Tuesday, July 22, 2008

God Would Be Dead, if He Existed in the First Place (Part III)

William Lane Craig continues:
The teleological argument. The old design argument remains as robust today as ever...
Wait...you're serious? Let me laugh even harder. We have a theory--biological evolution by natural selection--that explains how complex features with a superficial appearance of "design" can and do develop naturally, without any Cosmic Architects with glowing golden drafting calipers in their hands. It explains why we share genes with puffer fish, but far more genes with chimpanzees, how eyes develop, and so on. It has an immense quantity of evidence in its favor, from a range of scientific fields like genetics, biology, paleontology, anatomy, and physics (radiometric dating). I'll leave it to the folks at TalkOrigins.org to eviscerate the "robust" design argument in greater detail. Craig doesn't try to wield debunked arguments about bacterial flagella "motors." Instead, he turns to the latest fashion in Goddidit invisible Imperial apparel:

But the cutting edge of the discussion focuses on the recently discovered, remarkable fine-tuning of the cosmos for life. This finetuning [sic] is of two sorts. First, when the laws of nature are expressed as mathematical equations, they contain certain constants, such as the gravitational constant. The mathematical values of these constants are not determined by the laws of nature. Second, there are certain arbitrary quantities that are just part of the initial conditions of the universe--for example, the amount of entropy.

These constants and quantities fall into an extraordinarily narrow range of life-permitting values. Were these constants and qualities to be altered by less than a hair's breadth, the life-permitting balance would be destroyed, and life would not exist. [emphasis in original]
A couple things to point out here. First of all, as an argument for any sort of anthropomorphic personal, supernatural deity, this approach is self-refuting.

1. A proposed Cosmological Fine-Tuner (CFT) is a product of a Universe like this one, or it is not.

2. If the CFT(s) are products of a Universe like this one, they are bound by the same physical principles we are, and are therefore not supernatural.

3. If the CFT(s) are native to some other sort of dimension or state that is significantly different from our Universe, then the conditions of our Universe are not necessary for the existence of intelligent life.

4. If there is more than one possible way for intelligent life to exist, then Cosmological Fine-Tuning is not necessary to explain the existence of intelligent life.

Second, even if our Universe were fine-tuned, how sure can we be that it is fine-tuned "for life"--by which Craig and the I.D. crowd mean: for us? Is it not possible that beings capable of designing and creating Universes to their desired specifications might have other goals in mind than the creation of human beings, and garnering human worship and obedience?

We could be like some little patch of mildew growing on the wall of one of the tunnels in the Large Hadron Collider saying, "See? This place is suitable for our type of life! If it was much hotter or colder, or lacked air, we could not live here. Therefore, this place was built as a home for us!

One way to avoid that sort of foolish hubris is to consider the Form Follows Function argument:

1. Beings capable of designing and creating a Universe to their desired specifications would be far more efficacious in the fields of design and construction than we are.

2. It is possible that such beings could create Universes for purposes we cannot imagine, as mildew cannot imagine the purpose of the Large Hadron Collider.

3. Given premise (1) we should expect that a designed Universe should efficiently fulfill its function.

4. Nearly all of this Universe would be instantly fatal to a human being without special protective gear (e.g. a spacesuit) and inhospitable to human settlement.

5. Nearly all of this Universe is physically inaccessible to human beings, and almost certain to remain so indefinitely.

6. Therefore, this Universe was not designed to be a residence for human beings.

Nutshell: Humans can exist in less than 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001% of Universe. A Cosmic Designer seeking to create a home for intelligent beings could have created a far more efficient Universe for this purpose than the Universe we see. For example, a gigantic computer with minds stored in it Matrix-style. Or, the Designers could have created sapient robot space probes, for whom a far greater portion of the Cosmos as we know it would be habitable, instead of humans like us.

