Tag Archives: religion

No Afterlife? No Problem!

I’m aware I haven’t written anything major in a while and I apologize for that, although I am working on a few big posts that will be finished soon — I promise, but I’ve had this thought on my mind for a few months now and wanted to get it written down and then presented to some fellow Atheist-Humanists.

Below the jump will be a brief discussion on why I find the idea of an afterlife, either Hell or Heaven, terrifying and why the “just being gone” view of death is more comforting than anything else.

 

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Re: Why I Do Criticize Israel – A respectful reply

A few weeks back I was delighted to open my email and see a reply that someone had sent me in regards to a previous post (which itself was a reply to Sam Harris) called Why I Do Criticize Israel – A Response to Sam HarrisAfter apologizing for the obscene amount of time it took to get around to sending the sender a reply, he gave me permission to quote his criticisms and address them on my blog (if you haven’t listened to my reply to Harris, it is below).

Thus, quoted below verbatim, are the criticism I shall be addressing:

A few points you neglected in your talk which I would like to comment on:

1)  Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, so your expansionist claims in respect to Gaza, are incorrect. There is no occupation in Gaza. Gazans were given complete autonomy as to who their elected leaders would be. They chose Hamas.

2) Your stated claim that Hamas has a 40% approval rating is for economic reasons. (It has increased since the recent conflict) Hamas has used aid money to build tunnels instead of the welfare of it people. They have turned Gaza into a military camp instead of a thriving community. The tunnels into Israel are for offensive purposes only. Israel was justified in destroying them.

3) I agree with you on these points: I’m against the occupation, I condemn religious extremists on both sides and I’m against new appropriation of land for Israeli settlements. I believe a two-state solution to the conflict is necessary. I didn’t hear your opinion on what the resolution should be in your talk.

4) You claim that Israel’s aim, for prolonging the conflict, is to expand its territory. Actually, just the opposite is true. Israel has offered Palestinian leadership their own state several times as recently as 2001. Hamas will never accept a Palestinian state as long as there is a Jewish one. But, it even goes deeper than that. Not only do they not want a Jewish state, but they don’t want a Jewish /presence/ in the area. Harris is correct. There would be genocide on a monumental scale if the military power was reversed.

Thanks for reading,

Dan

I want to thank Dan for his comments, and my reply shall follow after the jump!

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Why I Do Criticize Israel – A Response to Sam Harris

A few weeks ago, prominent author and skeptic Sam Harris, recorded a podcast entitled “Why Don’t I Criticize Israel?” wherein Harris made a case for Israel as a state and tried to preemptively attack some claims made by modern critics of Israel.

Given the nature of this blog and my views on the subject, I figured that a response to Mr. Harris is in order. However, I thought I’d change it up a bit and record my own little podcast. Please take a listen and I ask that you forgive any cuts that are still audible – this was 20 different takes with different thoughts compressed into one version I think I like.

So, without further ado, I give you Why I Do Criticize Israel:

Here is Asmaa al-Ghoul’s piece entitled Never ask me about peace again.

In a World Without Meaning, Why Live? – Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus”

In my attempt to rebuild my philosophy from the ground up, I examined the most fundamental of questions: suicide. Per Camus, suicide is the most important philosophical question and thus I decided to read Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus and that is the book that will be analyzed/explained first.

Absurd Life

So I know this isn’t truly starting at “the big” question of whether humans actually exist, but for the sake of argument, we must assume that humans do in fact exist in the physical sense. I’m sorry Descartes (and to some extent Hume), but musing over those questions, while great for keeping one up at night, will get me nowhere in my search for a new value system. Thus I will start with a few basic assumptions, nothing more:

  1. Humans exist in a physical form
  2. Death is a real thing and, although the definition is debatable, there is a distinction between life and death (sorry Lanza)
  3. Humans have some sort of free will
  4. There is no god (This one is debatable but, I have written answers to The Kalām Cosmological Argument, twice, The Fine Tuning Argument, twice, and The Transcendental Argument, among others)

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Kalām Cosmological Argument

It has come to my attention that the version of the cosmological argument I use in my previous refutation located here, is not the version many apologetics use and thus, with new thoughts in mind I will refute the basic yet famous four point Kalām Cosmological Argument (henceforth known as “the KCA”) laid out by Dr. William Lane Craig.
The KCA goes as follows:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
  4. This cause is the God of Classical Theism, and is a personal being, because He chose to create the universe.

(there are a few subsets and I will refute those as well but first I must hit the main points)

Point 1: This first point is used as a starting to place with which to make a logical inference about our universe. What is said is, “whatever begins to exist has a cause” but this fails for a few reasons. First off, all the things we see “beginning to exist” are actually reconstructions of preexisting material thus they are not creation events in the sense of the universe. According the the common big bang model, (we will ignore multiverse models because those shatter this argument for a whole host of other reasons) there was no preexisting material from which the universe could be created, it was true creatio ex nihilo. Our day to day experiences of “creating” things cannot be applied to the universe because those are creations from existing materials whereas the universe was not created from any preexisting materials.

Second off, we actually can witness creatio ex nihilo in our universe. We witness creation of particles from nothing on the quantum realm.* These are basically equal to the creation event that occurred during the big bang and guess what? Quantum fluctuations are uncaused!** Victor Stenger says that there are “Uncaused, random quantum fluctuations…”[1], Richard Morris says, “…the idea of a First Cause sounds somewhat fishy in light of the modern theory of quantum mechanics. According to the most commonly accepted interpretation of quantum mechanics, individual subatomic particles can behave in unpredictable ways and there are numerous random, uncaused events.”[2] and as Paul Davies says, “energy can appear and disappear out of nowhere in a spontaneous and unpredictable fashion.”[2]
These quotes show that with creation events on par with that of the big bang, a first cause is not required thus shattering premise 1.

