University debates with Muslims - origins of universe

kostel25
kostel25's picture
Posts: 39
Joined: 2008-09-04
User is offlineOffline
University debates with Muslims - origins of universe

Hello guys,

 

I haven't visited the forum in a while but I'm glad to see I'm still a member.

I'm a postgraduate student at a university in the north west of England (Manchester) and recently I got involved in debating the existence of god with some Muslim students who were proselytizing on campus. Just to make things clear - I am an atheist and I think I held my ground rather well. I even confounded a few with rather simple but fundamental questions like "if god is omnipotent and all-good why won't he heal cancer sufferers. Either because he can not, or because he wills not, in which case he can not be all loving or all powerful"

On area I struggled in is the origins of Earth and the Universe. Their line of argument was that something can not come from nothing, and order doesn't spontaneously rise from chaos. As soon as they got me to admit those two assumptions I knew I was sort of trapped, cause everyone can see where this argument was heading. (god caused the big bang, & evolution & so forth)

They have a booklet called "The Man In the Red Underpants" that is designed to show how the Big Bang was so fine-tuned that the rate of expansion was just right etc that it is extremely unlikely that it happened by accident. Btw I haven't finished the booklet yet as I was only given it today, I just scanned through it.

So could someone please point me in the direction where I could find stuff about the Big Bang, origins of the universe, etc where I can understand it without having the knowledge base of Stephen Hawking.

 

I would appreciate any help.

 

JS

What's the difference between Texas and Saudi Arabia? In Texas they execute you for murder, in Saudi Arabia they excecute you for having a Xmass tree.


mellestad
Moderator
Posts: 2929
Joined: 2009-08-19
User is offlineOffline
So, you can do that, and you

So, you can do that, and you should, and someone here will give you the information you need.

 

For a short answer though, just point out that positing 'God did it' has zero explanatory or predictive power.  It doesn't explain the origins of the universe, it just hand waves them away by pushing them back a step using magic.  When they say everything must have a beginning then ask where did God begin?  If they say God never began to exist then ask if God never began to exist, why not just assume whatever happened before the big bang (if that means anything) never began to exist either...what reason do they have to give that thing anthropomorphic characteristics and label it a deity?

All adding God to the equation does is make things more complicated, and there is zero evidence to support it.  Ask them, if you were starting from scratch without the superstitions of our ancestors, how would anyone possibly come up with, "God did it"?

The universe from God argument is one of comfort and faith.  There is no evidence, there is no hypothesis, there is no prediction, there is nothing but circular arguments to support their faith based beliefs.  It is the same ex post facto stuff theists always go for when science contradicts their beliefs.

Good luck!

---------------------

Also, I don't have time, but if someone else doesn't get to it, the universe is not fine tuned.  Most of it is hostile towards life.  1) Saying the Earth is fien tuned to humans is like a puddle saying the hole it is in is 'fine tuned'.  Life adapted to Earth, not the other way around.  2) The same with universal constants.  For one, we don't know what universal constants would support life.  There might have been trillions of previous universes that didn't/don't support life.  All we have is *our* universe and if it didn't support life we wouldn't be here arguing about anything so the problem is the same as 1.

Again, these excplanations from deity are not constructive, all they do is run into a hard problem and say, "God did it, hah!".  If people like them ran the world nothing would ever be discovered or explained.  Can you imagine physics if every tough problem had people saying, "It must have been a miracle, praise God!".  Bah.

 

Everything makes more sense now that I've stopped believing.


Alexicov
Alexicov's picture
Posts: 13
Joined: 2010-11-04
User is offlineOffline
Assumptions

You see, asking the question "Where did the universe come from" makes the assumption that the universe had a beginning. It is a fallacy to think that "everything had a beginning, and so does the universe". That statement is actually not scientific, since we have no knowledge of other universes, and therefore we cannot back up that claim. It is a statement about observations done inside the universe, however there is no reason to believe that the universe as a whole is subject to that logic. It is important for people bringing up that argument to understand that they are making an assumption that the universe behaves like the objects it contains.

In fact science currently has little observational evidence about how the universe came to be. It is currently considered an axiom, a postulate that the universe was very dense at one point and inflation initiated a period of quick expansion. There is nothing wrong with basing your system upon an axiom. In fact your debaters based their system on the axiom that god is eternal and all powerful. Both axioms are the beginning of systems of explaining the world, and as with all axioms, there is no way to justify them using the framework they spawn. They must be judged solely based on how accurate their framework is in describing the world.

By no means this is the final say in science of course. I know many cosmologists that are currently working on theoretical and experimental ways to understand the origin of the universe, if there was one.

Finally, in response to the fine tuned argument, comes the argument of mediocrity. Our universe isn't really that fined tuned. There is about a 25% band that the value of the fine structure constant that allows stars to exist. In fact although our universe allows for life, it isn't at the optimal values for life.
Leading from that, I'll leave with a short parable:

"Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be all right, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.

