James Brown: First Rebuttal


First Rebuttal

In my opening statement I rebutted the first nine points put forward by my opponent and put forward my stance as an evolutionist (I like to call myself a realist, but you decide) and provided reasons why evolution negates the need for a God. As my opponent has come back and recycled the same arguments I aim to further substantiate my rebuttal, and further clarify my own argument.

On the First Contention

To begin with I must apologize profusely for my omitting of a reply to "The Problem of Atheism." It appears I got a little carried away on my high horse defining my opponent's attempt at role reversal. However in my defense I must say I could have easily missed it with less reason, as it isn't really an argument.

The Problem of Atheism

I for one agree with you that if Atheism is correct then I cannot completely trust my cognitive faculties. Indeed, I cannot say that for me Red, for example is the same color it is for you, but I can say that we can both agree that it is red. I see no reason why untrustworthy cognitive faculties make the Christian god an any less arbitrary motivation for your proposed facade. I also don't see this as something that is necessary for truth, or at least truth as we define it. Regardless, we cannot trust our cognitive faculties if religion is correct either, for the same reasons. And finally, if our cognitive faculties are flawed and if consistency cannot solely be a basis for truth then it is impossible to come to any truth through this debate regardless of whether god exists or not.

So in the best interests of this debate I suggest we trust our cognitive faculties, otherwise, and I think you can see why (please don't make me spell it out), no result will be possible for either side.

So yes I think that silences Plantinga and Moreland for the moment. As for Michael Ruse, well I have already stated that I would prefer you didn't attempt to put words in my mouth by quoting atheists. As, although I don't agree with the Christian Church, I appreciate that there are also a lot of stupid atheists out there, with whom I also don't agree. Once again, in this one of many excerpts from biased Evangelical texts, we are confronted with a series of questions and upon not finding an answer have resigned ourselves once again to "it must be the Christian God that is the answer." I wonder if it has occurred to my opponent that perhaps this arbitrary answer might differ if the title read "Can a Darwinian Be.....a Hindu.....a Buddhist.....a Muslim....." or ".....a Horoscope subscriber."

In summary, my opponent argues that because there is a possibility that our cognitive faculties are inaccurate then that is reason for us to believe in something for which we have no evidence. This is simple madness. My opponent might say that he has provided some evidence in his past arguments but that evidence must be flawed if his cognitive faculties are flawed.

So before I go further can I ask my opponent to stop wasting time with this cognitive faculties rubbish. It makes either argument void, in fact it makes any argument about anything void. So fatalistic arguments aside it appears that naturalism is just as conclusive as I thought it was.

The Problem of Christian truth

I think the reason my opponent has such distrust in our cognitive faculties is that he has obviously spent his life believing in something he has no evidence for, this is the meaning of faith. So truth for my opponent is not what is true but what has meaning. If my opponent could tell me the meaning of life he would have already, but my opponent knows that there is no meaning of life, except that which we create for ourselves, and all these meanings are different.

When my opponent quotes Moreland: "All that would be needed for survival value would be consistency. If an amoeba saw an enemy that was really large, and a thing that was really small was seen as large, as long as it could see things consistently, it could survive, evolutionary speaking. It would not need to have the truth or see accurately."

My opponent is unable to appreciate that seeing something consistently in relation to the beings around you can be truth because it has no God-given meaning. This is an arbitrary rule, and is begging the question, because it relies on the existence of god to be a correct rule.

Evolution and it's impossible co-existence with the Christian God

Regarding this matter my opponent has only said: "I do not see how evolution negates the need for a designer at all. God can create man through evolution. God and evolution are compatible and therefore evolution does not necessarily negate God."

I'm not sure if my opponent is aware of this but the above is a statement and not an argument. An argument requires evidence, or at least an explanation as to why this god that we cannot hear, see or interact in any gratifying way with is necessary.

In my argument I explained how "Evolution can give a product that may be interpreted as designed, but is in fact naturally occurring. If Design is unnecessary and there is no evidence for it then it has no credibility. It is of course possible, as long as we still have questions it will be possible, but probable it is not."

Also a quick note just to clarify some things about genetic algorithms. First of all the argument I used regarding genetic algorithms was not aimed to provide a comprehensive proof for evolution, I made this quite clear. It was to show that evolution works effectively and produces entities that are suitable to an end. So my opponent's comment that.....

"Just because computers can simulate evolutionary processes, it does not mean it happened naturally."