Point 2: This point seems rather intuitive but it may not be so.  We do not have a full theory of quantum gravity thus we cannot say for certain what happened in the big bang singularity nor can we say with certainty that it was in fact, the beginning. For example, loop quantum gravity, a competing theory to String Theory and M-Theory, posits that space-time itself is quantized thus meaning there would be no big bang singularity as we know it, it would be the collapse of another universe that would then expand. Granted, this may not get rid of the first cause argument but it is an interesting thing to ponder.[3] There is also a model of the universe put forward by Wun-Yi Shu which has says that the universe had no big bang, no beginning and no end.[4] Of course these are all speculative but it doesn’t rule out the possibility of a timeless universe.

Point 3: Point 3 falls under the refutations of points 1 and 2.

Point 4: Point 4 falls, is insane and contradicts the claim that there was nothing before the big bang because it says that god “chose” to create the universe which means a change from one state to another thus meaning that
a)God is not immutable since he changed from one state to another and
b)There was time “before” the big bang since time is required for change to occur.

Now I shall move on to the sub-points.
The first of which goes like this:

  1. An actual infinite cannot exist.
  2. An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
  3. Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.

To refute this point I only need to refute point one which I shall do now.

Point 1: To prove that this is false I will use two definitions both of singularities.
1: “A gravitational singularity or spacetime singularity is a location where the quantities that are used to
measure the gravitational field become infinite in a way that does not depend on the coordinate system.
These quantities are the scalar invariant curvatures of spacetime, which includes a measure of the
density of matter.”[5]
2: “A point at which a function takes an infinite value, esp. in space-time when matter is infinitely dense, as
at the center of a black hole”[6]

It seems that Dr. Craig is a couple decades behind modern physics.

Points 2 and 3: Both of these fall because they are predicated on the false idea that “actual” infinites cannot exist. *FUN FACT: Dr. Craig concedes that a singularity is an infinity! See foot note [7]*

The second sub-point goes like this:

  1. A collection formed by successive addition cannot be an actual infinite.
  2. The temporal series of past events is a collection formed by successive addition.
  3. Therefore, the temporal series of past events cannot be actually infinite.

This one I don’t have a straight forward refutation to but I am curious as to why Dr. Craig thinks premise 1 is true. If the successive addition did not stop, then, by definition, it would be an infinity, an infinite regress.

Conclusion: I find the KCA quite unconvincing for the reasons I outlined above as well as the fact that, according to Vilenkin, the universe tunneled out of “literally nothing”. I leave you with the thesis of Vilenkin’s paper.

“A cosmological model is proposed in which the universe is created by quantum tunneling from literally nothing into a de Sitter space. After the tunneling, the model evolves along the lines of the inflationary scenario. This model does not have a big-bang singularity and does not require any initial or boundary conditions.”[8]

~~Peter

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*it must be noted that this point is often contested by theists because they will say that the vacuum of space is not nothing but it really is. It is merely the lowest energy state of nothing allowed by the laws of quantum mechanics.

**here is another point of debate and even if one says they are caused, they are not caused by anything in particular, merely uncertainties in the energy of the vacuum.

For your watching pleasure: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baZUCc5m8sE
and: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQ–CbV7L-g&feature=channel_video_title
and: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_676IeyJNQ
1: Vuletic, M. (n.d.). Creation ex nihilo – without God. Secular Web: Atheism, Agnosticism, Naturalism, Skepticism and Secularism. Retrieved August 22, 2011, from <http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/mark_vuletic/vacuum.html>
2: Braungardt, J. (n.d.). Vacuum Fluctuations. Jürgen Braungardt. Retrieved August 22, 2011, from <http://www.braungardt.com/Physics/Vacuum%20Fluctuation.htm>
3: Bojowald, M. (n.d.). Big Bang or Big Bounce?: New Theory on the Universe’s Birth – Scientific American – RichardDawkins.net . – RichardDawkins.net . Retrieved August 22, 2011, from <http://richarddawkins.net/articles/3220-big-bang-or-big-bounce-new-theory-on-the-universe-39-s-birth>
4: Zyga, L. (n.d.). Model describes universe with no big bang, no beginning, and no end. PhysOrg.com – Science News, Technology, Physics, Nanotechnology, Space Science, Earth Science, Medicine. Retrieved August 22, 2011, from <http://www.physorg.com/news199591806.html>
5: Gravitational singularity – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.).Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved August 22, 2011, from <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravitational_singularity>
6: define sngularity – Google Search. (n.d.). Google. Retrieved August 22, 2011, from <http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=define+sngularity#hl=en&safe=off&q=singularity&tbs=dfn:1&tbo=u&sa=X&ei=QwtTTsvZKYfagAeZ1sgw&ved=0CBkQkQ4&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.&fp=b95580e7ebe1d466&biw=1366&bih=667>
7: See 4:00 for Craig explaining a singularity himself! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baZUCc5m8sE
8: Vilenkin, A. (n.d.). Creation of Universes From Nothing.mukto-mona.com. Retrieved August 11, 1922, from <http://www.mukto-mona.com/science/physics/a_vilinkin/universe_from_nothing.pdf>