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Author Topic: God did not create the universe, says Hawking  (Read 4144 times)
Mofo Rising
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« Reply #30 on: September 06, 2010, 03:26:11 AM »

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You seem to be saying that a belief can only be that something exits, and denial of existence is not a belief.  Sorry, but in the absence of testing, both are beliefs that cannot be supported scientifically.

I'm saying a lack of a belief isn't a belief.  It's like saying not collecting stamps is a hobby. 

This is getting very semantically oriented. If I can (perhaps overly) simplify, I think that the argument here is that atheism is defined by agreement with the proposition "God does not exist." To agree with that proposition is a belief in itself, not a simple lack of belief.

So, Jim H, you are saying that you have no beliefs regarding the existence/nonexistence of God (again, I'm oversimplifying, not trying to put words into people's mouth). However, I think the definition of the atheist being presented here is one defined by the very definite belief that god/God does not exist. That is ulthar's argument (once again, oversimplification on my part).

So the argument is one of definition of the term atheism. Jim H, your definition is that atheism is a lack of belief. ulthar, your definition is that atheism is defined by the positive belief that god/God does not exist. No enmity here, just an argument about definition.

I'm going to reiterate my personal beliefs as an example. I am, for most intents and purposes, an atheist. I don't personally believe in the idea of a god as a central creator, and I certainly don't believe in the idea the major religions hold on this planet that there is an anthropomorphically oriented god looking over us all here on Earth. I was raised religious, so I'm familiar with the arguments. I disagree with them.

However, where I part from hard-line atheism is in the central question of existence/non-existence of god/God. I view it at as unprovable hypothesis. As such, when you get down to brass tacks, I can't claim knowledge of it one way or the other.

I will argue these points, and have on multiple occasions. Stephen Hawking may have outed himself as an atheist (and more power to him), but you still can't prove the theist/atheist hypothesis. I believe the propositions where people introduce god/God as a cause can just as easily explained without a higher power.

But, eh, the last person you should listen to is a reporter.
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Jim H
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« Reply #31 on: September 06, 2010, 04:53:22 AM »

You did an excellent job summarizing all that Mofo.  Thanks.  It is indeed getting quite semantic

One small bit...  I don't actually believe in god/s (in the same way a dog doesn't believe in god - once again, lack of belief isn't the same as denial), and view the concept as unlikely, but I basically have no opinion further than that.  Internally, for me it's just a non-issue.  Perhaps that's a little strange, but it is the way I think and pretty much always has been. 
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« Reply #32 on: September 06, 2010, 06:39:27 AM »


You did an excellent job summarizing all that Mofo.  Thanks.  It is indeed getting quite semantic

One small bit...  I don't actually believe in god/s (in the same way a dog doesn't believe in god - once again, lack of belief isn't the same as denial), and view the concept as unlikely, but I basically have no opinion further than that.  Internally, for me it's just a non-issue.  Perhaps that's a little strange, but it is the way I think and pretty much always has been.  


I think I would agree with your point if the dog had the capacity to make the choice.  So far as we can tell, he doesn't, whereas you do.  It is that basis of making a conscious decision (one way or another) about ANYTHING that one cannot prove via testing that I am calling a belief, or more precisely, an article of faith.  I guess I am using these terms more broadly than "belief that there is/is not God."   As a formally trained scientist, I use 'faith' to mean any conclusion NOT based on solely on testing.

"If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."  --Neil Peart

And if I might clarify one other point; many of the modern scientists (like Richard Dawkins and Peter Atkins and now it seems Hawking) do take their self-proclaimed 'atheism' further than what you are claiming the term means.  They most definitely DO have an active belief in SOMETHING...they worship at the alter of ontological naturalism and bely the belief that their own individual capacity to "understand" (via the scientific method) is the end-all power of the universe and can explain everything that exists.

Anyway, thanks again for the discussion.  This has been very interesting (to me at least).
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« Reply #33 on: September 07, 2010, 11:51:43 PM »

I wanted to reply to something Jim H said regarding my comments on evidence for the Resurrection of Christ -

"I find this baffling in the extreme.  I've looked at this evidence, and there's certainly extant evidence (though I've never seen any actual evidence for the ressurection - only a lack thereof pointed to AS evidence), but to call it unassailable is just...  Silly.  Especially as so much of the evidence I always hear comes from the new testament itself. 