.....is pointless as I was arguing that evolution works. However this is now fairly irrelevant as my opponent has conceded the existence of evolution. My opponent goes on to say:

"The second reason is that this does not explain DNA, which I said supported the existence of God."

This is interesting, but again flawed as it assumes that anything we can interpret with numbers must be created by God. This again is begging the question, as without the existence of God it is a completely arbitrary rule. However I will go on to say that DNA does have a place in genetic algorithms also, although disappointingly for my opponent this DNA is not designed but completely random, as each element in the genetic equation begins with a random number.

I will await an actual argument before proceeding along these lines further than I already have.

On the Second Contention

On the Metaphysical arguments...once again

First of all, I would like to make it clear to my opponent that I understand that you used different words in both your arguments, in that way they are different, yes. However they are identical as arguments because they are both based on the same flawed logic. Contrary to your defense, the Thomistic argument is not a "here and now" argument as it requires that we go back to the beginning of time for it to have any point at all. The flawed assumption my opponent has made in both arguments is evident when he writes:

"If non self-existing beings exist, then there must be a self-existing being. This is what we call God."

First of all this is not a fact, it is an assumption that a self-existing being must exist. And secondly the god that is concluded from this unsubstantiated argument is far more likely to be random energy fluctuations with no purpose what-so-ever than an old man with a white beard, sitting upon high judging every little thing we mortals do.

It seems that if Christians now believe that evolution exists, then god no longer has anything to do. So in accepting the existence of evolution which is able to account for all phenomena on earth and the visible universe, then it seems the whole argument for God's existence is that he was necessary for creating the universe. So I guess when we're going through our daily routine wondering what is meant for us I guess I too would like to think that there is an old retired man up there that once upon a time created the building blocks of the universe. I would like to believe that but when the same job could have been done by some randomly moving energy with no purpose, I have to decide as objectively as possible which is more likely to occur -- a fluctuation of energy or a fully functioning old man, who speaks english, can read our minds, can move mountains and can spin planets on the end of his finger.

On the Kalam Cosmological argument I will simply do what my opponent is so fond of and copy/paste in my original argument which addresses the "whatever begins to exist needs a cause" issue. Perhaps my opponent would like to read my argument before he replies this time.

Affirmative's premises

Premise 1: Whatever begins to exist needs a cause
Premise 2: The universe began to exist
Conclusion: The universe needs a cause.

Negative (my reply)

If everything that exists needs a cause then if god exists, what caused God? You may argue that god didn't "begin" existing -- referring more accurately to your own premises -- believing that "he" always existed. But by omitting the assumption that nothing has existed forever, then you are offering up the possibility that the Universe didn't need to begin to exist and therefore never needed a creator/designer.

Affirmative

My opponent objects to this argument by asking: "If everything that exists needs a cause then if god exists, what caused God?" However, if anyone reads my argument, one can see that no where in my premise does it say that "everything needs a cause." Rather, what it says is that whatever begins to exist needs a cause. He misinterpreted the first premise and did not address the second premise. If both premises are true and logical, then the conclusion must be true. What about the question "What caused God?" I already answered this in my opening, showing that there cannot be an infinite number of causes. So therefore it seems to be plausible to believe that there must be an uncaused cause of the universe.

Negative (my reply)

So as you can see in the underlined passage of my argument I have already accounted for the "whatever begins to exist" issue. My opponent simply has not read my argument properly. So when my opponent says that I have not addressed the second premise this is also false, as I have shown that the second premise contradicts the first premise.

On Arguments from the divine/intelligent mind

When confronted with the definition of evolution as a process of trial and error moving toward more useful entities, my opponent wrote:

"This does not at all prove that agents do not act toward an end. This does not show that the eye is made for seeing, the ear for hearing, etc."

In the first sentence my opponent says I should prove that agents do not act toward an end; and in the second says I should prove that agents act towards an end. Perhaps my opponent should make up his mind what he wants me to prove, because these two requests are contradictory.

To clarify for any reader out there my stance on this, evolution works through beneficial "survival" traits aiding survival and therefore reproduction. My opponent used the example of the eye, "why must the eye see?" he asked, one of his many questions which, being unanswered, resulted in the answer "because God said so." It is tiring explaining how evolution works and seems patronizing so giving you the benefit of the doubt it is clear to see that from the first time a being had the ability to sense light in any way it would be a benefit for that species to have a more and more accurate interpretation of that light. So through biodiversity which is the differences between genetic structure in organisms, those with more accurate interpretation of light would survive and that trait over millions of years and through many different species would develop to be more and more accurate. Eyes are a manifestation of the benefit of light interpretation through evolution. It's as simple as that.

