The Instigator
Con (against)
0 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
0 Points

It is more rational to believe humanity is a random by-product of this universe than created by God.

Do you like this debate?NoYes+0
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 0 votes the winner is...
It's a Tie!
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/5/2015 Category: Religion
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,520 times Debate No: 72960
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (48)
Votes (0)




Andy asked me my stance on God, so I thought I would do so in the form of a debate as to what is more rational to believe in - that we are a random by-product of a random universe, or that we were created by a higher power.

I deliberately set no format rules or parameters for this debate, as I'm more interested in the logical discussion than "winning" an argument.

As goes God, the basics to my stance:

1) God "is". Always existed, always has, always will.

2) God created this universe, and all of the life within it.

3) God has revealed himself to humanity, first through the Israelites - and then through Christ to all of mankind.

4) Christ is a historical figure who really lived in first century Palestine.

5) The Gospels are a written record of historical evidence which testify to the life and works of Christ. At least one of which, John, claims to be a first-hand eye-witness account. [This is where it irks me when it is suggested that there is no evidence to believe in God - the gospels are a historical record of eye-witness testimony - as valid, if not moreso, as the works of Herodotus on Greek history, Suetonius and Tacitus on Roman history and so forth]

6) If you take the gospel records to be reliable testimony, Christ himself confirms the validity of the Old Testament by directly quoting it as truth, so if He was who He claimed to be then the Old Testament must be valid also. [Although not necessarily to be read as a literal scientific manual, as large parts of it appear metaphorical]

7) I have yet to come across a sensible, all-encompassing theory from any atheist to deny the validity of the Gospels and the existence of the historic Christ. There are several standalone theories, which taken individually might be plausible to explain away one aspect of Christ - but each time it leaves several other aspects of Christianity unaddressed. So then what you normally hear is several individual arguments strung together in succession (eg my points (a) to (e) below) - but it is clear you can't adhere to all five points together at the same time, as some are simply mutually exclusive. There is no single overarching theory that adequately explains away everything about Christ, and the rapid rise of Christianity after his death. Eg you could argue:

a) that Christ was just a bit "unhinged" - and genuinely believed he was the Son of God as some people genuinely believe they are Elvis today - then that could explain some stuff, but not for example how he could have performed convincing miracles to crowds of eye-witnesses in such a mentally compromised state. If he genuinely believed he was God, he wouldn't have faked the miracles.

b) then you might argue that he was a charlatan, he knew he wasn't the Son of God, and the miracles were tricks - but then that doesn't explain why he would deliberately antagonise the authorities and refuse to recant and just say he made it all up when faced with crucifixion. It would take a very committed con artist to go to his own death, and an agonising and horrific death at that, all just for a "show". If he was after fame and a following in this lifetime, knowing that he wasn't really who he claimed, then clearly that is not the way any sufficiently intelligent and devious person would choose to go about it.

c) then you might say that Christ didn't exist at all, and the disciples made it all up - but then that doesn't make sense of the fact that the disciples gave up their entire lives, suffered persecution, prison, torture and death for most of them to spread the message of something they knew to be false. Again, it would take very committed con men to go through all that for no tangible worldly benefit, and the fact there were so many of them makes the likelihood of not one of them capitulating under pressure and recanting their message almost non-existent.

d) then you might say, ok so maybe Christ did exist, but that he was just a nice bloke with some radical socialist ideals about being good to your neighbour etc, and the miracles just got embellished over time to the point of hyperbole, "Chinese whispers" style. However this fails on two logical points, in that:

i) the gospels were written between about 30 years (Mark) and 60 years (John) after the death of Christ. This might sound a lot by modern standards, but compare that length of time to Herodotus, Suetonius, Tacitus and most historical historians of the time - and 30-60 years is frankly the blink of an eye, particularly in a culture used to passing on historical information verbally as the Jews were. There simply wasn't the time for the hyperbole to creep in, particular as 30 years would have been well within the lifetime of people who lived there and knew Christ who would have simply refuted what the disciples were saying as false - and

ii) the fact that many other religions flourished in the past, and indeed since, but they all have one key difference in that what they claim is largely unfalsifiable. Christianity claimed the public miracles of Christ, which again would have been easily refuted and countered as never having happened by the people who actually lived in Israel in the decades immediately after Christ's crucifixion. If you were going to make up a fake religion, surely far better to base it on something entirely unrefutable - like Scientology for an example literally plucked out of the air.

And again this point still fails to account for the rapid rise of Christianity, as why would the disciples spread the gospel and suffer severe persecution and death if Christianity just started off as something fairly ordinary to begin with - just a nice bloke with some socialist ideals, and the angels/miracles bits only got added in later? That makes no sense.

e) then you might argue that the gospel accounts contradict themselves in places on minor points (and this is true, they do) - hence it must all be a load of baloney. But that is a logical non-sequitur. The fact that there are minor differences between the gospel accounts, if anything, makes it more likely that the accounts are genuine. If it was all made up, then they would have been more careful to cross every "i" and dot every "t" and make sure everything was aligned. As it stands, it is more authentic in that there must have been separate authors who remember different aspects of the events from their own individual standpoints - particularly Mark and John. The parallel I draw here, is say there is a big multi-car accident on a major road one day and the authorities take about 10 eye-witness statements of the event. I can almost guarantee they will all remember different things, and may even directly contradict each other on minor points. What do we deduce from this, that there probably wasn't a car accident after all? Hardly!

Overarching all of these standalone counter-points that atheists tend to make, is that whilst they are potentially plausible theories, what they certainly aren't is counter-evidence! It is pure speculation. There is no written record from the time which directly contradicts the gospel accounts - not a single shred of tangible evidence. To the contrary, it is not the Christians who base their belief in Christ on no evidence - it is the atheists!!

Now of course, I don't have conclusive evidence - but I have enough, and with rational analysis of all of the available data, I can draw the conclusion that the only explanation for the rapid rise of Christianity is that the disciples genuinely believed what they saw in the miracles, and genuinely believed in the death and resurrection of Christ, to such an extent that they went from cowering in hiding immediately after his execution - to spreading the gospel message far and wide with confident joy a few weeks later. Something significant must have happened.

You then tie that in with existence and morality - and for me it is far more rational that there is an infinite deity who cares about his creation enough to grant us free will despite the downside of the possibility of evil - and to provide a morally justified escape plan through the propitiation of our inevitable sin as a result of our free will.

The alternate is that we are merely a by-product of random causation of the matter of this universe, and that we have no meaning, no purpose, no hope - and ultimately your life is utterly pointless. As I've just argued in another debate, you could be as saintly as Mother Teresa, or as evil as the worst human being you can imagine - ultimately this universe will cease to exist (implode on itself, or suffer heat death), and there is no eternal justice or consequences for any of your actions.