Or, Universe could have been made, say, as a Ziplock bag to store dark energy for later use, and we're like barnacles convinced the ship exists for our sake. As to why our Universe is the way it is, I'm willing to hang a question mark on that and give people much smarter than I am in the field of cosmology, who also have the right equpment for the job (things like space telescopes and giant particle accelerators) a chance to figure it out. This isn't blind faith. People smarter than I am in other fields have answered all sorts of questions I could not have figured out on my own. Like, "How can we make a car that works?"

Friday, July 18, 2008

Crady's Wager

We've all heard of Pascal's Wager. Here's a little bet for the kind of people who actually think Pascal's Wager is an argument:

Step 1: Read the Book of Job. Notice that Job is "covered" according to the promises made by Yahweh in the Old Covenant. He is described by Yahweh as an "upright" man. He worships Yahweh as he requires, makes the required offerings needed to cover "sin," etc., and is protected by Yahweh in accordance with the promises Yahweh made in the Old Covenant.

Step 2: Notice also that Satan is able to get Yahweh to break his end of the Old Covenant by making a simple bet: "Job's a mercenary. He only worships you because you protect him and grant him prosperity. If you destroy all he has and torment him for no reason, he'll curse you to your face." Yahweh takes that bet without hesitation.

Step 3: "Hello, God? I see how wonderfully devout and faithful these Christians of yours are. But you know what? I bet you they're just mercenaries. They worship you because they're sure they've got some wondrous and beautiful eternal hereafter waiting for them. I bet you that if you tossed them into Hell and saved the atheists or Buddhists instead, that they'd curse you to your face!"

Christians: We know from Yahweh's past behavior, which has been enshrined in his magic holy-book, that he is more than willing to break his promises and subject his most devout worshipers to horrible suffering when presented with a challenge of this sort. He's even willing to kill--witness the demise of Job's family.

Therefore, you no longer have any guarantee of entering Heaven when you die. Now, you are most likely bound for Hell. Will you still worship Yahweh? Will you love him as you twist in the flames of Hellfire?

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

God Would Be Dead, if He Existed in the First Place (Part II)

Christianity Today offers its next example of believers' "intellectual muscle:"
The kalam cosmological argument. This version of the argument has a rich Islamic heritage. Stuart Hackett, David Oderberg, Mark Nowacki, and I have defended the kalam argument.
I find it rather amusing that despite this argument's origins and "rich Islamic heritage," that Craig only cites Westerners as its notable advocates. Not one respected Imam?
Its formulation is simple:

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Premise (1) certainly seems more plausibly true than its denial. The idea that things can pop into being without a cause is worse than magic.
What could people like Mr. Craig possibly have against magic? It's their proposed causal mechanism! Also, as I understand it, the physicists tell us that virtual particles "pop into being without a cause" all the time. Weird, but apparently true. And while we're talking about things "just being there" without a cause, what about Mr. Craig's invisible super-person?

Craig goes on to attack the idea of an eternal Universe (or, presumably, series of Universes in a Multiverse). He drags out the usual argument from infinite regress:
Philosophically, the idea of an infinite past seems absurd. If the universe never had a beginning, then the number of past events in the history of the universe is infinite. Not only is this a very paradoxical idea, but it also raises the problem: How could the present event ever arrive if an infinite number of prior events had to elapse first?
This is like saying you can never get to the number 4 because you would have to count up from an infinity of negative numbers (or, if you want to stay positive, the infinitude of tiny decimals lower than 1 but bigger than 0) in order to reach it. "Infinity" is an abstraction. No matter how far back you go to pick your starting point, you can only land on some particular event (or number), resulting in a finite number of events (or numbers), however large.

Also, it is never a good idea to assert as impossible something to which your own proposal is vulnerable. Craig's chosen "cause" is a personal, anthropomorphic, thinking mind. If we decide to be charitable enough to grant Craig the possibility of a disembodied mind with no physical substrate, then the only possible substance his god can have is its thoughts, emotional states, and other elements of mentation. Which means, such a mind would have to be thinking, feeling, and so on, because without mental states it would be indistinguishable from nothing. Which means: Craig's god must have a continuous series of thoughts, emotions, experiences, etc.. If this entity itself has no beginning, then we're right back to the paradox of infinite regress.

