Tuesday, 6 January 2009

50 proofs of god

This first turned up on Pharyngula last June. I was exasperated by it then and thought it stood without any comment as it was so painfully - genuinely painfully - obvious how idiotic each and every one of these alleged proofs of the existence of god (specifically, the christian god) are.

Today, however, PZ posted a response from the list's author and I found myself reading the list again and throwing out objections spontaneously and without the need for any thought. As I was doing this, I realised it might be worth writing down. Not because any of these points need refuting - I cannot see how anyone could possibly take them seriously - but to show just how easy it is to do, requiring no thought whatsoever. It might also be interesting to look at the sheer variety of lies, errors, confused statements and irrelevancies Debra Rufini is able to convince herself are evidence (sorry, PROOFS) of god's existence.

Whilst agreeing that random patterns occur naturally by chance, DNA however, consists of code, which requires a designer.

The phrase 'random pattern' is a contradiction. The statement that codes require designers is an assertion without evidence. On what basis can such an assertion be made?

How do you explain the paranormal, such as people witnessing positive or negative sightings, like ghosts or angels? I saw a ghost with a friend of mine - I am not a liar, an attention seeker. Neither was I overtired when this happened.

It's obviously not possible for me to comment on a particular case I know nothing about. But it doesn't matter anyway: what could someone's claim to have seen a ghost possibly have to do with the existence of god?

Try praying. What good is it when a mind is set to coincidence & disbelief regarding the positive outcome?

This is a suggestion and a question, not evidence.

The law of cause & effect - in order to have an effect, there has to be a cause. Everything is caused by something.

There is no such law. Even if there were, it would not imply that god exists. It is also just as much of a problem for theists as for atheists: she's implying that we can't explain how the universe began unless we agree that it is god, but simply falls into the 'who made god' trap she sets for herself.

Mindless nothing cannot be responsible for complex something.

Another assertion without evidence. And an irrelevant assertion at that. Who says 'nothing' is responsible for the universe or for the development of life? This is simply not a claim that evolutionists or scientists in general make.

Science can only be the detector of certain things. You cannot scientifically detect emotion, memory, thoughts etc., though scientifically we must.. These things which do not consist of matter are beyond the detection of science.

This seems to be a mixture of confusion and outright lies. Science is perfectly able to detect things that do not consist of matter. Leaving aside the obvious point that it can detect energy, it is also quite able to detect things like emotions. How? Well we can all tell when someone is happy or angry with a high degree of accuracy based on their behaviour. We can also do so from certain physiological changes detected by scientific and medical instruments.

However, once again none of this is relevant. Even if science did have the limitations Rufini claims, this wouldn't in any way imply the existence of god.

Evolution has never been proved, which is why we call it the 'theory of evolution'. It's a fairy tale for grown ups!

This is playing with the words 'theory' and 'proof'. Evolution certainly has been proved to the satisfaction of anyone who has properly understood it and objectively examined the evidence. It is a theory in the scientific sense: a hypothesis with mountains of evidence to support it and none that refutes it. It is a theory, but this doesn't prevent it from also being a fact. But - as we've come to expect from Rufini- it doesn't matter in the slightest anyway: whether evolution is true or not has no bearing at all on the existence of god.

Atheism is a faith in that which has not been proved. The disbelievers have not witnessed anything to not believe in, whereas the believers believe because they have witnessed. There is no 'good news' to preach in atheism.

More utter confusion here. Atheism is not a faith, it is lack of faith. Don Hirschberg is credited with the probably-too-oft quoted aphorism "Calling Atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color." It applies here. I don't know what Rufini means by saying that atheism hasn't been proved: I assume she is trying to say that there is no reason to be an atheist because there is nothing for an atheist to believe in (no god, that is). Of course, this argument relies on atheism being a religion or faith, which it is not, so it doesn't work.