You can try to con yourself that you can derive your own meaning from life, but in the case God does not exist then I doubt you can even argue your consciousness is "valid". Your brain is just a bunch of chemicals and electrical signals which has arisen as a random consequence of this random universe. How can you trust that your brain is rational at all if that is its source? At best your randomly created brain is just conning you into thinking there is meaning in life and that you are a rationally independent being. Because if you are just a random by-product of a random universe, you can't seriously be logically arguing that whatever your random brain tells you is in any way trustworthy or rational?

Only with the existence of God can you claim human life to be sacred, and have purpose, and that we have rational independent thought and morality, and a hope that this fallen world is only a temporary "test" where we have the benefit of free will. See all my debate on "Christianity" for my further thoughts on this if you are interested.


I'd like to start by saying that I'm not 100% happy with the specific wording of the debate, but I have accepted it because I agree in principle with the statement and am looking forward to debating it with DiverseSynergy.

I'm going to change my debating style somewhat for this debate. My aim is no less than to convince DiverseSynergy themselves of my case. I shall try to reduce the degree to which I focus on winning a debate, therefore, sacrificing rhetoric for a genuine attempt at convincing somebody to see the World differently.

I invite DiverseSynergy to join me and try to convince me of their position; I believe that we are both rational people who therefore ought to have half a chance of listening to the other person's perspective.

I hope that the gentle voters and DiverseSynergy won't mind, therefore, as I change my form of address to "you". By "you" I shall from here on in mean DiverseSynergy, as I feel that this direct form of address is easier than beating around the bush.


So, I hope that you won't mind if I start by quoting your comment to my other debate; I'd like to start by engaging there before turning my attention to your argument here, to which I will return in future rounds.

"If you argue that your brain is a random by-product of a random universe, then on what logical basis can you conclude that your random brain of chemicals and electrical signals is capable of independent rational thought in any case? And how would you hope to empirically prove it, even if you believe that your brain can have independent rational thought in such a scenario?"

Well, I do argue that my own brain is a highly evolved and remarkable piece of machinery; that it is capable of independent rational thought is simply an empirical fact. If you wish me to design a thought experiment that would confirm an individual's capacity for independent rational thought, I would be happy to do so, but I don't think that this would help much. I think that I understand what you are getting at with this question though: in the philosophical sense, a soul.

Rather than tackle this issue head on, I'd like to start by directing your attention to the Homunculus Argument, a well-known philosophical blunder which is well explained by Wikipedia You may notice some interesting ideas in the Counterarguments section and I note a nice link at the bottom to one of my favourite sayings "turtles all the way down". The linked article about the great Daniel Dennett's derisive term "Cartesian Theatre" is also worth a read.

The point at hand is: what is consciousness? What is "free will"? What is it to be me?

These questions demand an answer; they are pressing questions that we all ask at some point or another in our lives. The questions themselves can be presented in such blunt and simple Anglo Saxon that a 5-yr-old could understand them and, indeed, we often start to ask such questions very early in our lives. Unfortunately, though, the answers are complex and in many cases not "satisfying". It often feels that we are being let down, somehow; missing out on some important truth. It is in a way debasing to think that our very essence, our spirit (a beautiful word meaning "living essence" from the Latin for "breath"), is but "random" electrical fluctuations in some cleverly arranged stardust.

Daniel Dennett has provided the best answer that I have heard, but it's not intuitive. Then again, truth is not always intuitive! If you have the time, I'd highly recommend that you listen to Daniel put it in his own charming way need both, I know it's a lot of effort!)

But if you haven't the time, the quick version in my words goes something like this:

Termites produce buildings like human architects:

s://; alt="" />

Now, here's a really good question about design: If this is designed, where is the designer? Where is the design?
Where are the blueprints to the termite colony?
There is no one "master architect" termite. We could look in the brain of each termite and none has an idea of the overall goal.
The termites are competent, but they have no comprehension - they know not what they do.

Likewise, the first "computers" were humans who were employed in their thousands to do calculations for engineering firms... Alan Turing recognised that in order to be a good computer, you did not need to understand mathematics. This is equally counter-intuitive... again we see competence without comprehension...

Daniel Dennett asks us to focus on this idea: our intuition expects competence to derive from comprehension, but in reality comprehension is a phenomenon which is "built up" from competence.

So, evolution drives animal brains to become competent (like termite nests)... no neuron "knows" what the greater design is... but together, all following relatively simple rules of behaviour, the group begins to exhibit intelligent behaviour (without any need for the animal to be consciously clever). Natural selection is the force that does the choosing, picking individuals out and granting them success when their neurons, all following simple rules, produced a "desired" behaviour (nobody, not even Mother Nature, is doing the desiring!).

It turns out that one of the things that a brain (any brain) is best at doing is predicting the future... it is a pattern seeker that is constantly expecting what's going to happen next... and whenever something fit's the expected pattern, the idea is reinforced... whenever something doesn't fit the expected pattern, the brain sits up and pays attention... a "what is THAT" type reaction.

This is a competence and, the theory goes, it certainly pre-dates comprehension. The human brain evolved to become an excellent predictor of the future... this was a competence (and is in all animals)... and did not have any part of conscious mind playing a part in the prediction... indeed, it's still subconsciously doing those things, displaying competence without comprehension. One might say that the conscious part of your brain is significantly less competent at specifics and doesn't seem to account for much of the overall effort...

Except that there really is something wrong with the wording I used in that last sentence. I said "the conscious part of your brain", but this really is a fallacious way of thinking about cognition. There can be no homunculus! Consciousness is what happens when the brain takes itself as one of the things that it models and tries to predict.

It is interesting to understand how we can become conscious of things after they start... for instance, you could be in a quiet library room reading a book, totally absorbed... then at some point, your brain could become conscious of the fact that a clock is chiming the time in the distance. You may not become conscious of the fact (and decide to start counting the chimes) at the second or third chime. BUT, when you make the conscious choice to count, you can check your short-term memory and remember the first and second chimes and know to pick up the counting at the right point. A key point to note here is that your brain was already doing a lot of aural processing (and maybe more) without your conscious mind becoming aware... consciousness gives us the illusion of being a homunculus, the illusion that we have perfect sensory inputs, the illusion of complete control over ourselves and our own thoughts.

I'm not going to on for the moment, wanting to hear what you have to say about the things I've spoken of before continuing.

Essentially, though, I'm asking you to accept, at least in principle, that the way we should rationally be approaching the question of what consciousness is does not need to involve the supernatural. I can go further in the rational theory of consciousness if you'd like, or you're not so far convinced.