 


Wonderist
atheist
Wonderist's picture
Posts: 2479
Joined: 2006-03-19
User is offlineOffline
Try http://talkorigins.org/.

Try http://talkorigins.org/. They should have some stuff on cosmology too, as well as the usual evolution stuff.

The best bet is if you are personally not knowledgeable in some area, then just admit it and say, "I don't know, but why should I believe you, since you don't know either?"

We actually cannot answer the question of exactly how the universe began. We do not really know if it came from 'nothing' or always existed or whatever. We simply do not know. And neither do the Muslims!

Yet they claim to know! It is those claims of knowledge which they do not actually possess that you should jump on and target relentlessly and pin them down until they admit they don't know and just believe on faith.

As for order coming from non-order, it happens all the time. The forming of an ice-crystal or a snowflake, the patterns of dunes in the wind-blown sands of a desert. The formation of a river from countless random raindrops spread across the land.

To say that order cannot come from non-order is pure stupidity.

But again, if you personally do not have such examples immediately come to mind, just admit that you don't know and ask them to show you why *they* think they *do* know.

Always demand evidence. Always keep the burden of proof where it belongs: On the person who makes the claim of knowledge.

Wonderist on Facebook — Support the idea of wonderism by 'liking' the Wonderism page — or join the open Wonderism group to take part in the discussion!

Gnu Atheism Facebook group — All gnu-friendly RRS members welcome (including Luminon!) — Try something gnu!


harleysportster
atheist
harleysportster's picture
Posts: 3359
Joined: 2010-10-17
User is offlineOffline
Just for laughs

Just for laughs, you could send them the link to this video. The guy that does these Atheist cartoons is  extremely funny :

Islam and the Big Bong Theory :

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiikmorh_xk

 

The exchange between Yahweh and Allah cracks me up.

 

 

 

 

“It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.”
― Giordano Bruno


kostel25
kostel25's picture
Posts: 39
Joined: 2008-09-04
User is offlineOffline
Thank you all for such rapid

Thank you all for such rapid response. I'm going to prepare a reply for their universe argument. Debating with these guys is actually pretty cool - they at least pretend to be open minded (maybe they are, though I doubt it) but their argumentation is very practiced and taught. They actually attend courses on how to proselytize, and if one is not careful it's easy to fall prey to their pseudo-scientific and pseudo-rational trappings. They expect you to just listen in awe, and if you actually take an offensive stance and pose questions to them they often trip and stumble, especially if their training had not anticipated the question you asked. I said I would only read their booklet (islamic propaganda, which I've started - not too impressed so far) if they agree to read an article by a chosen writer from me. So I'm also on a lookout for a good article - I know there is plenty but if you guys have any favorites, please share.

I've realized that here in the UK we better get prepared at counteracting Islam's arguments. Christianity here, though officially a majority religion of course, has become more of a socio-cultural phenomenon and is rarely it is practiced in its fundamental form. People who are nominally Christian (Church of England) are very often agnostics who go choose to participate in church life for cultural and social reasons. Catholics are a bit more fundie I guess.

I wish I was studying biology or some other natural science, I would be much better equipped for this kind of debate.

Thanks again for everyone's imput.

JS

What's the difference between Texas and Saudi Arabia? In Texas they execute you for murder, in Saudi Arabia they excecute you for having a Xmass tree.


Answers in Gene...
High Level Donor
Answers in Gene Simmons's picture
Posts: 4214
Joined: 2008-11-11
User is offlineOffline
 Well hello Kostel.  

 

Well hello Kostel.

 

Before I get onto the actual science, I would note that you were taken for a ride by the Kalam cosmological argument. That is a pretty slippery one as the refutations for it assume a certain amount of scientific knowledge. Let me briefly cover the matter at hand.

 

There are several formulations of the same idea but let me take just one of them for the moment:

 

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

 

2. The universe began to exist.

 

3.Therefore, the universe had a cause.

 

That much sounds fine on the face of the argument. We see stuff happen all the time and we can tell that one thing proceeds from another. So it might be reasonable to say that the universe proceeded from whatever caused the universe.

 

OK but what made the universe? How about if I assert that cats made the universe for some perverse reason that only makes sense to cats? The basic idea is not, as far as I can determine, falsifiable. The problem here is that it assumes the existence of a universe making entity. But what caused such an entity to come to exist?

 

Well, that is the rub. Either you have an infinite regress of things that make other things or you have to stop at some point and just say that one thing happened without a cause. However, if god was caused by some previous thing, then did that thing have a cause? Honestly, if we allow for there to be a single uncaused thing, then why not simply write the whole argument off as a bad deal and say that therre was one uncaused thing?

