Is Lawrence Krauss’ Nothing Really Nothing? – Does it Matter

Sveiki Skeptics,

Not to long ago, Lawrence Krauss published a book entitled “Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?”, and there was a lot of hype over it, he made all the rounds on the scientific, atheistic and religious podcasts, and was often criticized for many reasons. One of the most commonly argued points by the religious was that the nothing that Lawrence Krauss describes is not ‘strictly’ nothing. Today, I will not try to argue that it is nothing, or that we know how to get something from ‘strictly’ nothing, I am going to argue that it doesn’t really matter, and try to and explain why it is an important part of the progress of science.

First of all, an explanation of Lawrence Krauss’ ‘nothing’. When he talks about something coming from ‘nothing’ which has been proven by science, he is talking about  the vacuum of space, as well as a TOE and electromagnetic fields and gravity. In the vacuum of space, matter and antimatter are created fleetingly, and then come back together and collide back into nothingness. This has been proven by science, and is the reason Hawking radiation exists, causing the shrinking of black holes. One particle of antimatter goes into the black hole, and the other particle of matter goes off into other places, taking down the net weight of the black hole. This happens all the time, everywhere.

When he suggests that the universe can be created from nothing, he is talking about absolute nothingness + a TOE. He gets a lot of flack from the religious about that. They argue that it is really not nothing, and I agree. However, it is unscientific to just say, “Well, its not nothing, ergo God.”

The process of science is to continually discover more and more about the universe, and at no time saying that there is no more that can be found. Science works by looking and looking. But for the religious to just dismiss it because it isn’t quite nothing yet, is just terrible.

Another argument is that you cannot get something from purely nothing, and therefore it is pointless to even bother. But for the religious to just say that something can never come from nothing is hypocritical. The whole concept of religion is that god just IS, ad will always BE. Yet they say that everything has to have a cause.
“Everything has to have a cause… except God.”

The point that Lawrence Krauss’ makes, that something can come from almost nothing, is a valuable scientific contribution, and is important for the progress of science. And religious criticism of this is completely hypocritical, as is almost all cosmological arguments for god, or against natural arguments against god.

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Was I indoctrinated to Atheism?

Hello skeptics the world over,

Recently, in a discussion with my mother about whether I should be heading to church on Sunday, she made the claim that I was indoctrinated by podcasts such as ‘The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe’ and other science and skeptical podcasts and websites, and said that I am ‘just as brainwashed’ as I claim Christians to be. I will be hoping to respond to this question in-depth tonight.

The first thing I will point out is the contrast of ‘indoctrinations’ between my skepticism and Christianity as a child. When I was indoctrinated to Christianity as a child, I was given the whole nine yards, Genesis creation, the flood and Noah’s Ark, Tower of Babel, Jesus, all the bible had to offer. When I was ‘indoctrinated’ into skepticism and atheism, it was almost the exact opposite. Instead of being given a list of things I had to believe, how to believe them and a book to read it from, when I was indoctrinated by The Skeptic’s Guide, I was only given a list of things which are logical, and most importantly, a list of things which weren’t logical. That’s why I am a champion of skepticism, not atheism. yes I am an atheist, but I am an atheist because of skepticism. Skeptics don’t tell you what to believe, they just give you the package of logic and evidence.

I wasn’t told to become a skeptic and an atheist by ‘the skeptics guide’, I was just told, “Hey, some of what you believe is not very logical and has no evidence to support it, look at what we think, be logical and look at the evidence, and make your decision.” and look at where I am now.

The other main difference between my two ‘indoctrinations’ is choice. When I was indoctrinated into Christianity, I didn’t know about atheism, humanism, naturalism, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, or any other amount of religions. I was just having Christianity handed to me on a silver plate, with a bit of evolution thrown into the mix, as I still had to have some science. But there wasn’t much choice for me. When I was introduced to skepticism, I had heard about all the other religions and world-views, and I chose to go with agnostic atheism, and later onto agnostic anti-theism. That’s also why I am a champion of free-thought, because giving a child the choice is the most important thing they can have. I will talk about free-thought and children in a later post.