But I also beseech you to consider that as soon as you believe that people have souls that create the consciousness, it is so much easier to hate and blame and want vengeance for people's wickedness; so much easier to believe that homosexuality is a choice; so much easier to believe in reincarnation and that people might be punished in this World for things they did in a last life; so much easier to wish for evil people to experience eternal torture; so much more fearful of ceasing to exist yourself; so much more likely to see abortion as a sin; so much more likely to oppose GM which could save millions of innocent men, women and children their suffering, illness, blindness and death through vitamin A deficiency; so much more likely to judge people who believe in other gods on the apparently reasonable notion that your god will judge and punish them; so much more likely to say silly things like "love the sinner, hate the sin"... than... than you would otherwise be.

Please do try to convince me of your side but, I humbly ask, spend some time to tell me what you think about the things I have laid out so far.
Debate Round No. 1


I guess this is my lucky week, as I have discovered two very amiable atheists to debate this similar topic line with in a civil discussion!

Your stated aim is lofty, but I admire somebody who likes a challenge. Sadly we humans are all too defensive of our positions, given that we all assume we have used sensible logic and intelligence to arrive at what we adhere to, and I am far from the exception to this rule. Generally you find people end up entrenched, depending on how far invested they are in their position.

For instance Richard Dawkins always says that if the evidence emerged, he would be one of the first to accept creationism - however I remain sceptical because I consider that he is much too far, and much too publicly, invested in the position he has entrenched himself into. Plenty of wars have been fought because people would rather "save face" than admit they might be wrong.

Having said that, I have changed my stance to a moderate extent on several issues in my life's journey so far having studied and listened to other worldviews, so your cause is not entirely without hope :o)

I welcome the equitable nature of your invitation to make my aim the reverse, however changing your mind or "converting" you to my brand of religion is somewhat secondary to my intent behind this discussion. It is more that you seemed like a rational personality who might logically state your position for me to consider, in a tolerant and open debate so that we might both take something away from the discussion, which pleasingly seems to be a mutual goal by what you say in Round 1.


So onto the debate:

Your brain might indeed be a highly evolved and quite remarkable "computer made of meat", but being capable of independent rational thought is not a "given". It certainly isn't empirically provable. If you believe it is, please do demonstrate.

In the not terribly brilliant film, Transcendence, it poses the question that if a human mind could be uploaded to a computer which then assumed that person's consciousness - is it still that same person? Or is it just a jolly clever imitation? And critically, how would you prove it!?

It is the same with a brain postulated to be created purely as a random result of the matter of this universe. Whilst it may appear remarkable, and humanity may achieve remarkable feats such as the splitting of the atom, landing on the moon and the building of the Hadron Collider etc - and we may appear to show all the facets of "free will" - the ends don't empirically "prove" the means, because the brain could just be a jolly clever imitation of independent rational thought. Even to the point of convincing ourselves of it. Much like your termites, maybe we are just "hard-wired" to do all this stuff.

Your other points are interesting, particularly the Homunculus Argument - and the variant of this you also pointed me to, which Daniel Dennett attempts to use to counter the idea of Dualism.

Whilst it is all jolly fascinating, it is not actually provable or falsifiable - but I do take your point. The crux of all the points you raise is reached in your third to last paragraph:

"...approaching the question of what consciousness is does not need to involve the supernatural."

And you are of course correct. It need not necessarily be supernatural. It could genuinely be that we are merely random by-products of the matter of this random universe.

I have faith that this universe was created, but that doesn't mean that I don't leave space for doubt that it might not have been - for all of the reasons you postulate. Faith without any Doubt is basically Delusion, and that is far from helpful.

BUT, and it is a big but, in order to convince me to abandon my Faith and go along with your postulation would require at the very minimum for you to demonstrate:

1) That it is more advantageous for me to want to accept that I am just a random by-product of this random universe, rather than a created being with meaning, purpose and significance. Some key problems with being a random by-product:

- This renders our entire existence ultimately meaningless. Even if you believe that you can somehow derive your own meaning out of life whilst you're here on Earth - one day you will just drop down dead, and forever cease to be. Maybe a couple of generations of your family or close friends may remember you, but within a very short space of time you will just be some random name in a family tree. Even if you happen to become famous and have your own Wikipedia page, no-one reading it will know the "real you" - they'll just have a list of random facts about your life. And besides, eventually this planet and ultimately the entire universe will cease to be, and all record of humanity and everything we have "achieved" will be for naught. Why on earth would anyone want that over the possibility of having eternal significance? Particularly when there is evidence that we are not just random by-products - eg through the record of the Bible and the historic Christ.

- This means that morality is at best a by-product of Evolution. I find it fascinating that you so easily find potential dangers where people hold the belief that people have souls, with the curious list you provide in your second to last paragraph - but surely the belief that we are just a random by-product opens its own veritable Pandora's Box of problems. For instance, give me one good logical reason why I should obey the law and "love my neighbour" etc if morality is just a by-product of evolution? Why not instead make my life's purpose to exert as much sadistic dictatorial power and control over as many other human beings as possible during my short, pointless existence here on Earth? (Plenty of historical figures have chosen to do precisely this!) Also, why not argue to run society like the Nazis attempted to? There is a very strong argument that morality "gets in the way" of Evolution - "survival of the fittest" is hardly best served by keeping the elderly, sick and those with genetic disorders alive now is it? It is surely far more Darwinian in style to aim for a "master race", completely devoid of the morality which would cause them to expend valuable energies and resources looking after the weaker members in society. Indeed, it was Adolf Hitler himself who stated: "I want to raise a generation of young people devoid of conscience - imperious, relentless and cruel". If human life is not "sacred", and we are just random matter - why not just kill off the elderly, sick and unproductive - particularly now on our dangerously overcrowded planet with rapidly declining resources? The logical choice should be simple, keep only the most productive human beings alive, and cut out the dead wood. This is what all the other animals do - give me one single logical reason why we should be any different, if we are just random by-products of matter? Morality does nothing but hold humanity back in a Darwinian/evolutionary sense. Only with the concept that human beings are "sacred" does it make any sense to look after the weakest and most vulnerable.

- I come back to the point that if our brains are just a random by-product, then I don't see any sensible argument that our consciousness has any "validity" whatsoever. Why should anything randomly created be assumed to have any "coherence" at all? All the arguments you postulate are as a direct result of your own brain, so it could just be random garbage that your brain has convinced you is coherent. How can you possibly demonstrate that it is trustworthy?

2) You would need to demonstrate that Christ wasn't who he said he was. Because it is all well and good to hypothesise why we might not need to be created (even though this entails all the issues I raise in point 1 above), but in order to do so you would also need to be pretty certain that Christ's claims were fallacious.