 

Another problem which is related is the fact that if there is such a concept as a conscious universe making being, well where does he do his work? Sure, god is in heaven and on his throne But these are places and things. And just where did they come from? That and from what raw materials did he make the universe?

 

So yah, the whole Kalam thing is pretty much a fairly stupid idea that raises questions that cannot be answered without the argument itself being a miserable failure.

 

 

 

 

NoMoreCrazyPeople wrote:
Never ever did I say enything about free, I said "free."

=


Atheistextremist
atheist
Atheistextremist's picture
Posts: 5133
Joined: 2009-09-17
User is offlineOffline
As other folks have pointed out

 

upthread, the kalam argument and the intellectual remoras attached to it - why is there the appearance of organisation - what is life and how did it form - what is consciousness - are knowledge gaps into which muslims and christians plug their particular mythologies on the basis of no actual evidence whatever. In forcing you to disprove the non existence of their unproven god they are indulging in fallacies from silence. In any case, it's a false dichotomy to suggest that the universe came from A: Nothing; or B: An anthropomorphic deity who chatted merrily with Muhommad in 640.

The Big Bang is a model so far supported by evidence but open in an instant of empirical revelation to reinterpretation at any time. It's not an insistence and it's by no means fully understood. Fairly obviously, we cannot do more than make assumptions about what exists outside the universe. Our ability to collect data does not stretch that far - though unfortunately human imaginations have far less trouble generalising this impossibility. The intellectually honest position is to admit a lack of knowledge but theists are not strong enough to do this in most cases.

An admission of lack of knowledge does not constitute an agreement with the baseless assertions of god people.

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck


EXC
atheist
EXC's picture
Posts: 3928
Joined: 2008-01-17
User is offlineOffline
kostel25 wrote:Their line of

kostel25 wrote:

Their line of argument was that something can not come from nothing, and order doesn't spontaneously rise from chaos.

You: So how did God come into existence from nothing?

Them: Oh, he always existed, he doesn't require a creator.

You: Then the universe always existed, it doesn't require a creator. Your rules.

 

For their 'fine tune' argument:

"This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in - an interesting hole I find myself in - fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' "

-- Douglas Adams

 

The mud puddle is rather narcissistic.

 
 

Taxation is the price we pay for failing to build a civilized society. The higher the tax level, the greater the failure. A centrally planned totalitarian state represents a complete defeat for the civilized world, while a totally voluntary society represents its ultimate success. --Mark Skousen


butterbattle
ModeratorSuperfan
butterbattle's picture
Posts: 3945
Joined: 2008-09-12
User is offlineOffline
kostel25 wrote:Their line of

kostel25 wrote:
Their line of argument was that something can not come from nothing, and order doesn't spontaneously rise from chaos. As soon as they got me to admit those two assumptions I knew I was sort of trapped, cause everyone can see where this argument was heading. (god caused the big bang, & evolution & so forth)

I don't really even agree with either of these statements. They seem simple to the average person, but are actually quite ambiguous questions. At most, they're true to the extent that it is pragmatic to infer that they always hold for practical situations based on inductive evidence. I don't think they are justified.

For one, not everything necessarily or even observed, at least ostensibly, has a cause. Events in quantum physics such as elementary particles popping in and out of existence or the decay or radioactive isotopes are seemingly without cause. It's not entirely clear what "something" or "nothing" means. In this universe, there is no "nothing" in the way that philosophers speak of "nothing;" outer space is not "nothing." Chaos and order are meaningless and useless terms unless they are well defined. In some senses, "chaos" can create apparent "order;" examples are abundant in statistical mechanics.

Even if you do accept these two premises, you aren't really "trapped." In fact, imo, this is the weakest part of all first cause arguments. On what basis are they asserting that a first cause must be an intelligence? Often, it's just a naked assertion.

kostel25 wrote:
They have a booklet called "The Man In the Red Underpants" that is designed to show how the Big Bang was so fine-tuned that the rate of expansion was just right etc that it is extremely unlikely that it happened by accident. Btw I haven't finished the booklet yet as I was only given it today, I just scanned through it.

So could someone please point me in the direction where I could find stuff about the Big Bang, origins of the universe, etc where I can understand it without having the knowledge base of Stephen Hawking.

Effectively responding to fine tuning arguments doesn't really require much knowledge of physics. It's a matter of how well you can explain your correct but counter-intuitive position to an audience that sucks at understanding counter-intuitive positions, and I'm not that good at it yet.  

What are the chances that we would live on a planet that supports life? Is it 1 in 2^1000000000000...? No. The chance of any random planet harboring life is exceedingly small, but the chance of our planet harboring life is 1 in 1 because we live on it. Similarly, the chance of a person that already won the lottery winning the lottery is 100%; he just won the lottery.  