If we have a choice between an infinite regress of real events in a real Universe (or Multiverse), vs. an infinite regress of disembodied thoughts without anything to do the thinking, the former is the more elegant and parsimonious option. Craig goes on to argue that Big Bang cosmology mandates that our Universe has a beginning, and is therefore caused. Then he makes the usual quantum leap:
It follows that there must be a transcendent cause that brought the universe into being, a cause that, as we have seen, is plausibly timeless, spaceless, immaterial, and personal.
What, exactly, is "plausible" about that? Look at the first three "attributes." They're all negations. Without time, without extension in space, without material/energetic substance. They are descriptors of non-existence. His final attribute, "personal," is incompatible with the others, by any meaningful definition of the word "personal." Craig's god is the ultimate Nowhere Man: made of nothing, existing in no place and at no time. Aside from his wish to call this non-entity a "person," his position is indistinguishable from atheism.

As human beings, we have a great deal of experience with "persons." "Persons" can only be known as such within a context of time. For example, without time, you would not be able to read the words of this blog in succession, or hear them if they were read to you. You would not be able to think about them, or relate the experience of reading them to the experience of feeding your pet earlier in the day. You would not be able to do or think anything at all, since such an act would create a temporal division between "before" the thought or act and "after" it.

In order for Craig's god to design Universe, it would need to actually engage in the act of designing, i.e., of purposeful thought toward setting cosmological constants or visualizing the mechanism of a flagellar motor. In the absence of time, there could be no time "before" "god" had a design for Universe, or a time "after" it had a design and was ready to start building, or a time when it set to work.

A "god" bereft of temporal succession would be as impotent as the character pictured on the 356th frame of a movie film sitting in its canister. It doesn't matter how big a superhero the character might be. Without the temporal sequence, he can't save the day. There's no "day" to save. And, without the ability to think its thoughts in time, there would be no thoughts, and thus no disembodied mind.

Craig began his article by sneering at the lack of "intellectual muscle" present in the "New Atheist" books, yet he fails to respond to a powerful argument advanced by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion. This is the argument Dawkins refers to as "the Ultimate Boeing 747 Argument."[1]

Evolution is difficult to grasp intuitively, because we see complex things like life forms, and find it difficult to imagine how they could have come to exist without a guiding intelligence to design them. Complex life forms are wildly improbable, like having a tornado go through a junkyard and leave a newly-assembled Boeing 747 in its wake. Darwin's great discovery was of a non-random organizing principle, "natural selection," that provides a mechanism for life to gradually "climb Mt. Improbable" (another Dawkins analogy) by conserving small changes that work while weeding out changes that don't, over a very, very long period of time.

In the case of Craig's god, we are supposed to have a "person" even more complex than humans and all of our Universe put together. In the Christian belief system, there are said to be many angels and demons, but only one god. That means that it is far more probable that a given disembodied mind would be an angel or demon, rather than a god. And if the god is supposed to possess a certain type of personality (as opposed to all other possible personalities), then it follows that the specific set of thougts, emotions, values, psychological attributes, etc. that comprises god is highly improbable.

If we take into account all of the gods worshiped by all human cultures, then add in all of the possible gods that could be worshiped by all of the alien cultures that could exist within a hundred billion galaxies of over a hundred billion stars each, we have an enormous set of potential disembodied minds to work from. There are billions of distinct individual human minds on this one planet alone.

In a nutshell, Craig's god would be a unique, and highly improbable complex being. If you had a roulette wheel that contained a slot for every possible mind that could exist, the odds of spinning it and hitting on William Lane Craig's preferred version of the Christian deity[2] are virtually nil.