Incidentally, what are your thoughts on Christ? How do you empirically do away with the evidence that exists in respect of the historic Christ, or is it sufficient to say simply that there is not enough evidence for you to accept it? That then raises the further question, of what does constitute sufficient evidence for you to accept something (particularly in light of solipsism/brain in a vat)?


I apologise for skipping over a lot of stuff that you brought up in round one. I don't mean to be rude, and it's certainly not that I don't have things to say on those subjects... but since my goal really is to convince you, rather than to win the debate I'm going to concentrate on the direction which I think will be most productive in persuading you to see things slightly differently.

You said:
"In the not terribly brilliant film, Transcendence, it poses the question that if a human mind could be uploaded to a computer which then assumed that person's consciousness - is it still that same person? Or is it just a jolly clever imitation? And critically, how would you prove it!?"

What I'm about to say is something that I am 100% convinced of and I know that it sounds like a crazy belief at first; so much so, in fact, that I suspect that this very notion is exactly what drives reasonable people away from rational understanding and into the waiting arms of the apparantly comforting belief that Theism extols.

I absolutely believe that if you designed a sufficiently complex computer program with the correct inputs, you could create something that would be indistinguishable from me. Let me qualify that just a tiny bit: physics' Heisenberg's uncertainty principle combined with mathematics' Chaos Theory means that you couldn't do this to the degree necessary for my analogue to be making all of the same decisions at the same time as me, I dont mean a copy in that sense... but I do mean that you'd have an entity with as much knowledge, experience, ability to learn and ability to communicate as me... it would behave similarly to me and, that entity would absolutely be self-aware. Morally, hurting such an entity would be (in my book) of an equal severity as hurting a human being. How would you test the difference? Would there be any difference? What quality do you think would be missing? You can't call it "independent rational thought" because this machine would certainly be capable of that... and of self-awareness... that is to say that it could react to external stimuli... AND it could react to its internal stimuli! There you go... that's it, in a nutshell... there's no magic!

Indeed, it is reasonably easy to prove that either this astonishing claim is true or something akin to Cartesian dualism must be. There really are only two choices.

If consciousness is natural, it follows that it is in principle understandable and, in principle, reproducable. Indeed, it absolutely follows as a logical necessity that if consciousness is an emergent property of a chaotic (relating to the Mathematical Chaos Theory) collection of neurons then it is possible to reproduce this in a sufficiently complex computer program.

The only room for a supernatural explanation is if at some point there is a "decision" being made that is not coming from the physicality of the brain. This idea, I suggest, is not logical to accept with no evidence. I'm not going to try to prove it wrong, but I think that a burden of proof is necessarily upon anybody who would believe this if they wish to claim to be acting and believing rationally. I will look again, now, at the alternative view:

What there is; all there is, is a set of predictable neurons. Somehow, a "you" emerges. What!? How!? What AM I? What is this SENSATION? How can "I" sense anything at all... if all I am is a complex set of logic gates, how come I feel like a "me"?

It's a tough one to answer... it's a really, really tough one to give a satisfying answer to. I get that, I really do... I still think that I can convince you to change your mind, though! Do you accept that there is no solution to hard solipsism? Could we be a brain in a vat? I don't hold the belief that I am, nor do I hold the belief that I'm not... I don't think that I can ever prove that I am; I don't think that I can ever prove that I'm not. I simply don't care about that idea! I brush myself down and focus on getting on with my life on the assumption that I am not a brain in a vat... and, of course, if I come across a situation where I would have been better prepared had I believed that I was a brain in a vat, I would have been wrong about the idea that I could never prove that I wasn't because the very problem would represent evidence! But I'm sure enough that this isn't going to happen that I don't let it bother me.

But what could be the answer to this question, "how come I feel like me"? However clever a solution is proposed, won't it always fail at the point where we declare "and that's how you think this thought"? Surely the challenge "and that's how WHO thinks this thought?" will, like a child asking an infinite string of "why"s, be possible to ask? Yes, yes it would... and that's why the question (and the way of thinking about what consciousness is) is inherently wrong. We need to see things a different way, one that does not require a Cartesian Theater and an infinite regress of homunculi!

Well, perhaps we see a glimpse of the answer in this apparently unsolvable dilemma... maybe, just maybe, there is no I in that sense... there is no homunculus... there is no "consciousness" in the way that question implies it. Maybe we're looking at things the wrong way.

Maybe we are not in control of what we think; that's only an illusion... the "I" in self-awareness is just that, an observer... a witness. I say that this is exactly the truth. We have the illusion that we can control our thoughts... indeed, we are aware of thoughts going in feedback mechanisms within our own brain. But really, as this process is unfolding in our brain, there is no "us" to observe the process... we are the process (in one specific sense of I, us or we).

You may consider it a trivial parlour trick when I say to you "whatever you do, don't think about elephants" but I suggest that this reveals something important about the brain. Notice that beyond the very trivial sense in which the "reading aparatus" in your brain made elephant-shaped brainwaves (sorry for the sloppy language, I hope you know what I mean), you could not *stop* thinking about elephants immediately afterwards. Maybe you saw one washing itself with its trunk. Now that you've thought about this proposition, and have not only thought about elephants but now you've thought about your thinking about elephants (you've noticed that you were thinking about elephants - and that is what I see is the key to consciousness)... Now, right now, or as soon as you can... stop thinking about elephants. I won't repeat the word again from here on in but you'll be noticing thoughts related to them bubbling into your conscious awareness for some time now, and it's entirely beyond your control to stop them coming.

Yes, I just played a parlour trick that's barely more clever than the original one... I have tricked you; I have taken control of your mind, to a degree... now, whilst it's obvious that this is just a trick, I want you to think about how or why I was able to do so... and how this really throws into doubt the idea that your conscious mind is in control of your thoughts. Your self-awareness is not in control of yourself. Indeed, put like that, how could it be!? Your self-awareness is only a witness to yourself.

Putting the logical opposite of this idea, we can see the infinite homunculi queing up: your self-awareness is in control of your self. That must be a fallacious proposition. Your self-awareness must follow after the event of your self. Your "self" is easy enough to see as a collection of firing neurons, very physical... it's this self awareness that still seems to defy explanation. WHAT is aware? It's sort of trite, but my answer is you are aware.

"clever imitation of independent rational thought", you once said. I charge that could be no such thing. What distinguishes an imitation of independent rational thought and real independent rational thought? You yourself asked "[is] it still that same person? Or is it just a jolly clever imitation? And critically, how would you prove it!?" Indeed. You know that you couldn't prove it, so you know that consciousness is not magic. You know that natural processes can make something that behaves identically to you (including learning), you just don't want to have to deal with the consequences of what that implies that you are!

What my brain does is have independent rational thoughts... its just that there is no magic "I" in control of them. To have independent rational thoughts is a competence that evolution has been bestowed on the collection of neurons between my ears.