As for there being no 'good news' in atheism, I happen to think it's pretty good news that there is no insane, capricious god who forces us to kow tow to his arbitrary whims. Rufini is correct to say that there is no gospel of atheism, however, and therefore nothing to preach. This is not a shortcoming, however, it's just the nature of the thing.

How much of the atheist's faith relies on anger with God as opposed to genuine disbelief in God?

Atheists by definition cannot be angry with god, since we don't believe he exists. Perhaps Rufini is asking whether atheists do believe in god, but since we are angry with him, we pretend we don't. I can only speak for myself, of course, when I answer no, but once again it has no bearing on the existence of god either way, regardless of the answer.

Why do many atheists shake their fists & spend so much time ranting & raving about something they don't believe in? If they are no more than a fizzled out battery at the end of the day, then why don't they spend their lives partying, or getting a hobby?! Why don't they leave this 'God nonsense' alone?

Because the god nonsense will not leave us alone. It's in our faces 24 hours a day. It's in our schools and our politics. We are expected to give undue respect to religion and to the religious, granting it a privileged status in society. If the religious didn't try to insist on this kind of stuff, most atheists would probably be happy to leave them to their delusions.

What created God? What came first, the chicken or the egg? I am not going to deny the existence of the chicken or the egg, merely because I don't understand or know what came first. I don't care - they both exist!

This is a confused argument for three reasons: first, the chicken and egg question is the wrong question since we know from evolution that there was neither a first chicken nor a first egg. Second, it's a false analogy since we know that both chickens and eggs exist, but we have no evidence that god does. Third, it's a non-sequitur. What has the creation of god have to do with the chicken and egg question?

On top of all this, of course, it's just the plain old argument from ignorance in all its glory.

Improbability is not the same as impossibility. You only have to look at life itself for that backup of proof.

Another non-sequitur. Improbability certainly is different from improbability, but I don't see what that has to do with either the sentence that follows or the existence of god. Very few of even the staunchest atheists refuse to accept that there's a minute possibility that god might exist. I guess what Rufini is trying to say here is that life is improbable but it exists, so the same logic can be applied to god. The problem with this is that we know life exists. There is no evidence that god does. So the analogy doesn't work.

How could the complexity of human life possibly evolve on its own accord out of mindless cells?

How could the complexity of the human mind possibly evolve on its own accord out of mindless cells? Where does our consciousness come from?

These two are basically the same question and have the same answer: evolution. We know perfectly well how it happened, although it didn't happen 'of its own accord'. This is an attempt by Rufini at constructing a strawman, but she hilariously screws it up because we can answer the question with the one word: 'evolution'.

What/who knew that our hunger & thirst had to be catered for by the food & drink which we're supplied with?

It's difficult to tease out what Rufini's point is here. My best guess is that she's saying something about the world being created for humans, replete with all the things we need. She seems to be under the impression that if we evolved, we wouldn't know to drink water or eat food: that someone would have to 'invent' the practice of eating and drinking. This shows a preposterous lack of understanding of evolution. And once again, it says nothing at all about the existence of god.

Most of us are born with the five senses to detect our surroundings, which we're provided with.

Personally, I have rather more than five senses, all of which have evolved. This is exactly what we would expect. Rufini is implying that it is some kind of coincidence that we happen to be suited for the world we live in, rather than a necessary consequence of having evolved here.

What/who knew that had Earth been set nearer to the sun, we would burn up?

What/who knew that had Earth been set any further from the sun, we would freeze up?

What/who knew that had Earth been built larger or smaller, its atmosphere would be one where it would not be possible for us to breathe?

What/who knew that we require the oxygen of plants, just as plants require the carbon dioxide of us?

These seem to be saying the same thing. The goldilocks argument. I'm not entirely sure what she's getting at with the 'who/what knew' parts, but I suspect she means that someone (god) must have decided how to configure these various parameters. This is just a bald assertion without evidence. The anthropic principle copes with this perfectly effectively.