Add to this the immense degree of complexity that a sapient, humanlike mind represents (much less a vastly superhuman mind), as compared with, say, a "timeless, spaceless, immaterial" equivalent of a paramecium. Whichever way you slice it, a god like William Lane Craig's or Grand Ayatollah Sistani's would be the "ultimate Boeing 747." Its existence would be more improbable (as a function of its complexity and the uniqueness of its attributes of consciousness) than our Universe and everything in it. The "god hypothesis" is the explanatory equivalent of a cure worse than the disease.

In addressing the kalam argument, we are left with the possibility of either an infinite regress of causes, or some sort of irreducible starting point. Arguably, the infinite regress of causes (IRoC) makes more sense than the irreducible starting point (ISP). With the IRoC, each cause/effect relationship is an example of the sort of cause/effect relationships with which we are familiar. It does not require anything exotic and unknowable.

That our universe began with a Big Bang and is causally disconnected with anything on the other side of the Big Bang singularity actually makes the IRoC model even more plausible. Instead of the analogy of an infinite regress of numbers, we have an infinite regress of distinct sets (Big Bang cosmoses, with ours as a "daughter universe"), each caused by, but temporally separate from, its predecessor. In the numerical analogy, it would be something like:

(1, 2, 3, 4)(5, 6, 7, 8)(9, 10, 11, 12). Each "set" is itself finite (thus, no infinite regress problem), but has its "transcendent cause" in another cosmos that is spatially and temporally disconnected from it. Since each cosmos is its own island of space and time, there is no unbroken chain to infinity to worry about. Once you pick any specific reference frame (such as "here and now") to count backward from, you're in a finite set, and you can count back to the beginning of that set and no further. Each universe is basically a familiar sort of entity whose behavior is something we can model mathematically. Thus, even if there's an infinite number of them, this view has the parsimony of not introducing any novel entities.

The introduction of a "first cause" requires the introduction of something fundamentally different from all that is know. Then we're left with the question, "what made the first cause cause the second?" If this "first cause" was in some sort of timeless, eternal stasis until it sparked the Big Bang, how did it break free of its stasis? If the "first cause" started causing at a particular point (the Big Bang), then what caused it to change its state from non-causal to causal?
And what caused that? Etc..


1. Dawkins, The God Delusion, pp. 113-114

2. There are, of course, numerous different conceptions of what the god of Christianity is like.
God Would Be Dead, If He Existed in the First Place (Part I)

The July issue of Christianity Today features an article entitled "God is Not Dead Yet" by William Lane Craig, claiming a major revolution in philosophical argumentation over the existence of a god.

You might think from the recent spate of atheist best-sellers that belief in God has become intellectually indefensible for thinking people today. But a look at these books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchins, among others, quickly reveals that the so-called New Atheism lacks intellectual muscle. It is blissfully ignorant of the revolution that has taken place in Anglo-American philosophy. It reflects the scientism of a bygone generation rather than the contemporary intellectual scene.

The turning point probably came in 1967, with the publication of Alvin Plantinga's God and Other Minds: A Study of the Rational Justification of Belief in God. In Plantinga's train has followed a host of Christian philosophers, writing in scholarly journals and participating in professional conferences with the finest academic presses... Atheism, though perhaps still the dominant viewpoint at the American university, is a philosophy in retreat.

This all sounds quite impressive. From this, we could almost expect to see Christian philosophers lining up to receive their Nobel Prizes for the discovery of a super-intelligent non-human life form, and completely overhauling the science of cosmic origins. At the very least, we would expect the article to contain new, revolutionary arguments for a god's existence that are compelling enough to make atheists seriously reconsider their position.

Instead, Craig just serves up the same old arguments we've all seen before: the Cosmological Argument, the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the Teleological Argument, the Moral Argument, and the Ontological Argument. Each argument is preceded by an ejaculation of name-dropping, listing ostensibly credible intellectuals who subscribe to it.[1] Despite his fulsome praise for Plantinga, he doesn't even cite Plantinga's "revolutionary" argument, which will be addressed at the conclusion of this series.