There is no "you" other than the "impersonal unaware you" that is your subconscious mind thinking about things in ways that "self-aware you" can't control... such as those things you're not supposed to be thinking about. Your subconscious still was, because you know what I'm referring to! As life provides other distractions, there just won't be room for such thoughts in the myriad of more important ideas that are bubbling up into your conscious arena... Now, where's the you? Did you decide to stop thinking about an idea that I'd asked you to stop thinking about? Where did that decision happen? When did that decision happen? Was it perhaps induced in your mind when you read my words "don't think about"? I can put ideas into your head but you cannot!

Obviously you can have original thoughts, that's not what I'm saying... but unlike Baron Munchausen, you cannot pull yourself out of the swamp by your own hair! You *have* thoughts but you cannot decide to think something! You just did, to prove me wrong, I'm sure.. you thought about fairies, perhaps... whatever it was, was it your conscious mind that selected that topic? I think not! That exposes the illusion that is driving you to believe in the supernatural.

Your conscious mind is whatever story your brain is currently obsessed by.

There is no "you the homunculus".

There is no evidence of anything supernatural. Theres no reason to believe anything supernatural!
Debate Round No. 2


No need to apologise, most of what I brought up in round 1 was just to make you aware of my position. I find it touching that you would choose to expend so much energy in attempting to convince me around to accepting your position, but I do consider it rather curious that you would wish to - for three reasons:

1) It sounds as if you are practically certain that you have it all definitely correct, and that by contrast I must almost certainly be definitely wrong. Aside from being slightly arrogant, I think that is far less helpful an approach to take - than say instead us both coming together and listening to each other's points of view then considering each of our stances in light of what the other has to say - with no desire to convince the other of their comparative "wrongness".

2) I could understand it if I were trying to convince you, but not the other way around so much. To explain, if I am correct, then there is a significant reason for me to want you to accept my position - because the consequences of you being wrong could be eternal. If you are correct, then I see very little I would stand to tangibly gain in moving from my position to yours. Perhaps you could demonstrate what it is I am missing that is so significant!

3) Say you are dead wrong, and there actually is a God. It is one thing to have to explain why you chose not to believe in him - but quite another that you actively tried to encourage other people who already believed in him not to! Perhaps you have never looked at it like that. I think the danger with God, is that it is all to easy to draw parallels with Santa, and the Easter Bunny, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The big difference with God, is that if He does exist then the ramifications are colossal. It is by no means a trivial thing to deny the existence of God (which is actually still true, even if God does not exist).

To put it another way, I never understand what I would term "evangelistic atheism" - because atheism is basically NOT believing in something. To me, an atheist trying to convince someone of faith to be an atheist, is a bit like someone who thinks that golf is a waste of time going along to a golf match and trying to convince a load of golf fans why they are wrong to like golf! I really don't get what it is you see you stand to benefit me - whilst I enjoy the discussion all the same, I just don't understand your approach of trying to "convert" me.

Perhaps if I didn't adhere to science at all, and I just blindly followed the Bible - you might be opening my eyes to another worldview. I would understand that. But I already am a scientist, and a philosopher - as well as being a theologian. If you think I haven't already travelled down other roads and flirted with other worldviews to reach where I am today - then you are significantly mistaken.

Ok, all that said - on with the discussion!

I don't think it is crazy at all to postulate that you might be able to create a sufficiently complex computer program to create genuine sentience. I personally don't think it is possible, and it almost certainly isn't empirically provable that what you had created was truly self-aware - but to hypothesise is certainly not crazy. Of course, this is the problem solipsism poses also - because you cannot establish whether anyone other than you is self-aware either - how could you?

Your two choices offered for the source of consciousness are interesting - but inconclusive. As there is no evidence either way. You want to believe that consciousness has natural causation because that is the simplest solution to conceive (Occam's Razor or whatever) - but that doesn't make it so.

And to just brush off solipsism is hardly very scientific. Again I come back to the fact that it is truly disingenuous to adopt a stance where you take one "free" unprovable assumption - and then demand the empirical from there on in.

You then descend into a great deal of perhaps's and maybes - all fascinating stuff, but not evidence.

And I never find "thought experiments" trivial, I'm a huge advocate! I entirely follow what you mean with the elephant analogy - and incidentally you have just made me lose "the game"... You failed with the purpose of your parlour trick - to a point, as I did think about "the game". I didn't think about elephants for any significant length of time, but I was trying to recall how long it had been since the last time I thought about "the game"!

You logic about infinite homunculuses (I deliberately use the alternate plural, just as a defiant demonstration of my free conscious thought!) doesn't necessarily hold. If there is a separate eternal soul, which cuts through greater dimensions outside of this universe, then the cause is not the same entity as the effect. So too is your suggestion that a true imitation of independent rational thought can't exist. Both of your proposals only hold if your consciousness is nothing more than the neurons in your own brain. If consciousness is more than this, then your logic collapses.

And it is not so much that I don't want to deal with the consequences of the implications as the reason for my not believing it; it is that I don't think the suggestion that our consciousness is solely a by-product of this random universe is a very coherent suggestion.

All of what you say could be plausible, and it could be an illusion that drives me to believe in the supernatural. But that isn't evidence, it's just a load of conjecture! For which, incidentally, you HAVE to find reasons to deny the existence of God. It could equally be that, for whatever reason, you are so hell-bent in NOT wanting to believe there is a God that you choose to hypothesise anything which might suggest that he might not exist. Why?

If your intention was to demonstrate that you have "proof" that your position is more coherent than mine, then I must be missing it.

Onto your points on the comments board. Your rationalisation of your position on Christ is surprisingly light, for somebody who clearly thinks deeply into what he believes. Perhaps you don't think it is worth your time to investigate into any detail.

Your "evidence" for thinking Christ never existed, is actually just conjecture. That Christ is spoken about (indirectly I might add) in the celestial in the Bible, and that the Romans and Greeks had some interesting ideas about their gods is entirely irrelevant as to whether a historical person existed.

That there is no extra-biblical, or contemporaneous evidence, for the life of Christ is surely to be expected. Someone like Caesar, the leader of a large influential empire - yeah, probably going to be a lot of contemporaneous evidence knocking around. But an obscure leader of a tiny religious sect, in a backwater outpost of the Roman Empire - you really expect there to be any contemporaneous evidence? To set such a parameter ought to be overtly ludicrous.

You say that the idea of gods coming down to get killed for us was already around; would you mind providing a cited example? I think this is a classic case of parallelomania - and I would put money on the fact that you haven't independently researched this, but just read it in a book one time!

How exactly did the disciples have a vested interest in lying? Why would they leave everything behind and face torture and persecution - all for something they knew was a load of baloney? It doesn't make any sense!

