I think Jim is getting closer to becoming a Christian

It’s been mentioned to me a few times now, since a resurgence of activity on this blog and from the kinds of questions and answers I give on the Fundamentally Flawed podcasts, that I sound like I might be coming around to the idea of Christianity — or more specifically — that I am beginning to learn what it means to stop denying what I already know to be true, and “allow Jesus to enter my life”.

Myself and Alex have just finished recording a great conversation with David Smart, a.k.a. Ryft. David is an Old Earth Creationist. He’s a nice guy and he explained himself very well. He’s also a far more articulate advocate of TAG apologetics than Sye, Dustin and Eric combined.

But before any of the above get too excited, I should say, it is precisely David’s ability to explain things, sans the smoke and mirrors we were given in the previous three podcasts, which has given me the best and most damning insight so far, into what it is about the TAG which gave it such a bad smell from the start. At first, like a stray sports-sock which somehow found its way under the bed, I struggled to identify the source of the odour. But now, given David’s clear and calm explanation of how he understands the TAG, the flashlight of reason has been shone under the divan, and I’ve plucked the sticking little blighter out to give it a good wash.

David’s understanding and obvious awe and respect for scientific evidence is perfectly clear. What isn’t so clear, is how he gets from understanding what the scientific evidence says about the nature of nature, to asserting that Yahweh not only exists, but that the proof of His existence is contained in the bible — although he is more than welcome to elucidate on that at another time.

Incidentally, as a rather happy side-effect of this conversation, David was able to very succinctly explain what I’ve been trying to say about the basic problem of the word atheism (as opposed to positive agnosticism) for many years, but have, until now, never quite managed to put into the right words. You’ll have to check out the podcast here, to see how that came about:

http://fundamentally-flawed.com/pods/

I have always maintained that the reason I do all of this, and the reason I am interested in understanding the many nuances of the debate between the religious and the non-religious, is because I simply love learning about new things. There is no greater motivation behind it than that. I’m not “searching for God” any more than I am looking for reasons to deny God. There is no God to deny or accept. God, to me, is no more than a three letter word, which presents as many excuses for idiots to behave like idiots, as it gives good people an excuse to be good. But to me, personally, God is an entirely neutral concept.

So, I hate to break it to those who nevertheless say, that the more I struggle against it the quicker I find myself inexorably headed towards accepting Jesus Christ as my personal saviour, but it is precisely the act of talking to people like David, Eric, Sye and Dustin, which makes me all the more convinced there are no gods — least of all the capitalised ‘G’ God, Yahweh — with which to struggle against. In fact, if anything, the only real struggle I have, is in understanding why people who are so clearly capable of researching and understanding all of this for themselves, still somehow manage to come to such obviously flawed assumptions about the validity, much less the intellectual honesty, of their own position.

The only time the word God becomes non-neutral, is when you claim to have proof a particular God of a particular religion exists. As soon as you do that, you’re making a truth claim which, by definition, cannot be falsified. Presuppositional apologetics neatly sidesteps this fact, by saying that everything which stems from God (including Christianity and the bible) is a statement about the real world, but not a statement about God — or, indeed, the methods by which He chooses to interact with mere humans.

The reason Christian apologetics has no choice but to say this, is two fold: Firstly, it neatly erects the edifice of having solved the paradox of its own proposition. Secondly, it distracts attention away from this fact, by further asserting that it is, in fact, the atheistic “worldview” which is viciously circular; because a belief that the entire universe is merely “molecules in motion” doesn’t account for where those molecules came from in the first place, much less explain how they gained self-awareness. Moreover, the atheistic “worldview” self-demonstrates this, by virtue of its own denial of that which is self-evident; that we exist, therefore we were created.

Did you spot the bait and switch? It’s fast and it’s subtle, but once you know how to spot it, you’ll see it throughout many of the debates we’ve already podcast and, no doubt, within many more still to come. Now, you’ll have to forgive me if I use non-technical terminology here, but it basically breaks down like this:

Presuppositionalists define the problem of atheism thus:
Atheists assert that there is a scientific (non-supernatural) explanation for existence. Yet science says that everything came from nothing, which is impossible. Therefore, everything must have come from something. Atheists wilfully deny that the character and nature of this "something" as being proof of God, despite that they cannot account for their own basic existence, without acknowledging the existence of 'something'; because to assert they exist, they must also assert that they came from something and not nothing.