I was not indoctrinated into atheism or skepticism like the way children born into christian homes are indoctrinated, I was given a choice and I was not forced into it, and that is the key difference… choice. That’s all for today, I’ll leave you with a quote from an anonymous author/sayer of words, “Trying to close a mind that has not yet had the chance to be opened, is the worst form of child abuse.”

Roy Williams… Again

Hello there skeptics, atheists and scientists,

Today I am going to be blogging about Roy Williams again, I haven’t blogged about his arguments for a while now, I’ve been saving this one up. In his book, ‘god actually’ , Roy has a section entitled ‘Tackling arguments against a designing god’, today I am going to be rebutting some of these ‘rebuttals’. Most of his arguments are completely ridiculous in here, as he completely misses the point of particular arguments.

He discusses the idea of naturalistic, evolutionary, reasons for a religion to exist, and he misses the whole point of the idea. This argument is just a rebuttal of an argument used by Christians for religion. They say “If religion isn’t true, why does it exist. Religion must have some truth to it because otherwise why would humans have made up the concept in the first place. Natural explanations for religion like an evolutionary advantage to belief, or a ‘god center’ somewhere in the brain, are not arguments against god, as Williams portrays them as, they are rebuttals of arguments for god. And somehow, in all of it, Williams blames us for non-sequiters by saying that this is not an argument against god.

Another argument which Williams ‘takes on’ is the ‘god of the gaps’ argument, apparently, used by atheists. This is the first time I have heard god of the gaps being used to argue against god, but there you go. For as long as I can remember, the god of the gaps has been a logical fallacy describing religious people, not an argument against god. It has always been just like most, a rebuttal of theist arguments, not arguments of our own. Williams also happens to say that his beliefs are not god of the gap arguments, despite using arguments like irreducible complexity and creation of the universe, and quite often saying, “Science cannot explain this”, which is kind of the definition of the god of the gaps argument.

These are just a few of the arguments ‘taken on’ by Roy Williams, and they demonstrate the way Williams argues. He is completely unaware of the whole idea of most of the atheism VS religion debate. When it comes to science and logic, the burden of proof is on the affirmative (religion), and it is the job of the negative (atheism) to show the logical fallacies and factual incorrectness which may be present in these arguments. It’s quite fine for the religious to counter-rebut these arguments, but it’s not okay for them to claim that these are direct arguments against god, and then to just say that they are using non-sequiters. If he wants to tackle some real arguments against god, not some rebuttals, take a look at some of the apparent logical contradictions in god, the concept of cause-and-effect, or the idea of something from nothing.

That’s all for today, I will leave you with a quote from H. L. Mencken, “We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.”, H. L. Mencken, an American journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, critic of American culture and scholar.

Why do I say “Oh God!”, not “Oh Zeus!”

I was listening to a gateway Church podcast recently (yes, I listen to all the hit Christian podcasts), and the preacher presented to the audience an argument for why Christianity is a much more valid religion than Buddhism or the Greek gods of mythology. He presented this (paraphrasing):-
Why is it that when a theologian debates with an agnostic or a heathen (he used those terms), you can talk all you want about various theological concepts and ideas, but when the idea of Christianity or Jesus comes to the fray, they always get a bit more animated, angry and excitable. This is because Christianity has some undeniable truth about it, and they always have to resort to a bit more force in their words. And Why is it, that when they see something that amazes them they say, “Oh My God” and when they bang their hand with a hammer they say “God dammit!” Why is that? It’s because somewhere, deep down inside, they have the breath of the holy spirit within them. Blah Blah Blah… and on he went.
I had to stop the podcast at this moment. I had to think about this one because it was an argument for god, and not just some more “Believe in Jesus” talk. I have thought about it, and here are a few reasons why us atheists say God, not Buddha. I’ll also say that I personally do not say “Oh my God”, I prefer to use “Zeus almighty!” or “Thor! God of Thunder!”