Onto your next thread, I entirely agree with you that to want to believe something does not make it true - and can be dangerous. I don't believe it because I want it to be true, I believe it because I consider it is the only coherent overall explanation for our existence.

You say that you don't want to live forever, and you can derive your own meaning and your own path for your life - "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul" - Henley. But might I say that is all well and good for you, given that you happen to live in a rich, free nation where you can have a relatively decent life and a large degree of freedom in how you choose to live it. What of the many people around the world who's entire lives are spent in truly awful circumstances. Are they to derive their own meaning from what you say it their only existence, which could well be one of pain, torture, oppression etc?

By "meaning", I mean that if we are created beings with souls - then our consciousness truly has meaning; our lives in this existence truly serves a purpose. If we are random by-products, then this life is pointless. If you are lucky, you are born in a free Western society and have relatively good health and good job opportunities and the financial means to live your life how you choose. If you are unlucky, maybe you are born in a country where you are oppressed, tortured, and live in constant fear etc.

I do find it interesting that the rise of atheism is largely in those Western countries where we live in the lap of luxury. No doubt you would argue that is because of the rise of rationalism and the scientific method - but I suggest it is because we can have complete apathy towards how truly horrendous this life can actually be.

My worldview gives the possibility of hope, regardless of your existence in this lifetime - and also an eternal justice for the perpetrators of evil.

I note you don't offer any comment for my most significant points:

1) Give me one good logical reason why I should obey the law and "love my neighbour" etc if morality is just a by-product of evolution? Why not instead make my life's purpose to exert as much sadistic dictatorial power and control over as many other human beings as possible during my short, pointless existence here on Earth?

2) Why not run society like the Nazis? Survival of the fittest/strongest; with no conscience.

3) If human life is not "sacred", why not kill off the elderly, sick and unproductive - particularly now on our dangerously overcrowded planet with rapidly declining resources?


You fairly charge that I haven't answered some of your points:

1) Give me one good logical reason why I should obey the law and "love my neighbour" etc if morality is just a by-product of evolution? Why not instead make my life's purpose to exert as much sadistic dictatorial power and control over as many other human beings as possible during my short, pointless existence here on Earth?

2) Why not run society like the Nazis? Survival of the fittest/strongest; with no conscience.

3) If human life is not "sacred", why not kill off the elderly, sick and unproductive - particularly now on our dangerously overcrowded planet with rapidly declining resources?


I'd like to start by pointing out that evolution works on two distinct levels, as far as I can see: survival of the fittest individual; survival of the fittest group.

We can absolutely identify which of these was afoot when a certain feature was pressured into being. For instance, sharp teeth or efficient guts can be said to be a product of selection of the fittest individual; language skills and empathy, on the other hand, can only be a product of group selection.

The greatest assets that mankind has when he faces the natural World are his ability to cooperate and his ability to learn from others. Both of these assets are gifts bestowed upon mankind by group selection.

I believe that people are generally kind and loving and forgiving and cooperative. I believe that this is our default position. I do not believe that it would make most people happy to become sadist nazi dictators hell-bent on eugenics and enforced euthenasia. And if I'm honest, quite apart from being shocked that you'd expect an atheist to answer your three questions, I'm offended. I'm offended on behalf of humanity. It strikes me that I have more love and understanding for humans than any theist that I've ever met. And it is when you ask such crass, stupid and offensive questions that you reveal some of the damage that I see belief doing.

Let me explain this better: Are you saying that the only reason that we don't behave like swine is because of religion? Are you saying that we'd all be selfish rapist theiving megalomaniacs without the guiding hand of a good book and a good church? I want to tell you in person how I feel about you suggesting that about my noble, decent human brethren.

First up, you are factually chatting nonsense. I know, I know... it seems intuitively logical that if people believed that there was a universal overseer, a cosmic babysitter, a divine retributor, a sky-daddy and an eternal punishment for bad children then they would behave better. THIS is one of those stupid persistent myths that religions have made up and people believe them, only atheists often believe the lies too!

FACT for your consideration: Murder rates, thefts, teenage pregnancies, alcoholism, drug dependency or any other metric that you care to mention are not greater in less religious communities.

Okay, so my tone might have changed (it does when I'm offended), but I beg you to go look that up. You find yourself any evidence that religious belief causes any measurable good in terms of morality and then I will apologise. Up until then, you can take your assumption that everybody who was religious (presumably including yourself) would become wicked if they lost their religion and you can stick it where the sun don't shine. You're either just believing the crap that your wicked religious fellowship has fed you about atheists (go do one) or you are speaking about yourself... if YOU would become the person that you imply in your three questions, were it not for the eternal watchfullness of your chosen imaginary friend, then you frighten me and you are not normal... and if you can see why you would not be such if you lost your religion, why are you bloody asking the questions!?

In a softer way: stop, I beg you, ascribing the good nature that you were born with to your religion; that's a mistake, and it's helping you cling on to some stupid bronze-age myths.

You yourself said:
BUT, and it is a big but, in order to convince me to abandon my Faith and go along with your postulation would require at the very minimum for you to demonstrate that it is more advantageous for me to want to accept that I am just a random by-product of this random universe, rather than a created being with meaning, purpose and significance.

Okay, well, let's look at the facts, rather than believing things without evidence. One of things that I've heard religions bleat on about is how much good charitable work and donations they provide. Has anybody ever thought to ask the question as to whether this work is more than the background level of good works and charitable donations made by the secular communities around the World? I have... and I encourage you to do the same... go on, take me up on this and do your research. I'll tell you what you will find:

The religious amongst us do give more to charity.


That is only because our society has given religions special freedoms and tax exemptions and charitable status. Now, if we remove the monies that religions farm from their pliant sheep that are used for building churches, paying for ministries, advertising materials, proselytising missions, campaigning for dubious causes, etc... then we find... we find that the religious amongst us give less to charity than do their secular brothers and sisters. Don't take my word for that, please... please go and find out that fact for yourself. Start thinking about things empirically... start questioning every claim you hear and every assumption that you make... it won't do you any harm!

I'll give you my personal answer to why I don't act like your three offensive questions: I am in touch with my better nature without any religious indoctrination; I am happy to be as good as I can. I am happy to have adopted the position that I want to leave the World a better place than I found it and I wish that everybody else would adopt that view too... wasting your time trying to please a celestial bigot who might deign to reward your humble slavish following in a non-existant afterlife seems to me an awful waste of a potentially good human being.

And you know what BOTHERS me about this World? You know the sort of things that I would honestly like to change?