The problem for this statement is that, in physics, the word nothing doesn’t actually mean not-a-thing as-in zero. Now, bear with me, because this isn’t a thesis on particle physics – partly because, as I write it’s 1am and mostly because, as you might not be surprised to learn, I am not a physicist. Luckily, however, I know of quite a few people who are. And what their work reveals is truly incredible — and I don’t mean a talking snake and a burning bush incredible, I mean truly, madly and deeply mind blowing. What’s even more incredible, is you can conduct the following experiment yourself, using nothing more than a couple hundred million dollars worth of massively complicated apparatus.

Take one common-or-garden steel tube and seal it tight at both ends. Extract all the air and molecules inside the tube, until you have a total vacuum. Now, lower the temperature in the tube down to near absolute zero. Shine a laser beam from the top of the tube onto a detector at the bottom of the tube. The output of that detector should be flat; zero. Nothing, in a vacuum, should interrupt the flow of photons exiting the laser at the top, on their way to the detector at the bottom. Exactly the same amount of energy you put in, should come out the other end.

If ‘nothing’ really is not-a-thing, there shouldn’t be anything to interrupt the beam of laser light in the vacuum, and the use of the word ‘nothing’ in the above statement ‘Presuppositionalists define the problem of atheism thus’, is indeed using the correct definition of what we mean by the word ‘nothing’. But what the detector actually shows, is a slight but hugely significant ‘wobble’ in the direction of the laser light. This wobble can only be accounted for, in Quantum electrodynamics, as the interference effect of virtual particles. In other words, in the ‘nothingness’ there is always ‘something’, and we call that something the Quantum Field.

Virtual particles come into and go out of existence, in the Quantum Field, all the time. It is the appearance and almost instantaneous disappearance of these particles which causes the laser light, in a vacuum, to ‘wobble’ — because the individual photons in the laser beam are being interrupted by their interaction with the Quantum Field.

Sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it? Unfortunately for those who might be tempted to say this, Quantum Field Theory is corroborated by more evidence than Darwinian Evolution by Natural Selection. It is the most accurately constructed description of the way in which nature works, at a fundamental level, that humans have ever — and possibly will ever devise. One day, perhaps even within my lifetime, it will provide us with a grand unified theory of everything. Moreover (and more worryingly, if you happen to be a presuppositional Christian apologist), it already perfectly accounts for all of the observations we currently have of the cosmic microwave background radiation, left over from the big bang itself.

The big bang, was the inevitable consequence of fluctuations in the Quantum Foam. And, make no mistake, apologists who have encountered this fact are not unaware of the devastating impact this has upon their completely erroneous notions of what ‘nothing’ is actually “made” of. And, much though I do like him, I’m sorry to say that the argument put forth by David, in the podcast, that presuppositional apologetics doesn’t wilfully ignore any of the scientific evidence which demonstrates just how wrong some of its own ideas are, simply isn’t borne out by the facts.

Indeed, the very fact that the Old Earth Creationist in chief, William Lane Craig himself, feels the need to address this very problem, while simultaneously (and wilfully) misrepresenting its importance, speaks volumes as to the mental acrobatics he has had to perform, in order to deny the increasingly obvious flaws in his own ‘Kalam Cosmological Argument‘.

Finally, might I ask apologists wanting to post comments, to resist the urge to retort, “Ah, but where did the Quantum Field come from?” for one very important reason. It has been argued, not just in the previous podcasts with Dustin Segers and Eric Hovind (http://fundamentally-flawed.com/pods/) but by many presuppositional apologists of their particular stripe, that God was the first cause from which all following effects stem. But, as has been repeatedly explained to them — and by far more capable writers than myself — the very premise of this statement relies upon a glaringly obvious syllogism; a conclusion drawn from its own proposition.

The only reason there is a need to define a (singular) God as being the first cause in the first place, is because it is written as such in the bible — which is, by their own internal-logic, an effect of His causation. Further, a singular God is no better an explanation for “everything” than might be proposed by postulating multiple gods — which are specifically ruled out by Christian apologetics, by the very nature of Christianity being a monotheistic religion.

So you cannot draw any other conclusion from this. Presuppositionalists assert that the atheistic “worldview” is unreliable, by simultaneously claiming that atheists are an effect of God’s causation, and therefore proof of His existence. But, if you take this kind of reasoning to it’s own logical conclusion, the bible – being that it was written by men, and not God, is also an effect of God’s causation and so it too must be just as much of an unreliable source for accurate information about the nature and character of that which caused it. You cannot have one without the other. You either accept that you’re essentially asking for special treatment of your ideas, on the grounds you claim they were divinely revealed to you — in which case you are making truth-claims which are unfalsifiable — or you accept that your own argument begs its own question, and is therefore circular.

