Monday, August 31, 2009

Hey, you were writing a religious debate thing.

Well, guess what. I found someone worth paying more attention to at, and his name is Docta Stiles I mean Dr. William Lane Craig.

Now, this guy seems like much less of a zealot than a lot of other Internet Christians. That doesn't mean he isn't one, to a degree; he made an elaborate site with a mailing list and official organization. Anyway, he's posted (some of?) his debates in a free members section, usually defending the existence of the Christian God or the existence of the accompanying morality. In the debates I learned quite a bit from both those Dr. Craig debated against and Dr. Craig himself about current arguments, and surprisingly, I also found that I disagreed with points from many of these atheists, agnostics, and occasionally softer theists of a sort or another. Primarily, I'll kick the next person who seriously uses the argument from evil against the existence of God, among other things.

For all those who haven't seen this used before, you've probably heard some form of it from an angry atheist anyway who didn't give it a name. Very vaguely:

1. If God exists, he would disallow evil.

2. God is omnipotent and omniscient, such that he is capable of enacting 1.

3. Evil exists.

4. Hence, God does not exist.

And I saw atheists and agnostics using this; professionals. Now, ok, this does not directly contradict their statuses as atheists and agnostics, but we nihilists aren't letting those fools into the tree-house after that one. The use of 'evil' as something that exists in a very real sense seems to imply objective moral values. As a nihilist, I also tend to think that of all of Dr. Craig's arguments for God, I see the very nature of defending OMVs to be among the most futile, up there with God being revealed upon examining nature. I also see Dr. Craig's defense of these two points to be blatant appeals purely to the way we take in the environment and ourselves; asking for us to see the objectivity of God in nature with only our judgment to guide us. What are our minds, though, but subjective in their functions, feeling objective because that's the only information in our personal realms? Important to note, though, is that I can't actually defend an answer of 'nothing else' for the last sentence, I'm just speculating; more to the point is whether or not we can seriously look at nature, using all bodily and mechanical senses available to us, and then infer that 'God did it.'

Other main arguments, in a personally shaded nutshell:

1. Resurrection of Jesus: Lots of eyewitnesses and literature. Lots of liars? Jesus lookalike? Jesus wasn't actually dead? Jesus was actually reanimated? I can't argue against this point seriously, because I have no background in this history. I can say that, though there are many writings of the time, people didn't understand much about the workings of natures; also, the integrity of writings can get a little shaky with mediocre known context and 2000 years between now and then. Still, this is something based on historical records.

2. Kalam Cosmological Argument:

a) Universe can't cause itself.
b) An actual infinite of causes and effects (or anything else) cannot exist.
c) The universe was caused.
d) Quoted:

If the universe has a cause of its existence, then
an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists,
who sans creation is beginningless, changeless,
immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously
powerful and intelligent.

e) And hence, said Creator caused the universe to exist.

The best breakdown of this argument I found from Dr. Craig was here (one must register for free to see this). First, I'm uncertain about a) and b); one person who debated Dr. Craig attempted to prove an actual infinite by way of measurement. Shortly: first, take a distance of any length, a metre as he called it. You may halve this metre, and you'll have two of half the first one's length. One may then halve both of those, and then have four that still sum to the original. This process is not limited. Dr. Craig responded by saying that this was a potential infinite, that though this may be repeated indefinitely, it can't be; he agrees that there may be something that tends to the infinite, but there cannot actually be an infinite. My own response to this is that no matter how much we can't fathom the divisions, that doesn't mean they can't be there.

As for a)... at least, I don't think the observed universe is responsible for causing it, but there's much that hasn't been observed that maybe can be. There may also be that which exists which will forever be outside of our perception. What we see is what we can use as evidence too, but God has been relegated to from explanations before from new discoveries. This area of physics is so uncertain and enigmatic, I won't really solidly affirm any model for now; it's great people are coming up with them, and one day I hope to coherently do one myself, but our predictions here are volatile, at least over the course of decades. I doubt we yet have the truth, we may very well not even have an approximation.

This post is getting rather long... I should add a Part 2 later. I probably will. As for Troy Brooks, author of the former proof that I had set out to examine (critically) at, he's now got Youtube videos and he's written a truly colossal amount of work on his forum. I think this is his job. He asks for no repetition of points made by opponents, a reasonable request in my opinion. All this is quite well and good, but he also bans people from the forum who deny his premises. I'm attacking most of them, so I probably won't get the opportunity to defend my work when it's countered. I'm wondering, now, if this should be abandoned... but no, I'll continue, if slowly. There are better things to do with my time, but oh well.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Talk with Larry Moran: Paraphrased

As one or two other people on the Internet that I don't know may have noticed, Larry Moran invited me to his blog and U of T after reading my interview with Bora Zivcovic (now found at

We talked for a couple of hours about various things, part of it over some buns from a Chinese bakery (they were good, except for that one chicken bun that went bad). At first, I asked about the fields of medicine and physics, including careers and schooling, and he enlightened me about various the various career paths and what one can and can't do in each one. Shortly: the divide in between research and care is huge, it's essentially one or the other. He (being a professor in the department of biochemistry at U of T) had speculated that it would be substantially harder to get into research fields in medicine than physics. Of course, Michael Nielsen had earlier given his only really short answer to how hard it would be to get into physics, with a resoundingly to the point yes.

We also talked a bit about how people behave on Facebook, and just generally with their identities online. More to the point, how the younger generation (including me) does it, and why we're so loose with damaging information about ourselves and others. I figured our arrogance and stupidity had at least something to do with it, but that answer seemed a bit too simple standing alone, and I don't actually know what leads people to post pictures of themselves naked and drunk online. I also speculated that maybe we don't care about these things as much as people used to, but then there are still stories of people dearly regretting it when it comes to employers and the morning after, when they awake to a parent screaming.

We didn't get into views on religion, or lack thereof; the theory I currently accept as strong, my dad's, is that he didn't want to scare me away from U of T and himself with his very strong ideals. What he didn't know... is that I'm usually up for a good debate. This is why I'm also fine with going to York, and entering the debates it's famous for (or shouting matches... maybe there's something to be learned from listening to those too, hopefully).

Finally, although this was the first thing we talked about, was talking very briefly about Science Online (the conference, one in which I had a blast, is very new and is held yearly in North Carolina; more info here and in the following two posts). He barely made it to '08, and couldn't go to '09, because January's got a ton of work in store for professors that include him, and I went to the opposite one. He figured it wouldn't be likely we'd meet there; or at least, it would take a number of years. To recap: he thought it was good stuff, I reiterated that I thought it was awesome.