There exists slavery in the World today. That it still exists and most of us live unaware and uncaring makes me wonder whether we have any right, as a species, to call ourselves civilised. It makes me ashamed to be human to know that such things go on. And I dearly want to make a difference. I am not preoccupied by some potential afterlife, I just want to have the pleasure of knowing that I am putting effort into a good cause (as I feel most people would be).

Now, why the virtually militant atheism? Why the "evangelical atheism"? Why is because... because I want the World to be better.

Let me give some examples of religion doing harm:
The catholic church preaching that condom use is immoral has caused countless millions of deaths; MILLIONS of innocent men, women and children... suffering... and dying... and spreading other diseases... why? Because a bunch of bloody nut-jobs thinks that a man putting a bit of rubber round his John Thomas and seeing to a prostitute is a greater sin than a bunch of berobed bigots preaching to people who might get AIDS and telling them that they're more likely to get AIDS if they use a condom! Seriously, I don't... and I stand in the face of any system of philosophy that can allow this unspeakable immorality.

Millions of innocent men women and children also suffer the horrific effects of Vitamin A deficiency. It's a really difficult problem of how to get Vit A to them, but science has an answer: Golden Rice. It's being blocked at every opportunity by another bunch of religious zealots who are obsessed with the notion that genetic modification is a hubristic step too far... GM is kinda stepping on the big man's toes, so to speak. Seriously... there are people who put the potential offense of their imaginary friend as a higher priority than the suffering and death of millions of innocents. I am appalled at the immorality of this. I am appalled at the stupidity of it.

There are countless children, and I know some of them personally, who have been so inculcated by the idea of HELL that they live in worse-than-mortal-terror. You know that this is true, right? There are kids who learn to hate themselves out of fear and guilt and a sense of offending a God. And I know that the parents who taught them this believe that they were doing the right thing... but they are not... this is nothing short of child abuse.

Now, when I see the millions of innocent men women and children suffering as a direct result of religious belief, what kind of a human being would I be if I didn't try to root out the evil wherever I encountered it?

Homophobia, sexism, racism, hatred of people from other religions, etc, etc... you might claim that you never push these things, or that your religion doesn't... but... honestly... you know in your heart of hearts that religion DOES promote these and other offensive and immoral ideas. Whilst it has the bloody cheek to pretend that it's teaching you to be a better person! Utter hypocrisy. Lies, deceit, immorality and wickedness... in the name of all things holy!

SO, if you accept that there is no evidence to support a belief in God and you discover (please do the research) that there is no evidence to support the claim that religions make people better people.... and.... religions occassionally cause profoundly wicked things to happen... why, then, would you cling to your belief?

It is more rational to believe that we are by-products of a heartless universe than that God did it, but it's also more moral. The universe is already heartless, why worship a heartless God?
Debate Round No. 3
48 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by AndyHood 3 years ago
Hope so; thanks DS :)
Posted by DiverseSynergy 3 years ago
oops, I set the vote period a bit short it seems. Not that it matters, as it has been a great discussion.

Thanks Andy for the time you devoted to this.

Maybe "cross swords" again some time :o)
Posted by AndyHood 3 years ago
Why do I think that religion is to blame for stuff?

Specifically, I have an issue with monotheistic claims. I don't see any of these issues outside of monotheism. Realistically, the majority of monotheisms are Abrahamic faiths... and I reserve the same judgement for all three major branches: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Understand that my criticisms of religions are never tribal in nature... I'm not biased or prejudiced in a tribal way here... my criticism is specific and nuanced:

I believe that when we accept the proposition that there is a personal God, we inevitably end up leaning certain ways in our mind as a consequence of that belief.

I think that there is something very very similar going on when people oppose GM crops for religious reasons, for instance, and when people oppose abortion for religious reasons... there's a sense that we might be mucking about with some divine intention... railing against some master-plan... if a zygote is there (presumably with a soul) then it is an abomination to hurt that soul. If we are tinkering with DNA then we are presuming to "fix" God's perfect creation. Now, this idea would not be dangerous except that there are literally millions of innocent men, women and children suffering, going blind and dying from Vitamin A deficiency... and we could fix it if we embraced Golden Rice... but there is huge opposition... and I see the majority of that opposition coming *directly* from religiously inspired thinking.

The way that women and homosexuals are consistently targeted upsets me and doesn't seem to benefit the World any... the way that religions scrap amongst themselves... but not, my argument is not that it's the scrapping that's the problem... you are right to say that scrapping is part of the nature of humans, especially in a tribal setting (look at rowdiness in and around a soccer match between rival gangs of supporters)... BUT, I charge that religions add a crucial and DANGEROUS element...
Posted by AndyHood 3 years ago
You say: I truly believe that "love" and "art" are "real".

I'm not sure what you mean by that, but I will say this:

Red, Green, Blue and all of the colours in between are not "real"... there is only a spectrum of wavelengths in reality... the idea of three primary colours is entirely subjective caused by cones and retinas and, crucially, brains... there is nothing "red" out in reality, only in our heads...

Is "sexy" real? Is there some inherent quality of sexiness that exists out in the World that expresses itself in the male or female form? If so, nature's going to have a problem with species differentiation... it seems obvious that nothing is inherently "sexy" and the the very notion of "sexy" exists only in the mind of an observer... beauty really is in the eye of the beholder (well, the brain of the beholder!).

But out brain does this sort of thing all of the time... projecting its models of things out into the World, looking for possibilities. The brain is an instrument that recognises patterns and things, but sees the potential in them too... in the robin, one can imagine that the worm appears eat-worthy and the nest sleep-worthy and the twig build-worthy and the feather cushion-worthy and insulation-worthy... or maybe the robin comprehension doesn't need to be do sophisticated... perhaps the feather is simply lining-worthy.

But falling in love... how might that work... well, in humans the brain is remarkably advanced compared to, say, a robin... I mean, it's almost chalk and cheese... the exact same things are going on in the robin's brain as in the human brain, in principle, but the human brain is more self-aware... anyway, I imagine that when the brain "notices" love-worthiness out in the World, a process may start... but is the quality of love-worthiness universal... do some people have more than others? Or is it, again, in the brain of the beholder?
Posted by AndyHood 3 years ago
Nature has been perfecting a mechanism by which complex behaviours of mammals can be controlled through the expression of chemicals in the brain for a long time... had been doing so before she brought mankind into being... it is no surprise that we share with mammals not just common behaviours, but common neurophysiology to achieve the same behaviours... I suggest that a dolphin or rabbit mother "feels" very much like a human mother "feels" when they describe a sudden rush of love for their newly-born child that washes over them and completely takes over every fibre of their body... it comes with a cooperative, supportive, protective buzz, and a preparation to do anything that it takes to look after this delicate creature. We know that this can go wrong in nature, as evidenced by cat mothers falling in love with chicks, in some cases! In other words, nature has evolved the cat to have a rush of oxytocin with the "intention" that the cat would direct this at her kittens... but it can get accidentally directed at whatever's about at the time... this is not the cat deciding to love it's kittens... this is nature causing the cat to have a powerful love-inducing trip when giving birth and expressing milk... and the cat's brain associates the pattern of what the chick looks like and sounds like and associates the chick with that almost out-of-body-thrill-of-love so looks after the chick for life... in the same way, mechanisms that have evolved in human beings can get expressed in a way that nature didn't intend... and, if you understand this, you can help to grapple control of yourself by playing mental tricks with yourself - oh yes, I play mental tricks on myself all the time :D
Posted by AndyHood 3 years ago
So much to answer and I really do want to address it all... sheesh... this is going to take a while...