So, which is it to be? And please note, that this is a corner into which you have yourself painted. I didn’t lead you here with “atheistic tricks” and loaded questioning. I merely asked you to tell me more about what you believe and why you believe it. This is not “a typical atheist” looking for reasons to continue “denying God”. I got here by following, as closely as possible, your own set of arguments, made over a considerable period of time, in both verbal and written communication, wherein you were specifically asked to make the best of your arguments as clearly and coherently as possible.

Should it come as a surprise, that what we also learned along the way, is that to be “true Christian” you have to deny the validity of everything which proves your opinion wrong; including, but by no means limited to, the fact of Darwinian evolution by natural selection, the entire field of cosmology, particle physics, geology, logical (as opposed to non-logical) mathematical axioms, archeology, radiometric dating and plate tectonics? I think not.

23 comments on “I think Jim is getting closer to becoming a Christian

  1. Another nice post, Jim.
    But ( don’t tell me you weren’t expecting that) I do have two little objections to make. (Sorry about that – it comes with having an objectionable character.)
    Firstly, you say, “God is an entirely neutral concept.” If you are a normal living, throbbing human being, then NO concept is neutral. Having long been interested in psychology (the most imprecise of all the sciences) and more especially psycho-linguistics I can assert that the human brain doesn’t do “neutral.”
    We often need to endeavour to BEHAVE as though we considered ourselves experiencing and reacting to things with neutrality – performing jury duty comes to mind – but to achieve real neutrality you’d have to undergo a serious prefrontal lobotomy. And, sadly, I’m not joking.
    I think perhaps you were trying to say that the word “God” no longer has the same emotional charge that it may have done in the past, that you have been able to distance yourself from whatever “God” may have meant to you previously.
    I can well understand what you’re tying to say – been there, done that in a serious way myself.
    No words are neutral. Ever. Ask any good salesman.

    Secondly, I hope that you are being careful to avoid stereotyping and over-generalization. You said: “what we also learned along the way, is that to be “true Christian” you have to deny the validity of everything which proves your opinion wrong; including, but by no means limited to etc etc….”
    Thank you for for using quote marks around “true Christian”, but I hope you’re not trying to represent the science-denying world-view as being typical of the Church as a whole.
    I live in France. I am a recent Christian, and an even more recent Catholic. I have never heard a French Catholic denying the validity of “the fact of Darwinian evolution by natural selection, the entire field of cosmology, particle physics, geology, logical (as opposed to non-logical) mathematical axioms, archeology, radiometric dating and plate tectonics.” Heck, most of them have never even heard about some of that stuff.
    And don’t forget that until a few centuries ago, the words “Catholic” and “Christian” were perfectly synonymous.

    PS On a lighter note, according to a survey taken in 2007, only 51% of the French population claimed to be Catholic. And of that fifty-one per cent, 50% said they were atheists. Go figure!
    Vive la différence!

  2. I agree with David Smart completely. David almost even said what I am about to say, though I believe he was cut off before it could of been driven home.

    Basically, I am a YEC as a result of my belief and understanding of Scripture. I trust God. It does NOT matter if you believe in Old earth or young earth. In fact this was one of the very first things I covered when I started my blog. You must understand that ALL of these gentlemen, in the debate I highlighted, are Christians. Old or Young…it doesn’t matter. We can both tally who was right or wrong on various subjects in Heaven. But that will not ultimately matter. Just like your gripes and complaints rant about contradictions of the Bible. That is all these things are, gripes and complaints.

    The difference between me and Smart, as far as what matters, is absolutely nothing. We both believe in Christ. Even if a Christan believes in evolution, as I do not, that STILL will NEVER ever, ever, affect their salvation. They can still believe in evolution, and be wrong or right, YET be completely and soundly saved. Christ is ALL that is required to be saved.

    NOW, the difference between me and you Jim, is a completely different animal. I am a Christian and you are an Antichrist. (1 John 2:22, 2 John 1:7)

    So no matter what you believe, be it evolution, old earth, etc. You will still go to Hell. I will not, even though I find out I was completely wrong about everything I thought was truth. (Biblical Creationism)

    The point that needs to be driven home is its a non issue and an Ignoratio elenchi.

    “You’re accusing me of a coherent worldview” …brilliant!

    …I am going to break here because I have just decided to make this my newest post.