First of all, most of us in the western world have grown up in Christian backgrounds, so must of us atheists used to be Christians, which means that our ‘cursing of god’s name’ is just a remnant of our pasts. I f I had grown up in a home where my father and mother had said, “Zeus help me” every time I was being stubborn, I would probably grow up to use Zeus as a curse word in my vocabulary. It’s also a lot easier to say ‘god’ (1 syllable), as opposed to ‘Anextiomarus’ (Celtic sun-god) (6 syllables) when I’m angry.

Second of all, The reason why atheists get so animated when you start talking specifically about Jesus, is because we are sick of it all. Most of us can tolerate you saying that your god wrote the rulebook and then just sat back and watched it all happen, but when you start telling me that “God made me with a special plan in mind”, “Jesus is patiently knocking on the door to my soul”, or “You really do know that god is real, but you are just suppressing it and denying it”, because these statements are so out there, random, intangible with reality, unproved, logically strange and impossible, that our brains overload with logical fallacy alarms, dumbass alerts and goes into shut down mode, or explodes.

The third objection to this argument, the reason why we use deities in our curses at all, is simple, and it comes back to 90% (ball-park, don’t quote me on this) of us having grown up in religious homes.  There is mounting evidence in many scientific tests that swearing reduces the sensation of pain. So when you stick your hand in a bucket of ice-cold water, using some expletives will give you a substantial amount of time more, with your hand in the water. When I was a Christian, and still now in my Christian home, saying “Oh My God” was as bad as the f-bomb or any other common expletive. So nowadays, ‘using god’s name in vein’ still gives me that therapeutic feeling that I experience with other swear words. That’s why I still do it.

I hope today’s post has put across the point that this argument for Christianity is paper-thin, with no logic or evidence to support it. I will you with a quote from Carl Sagan, “You can’t convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it’s based on a deep-seated need to believe.”, Carl Sagan, an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author and science popularizer of some note.

Bad Argument Against God

Hello there skeptics,

On the Bus yesterday, I was sitting down, doing my merry thing (playing logosquiz) when somebody asks somebody behind me “Do you believe in god?”. Never mind how rude I think this personal question is, but he asked everybody around him this question, and then he backed up his atheism with some logic. I will give you his logic now.

“How can animals have been just dropped straight into their environment, they have to adapt to the environment, evolution, otherwise they won’t survive. Therefore, evolution is real and god is not.” In a nutshell.

There was one thing which struck me about this argument, first of all, this is an argument for Evolution, not for atheism. Evolution and belief in a god are incompatible, but that’s another day. This is possibly one of the worst arguments for evolution I have heard in a long time. Here’s why:-

This argument is wrong in its stipulation that animals cannot have just been dropped into their environment and told to survive. The story of creation in the bible goes that the animals were created to suit their environments, and visa versa. If god were to have created the earth in six days 6000 years ago, he would have made sure that the animals where good in their environment.

The reason why I rebut this argument is for one simple reason, which can be summed up with a quot from Christopher Hitchens, “It’s not what you think, its how you think”, And that is how I live my life. This person on the bus’ final conclusion, I agree with, but his thought process is completely wrong, and it needs to be corrected.

Lets think for a moment what happens when this person on the bus (named Shaun from now on, and to protect the innocent), goes to their ethics and faith class in a few days, he will probably take this argument to fr. Iain and have it rebutted all the way over the pickets for 6 (cricket). This may convince Shaun of God, and that’s not what I want. I need to get to him while he is in this critical thinking and questioning mode, and get the bad arguments out of him, and the good arguments in to him.

He may take this argument to a prolific Christian debater, and this Christian will go to town on it, and this Christian will be able to add a tick to his bucket list of Atheists arguments to rebut. He can put it on his resume.

That’s all for today, I will leave you with a quote from Christopher Hitchens, “What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.” Christopher Hitchens, and Atheist, Author, Journalist, Skeptic, and essayist of some note.

