Origins Of The Cosmos: A Debate

As I’m wont to do on occasion, I had a little fun with The Bible by posting the following statement as my Facebook status:

“Reading Joshua for Bible Study. Lots of massacre for The Lord. Putting everyone to the sword. Good stuff. Family values & morality & such.”

This led to a lengthy discussion with a couple of gentlemen, and I asked for and received their permission to repost the conversation here. My intent in these discussions is never to try to persuade the person with whom I’m having the conversation, but instead to make the points as best I can for anyone who may see or hear the debate, for that’s what I see it as.

I have no training in debate, never took part in a formalized one and often find them uncomfortable to watch. However, I’m working harder to overcome the anxiety that comes with disagreement on matters of great importance because I’ve received unsolicited feedback that I’ve helped others. So I post the debate that arose from a simple Facebook update so that I can reach as many people as possible. If you find any of the arguments here persuasive, please say so in the comments.

Debaters:

Shaun Herndon

Lari Nice

Me

Me:

Reading Joshua for Bible Study. Lots of massacre for The Lord. Putting everyone to the sword. Good stuff. Family values & morality & such.

Lari Nice:

It’s useless to point to the irrationality within the text. We, as rational beings, can make the irrational, rational. To have a beef with Christianity will do nothing to absolutely disprove the events within the text. You’ll merely just have to act on faith that their faith is in a fictitious and irrational God.

I, for one, do believe in a Creator. Our balanced design and the seemingly infinite cycles we can witness on Earth lead me to conclude that this can’t all be happen-chance. I do not presume to know what created us, or what created it. I only know that we were created. All life is birthed from another. And so it is with us. John, what are your beliefs on why you exist, if you don’t mind my asking?

Shaun Herndon:

Lari Nice – you were created via your parents . . .200,000 generations of humans – who in turn had evolved from something that wouldn’t be labeled “human” in our conventional usage of the term, but would have yielded the genetic mutation for humans to arise – in addition to the other Hominids that helped contribute to the human species . . .

What I say is more factual than the proposition of humans requiring a supernatural creator. With humans (some more than others) proven to have direct genetic links with the Neanderthal, I can rely on actual proof that our species evolved and wasn’t “created” out of thin air, or from “clay”.

Your “faith” that there is a creator/designer for all of this is in reality – only unjustifiable “hope”, with a mountain of evidence to support the contrary.

Faith = Hope, that’s all it really is.

More in depth data, dealing with Embryology and how we can view our evolutionary remnants . . .

Me:

The argument for a supernatural creator leaves me empty. Everything i’ve learned, studied and observed not only shows no evidence of anything supernatural, but shows instead the natural evolution of a universe filled mostly with nothing, headed ultimately toward more nothing. It’s wonderful to be alive & aware of it for a brief time, and I’m so very fortunate to not spend my short life in abject poverty, suffering and misery like so many of my brothers and sisters on this little rocky sphere hurtling through space.

Sorry to wax poetic, but I just woke from a nap.

Lari Nice:

Shaun, that argument is neither here nor there. I’m not just talking about humans. There’s no question in my mind we’re an evolved species. I’m talking creation itself (think deism).

John, so your ultimate meaning is to have none? That’s impossible. We’re inherently reasoning beings. No man alive who came to such conclusions lived without anxiety as result of them. What does that anxiety tell you? That you can’t be sure of your assertions, deep down? And is the fact that we can witness birthing and degeneration/regeneration of no account for you? I’m not saying you have to personify and connect your life to a creator. I’m simply saying, we began somewhere, as a result of something obviously more powerful than we ourselves. How many worlds have you or I made lately?

Being created via something > being created from nothingness. We witness this every single day. There is no such thing as something from nothing. So what brought about this immeasurable circumference? It’s a question that has plagued man from the beginning if he has no, for him, reasonable answer for such things. No man is above this question. Any man who presumes to be is operating under delusion. All orphans wonder who their parents were.

Shaun Herndon:

Lari – you say that something cannot come from nothingness. .

With our understanding that “nothing” is filled with loads of activity, your above statement is defunct in the face of scientific understanding . . . The argument for Deism is filled with a lot more problems.

Here is the full lecture by Cosmologist, Lawrence Krauss:

Lari Nice:

You’ve just proven my case. Even this “nothing” you speak of, is filled with loads of activity. Exactly. Also, please let me personally know the problems that lie within the Deistic framework.