Our AI is so vastly shy of the mark of self-aware right now, it might as well be 0%. The complexity required is very specific... it's partly about having self-regulating mechanisms to keep activity on the edge of Chaos (the fascinating mathematical concept)... we have not designed a system even one billionth as complex as the human brain... each neuron can be as complex as a plant's root system and that there are maybe a hundred billion of them in the brain... each neuron has the capacity for competence of an amoeba, say... and an amoeba (single celled animal) has the competence to build a shell by collecting sand and sticking it together... you have to understand that natural selection can lead to such incredible competencies without any comprehension... nobody is expecting an amoeba to have had a thought like "oooh, I'm naked, I'd better cover my shame"! But cover itself, it may do... if it always needs to do so, it will always do so... if it would be better to only bother doing so when the acid levels rose, it'll have a detector and will start the behaviour when the conditions are right... it won't think "oh, the conditions are right, I'd better start building a house"... the behaviour will change, though. And, fundamentally, the human brain works like that too... do you control your love? Can you love somebody at will? Can you stop living somebody at will? How much is programmed? Well, sex, labour and lactation (okay, only one of them that men can experience) all cause a rush of oxytocin... and this idea is one that predates humans... the mechanism of how childbirth causes oxytocin, which increases (or perhaps creates, or perhaps IS) maternal love, is universal to all mammals... mammals way pre-dated humans, of course, as anybody who is honest about the fossil record can see... well, nature has been (forgive the occasional poetic personification)
Posted by DiverseSynergy 3 years ago
"Love God and love your neighbour"
Posted by DiverseSynergy 3 years ago
The third, and final thought, was in response to your latest challenge.

Originally, I thought this was dead easy to bat away - as if you have a religious text then you have a clearly defined barometer to begin with (rather than just the three highly subjective options you suggested in your last post to me).

But this is why I paused before sending the reply straight away the other day, because then you have to deal with the fact that subjectivity still creeps in with the "interpretation" - which I presume is why you proposed this question.

This is where you need to use logic and discernment, we have a brain after all - and it is not anti-religious to engage this every now and again (despite all the stereotypes!) So you start with the core text of the Bible, which is the written code of morality. For black and white issues such as "don't murder, don't steal" - this is rather easy to discern. But when it comes to something like should I quit my job, give all my money to charity and go and help the homeless, this is where you need to apply some logic - and not just read a passage where Christ tells the rich man to sell everything he has, then assume that is God telling you to do the same!

For instance, if you have a family you a responsible for, then you probably need to take that into account too as a rational responsible adult (maybe looking at 1 Timothy 5:8 as a guide). In fact, it annoys me even more when I here religious literalists bang on and on about certain points, yet they are strangely reluctant to take Christ at his literal word and gouge their eyes out where they cause them to sin!

So yeah, I think I've explained that incredibly poorly - but it is a combination of:

-The Bible, for the core unmovable "rights" and "wrongs" (don't murder, don't steal etc)
-The life of Christ, as a yardstick to compare how you are living and the actions you take
-Your specific responsibilities and circumstances, everyone is different
-"Love God and love you
Posted by DiverseSynergy 3 years ago
The second was your attempt to lay most of the world's ills at the door of religion. I just wondered why you do that, and why do it so vehemently? Why is the problem so definitely with religion, and not just with all of humanity?

You see, the problem with blaming all religion, is that it is SO diverse (hence your comments about Buddhism were quite profound) - but even within the same religion we see this. Eg, there are c.2 billion Christians worldwide, but I doubt you would find any two individual Christians who believe EXACTLY the same thing. Therefore, they are bound to interpret the Bible very differently, and live their life accordingly.

Which is part of the point of Christianity - for one it is meant to be partly about a relationship, not just a set of rules - and also, that because we are all beings with free will, we have the capacity to "screw up". I never really see the point of atheists pointing out Christians who do "bad stuff". Christianity isn't about being "holier than thou" (at least it shouldn't be) - it is about recognising when we mess up, recognising there is a way out from the mess we make, and trying to live life with Christ as a role model. "Love God and love your neighbour" - most of the crap you cite in the name of religion would be dealt with if religious people ACTUALLY adhered to that. But they don't, because we are humans with free will.

Getting rid of religion won't get rid of evil, it won't get rid of humans screwing up, it won't get rid of intolerance, hatred and war. The only thing it certainly does get rid of, is the hope of a way out for humanity for when we do inevitably mess up.
Posted by DiverseSynergy 3 years ago
Right, finally have a little free time again!

I've had a couple of thoughts yesterday on our earlier discussion, which I will jot down first before I forget to.

The first was about the issue of morality when it comes to AI. If you say that a sufficiently powerful computer might one day attain independent rational thought, and that in which case it might be just as wrong to destroy that entity as a human being - then at what point do you suppose we should start considering this.

For instance, is our current level of IT prowess the embryonic stage of a growth of that potential AI "life force" in the future? In which case, similar to abortion, is there an argument that we might already have the responsibility for IT in the here and now? Or would you argue that at present it isn't self-sustainable as a "life entity" without our input (similar to life support), therefore we don't have such a responsibility.

I don't ask this ironically or mockingly by the way (the tone of intent is always lost in prose!) - it is a genuine thought I had yesterday as I was driving along to my meeting.

For me, this is the one of the key reasons why I believe that there must be an element of dualism in our consciousness. The "soul" element, or however you want to define it, is what makes us "us" - and not just a set of jolly clever computer algorithms. I truly believe that "love" and "art" are "real". If the brain is just a by-product, and our actions are just the result of electrical signals and hormones, then to me that just "invalidates" everything. These expressions are no longer inspired by a human soul with creativity and free will; they are just the inevitable outcome of a sophisticated computer brain made of meat.

If you say you "love" someone, and we don't have souls, where is the validity of that "love"? With a soul and free will, it can be seen to be "valid" - if it is just how your brain is hard-wired to react, then what is "real" about it at the end of the day?
No votes have been placed for this debate.