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.
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