Shaun Herndon:

The problem with your argument is of infinite regresses . . . your positing deism/ a creator, being in the same position as you place the universe – requiring a creator. Something had to be there to create the creator – That’s just philosophical guesswork, without any evidence to support it. So to really even ponder deism at this point is fruitless.

What’s the point?

Where does that get us?

How does it describe how anything works?

Lari Nice:

I don’t argue that Shaun, so I have no problem. I never mentioned what created us as being in a state of supremacy/origination/eternity.

Me:

I would argue with you that homo sapien is not an “inherently reasoning being.” Quite the contrary in fact, we’re remarkably credulous, superstitious, pattern-seeking, agency-giving animals. Afraid of the dark, afraid of our demise. These fears and lots of others drive irrational, entirely unreasonable behavior.

I also would argue that you make a claim you can’t know, i.e. that “no man alive” who doesn’t believe in a creator deity lives without anxiety. In fact, quite the opposite is more plainly true. The theist is the one who is truly anxious that he cannot possibly please the creator god, that he is inherently sinful and finds himself begging for mercy, beseeching an overseeing parent who refuses to go away. The deist–and I don’t know many–is merely one who answers the ultimate question of origins with a simple “god did it” and lives his life as if there were no god.

Your argument that there is “no such thing as something from nothing” unfortunately puts you in the awkward position of having to figure out how your creator deity appeared at least 13.72 billion years ago. Did he, she or it appear from nothing, or were they too created? By whom or what? And who created them? I’m not wiling or even remotely interested in the intellectual surrender that is the deistic proposition. To go beyond that and believe that this deity cares about me, about what I eat and when, about which tribe I belong to and which special words I say to him or her is to descend into childish fantasy.

All of this goes without saying, or at least I hope it does, that you still have the burden to prove your creator deity actually exists.

‎Shaun, have you read the book? It was excellent. I need to read it again because a lot of the physics goes over my head, but watching the video again after reading it made a lot more things click into place for me. I highly recommend it, in fact I wrote a little book review about it on my blog.

Shaun Herndon:

Yes! Great read – really filled me in on a lot of things – CBR . . .extremely fascinating!

Here’s my review of it:

Me:

Nicely done sir!

Lari Nice:

Behavior, whether perceived as irrational or rational, is always worked out via reason. Sure, some people might be unreasonable, but we always do things for a reason.

You are right that theists do, too, live with anxiety. But don’t deny your own. You know it’s there. I know it’s there. Theirs is born of something different from yours, which is born of nothingness. You need not compare the two. We are naturally inquisitive beings who need to know “why”, all of us.

You’re pre-supposing that I believe in an ultimate creator, one born of eternity and omnipresence. That’s your assumption sir. I don’t presume to know much more than the fact that we can witness our design/cyclical nature of creation, and from this, I can come to the conclusion that we were created via some means more powerful than we ourselves. My God has no name. No face. No defined intention. We’re not different, really. Again, I don’t make half of the presumptions you’re accusing me of making. I can’t prove a creator any more than you can disprove one.

Hope this makes sense. I’m on the phone with my dad listening to him talk about pry bars and hams while typing this. So, if it ain’t got a lot of cohesion/intellectualized flair to it, bear with me.

Me:

I tried very hard to address your specific points. If you’re saying that you don’t believe in a creator deity, then we agree. But you stated at the open: “I, for one, do believe in a Creator,” and you even capitalized it. You also stated that “I only know that we were created.” You also stated that you were a deist, or at least arguing in favor of the deistic position, so I tried to address the issues I have with deism personally.

You state that you’ve “come to the conclusion that we were created via some means more powerful than we ourselves,” and I tried to address that as well. I can come to no such conclusion.

Please don’t think I’m being accusatory or attacking in any way. I only engage in these discussions on occasion for the intellectual stimulus and in the hope that someone else may read it and find inspiration to look into these issues for themselves.

One last point though, which I completely missed the first time through. Lari, you state in your first comment that “To have a beef with Christianity will do nothing to absolutely disprove the events within the text. You’ll merely just have to act on faith that their faith is in a fictitious and irrational God.”

I think I’ve proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the Biblical God is a myth if you’re interested.