Roy Williams Is at it Again

Hello… there,

That’s right, you guessed it, Roy Williams is at it again with his constant crusade of logical fallacies with yet another Seemingly intelligent argument, which, upon some investigation, turns out to be of no particular interest or value. In his most recent hashing of facts and evidence, Roy Williams has made the claim that humans’ ability to articulate the underlying laws of physics is proof of god. He says that there is no evolutionary advantage to us being able to understand, “The deep underlying reason why the apple fell to the ground” as opposed to, “Oh look, the apple fell towards the ground.” In today’s post, I am going to be showing how, 1. We aren’t actually very good with the understanding of the things, 2. We need a lot of help to try to understand the things, and 3. Evolution accounts for our apparent ability to understand the things.

First of all, the fact that we aren’t actually very good at maths. Here is a little thought experiment. Take a dozen or so coins, and ask somebody to be a volunteer for your experiment. Tell them that they are to tell you how many coins are in your hand, without using any sort of counting system. if they played by the rules, they will be clueless as to how many coins you are holding. This is because humans are not very good at counting, believe it or not, humans suck at math. Everything we know about maths, had to be learnt. Humans are good at the talking and the language and the problem solving, but not the math.

That brings me to my second point, If we never taught ourselves a number system to count things, we would be clueless. If you are counting things past about ten, then when you are counting it, you won’t be thinking about the actual amount of things, you are thinking about how many times you have counted one unit. We say, “I counted 43 sheep”, but really we are just adding one more to the clicker, we don’t actually know how much that 43 is.

On to my next and final point, Evolution accounts for our ability to discover the maths of black holes, and the big bang. We are humans, and humans, face it, are not very strong. We are very weak, and we are very slow, so we must have something to survive with, that is our humongous brains. So obviously, it benefits us to be able to problem solve, and communicate, and count things to a small degree. When we learnt how to count up to the number of appendages on the ends of our arms, we had to be able to describe it to people, so we gave all the appendages on our arms names, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. With this we had maths, from there, everything flowed, because our problem solving ability leads us to question things, and so we used math to figure out those questions. Then the human condition of curiosity took over, looking into the world around us. It is possible to explain our maths ability through evolution.

I will leave you with a quote from Richard Dawkins, “Bertrand Russell used a hypothetical teapot in orbit about Mars for the same didactic purpose. You have to be agnostic about the teapot, but that doesn’t mean you treat the likelihood of its existence as being on all fours with its non-existence.” Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist, writer and atheist of some note.

The ‘Why’ and ‘How’ of the Creation-Abiogensis/Big Bang ‘Debate’

Hello there, all my moral, just, secular people,

Today’s post was inspired by a television show which aired on the ABC (Australia) entitled Q&A, which every week presents a handful of politicians, public figures, theologians and atheists, for an open discussion and Questions from the live and internet audiences, hence the name Q&A. This weeks program was a special program, because it put forward only two panelists, along with the host, and these where the Atheist Richard Dawkins, and Catholic priest George Pell. Richard Dawkins has made appearances on the show before, but this was the first time he went ‘head-to-head’ with only a Christian joining him on the panel. The show has made quite and impact in the media, with a lot of discussion about it going on even on the radio the next morning. The show can be viewed in full right here at this link here -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xi1EDDuMksw. I will surely be making my comments on the show over the next few days, but here is today’s rant.

During the show, this oft quoted argument was brought up by George Pell, he said (not an exact quote) “Science can tell us a lot about the ‘how’, with evolution and the big bang, but it doesn’t tell us a lot about they ‘why.'” This argument is talked about by Roy Williams in his book I am reading at the moment, and I have heard it from others too. This whole argument is both a red-herring and a non-sequiter, and Richard Dawkins summarized it very well, “That’s just not a valid question.” The whole question of ‘why’ does the universe exist, is not relevant, its like asking why unicorns aren’t very good at snooker. In that way it is a non-sequiter.

Even if you do grant that ‘why’ is a valid question, it is not a question for the science, nor is it a question which could change the fact that the big bang or abiogenesis happened. The question is for philosophers and humanists.

The ‘Why’ question, “Why are we here.” Is also a good example of the unstated major premace fallacy, the question just assumes that there must be some meaning for our existence, when it is quite plausible that we could have no purpose to exist.