For comparison, look at the Book of Mormon, which has far superior evidence for its magical creation, including the sworn testimony of inarguably historical people - ones who have living descendants today, marked graves, photographs, the writings of, etc.  Not to mention much of the original Mormon testament is still in existence, unlike either of the first two testaments. "

This is an odd comparison.  Is there evidence that Joseph Smith WROTE the Book of Mormon?   Yes, that is definitely true.  No one, not even the most vocal critic of the LDS Church, would contend otherwise.  But as far as the claims of the Book of Mormon?  They are hogwash.  There is not a single bit of archeology that supports a single contention within the Mormon "Bible."  Remember, all those kingdoms and stories it contains supposedly happened here in North America!  I've read and studied North American archeology my whole life, and no one takes any of the Book of Mormon's narrative seriously.
  On the other hand, there is very compelling evidence that Joseph Smith was, in fact, a fraud and a swindler.  Google "The Book of Abraham."  The short version is that an antique dealer sold Smith an Egyptian scroll, which the Prophet said contained the manuscript to the lost "Book of Abraham."  He "translated" and published it, and it was a lot like much of the rest of the Book of Mormon - a fairly obvious spin off of the Old Testament.  In the 1960's a steamer trunk belonging to Joseph Smith was found, and among his personal effects was the original "Book of Abraham" scroll, along with his "translation notes."  An Egyptologist translated the scroll, and found it was a funerary chant to Osiris, the Egyptian God of the Underworld.  No mention of Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob anywhere.  Smith completely made up the "Book of Abraham."

  On the other hand, look at the New Testament's narrative.  The events take place in actual, identifiable ancient cities.  If Luke says the Procurator of Judea during Jesus' ministry was Pontius Pilate, lo and behold, there are inscriptions to back it up. John's gospel says there was a Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem surrounded by five porticoes, which archeologists scoffed at for many years because no other contemporary record mentioned it. But in the 1960's it was found, exactly where John says it was, with the remnants of the five collonades surrounding it, and graffiti indicating that it was indeed believed to have healing powers.
  In short, the New Testament narrative is painstakingly accurate in its attention to detail and in its references to historical characters.  There is not a single historical inaccuracy to be found in its narrative.  All its books were written within a very short span from the events they chronicle - in fact, even the latest of them, John's Gospel, still falls within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses.  They all agree on the fundamentals of a very astonishing event, that Jesus of Nazareth was put to death and then seen again by many of his disciples.  Josephus confirms this, and even Tacitus mentions it.  Belief in a literal, physical resurrection was so woven into the theology of the first Christians that the most obvious, logical explanation for that belief was that the event must have actually happened.  Why else would men so afraid that they scattered like sheep when their Master was taken into custody have suddenly showed up, sixty days later, boldly proclaiming His Resurrection to the very men who had ordered Him put to death?  There is a gaping hole in the history of the early church that is the size and shape of a Resurrection.  No other narrative fills that hole adequately, and indeed, no other explanation accounts for the boldness and persistence of the church in the face of intense persecution.  These men didn't just believe Christ was risen - they KNEW it, because they had seen Him.

Sorry to hijack the thread, but I thought the point worth making.
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« Reply #34 on: September 08, 2010, 01:48:07 AM »

I'm not going to attempt to argue point by point Indiana, but I mentioned the Book of Mormon story not because of the Testament itself, but because of the sworn testimony of the magical interpretation and creation of it.  You know, using Moroni's golden plates, an angelic appearance, magical glow, that sort of thing, much of which is backed up by sworn testimonials.  I do believe in the historicity of most of the New Testament people, but it's far murkier in a historical sense by any measure than Joe Smith's followers.  And I freely acknowledge that the historical elements of the Book of Mormon are ludicrous.  It's just based on evidence of its creation, the Book of Mormon has more going for it than the New Testament - based on my own standards, anyway.  I would not say the same thing based on a textual examination though.