The quote from my opponent above is not just my anal nit-picking to try and make my opponent seem stupid, as I am sure he is not. The reason I chose this particular quote is because I believe it illuminates another oversight in his argument. For one, the second sentence is begging the question, once again, that is assuming that the eyes, nose, ears are designed, and asking me to show that they are created for a purpose. This is not my prerogative as I do not believe they are designed, and have never said so.

So why is my opponent making such oversights? This can be illuminated by another quote from the same paragraph:

"Natural selection shows how things happened, not the reason why they happened."

This I think is admittance of defeat, as we are arguing about how things happened. And my opponent has just said that evolution shows how things happened. The reason why they happened is not under debate. And if my opponent is debating the reason why things happened he is again begging the question, as the assumption that there is a reason to us being here is assuming a divine purpose and the existence of God.

And I must admit to some it might make them feel good to know that there is a heaven and that someone is looking over them. But we are not debating what would make us feel good, we are debating what is true. I never said evolution was easy or good, it's neutral, and consistent.

On the argument from Unity

Sorry, indeed I misinterpreted my opponent's argument here. I certainly wish I hadn't as on review this argument requires far less rebuttal than I have given in my previous argument. This argument, and I have read carefully this time, argues that to understand unity within separate entities requires an intelligent mind. I agree completely. I don't believe I have any further argument except to clarify that this does not in any way shape or form argue for the existence of god, it just argues that we are intelligent.

If my opponent is assuming that there is inherent unity, then my previous musings on this issue may turn out to be relevant after all. And, if my opponent is assuming that for there to be unity, that unity must have been conceived by an intelligent mind before it came into being, then once again this is begging the question. It is assuming that God created everything, which is, what's more, contradictory to evolution.

On abstract entities

My opponent states:

"They simply cannot just be there. They must be thought of. In an atheistic worldview, this is a problem. To the theist, there is no problem since God is who thinks them."

Why can they not just be there?

If a tree fell in the forest and no one heard it, did it make a sound? Apparently not according to my opponent, in fact, according to my opponent the tree does not even exist until someone sees it. This is speculative at best and, however perplexing, is not a proof for God.

This is a very confusing argument as my opponent seems to be contradicting himself all over the place. First he has admitted the existence of evolution and now seems to be saying that whenever we discover something completely new it has been conceived in the divine mind of God first for us to be able to see it at all. This is creationism.

Scientific Evidence

I have already shown that there are infinite possibilities for a universe that would support intelligent life. I really don't know why my opponent has not conceded this particular argument. I am not arguing that given the same conditions to begin with that we would be here on computers, speaking English and debating where we came from.

My opponent quotes William Lane Craig who says: "we can simply stipulate some appropriately fine-grained standard of deviation, so that only a finite number of universes are designatable within a finite area....."

Can we? How convenient. But it doesn't matter how many universes there are. I've proven that even within one universe there are infinite possibilities for life, through time, divisions of time and divisions of space. As for the "finely tuned" comment, this is irrelevant and can also be explained through evolution. There are many "finely tuned" things, such as eyes which I have explained already.

Oh yes, and DNA -- as I have said already, just because we can interpret things through numbers does not mean that someone laid out a bunch of numbers for us to find. DNA does not have little number tags and bar codes. These things are interpreted, not designed. That is why we invented numbers so that we could interpret the world around us. Numbers are our own creation.

On the Argument from Morality

First of all my opponent has ignored the fact that my statement about objective moral values is correct. Instead he has breezed on past choosing to forget about his initial argument. I think I can sum my argument in one statement. Morality is only applicable in "situations." So to say "Morality is not determined by situations" is simply false. So it appears my original argument is completely "sequitur."

This next bit is quite sad really, a fundamentalist, using the victims of a fundamentalist attack to illustrate a point about morality. Perhaps exploitation wasn't in the Christian handout you were given telling you the moral rules to follow to be a good Christian. Then again it is quite hard to cover everything. People should really just try thinking for themselves.

But to address your point seriously. Before I go on to person A and B, September 11th wasn't inherently wrong. It is a good example of moral relativism actually. Osama Bin Laden certainly didn't think it was wrong, he was going to great risk to do something he thought was good enough to justify that risk. And there are certainly some victims of American oppression who might have not been so clear on the rights and wrongs regarding the attack.