  3. You will still go to Hell. I will not,
    Wow, I bet that’s got you trembling in your boots, hasn’t it, Jimboy!

    Here is my reply to Debunking Atheists ( and you, Jim, are a debunking atheist, are you not?)
    NB When I reply I usually try to match intellectual and socio-cultural levels. In NLP they used to call that a form of “calibrating”.
    So here goes. ( I do not always make such an effort to be so respectful, DA. Appreciate and enjoy.)

    1. Thar’s gonna catch thy death of cold, death of cold
    On Ilkley Moor bar t’at
    2. Then we shall have to bury thee, bury thee
    On Ilkley Moor bar t’at
    3. Then tworms will come and eat thee up, eat thee up
    On Ilkley Moor bar t’at
    4. Then ducks’ll come and eat up tworms, eat up tworms
    On Ilkley Moor bar t’at
    5. Then we shall come and eat up ducks, eat up ducks
    On Ilkley Moor bar t’at
    6. Then we shall have eaten thee, eaten thee
    On Ilkley Moor bar t’at
    7. Then we’ll have got our own back, own back
    On Ilkley Moor bar t’at

    Now who’s trembling, D.A?

  4. Hi Richard. Yes “true Christian” was placed in quotation marks for the reasons you mention. Half my family are Catholic and when I tell them what people like Eric and Dustin actively preach to young minds, it sickens them too. But then Sunday comes around and they believe some words read by a man in a dress transubstantiate a wafer into the flesh of a composite character from bronze-age folklore, so that’s not exactly a glowing endorsement of their mental capacity to be objective about things.

    But, low blows and typical atheistic attack language (a.k.a. British humour) aside, you’re right to point out Debunking’s tactic of using cloaked threats. At the end of the day it’s all about fear theology. Where I have respect for the vast majority of Christians, is they see this as clearly as I do. To the best of their ability, they try to practise a doctrine of love which embraces the scientific method. David made that abundantly clear. Yes, “as sinners” they also admit they fall short of this ideal. But what they see as a failure or weakness, I see as a great strength. The human condition is one of struggle and conflict, which I look forward to taking on every morning I wake up to a beautiful new day. Thinking of that challenge, as some kind of game, projected onto my consciousness by a prankster God, takes away from its true beauty. It makes life a small, insignificant thing; with no meaning beyond accepting you’re a slave. And as I’ve said many times before, I genuinely pity people who have to think like that, simply because the religion which they happen to have been drawn into tells them blatant lies about the alternative.

  5. Yes, Jim, it is a tragic irony, that people who claim to believe in a Christ who said, ‘You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” then seem to glorify the slave-mentality.
    Religions, per se, like political parties have always been manipulative for a variety of reasons. That’s because religions and political parties are composed of human beings, like you and me.
    I see creativity and joy emerging from the tension in the struggle between opposing forces or ideologies. That’s why it is only good and right that in many democratic countries, governments are elected with 50.1% of the vote. The other 49.9% are there to keep them on their toes. There is a creative tension in the fluctuations we observe between Right and Left. Life itself is a state of tension between well-being and pain. In order to appreciate fish and chips (Oh, joy!) I have to know the pain of hunger.
    Belief in, and experience of the Love of God doesn’t free me from pain, suffering, doubt and taxes. That’s why there is always movement and evolution (I’m not talking about Evolution.)
    Certainty = immobility= death, not Life.
    Doubt, hope, pain, relief, fear, joy, quantum fluctuations in my heart and my bank account – these are thing that make us human.

    “…and the greatest of these is Love.”

  6. Sye asked me to point out that: You’re confusing the Transcendental argument with the Cosmological argument. He pointed out “The TAG is NOT a first-cause argument. The argument is that one cannot make sense of ANY argument, let alone the first-cause argument without God. He earlier confused William Lane Craig of being a presuppositionalist, and it looks like he still doesn’t get it.”

    Buy the argument that you lay out here, he has a point.

  7. Buy [sic] the argument that you lay out here, he has a point.

    I’m not arguing with Sye by proxy. He is banned from commenting because he has behaved like a child. He was given plenty of time to make his point, both here and on the podcast.

    I have acknowledged time and again that I understand he is sincere about his beliefs, but I simply don’t have the time or interest in dealing with people who think you win an argument by stomping your feet, acting like a spoiled child and then play the hurt feelings card when you get what you asked for.

  8. People are also talking about this posting and the podcast over at http://debunkingatheists.blogspot.com/2011/10/when-in-doubt-deny.html?showComment=1320028340349#c8735725765380016577

    My reply there is provided below, in case there is anyone who wants to comment on it, but doesn’t have a blogger.com account:

    Hey everyone. Jim here.