If the world were very much different, then it certainly would not contain us, but this has nothing to do with the existence of god. Such a world might have contained other forms of life - or not - regardless of whether god exists. Just because the goldilocks effect makes it look like an enormous coincidence doesn't make it so. Exactly as just because organisms look designed doesn't mean that they are.

The concept that life came about through sheer chance is as absurd & improbable as a tornado blowing through a junk yard, consequently assembling a Boeing 747!

*Sigh*. Nobody says that life came about through chance. Natural selection is the opposite of chance.

We are willing to believe in physically unseen waves that exist through the air, operating physical forces & appliances to work, yet not supernatural God forces being responsible for the same.

We can detect electromagnetic and sound waves, even though we cannot see all of them with our naked eyes. That's why we believe in them: they make stuff work. Rufini's using the Internet to spread this nonsense is sufficient proof of that. By contrast, there is no evidence of god. That is why we don't believe in him.

Matter cannot organise itself. An uneaten tomato will not progress on its own accord to form a perfect pineapple. It will transform into mould, into disorganisation. The laws of evolution fall flat.

This looks like a strawman to me. Evolution simply does not say that a tomato will spontaneously morph into a pineapple. This isn't even remotely analogous to evolution.

Our 'inventor' of evolution, Mr. Charles Darwin had this to say to Lady Hope when he was almost bedridden for 3 months before he died; "I was a young man with unfathomed ideas. I threw out queries, suggestions. wondering all the time over everything, and to my astonishment the ideas took like wildfire - people made a religion of them." Darwin then asked Lady Hope to speak to neighbours the next day. "What shall I speak about?" She asked. He replied; "Christ Jesus and his salvation. Is that not the best theme?"

This is known to be a lie. It is pure invention. Darwin said nothing of the sort on his deathbed and Lady Hope was not there. Even if it were true, however, it would still say nothing at all about the existence or otherwise of god.

Where do our moral values held within our conscience come from? If the atheist is right, why then would we care about what we did?! If there is no God, then we've no-one to be accountable to.

Another canard. It has been demonstrated perfectly adequately that our moral values are evolved responses to our past social organisation. Societies with entirely different gods - or no gods at all - show very much the same kind of morals. Christians are at least as likely to commit immoral and criminal acts as atheists, which puts paid to the moral policeman idea.

The main refutation of this argument, however, is that it simply does not fit the evidence. The majority of atheists are as moral as anyone else.

If man has evolved from an animal, why doesn't he behave like an animal? Yet man is civilised.

Humans evolved from aquatic creatures but we don't spend all our time in the water. They evolved from creatures who walked on four legs, but we walk on two. The key word here is 'evolution'.

'Chance' isn't the cause of something. It just describes what we can't find a reason for.

This is another bald assertion, but one I can make head nor tail of. I imagine Rufini is suggesting that we have created evolution (which she thinks is synonymous with chance) because we don't understand where life came from (god). This - once again - has nothing to do with the existence of god anyway, but also makes the error of equating evolution with chance.

Science & logic do not hold all the answers - many people are aware of forces at work which we have no understanding of & no control over.

There are many things science doesn't know, but to suggest that some things are unknowable is merely another assertion without evidence. It may or may not be true, but either way, it has no bearing on the existence of god. I'm not sure to what forces Rufini is referring here or in what sense 'many people' are 'aware' of them. I guess she's just doing some special pleading for the kinds of subjective experience we all have from time to time. Most of us - when we grow up - learn to dismiss feelings like deja vu or feelings of being watched. Children tend to ascribe meaning and purpose to them.

Look at the date/year on our calender - 2000 years ago since what? Our historical records (other than the Bible) record evidence of Jesus' existence.

I'm willing to believe that someone called Jesus existed - although the evidence is very far indeed from conclusive - but historical evidence says nothing at all about whether he was divine.

Many people have died for their faith. Would they be prepared to do this for a lie?!