I like to think about it this way. If we assume, for the sake of argument, that all universal constants could be individually "tuned" and each specific "tuned" universe is equally probable (and this is not justified), then obviously, every single possible universe is exceedingly unlikely. Ergo, if the fine tuning argument was sound, then no matter what universe we were in, it must be created by an intelligent designer. So, this makes the unsoundness of the conditional that unlikelihood => design more obvious. Since theists don't make the argument that any possible universe must be created by God (at least most of them), you can kind of tell that they really beg the question, implicitly make the assumption that we are important and the universe is somehow made for us. It's understandable.

People that don't win the lottery don't exclaim, "Wow, look how lucky I am! I just happened to get this number even though there was an incredibly low chance of getting it." Our chance of getting any combination of numbers is about the same, but people are a lot more likely to form irrational beliefs when they win. So, on the surface, fine tuning is about probability, but I think what it really amounts to is, "Look how fortunate we are." Of course, in this case, there aren't even any unfortunate people because being fortunate = existing.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


100percentAtheist
atheist
100percentAtheist's picture
Posts: 679
Joined: 2010-05-02
User is offlineOffline
kostel25 wrote: Their line

kostel25 wrote:

 Their line of argument was that something can not come from nothing, and order doesn't spontaneously rise from chaos. 

 

Hi,

One note, order DOES come spontaneously from disorder (chaos, if they like).  No need to agree with this argument, it is enough to point out to any statistical physics book.

100%


latincanuck
atheist
latincanuck's picture
Posts: 2038
Joined: 2007-06-01
User is offlineOffline
 For the fine tuned

 For the fine tuned argument, the reality is they have no clue what they are talking about, what are all the possible conditions for life? We simply do not know, that is a fact, we do not know for certainty that these are the only possible conditions in which life will arise, second is are these properties even possible to change, or are they the only possibility with matter and energy? Again something we cannot answer with certainty at all.

HOWEVER, if you read their booklet does it by any chance explain the amount of change required before life cannot arise? is it a 1 percent change? 10 percent change? 50 percent? These are things we do not know, if the constants change enough could life arise being silicon based instead of carbon based? They simply do not know, no one has really ever tested all the possible changes, the reality is if one changes the rest probably will be affected, and if so, how so? We don't know. What are all the possible forms for life to arise in all the other possible conditions? As well what form of life? Those life forms from their observation would make the same argument that life is finely tuned for them. Of course this doesn't help their arguments, it's mainly an argument based on ignorance as again we do not know all the possibilities and at what amount of change does life not arise in our present form.


mellestad
Moderator
Posts: 2929
Joined: 2009-08-19
User is offlineOffline
butterbattle wrote:What are

butterbattle wrote:

What are the chances that we would live on a planet that supports life? Is it 1 in 2^1000000000000...? No. The chance of any random planet harboring life is exceedingly small, but the chance of our planet harboring life is 1 in 1 because we live on it. Similarly, the chance of a person that already won the lottery winning the lottery is 100%; he just won the lottery.  

This is another good point.  A way to explain it:

So, the odds of life on earth are (the theist says) 1 in 1000000000000000000000000yaddayadda.  OK.  What are the odds that all of universal and human history led up to me and you having this conversation?  How many twists and turns and tiny shifts had to happen from star creation to what your great great great great grandpa had for lunch on a given day for this single event to take place?  So, the odds of this conversation happening are 1 in 1000000000000000000000000yaddayadda.

And yet as a result of both things, here we are.

Everything makes more sense now that I've stopped believing.


Atheistextremist
atheist
Atheistextremist's picture
Posts: 5133
Joined: 2009-09-17
User is offlineOffline
Yeah I agree

 

Nice points, Butter.


Zaq
atheist
Zaq's picture
Posts: 269
Joined: 2008-12-24
User is offlineOffline
Lets analogize:  Say the

Lets analogize:  Say the universe's "tuned elements" were decided by a million coin flips

 

If I flip a million coins, the odds of obtaining any particular outcome is one in two to the million.  Thus the odds of getting our particular universe is freaking small.  (as pointed out earlier, this is true for every other particular universe too).

 

If I flip a million coins, the odds of obtaining half a million heads, in no particular order, is MUCH larger.  Thus the odds of getting a universe somewhat like ours may be much larger than the odds of getting our particular universe.

 

So another unstated assumption the fine-tuning argument needs is that of the possible universes, few are fit to develop life.  How do we know that?

 

 

P.S. This is actually a good way to understand why gasses fill their containers.  Each individual arrangement of gas molecules is incredibly improbable, but many of these arrangements fill the container while few leave spots of vacuum.  Thus a filled container is much more probable, even though any particular filled state is just as improbably as any particular unfilled state.

Questions for Theists:
http://silverskeptic.blogspot.com/2011/03/consistent-standards.html

I'm a bit of a lurker. Every now and then I will come out of my cave with a flurry of activity. Then the Ph.D. program calls and I must fall back to the shadows.