Regarding person A and B, evolutionarily, if one person kills the last partner of his kind he is doomed to extinction. And I am sure there have been some species throughout time that have killed each other to the point of extinction, but they are now extinct. So first of all without good reason, evolutionarily I don't think person A would kill person B, regardless of whether it's right or not. Secondly, moral values in "civilized society" even in Christianity have changed considerably over the last 3000 years. They have changed relative to situations and environment, cultural and physical, so it is unrealistic to divorce your test subjects from the influence of society. This was an important part of my argument that we have developed not only instinctually but socially structured moral values. They are reflected in our laws and cultural practices for the purpose of maintaining a functional society.

Resurrection of Christ

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, is apparently an arbitrary rule, readers, you can be the judge of that one. My opponent has provided a fantastic example though to substantiate his claim, it reads:

"If a person claimed, 'I am the best boxer in the world,' does he need an 'extraordinary' proof?"

I don't know about you, but if someone said that to me and wasn't 6'6" and built like a brick shit-house, it would probably take a bit more than his word to make me believe him. So yes, that would require extraordinary proof for me to reasonably believe him. My opponent also asks "What do we call extraordinary?" Well something that isn't ordinary I suppose, for instance, someone who's apparently all around us that we've never seen, heard, touched and have only read about in a book 2000 years old.

It is true that this argument is an important part of the Christian faith. The problem is faith is an important part of this argument.

Existential Argument

I really hate repeating myself. But in order to give my opponent another chance to read my argument properly I'm just going to copy/paste this next bit.

Negative (my argument against perfect happiness)

To reply I have two points, you may already have guessed the first point. That is that the desires that are fulfilled on earth: Food, Sex, Sleep are not fulfilled perfectly and are only temporarily satisfied and therefore it does not stand to reason that anything else should be satisfied absolutely, like happiness. You may say that our desire is for "perfect happiness" not "happiness" absolute. For this I come to my second point. etc....(see my opening statement).

Positive (my opponent's response)

My opponent says: "That is that the desires that are fulfilled on earth: Food, Sex, Sleep are not fulfilled perfectly and are only temporarily satisfied and therefore it does not stand to reason that anything else should be satisfied absolutely, like happiness." However, the difference between the desire of food, sex, sleep, and perfect happiness is that the latter is a desire for perfection while the others are not.

You will notice in the above arguments that once again my opponent has not read my argument properly. And where I have predicted his response (underlined) he has missed and gone straight on to making the response I have already pre-rebutted. I explain my rebuttal through the next paragraph. I must apologize to the readers of this grand debate for my having to repeat myself, it is indeed frustrating for me also.

And just to clarify about "drive." Well, my opponent says that happiness is not necessary for survival. But really, you should listen to the rest, it's classic. This is a direct quote:

"Our desire for perfect happiness, therefore, is best explained by the fact that God 'inserted' this drive in us so that we look forward to be with Him forever. "

Isn't that nice. Have you got your insertion of drive yet? And yes, this argument is just as ridiculous as it sounds. First of all happiness is not the same as food, sex, sleep. It is a by-product of these things, it is an outward expression of pleasure and "drives" us to attain these things. This I thought was already explained in my previous argument. Happiness is absolutely essential to evolution, and the desire for which is essential to our survival.

Conclusion

So now the nine arguments that my opponent forged together and recycled in his last argument have all been adequately addressed and debunked. And I would urge my opponent to come up with some new and interesting arguments for the existence of his God, perhaps even some of his own thoughts.

As for my arguments well, my opponent has conceded to evolution, and has even stated "if we can't trust our cognitive faculties how do we know naturalism is true" which suggests that my opponent assumes that if we can trust our cognitive faculties then naturalism must be true. I then showed that any argument under flawed cognitive faculties is futile, so under the grounds of an argument under trusted cognitive faculties my opponent has all but admitted that naturalism is true.

My opponent has yet to argue how God has any purpose in an evolutionary system (a system he has admitted exists). In the cosmological arguments my opponent has failed to give any evidence as to why a fully functional god is more likely a cause of the Universe than an energy fluctuation. Therefore with no evidence for god's usefulness in the evolving world and a simply arbitrary possibility that he caused the Universe, there is no reason to believe that God exists or has ever existed past that which is in our minds searching for comfort in meaning and answers that we have not yet discovered.

James Brown
JBrown@slingshot.co.nz

Words: 3000+

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