As just one small aside, what do you think happened to all the dead people that came back to life and went into Jerusalem after Jesus' death?
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« Reply #35 on: September 08, 2010, 07:27:34 PM »

That's a good question.  Only Matthew mentions them, but he was there in Jerusalem at the time, so there's no reason to reject it out of hand if you accept the other miraculous elements of the story.  I would theorize that they were like Lazarus, or the widow's son that Jesus resurrected in Luke's gospel, or Jairus' daughter, who is mentioned in all three Synoptic gospels . . . that they lived for a time on earth, and eventually returned to the grave and to their eternal reward.

Did anyone besides Joseph Smith ever get to handle the "Golden Tablets"?  And were they not "taken up" after he translated them?  I know that Smith's folllowers did allude to some miraculous events surrounding them, but were there any skeptical witnesses that saw these things happen?

I have always been very skeptical of Joseph Smith's claims, but I would not mind learning more about him.  I am glad you don't try to argue for the veracity of the contents of the Book of Mormon, at least.  That would be a very tough sell. Thanks for your response.
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« Reply #36 on: September 08, 2010, 10:34:36 PM »

...I have always been very skeptical of Joseph Smith's claims, but I would not mind learning more about him. 
I am glad you don't try to argue for the veracity of the contents of the Book of Mormon, at least.  That would be a very tough sell....
Which must explain why they go door to door.  Wink
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« Reply #37 on: September 08, 2010, 11:16:13 PM »

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Only Matthew mentions them, but he was there in Jerusalem at the time, so there's no reason to reject it out of hand if you accept the other miraculous elements of the story.  I would theorize that they were like Lazarus, or the widow's son that Jesus resurrected in Luke's gospel, or Jairus' daughter, who is mentioned in all three Synoptic gospels . . . that they lived for a time on earth, and eventually returned to the grave and to their eternal reward.


I just found it strange that it's only in one gospel and it's such a short passage.  The event would also be so extraordinary it's baffling to me it never gets referenced by anything elsewhere - in the bible or not.  Similar to the supposed eclipse at the crucifixion.  I've heard it suggested that both were intended as essentially a literary device.  

Not really related, but do you think the "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone" story belongs in the new testament?  I don't really consider this important, I'm just curious about your opinion.  

Quote
Did anyone besides Joseph Smith ever get to handle the "Golden Tablets"?  And were they not "taken up" after he translated them?  I know that Smith's folllowers did allude to some miraculous events surrounding them, but were there any skeptical witnesses that saw these things happen?


The eight witnesses claimed to have handled them, yes.  And yeah, supposedly Moroni took them back after the translation was done.  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight_Witnesses
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Witnesses

The witnesses were friendly.  The best part is they all got excommunicated from the church later on.  

I should state here I hardly find any of the Mormon 'evidence' convincing in the slightest (I'm with you on basically thinking Smith was probably outright malicious, the L. Ron Hubbard of his day).  

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Which must explain why they go door to door.


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« Reply #38 on: September 09, 2010, 05:29:15 AM »


Ah Jim, John Safran is a hilarious man, albeit one with a hell of a whiny voice!

On the topic of Mormons, Safran also made a trailer for a film called 'Xtreme Mormons' which involves xtreme cycling.  Hilarious stuff and worth a look!

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« Reply #39 on: September 09, 2010, 06:22:43 AM »

The Bible never calls the darkness that surrounded the Crucifixion an eclipse, although later authors tried to explain it as such.  It was not a literary device, however, because a Roman historian named Thallus (? - I think that's it - going by memory here!) mentioned it and tried to call it an eclipse, and one of the Apostolic Fathers - Justin Martyr, I think - contradicted him, saying that the darkness fell at a time when there was no eclipse predicted.

It is also quite possible that the resurrected saints mentioned by Matthew were called back up to heaven with Jesus, and did not linger.  I guess we'll never know.
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« Reply #40 on: October 03, 2010, 02:13:59 AM »

I really don't want to reopen argument, since I'm pretty sure we've all got definite beliefs on this matter that aren't likely to change.

But, since I work in a library, I think I should mention that Hawking actually has a book of repackaged mathematics papers published under his name called "God Created the Integers."

It doesn't really change any of the arguments here, but Hawking went ahead and put God right in the title of his book. That's something you have to go out of way your to do.
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