Lari Nice:

John, for one moment, do not associate my idea of creation with a “being” or “designer.” I do not necessarily/absolutely believe that we are born from a designer that thoughtfully thrust the seed that grew to become our universe. I simply believe we were born of a large energy. Some call this “the big bang.” No white coats, however, have been able to answer what birthed that energy, though. What do you believe? Do you believe it appeared from nothing? Can you really believe that, after witnessing all phenomena of this Earth being counter to that?

The particles that reacted and formed the explosion, what of them? Also, I’m aware that there exist multiple proofs for and disputations involving Biblical text events. But heck, we’re talking bigger than that. Let’s not back peddle through the minutia.

Shaun Herndon:

“No white coats, however, have been able to answer what birthed that energy”

Refer to the Lawrence Krauss lecture above . . .

Lari Nice:

Heh, this never goes anywhere. I’ve had this same conversation with folks so many times. That’s why I’m so good at it. I don’t know about you, John, but I’ve read/pondered long and hard to arrive at my view of the world around me. As I’m certain you’ve done, judging from your end in this discussion. We hold onto these frameworks like they are our very children, keeping them from harm. Nothing will come of this. We’re merely trying to get our positions nestled closer to us, as there always exist elements beyond them that work to separate us from these positions we’ve made and hold so dear.

Shaun, please, we don’t need dog piling here. And no, I won’t defer to authority. I know my position and John’s very well. I’m not ignorant. This isn’t to say I’m some smart guy who’s arrived, but I do not need to listen to jargon when talking of fundamental thought/questions of existence.

And when I say I’ve read long and hard to arrive at my view, I mean to say I’ve read many things and only learned one thing, which we know what that is. It’s powerful in its simplicity, but it doesn’t explain much.

For your sake, Shaun, I’ve read your review of the above text. What does this prove? Does it prove, that, we are indeed born of energy? I think so. Hmmm. Wonder what the source is? Me too. There’s no point in arguing this. We believe the same things but speculate differently as to the source of the energy. I can’t do this anymore; I must go join the land of the living. This is exhausting.

Me:

Sorry I dropped out there, missed the last few entries. From what I can tell Lari, you feel like you’ve answered the question of the origin of the universe. You hold on to your answer, by your own words, as if it was your child, nestling it closer to you. I couldn’t be further from that position.

I live as if I can never know enough, as if I just have a few nuggets I can string together to make some sense of stuff. 100 years ago, just 100, we thought the Milky Way was the entire universe. We only discovered DNA 60 or so years ago. To take the position that I, John, have answered the question of the origins of the cosmos is an absurdity.

I’ll close by saying that the creator you describe, this kind of mushy energy field, is not a very satisfying “creator.” If I can paraphrase you, the origin of the universe is an energy field from which quantum fluctuations of matter emerged that ultimately led to more matter, which 13.7 billion years later led to the first proteins and self-replicating molecules to develop on a small, blue green planet in the unfashionable end of a spiral galaxy. That’s a very simplified explanation of the current thinking in Cosmology so you’re aligned with the folks actually doing the experimentation and observation in this field.

I will stick my neck out and say that this energy field didn’t tell Joshua to slaughter rival tribes and take their virgin girls. Joshua, if he ever existed, came up with that idea on his own.

Shaun Herndon:

Lari, you’re not really good at this . . . I refer you to people who have actually done the science. You make statements and then backtrack from them. I personally don’t hold onto my views “like a child” . . . but am completely open to, and anticipating any new developments in the sciences. Listening to jargon? That’s all you have really put onto the table… I even offered you a complete lecture by current peer-reviewed scientists.

Of course, John was very honest and clear about his statement. The difference between us is that I listen to what the evidence says, backed by actual observation – you tend to rely on speculation.

Lari Nice:

All I offer is speculation, yes. All you offer is science, which is good for nothing more than cataloging and terming phenomena, or energies, greater than we ourselves. You both hold to your views as tightly as I do my own. Make no mistake about that. You have nothing to offer me, nor I anything to offer you. The words we’ve exchanged are for our own benefit. I’m as comfortable as I can be in this world of men who haven’t the ability to answer the ultimate question. You are comfortable operating under the delusion that you are on track toward answering this question. You’ll find no such answer, at least, not in this lifetime. I suppose it is in man’s DNA to try though.

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