    I find it absolutely hilarious that Sye had to find out from an atheist what other Christians think about his aggressive and pompous attitude. He lives in a world where anything which challenges his existing opinion must be wrong, simply because he didn’t think of it first.

    I think we’ve all been doing this for long enough to know that the only way to proceed, when you’re dealing with subjects you’re new to, is simply admit that you need to learn more instead of pretending you already know. When myself and Alex spoke to David, we ended the cordial and polite conversation by saying we were happy he had given us a better understanding of the TAG in an hour and a half, than Sye, Eric and Dustin had given us in four hours. This was because he stayed calm, stuck to the subject he knew about and didn’t pretend to know everything.

    I posted a blog entry on howgoodisthat.wordpress.com explaining all of this. I also explained, on the podcast, that in contrast to Sye, David’s use of the TAG, as part of a well rounded and open minded approach to his faith, was exactly the kind of Christianity I don’t have a problem with and don’t understand why anyone else would either.

    Sye was banned from my blog because he isn’t interested in adult conversation. He is only interested in Sye. I don’t think for one second that he represents the views of anyone other than himself. This is a great shame, as — no matter what you might think of me — I genuinely do feel bad for the guy, because I can only presume he feels the need to take the approach he does, because there are aspects of the TAG he doesn’t understand as well as he likes to think he does.

    The reason I say this, is because on each occasion before we spoke, off-air, I reminded him that my interest in doing any of this, is to explaining my position while learning something new from people with other ideas. All I learned from Sye, was that the TAG was a convenient way of dodging difficult questions. What I learned about the TAG from David, is that it is a genuine attempt to address some of the questions I have had about Christian apologetics for a long time. The fact that I do not believe it answers some of the questions many of its proponents think it does, is neither here nor there. What matters, is that previous to talking to David, I thought it was a phantasmagorically stupid idea. This was because I heard about it from Sye. After talking to David, I saw it in a different light — albeit one which highlighted the weaker aspects of it, which Sye sought to obscure, by stomping his feet like a little girl and trying to browbeat myself and Alex into believing in things which are not true.

    I had a conversation today with a guy called Todd Pitner. He and I used to throw ad hominem at each other, back when he was first becoming a Christian and I was new(ish) to debating religion on-line. We both fell into each other’s traps. Today, we were able to laugh about it and ended up having a really useful debate, about how much we’ve moved on since then. But, in all of the time between first meeting Todd and debating with him today, some 3 or 4 years down the line, I never once thought about removing any of the comments or postings I made about him back then, from my blog, because the greatest lesson you can ever learn in life, is that you make all your mistakes in public. You only make a fool of yourself, when you fail to learn from them. Sye needs to stand back for a while and get some perspective on a great many things, and maybe one day he’ll realise that there’s more to life than seeing everyone as your enemy, simply because they don’t believe in the same things as you.

  9. Pingback: You smelt it, you dealt it |:| The Aristophrenium

  10. Richard,
    I really enjoyed the pod cast (20) you participated in. I wish Jimmy would just record the two of you in a discussion. At some points the discussion seems so elementary, like DA’s posts just above.

    I’d love to hear what brought you to embracing catholicism. You seem like a fun discussion :)

    Cheers,

    Gene

  11. Gene,
    Thank you so much for that comment. I think we can all thank Jim. I find him to be one of the most refreshing and effective pod-casters I have even encountered. As we all know, at the end of the day, the quality of a pod-cast is down to the host, and frankly, Jim stands unique as an “atheist” debater. The way he challenges religious belief encourages exchange and discussion -and that’s what debating is all about, isn’t it?

  12. Jim, I agree with him, apart of the F bombs you dropped on R – you’re a good caster :). I’m really hoping to get Keith Derose to join you in a cast to go over the epistemology arguments and why they are seem so confusing to both sides.

    Richard, regarding Jims “it happened everywhere and nowhere at the same time” – don’t we all employ similar reasoning when we can’t make sense of the world around us.

    I sympahize with Jim because atheists – I believe – don’t require proof and sometimes get pushed into a corner where they feel like they have to give proof. Jim could easily say “what singularity” – or if it were me I’d respond “Who are you, Ray Kurzweil?”

    Gene

  13. I don’t know how to comment on the pod-cast I did with Jim and Todd Pitner.
    Anyway, talking about Richard Dawkins made me all nostalgic and teary-eyed. Allow me to share this piece of music with you.

    N.B. If you decide to listen to it, please read the description below the sound track first.
    http://snd.sc/rLMKJo

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