Is There A God?
Debate Rounds (5)
Round 1: Acceptence of challenge/defining terms etc.
Round 2: Opening statement
Round 3: 1st Rebuttal
Round 4: 2nd Rebuttal
Round 5: Closing statement
Looking forward to it, whoever you may be. Let's make it a good one.
I want to thank Con for starting this debate. I believe this will be a lot of fun.
When discussing God, assuming we discount polytheism, which given the title of the debate I think we may as well do, there are two main positions one could take. Namely, Theism and Deism. Let's look at what these words mean, in addition to the word "God" its self (definitions taken from merriam-webster.com)
God - the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe
Deism - a movement or system of thought advocating natural religion, emphasizing morality, and in the 18th century denying the interference of the Creator with the laws of the universe
Theism - belief in the existence of a god or gods; specifically: belief in the existence of one God viewed as the creative source of the human race and the world who transcends yet is immanent in the world
First, lets examine God. Notice that God is defined as more than a force, but as a being, which is a distinction worth making, I feel. More relevant to us now though is the distinction between Deism and Theism. Now, Deism is the position that the universe was set in motion by an all-powerful, intelligent designer, who set the clock ticking, and took no further interest in its running, letting the laws of physics run the show from then on. Theism on the other hand claims that God has given divine revelation of his existence, and rules the universe directly, he is all-powerful and all knowing and created as well as governs the universe.
The reason for the distinction is that both views require different arguments for and against them. I'll start with my arguments against theism first.
1. Absence of evidence is evidence of absence.
In the case of a theistic god, a god who concerns himself with the lives of humans, and one who possesses the attributes of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic god (just as an example), absence of evidence is evidence of absence, because it is evidence that should be there. If there is a God who takes a direct interest in the lives of human beings and in the day to day running of the universe, then the evidence for his existence should be absolutely overwhelming, as opposed to practically non-existent. There are a number of forms of evidence that could be given to support a theistic God, such as:
A - Interaction between God and humans. This would be very easily testable, if God were to disseminate information completely unknown to mankind, and that he or she couldn't have possibly known otherwise, be it through a holy text or more direct interactions, and that information was independently and objectively verified, that would be a massive piece of evidence to support the existence of a theistic God. Indeed, divine revelation has been claimed many times, such as the end of the world predictions of Harold Camping, to give one example, but not one example has ever been objectively verified.
B - Prayer. An attribute commonly given to a theistic God is that he answers prayers. This again would be easily testable, and verifiable, if someone was to pray for a supernatural intervention or suspension of the natural order, and a miracle took place, e.g. a dead man was to rise, this would be excellent evidence for an intervening, interacting theistic God. However, there has never been an objectively verified example of this happening. Indeed, there have been studies done that have shown the exact opposite. Allow to me to quote from the Harvard university gazette, regarding a study done in 2006 on the effects of prayer on patients recovering from heart surgery.
"In a clear setback for those who believe in the power of prayer, their prayers were not answered. Prayers offered by strangers did not reduce the medical complications of major heart surgery. Not only that, but patients who knew that others were praying for them fared worse than those who did not receive such spiritual support, or who did but were not aware of receiving it. "
Now these two examples could have provided real evidence of the existence of God, and as I have said, if a theistic
God exists, then it is evidence that should be there, but it isn't. Therefore, I don't hesitate in concluding that the absence of evidence of interaction between God and humans and the absence of evidence for the efficacy of prayer is evidence for the absence of God.
Now I haven't touched on deism too much, and I'm running a little short on space, so I'll stop here, and let my opponent present his arguments in favour of God, and I'll no doubt touch on deism a little more in my rebuttal.
My opponent's main point was, "and absence of evidence of absence".
I would like to address this with the example of gravity. We cannot see gravity. We do not know what it is or what causes it. All we know is that it must exist, because the universe could not exist without it. Only a fool would state that gravity does not exist.
This also holds true for God. We cannot see a God, we do not know how a God works, but we know that there must be a God (ie supernatural) for the universe to exist. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created. The second law states that total entropy in the universe is increasing, meaning energy available to do work is decreasing. Therefore energy must have a definite origin (or we would have total entropy), and the origin of energy must be supernatural (it cannot be created). Therefore we can conclude that energy available to do work cannot exist without God.
