are primarily responsible for opening the door to death and everything that resembles and/or leads up to it. If that thought is broadened, then we (all of the human race) are held responsible, just like a debt is passed down the family line from generation to generation until it is fully paid. As a bonus, before Eve/Adam opened the door to death, there was evil in the garden with the presence of the serpent. The name of the serpent was Lucifer and he also is responsible for evil. But God is over it all and is making everything right. Death and Satan (formerly Lucifer) are conquered in Jesus Christ’s power and blood sacrifice. The question I have, asks why does God take so long in making the wrong things (evil) right (good)? Is He on a long journey and too busy? I look forward to the day when there are no more tears and suffering in the world. When will Satan finally be locked in the pit forever? In the meantime, love, peace and joy to all.
I feel your heart Michael. I love what you said, “I look forward to the day when there are no more tears …”
I’d love to hear / read your answer you gave to solve the syllogism.
I guess I’ll have to stay tuned.
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Hey! Actually… it’s right here… I won’t say I solved it, but I will say I contributed a thought not commonly thought about. https://letterstoamoderndayjob.com/2016/10/15/my-response-to-the-problem-of-evil-michael-shermer-really-liked-that-answer-david-wood-vs-michael-shermer-debate-does-god-exist-10102016/
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