This question is also a red herring because it side-steps the real question of the ‘how’. This is the whole problem with Roy Williams’ book, at the start he asks the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ question, and he says, “Science knows the how, but not the why, I’ll write a book about the why.” In this way he can write a whole book without having to address a single question about ‘how’.
It is a really annoying question, because to people who are not aware of the fact that ‘why’ is not a logical question, the argument can have some weight. Most people like to have a purpose for their life, and this is where they get all caught up. The miss the point that Atheism has a point too, “We only live for 80 or so years, and we have no afterlife to look forward too, so lets just make the world as good as possible in this short time.”

I will leave you with my favourite quote from the entire evening where George Pell accidentally walks all over his own argument to try to just contradict Richard Dawkins on everything,
“Dawkins: the only thing that might convince me that Christianity is true is if a 700 ft Jesus walked into the room and said ‘I exist’, and I’m not even sure if that would convince me.
Pell: I’d say ‘you are hallucinating’.”

‘And God Created’ Running Theme in the Bible

Hello there, half-banana men,

Today I am going to be talking (well, writing actually, but you get what I mean) about an argument used by my chaplain at school to show that god created the universe. But first I will say how proud I am to have a RE teacher like him, because he is the sorta guy who says, “Yes, evolution happened, and it was probably natural, but god set it all up at the start with the big bang.” I like those sorts of religious people, he even reckons that bio-genesis could  have occurred naturally. I almost have to put him as a non-creationist, but he did put forth an argument a few weeks ago which I think is logically invalid.

He first showed us a video, created by some young-earth, AiG supporting, genesis-is-true video company, about Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden, the story of Genesis visually. After that he proceeded to tell us, “I don’t believe that is true, I don’t think the earth is 6 000 years old, it is best to be just treated as a metaphor.” He then showed to us an outline of the story of Genesis. Here it is,
“God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1.
He then showed us the pattern of the story of Genesis.
God created…
God created…
God created…
God created…
etc.
He then told us this:-
The story of Genesis is a story that was passed down from generation to generation through the ages, and this means that some of the details of the story were a bit off, but the main pattern of the story still holds, “God created…” The story of Genesis is not literal, but it shows us one key thing, god created the heavens and the earth.

I am going to advance my reasons for why this argument is invalid. First of all, I agree with one of his first major premaces, that stories change  over time, but I don’t think he has taken it to its full extent. He says that the big pattern of a story will always hold, but almost all scientific studies done on memory show that the details are not all that memory malleability keeps itself too. It can change almost anything in the story, from the timing of things or the emotions or the exact way your mother’s face looked when you smashed her vase, all the way to things like who was in the room, which vase you broke, how big the vase was, whether it was intentional or accidental, whether you used a baseball bat or a golf club. Any of those things can be changed over time with a memory.

My second objection to this argument is a logical one. My question for him was, “How was the story kick-started, who got the inside scoop that ‘goddidit’? Nobody would have been around before big bang to witness god write the rules and light the match. This question, he had no answer too because the bell was 10 minutes away and he decided it was time to pack up.

I will leave you with a quote from Josh Thomas, “As an atheist, having a Christian threaten me with hell is like having a hippy threaten to punch me in my aura.” Josh Thomas, An Australian Comedian of some note.

Investigating Agnosticism

Hello there!

Recently, during my internet browsing, I have been finding a few articles critical of agnosticism. They talk about how agnosticism is self-defeating by definition and is a silly, fence-sitting, worthless position to take on the stance of religion. I am going to contend that view in today’s post. It is worth pointing out that these attacks on agnosticism or in fact, staw-men logical fallacies, which will be covered at a later date. I will start by drawing out a few lines in the sand. I am going to define the four main different types of agnosticism.

The first, and weakest agnosticism is the view that there has never been and will never be any proof for god, for evolution, for creation, or anything historical or theological, also known as forever an historical agnostic, or FHA. When talking about this sort agnosticism, I agree that it is a very weak position, and there is no science to back it up. There is nothing going for this agnosticism, and it is just making a bad name for agnostics as a whole. It is more often a made up position by Christians trying to attack some secular position than one taken by seculars themselves.