As for the debate its self, my opponent proposed a counter-argument to my main argument against a theistic God, that "absence of evidence is evidence of absence". He made the point that we can't see gravity, nor do we know what causes it, but that it simply must exist, for without it, our universe could not exist, and the same holds true for God. However, this is simply incorrect. First, saying we can't see Gravity is irrelevant, we all know it exists. How do we know it exists? Because we have very strong evidence of it's existence, we can see it's influence, even if we can't see it, it causes things to fall, it causes the earth and it's sisters to continue safely orbiting the sun, at large scales it causes light to bend, we have plenty of examples of Gravity's influence on the universe, even if we can't see gravity its self, we can see it at work. We also have a pretty good idea of how Gravity works, the most widely accepted explanation being Einstein's, namely that the presence of matter distorts the spacetime around it, causing particles to appear to be attracted to the mass. (This is a simplistic and by no means a comprehensive account of General Relativity, it's just what's relevant to the discussion)
My opponent then attempts to apply the same logic to God. We can't see a God, but there must be one for there to be a universe. Why is this? Because of the law of conservation of energy, that the energy of a closed system is constant, it can only change from one form to another. The problem with this argument is that the total energy of the universe is zero, because Gravity acts as negative energy. Stephen Hawking, in his book "A Brief History of Time", states "In the case of a universe that is approximately uniform in space, one can show that this negative gravitational energy exactly cancels the positive energy represented by the matter. So the total energy of the universe is zero". Why is Gravity a negative force? Because in order to separate objects, one needs to overcome their gravitational attraction by exerting positive energy from the outside. A good example would be the positive energy needed to launch rockets into space, it requires a massive exertion of positive energy, to overcome the massive negative energy of gravity generated by the earth trying to keep the rockets down. In the case of the universe, the positive energy from the motion and mass of particles etc. is exactly cancelled out by the negative energy of Gravity, leading to the universe having zero total energy, meaning that the law of conservation of energy is not violated.
So, God is not necessary at the beginning, the big bang doesn't violate the first law of thermodynamics. But then just how did the universe come about? A common hypothesis is that our universe is a by-product of quantum mechanics. It used to be thought that the vacuum was just inert space, truly nothing. We now know that the vacuum is buzzing with quantum dynamical effects, such as the instantaneous creation of particle-antiparticle pairs, which quickly pop into existence before annihilating each other. This event does violate the first law of thermodynamics, but violations are allowed by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle for a very short time. The consequences of this phenomenon have been measured and verified many times. Allow me to quote from a paper written by Edward Tryon in 1973.
"In any big bang model, one must deal with the problem of 'creation'. This problem has two aspects. One is that the conservation laws of physics forbid the creation of something from nothing. The other is that even if the conservation laws were inapplicable at the moment of creation, there is no apparent reason for such an event to occur.
Contrary to widespread belief, such an event need not have violated any of the conventional laws of physics. The laws of physics merely imply that a Universe which appears from nowhere must have certain specific properties. In particular, such a Universe must have a zero net value for all conserved quantities.
To indicate how such a creation might have come about, I refer to quantum field theory, in which every phenomenon that could happen in principle actually does happen occasionally in practice, on a statistically random basis. For example, quantum electrodynamics reveals that an electron, positron and photon occasionally emerge spontaneously from a perfect vacuum. When this happens, the three particles exist for a brief time, and then annihilate each other, leaving no trace behind.
If it is true that our Universe has a zero net value for all conserved quantities, then it may simply be a fluctuation of the vacuum, the vacuum of some larger space in which our Universe is embedded. In answer to the question of why it happened, I offer the modest proposal that our Universe is simply one of those things which happen from time to time."
So what is the conclusion here? Take a perfect vacuum, clear out all the atoms, all the electrons, absolutely everything, take a perfect vacuum and quantum fluctuations can actually produce a universe, without violating the laws of physics.
It is likely that our universe started with a very small amount of matter. What then caused the subsequent accumulation of matter and energy? This problem is fixed by Dr. Alan Guth's theory of inflation. Particle physicist, Dr. Victor Stenger says in his book "Has Science Found God?" "[I]n the inflationary scenario, the mass-energy of matter was produced during that rapid initial inflation. The field responsible for inflation has negative pressure, allowing the universe to do work on itself as it expands. This is allowed by the first law of thermodynamics. In other words, no energy was required to "create" the universe. The zero total energy of the universe is an observational fact, within measured uncertainties, of course. What is more, this is also a prediction of inflationary cosmology, which we have seen has now been strongly supported by observations. Thus we can safely say, no violation of energy conservation occurred if the universe grew out of an initial void of zero energy."
So, God is completely unnecessary to describe how the universe came into being. Now can we prove that this is how our universe began? As a quantum fluctuation that quickly inflated into the universe we see today? No. We can't. But it is a more than plausible explanation for the beginning of our universe, based on valid scientific principles, and observable and testable scientific phenomena, which doesn't violate any known physical laws. Nothing about the universe suggests that it requires a God to work, and the universe looks exactly the way it should had it come from nothing, guided by nothing but the laws of physics.
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