So let's have a look at the vaunted "sophisticated" Christianity we atheists are supposed to be blissfully ignorant of. The arguments cited here (with the exception of Plantinga's argument) are taken directly from the article in Christianity Today, with the name-drop paragraphs omitted. All quotations are from the article, unless otherwise specified.

The cosmological argument.

1. Everything that exists has an explanation for its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.

2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.

3. The universe exists.

4. Therefore, the explanation of the universe's existence is God.

Like all of these "sophisticated" arguments for Christianity, this one rests on a giant non-sequitur. We find it here in premise #2. There is simply no reason to leap from "the universe has an explanation for its existence" to "that explanation is the deity who got mad at a talking snake in the Book of Genesis." I think we can be confident that Christians would not accept this argument as convincing if we altered premise #2 to state, "...that explanation is Amun-Re."

The existence of a god is the issue at hand, so merely asserting it as the explanation of Universe's existence as a premise is begging the question. Craig tries to defend premise #2 as follows:

Premise (2) might at first appear controversial, but it is in fact synonymous with the usual atheist claim that if God does not exist, then the universe has no explanation of its existence.

I've read a number of books arguing the case for atheism, including The God Delusion, The End of Faith, and God is not Great (the "New Atheist" bestsellers Craig refers to at the beginning of his article) and I do not recall encountering this "usual" claim. Atheists discuss possible explanations for Universe's existence all the time (e.g. the Big Bang theory, M-Theory, Lee Smolin's hypothesis of cosmic natural selection, etc.). If atheists did make such a claim, it would be a non-sequitur. The non-existence of the Christian deity would not eliminate other deities, or other sorts of possible explanations for Universe's existence.

Besides, (2) is quote plausible in its own right. For an external cause of the universe must be beyond space and time and therefore cannot be physical or material.

Non sequitur. Multiverse cosmologies describing ways a Universe (self-contained Big Bang cosmos) like ours could emerge as a "daughter universe" causally disconnected from its "mother universe" (such as Lee Smolin's hypothesis of universe-creation via black holes) or M-Theory do propose physical explanations for the existence of what we now call "the universe." These theories are certainly debatable and may well be wrong, but they use mechanisms of physics we know something about, and mathematical tools that have worked quite well for us in the past.

Contrast this with the "A super-big invisible magic person did it" theory, which employs nothing but the inherently unknowable. Consider the track record of "invisible magic person" (IMP) theories. Until very recently in historical terms, all of humanity was convinced that invisible magic persons were responsible for virtually all phenomena of nature, from weather to disease to human and animal fertility. Where the IMPs once controlled the entire territory of human experience, the advance of science has routed them time and time again. Today, IMPs can only hide within the Big Bang singularity. And now science is drawing up the most powerful siege engine ever created, the Large Hadron Collider, to assail that final redoubt. On the basis of history alone, we should be wary of clutching at an IMP explanation for anything.

Now there are only two kinds of things that fit that description: either abstract objects, like numbers, or else an intelligent mind.

Not so. I can think of at least one other possibility off the top of my head: a generalized operational principle, like "triangles are self-bracing," or "natural selection."

But abstract objects are causally impotent. The number 7, for example, can't cause anything.

Generalized operational principles can be "causative." For example, if you start making shapes at random from gum drops and tooth picks, test them for stability, keep the more stable structures and destroy the unstable structures, you will inevitably end up with a bunch of triangulated shapes. The triangle is the only self-bracing polygon, so shapes based on triangles will be more stable than shapes based on squares or other polygons. "Triangles are self-bracing."

The process of destroying the unstable shapes and keeping the stable shapes is natural selection. No matter how randomly the shapes are built, those two principles will leave you with triangle-based shapes, especially if you continue the process for multiple generations, basing succeeding shapes on small modifications of surviving shapes from the previous generation. Thus, the two generalized operating principles have "caused" a non-random result (triangulated shapes) to emerge from a random process of assembly.