The second stage of agnosticism is a weak one, and is on about level pegging with the third stage of agnosticism, but I rank this one lower because it is easier for a creationist to attack that level three. This agnosticism states that there is never any way in which science could prove or disprove a god, because supernatural things are outside the realm of science, also known as forever a theistic agnostic, or FTA. This is also a very weak view on religions, because obviously, there is a way in which a god could be proved. You simply observe a true miracle, which has no possible other mechanisms of action, something truly amazing. This would be some interesting evidence for a supernatural deity, but more than one account would be required.

The third stage of agnosticism is still a very weak position that I do not agree with, and it takes the view that there is currently no evidence for god, or a supernatural deity, and that at some day there may come to bear some proof either way on the subject, or currently agnostic, CA. This is a position that I will agree with, but that I do not take up myself. It is a correct view to a sense, and I take up some of the ideas of this agnosticism. But the bits I do agree with from it are better fit into the final stage of agnosticism.

This fourth stage is probably how I would best describe myself. It is a much stronger view on deities, and I think that most of the world’s atheists will technically fall into this group. This agnosticism is of the view that there is currently no proof for a god or deity, (no proof = current disproof in science) and that a god is almost impossible, because of some fundamental boundaries. However, if it comes to pass that there is some proof of a god, then this view will change to suit that observation, otherwise known as agnostic atheism, or AA. This is my world view.
There is almost certain proof against an all-powerful or all-knowing god in today’s world, but if it is proved that there is a god, then I will happily bow down and worship him, once proper evidence comes to bare.

That’s all for agnosticism today, I will leave you with a quote from Kurt Vonnegut, ” Being a Humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead.” Kurt Vonnegut, an American Writer of some note.

How I want my funeral to be

Today I went to the funeral of a neighbor of mine, we have known each other for about 10 years since he moved to our area. After the service, I got to thinking about how I want my funeral to be like. I don’t often stray from the science on this blog, but I will today. Of course, none of this is for my pleasure, I will be dead in a casket, but I want the people paying their respects for me to enjoy the funeral. I hope this helps.

  1. I want to have an organist who knows how to play the organ. The organist today was not that impressive. I have been teaching myself how to play the keyboard for about a month now and I am better with a sustain pedal than he is.
  2. If there are songs sung, I want them to be sung by somebody who has passed at least level 3 in singing. The singer today was also the organist, and he was struggling to juggle the words and the keys. He also had the voice of a man who has had their voice-box replaced with a block of wood. It was not a pleasurable sound.
  3. Obviously, I want a secular funeral. I want not Jesus crosses or mentions of god, Jesus, savior, holy spirit, spirit, soul, master, lord, etc.. This is not because it will be annoying for me, I’m dead, I won’t be able to hear what is being said. It is also not because some people may think I am religious if they here the words spoken during my funeral, again, I’m dead, what do I care about my self-image. The main reason I intend on having a secular funeral is because hopefully, my children and family and friends will be atheist or agnostic, and it would be annoying for them to hear of me being spoken about as ‘being seated with god’ or having ‘his soul going to a better place’. This would be bothering for them.
  4. I don’t want to have sad organ music playing, I don’t want people to be sad at my funeral, so I want them to put on something a bit more upbeat, just to lift the mood a bit. I know this sounds strange, that I don’t want people to be sad at my funeral. I think that people can be sad at home if they want, I want people to remember me at my funeral, not think about my death.
  5. There will not be any bad sandwiches served in the fellowship after my funeral. Every single sandwich will be chosen by me, on rye bread. I want egg & salad; corn meat & strawberry jam; tomato, cheese & ham; peanut butter. The only other thing at the fellowship will be plain sponge cake, orange juice and coffee. (No tea, I hate tea.)

I will leave you with a quote from Mark Steel, “The annoying thing about being an atheist is that you’ll never have the satisfaction of saying to believers, ‘I told you so.'” Mark Steel, A social columnist, comedian and author of some note.