This is painfully silly. The answer is yes. Of course they would if they believed it to be true. They would have died if their faith were true and if it were not true. How does Rufini account for all the muslims or Jews or people of any faith who have died for their particular religion? Presumably she doesn't argue that all these other religions are true, yet people have certainly died for these lies. Don't they count?

Much of the Bible deals with eyewitness accounts, written only 40 years after Jesus died. When the books in the New Testament were first around, there would have been confusion & anger if the books were not true.

This shows a (perhaps deliberate) misunderstanding of what the bible actually is, how it was written and how what we think of today as the bible was compiled. She is assuming that the writings making up the bible were important and well-known documents at the time they were written. In fact, this is rather unlikely since Christianity was an underground movement at that time. She just hasn't thought it through. Neither were any of the accounts in the bible eyewitness accounts....although it wouldn't constitute evidence of god if they were. Why should we believe a random person we know absolutely nothing about?

From as early as 2000 BC, there is archaeological evidence to confirm many details we're provided with in the Bible.

There are also many errors. But both of these facts are beside the point: many works of fiction are set in real places.

Not one single Biblical prediction can be shown as false, and the Bible contains hundreds.

This is plainly untrue. A quick search on the web will find a huge number of unfulfilled biblical prophesies. Of those that are apparently fulfilled, there are many dodgy ones. For example, many are so vague that practically any event could appear to fulfil them. In some cases, it would be rather easy to arrange (e.g. Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey) or to simply lie about (as is known to be the case re Jesus being born in Bethlehem).

The evidence from liturature & historical studies claim that Biblical statements are reliable details of genuine events.

They can claim all they like - does that make the bible true? I have no doubt that there are some events in the bible that actually happened. However, there are many that certainly did not. An example is the account of Jesus' birth mentioned above. There was no such census that would have required Joseph to travel to Bethlehem. But so what if some of the stories are obviously untrue? Or even that some are true? Does this prove that the 'important' bits are true (i.e. Jesus' divinity, the existence of god?) Obviously not. I'm quite amused by the idea that literature (i.e. made up stories) should be used as evidence that other made up stories are true.

From the birth of science through to today, there is no evidence to claim that Christianity & science are in opposition. Many first scientists were Christians; Francis Bacon, Issaac Newton, Robert Boyle, to name a few, along with the many who stand by their work & faith today.

Argument from authority. Newton certainly did seem to believe in god. He believed in quite a lot of nonsense. However, even if every single scientist in the world believed in god, this would have not the slightest bearing on whether he existed. In fact, the vast majority of scientists do not believe in god. Does that constitute evidence that god doesn't exist? Not at all.

Science can explain 'how' something works, but not 'why' something works.

A meaningless and incorrect statement. What constitutes a 'how' or a 'why' question? This is just a retreat into semantics. And yet again - says nothing at all about whether god exists.

Science is constantly recorrecting its findings. Past theories contradict certain beliefs which are held today. Our present 'discoveries' may change again in the future to rediscover how we originally came into existence.

I'm highly amused that Rufini seems to think that the major strength of science is somehow a weakness. I'm also amused by her 'logic': some of the way we understand the world might change one day, so you shouldn't believe it, regardless of any evidence.

Evolution describes the way life possibly started, yet doesn't explain what made life start & why. Scientific questions fail to do that. Even if evolution were proved, it would still not disprove God.

I agree wholeheartedly and don't think anyone has ever suggested otherwise.

The two people who discovered Jesus' empty tomb were women. Women were so low on the social scale in first century Palestine, so in order to make the story fit, it would have made far more sense to claim that it were male disciples who had entered the tomb. But it wasn't - we're left with the historical & Biblical truth.

Let me get this straight...it's unlikely so it must be true?

Think about Near Death Experiences. It's naive to believe that they all are induced by chemicals or drugs. How do we account for a blind person having this experience, coming back to describe what they had never before seen, a person telling the Doctor that there is a blue paperclip on top of the high cabinet, which they couldn't have otherwise known, an african man being dead in his coffin for 3 days, coming back to life to tell of much the same events which took place as those of many others? We never hear of the witnesses describing "a dream". We're not silly - we know the difference between even the most vivid of dreams to that of reality.

Obviously I can't account for particular cases, but I don't see why it's naive to believe that near death experiences are induced by drugs or by the brain's reaction to a traumatic situation. The rest is just anecdote. Rufini states that near death experiences must be real because they seem so. How does she account for people who suffer from delusions? The delusions seem real to them, does this imply that they are?

There are many skeptics who didn't believe in Jesus before his crucifixion, and who were opposed to Christianity, yet turned to the Christian faith after the death of Jesus. Just as the many who continue to do so today.

The bandwagon argument. There are also lots of people who believe other religions or no religion at all. This says nothing about whether or not they are right.

Albert Einstein said; "A legitimate conflict between science & religion cannot exist. Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind".

Another meaningless argument from authority. Of course, this is taken out of context but it doesn't matter. It says nothing at all about whether god exists. Einstein, of course, was not a theist. He was a kind of pantheist and did not believe in a personal god.

A speaker in Hyde Park who was attacking belief in God, claimed that the world just happened. As he spoke, a soft tomato was thrown at him. "Who threw that?" He said angrily. A cockney from the back of the crowd replied; "No-one threw it - it threw itself!"

Seriously? A very probably apocryphal anecdote is supposed to be a convincing 'proof' of the existence of god?

It is easier to believe that God created something out of nothing than it is to believe that nothing created something out of nothing.

Is it? I certainly can't believe that god created anything, because there is no evidence. However, I don't believe that 'nothing created something out of nothing'. This is a false dichotomy. Of course, how easy something is to believe says nothing about whether it is true.

Stephen Hawkins has admitted; "Science may solve the problem of how the universe began, but it cannot answer the question: why does the universe bother to exist?"

Assuming Rufini is speaking about Stephen Hawking, it is another argument from authority. Hawking is an atheist, but occasionally seems to buy in to the 'non-overlapping magisteria' idea. Personally, I think this is foolish as even a moment's thought should tell anyone. I can see no reason to take Hawking seriously on this matter. Of course, it is very likely that the quote is taken out of context as well.

We cannot confuse God with man. With God in the equation, all things, including miracles are possible. If God is God, he is Creator of all, inclusive of scientific law. He is Creator of matter & spirit.

This is just plain old circular reasoning: the idea that if god is god, he's god kind of hinges on the 'if'. It's begging the question as well as being circular reasoning.

If we are the product of evolution - by sheer accident, chance, then we are still evolving. Does it just so happen that we exist here today with everything so finely tuned for our living. as we now have it?

No, it doesn't 'just so happen' - that's how evolution works. Plus, we can consider the anthropic principle again: we wouldn't be asking questions like that if we didn't happen to be here.

Could it possibly be that the missing link does not exist?!

Sure, and that would scupper the theory of evolution. But who says that creation is the only alternative? It's a false dichotomy as well as a pretty desperate grasping at straws.

God has proved himself to us in numerous ways, all around us. The atheist needs to put his glasses on. What more can God possibly do if man has shut his eyes to him?

Great, then we don't need any of these 'proofs' at all! We just need to look at all this evidence! So...where is it then? Hello? Hello?

Jesus Christ is either who he says he is, or he is the biggest con man history has ever known.

Or he was mistaken, or misreported, or insane, or any number of other things. I like the audacity of this argument, even though it has no bearing on the existence of god. The idea is to give god's existence some spurious liklihood by placing it in a false dichotomy. Rufini wants to make it seem as though the two alternatives are equally likely (because there are only two of them). The problem is that pesky razor of Occam's, of course.

So there you have it. Very few of these statements are even arguments, let alone proofs. They are questions, bald statements, misrepresentations and outright lies. Everyone of them is foolish in the extreme and they almost refute themselves. And yet, you'll find people who will subscribe to them all and parrot them as the truth.

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