What sort of generalized operational principle would it take to "cause" a Universe like ours to exist? "'Nothing' is unstable."

Therefore, it follows that the explanation of the universe is an external, transcendent, personal mind that created the universe--which is what most people have traditionally meant by "God."

Fail. First of all, an abstract "mind" is as causally impotent as an abstract number. If it were otherwise, magic would work. A "brain in a vat" cannot affect reality merely by thinking, feeling, wishing, repeating incantations to itself, etc.. I can wish day and night for Abigail at ERV to fall in love with me, but that won't cause it to happen. I'd have a better chance by doing something materialistic, like sending her flowers. Our minds are causal because they're connected, physically to physical interfaces (our heads and bodies) that can act in Universe. Mental acts alone are not causal in reality.

Second, a "mind" isn't a floating abstraction "beyond space and time." Our minds (the only ones we have any experience with) are emergent properties of the massively interconnected neurons of our brains. If that system is altered, say, by alcohol or Alzheimer's, the "mind" is also altered. The concept of a disembodied "mind" of "God" is not only causally impotent, it is nonsensical.

Third, this last sentence of Craig's is a devious intellectual smuggling operation. Let's look at it again:

Therefore, it follows that the explanation of the universe is an external, transcendent, personal mind that created the universe--which is what most people have traditionally meant by "God."

He lists a whole set of attributes for his proposed "God" that he just takes as given. His "God" is singular, external, transcendent, and personal. Where does he get these proposed attributes? They're "what most people have traditionally meant by 'God.'" Most people--in the West, since the Middle Ages. Other cultures have proposed deities that are immanent in Nature rather than external, plural rather than singular, and sometimes impersonal rather than personal (e.g. Brahman, the Tao).

Why should we assume automatically that gods, if they exist, are anything like what we humans imagine them to be? The Universe revealed to us by modern science has certainly come as a shock, comparing it with ancient cosmologies. Even the "sophisticated" Christian philosopher would have to admit that the divine, whatever it may be (if it exists at all) is an extremely subtle phenomenon, since it has not been detected by our most sensitive instrumentation. On what basis should we assume that ancient peoples, who were completely in error concerning the things we can reliably discern with our scientific instrumentation (e.g. the size and workings of the physical cosmos) would be spot on with regards to some transcendent something-or-other existing beyond all space and time? That's just nonsense on stilts!

Craig and other Christian apologists wielding these "sophisticated" arguments are counting on us to just let them sneak by with the unspoken and unvalidated premise that "the Christian God = the only possible sort of god." The vast panoply of human religious and spiritual thought completely destroys this premise. Without it, all of the "sophisticated" arguments fail to accomplish their goal of establishing Christianity (and not every other religion) as a rational viewpoint.

For example, even if the Cosmological Argument above were irrefutable in all its steps, there is no reason to assume only one transcendent Mind, or to assume that it's male, (i.e. the Christian God rather than the Goddess of the Minoans), that it has multiple personality disorder (the Trinity), that it ghost-writes books like the Bible or the Quran, or that the Bible, rather than the Quran, the Vedas, or the ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, is the (only) book that it ghost-wrote.

Watch for this smuggled premise in each of the other arguments as this series progresses.


1. In his introduction the Teleological Argument, Craig spurts out the name of William Dembski, which calls into question his ability to pick credible sources.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Why Are Atheists So Angry?

A response to Dinesh D'Souza's post, "Why Are Atheists So Angry."

Dinesh, you say "angry" like it's a bad thing. Is that so? Is anger really a sign of moral failing as you imply?

If so, why is it that Christians and the authors of Scripture so often wax eloquent about the "wrath of God"?

Let's say you had a dog that got into the garbage, or did something else worthy of punishment. In response, you rig up a system by which you can keep the dog continually in agony without killing him. And let's say that for ten years you listen to the dog's howls of torment with teeth gritted in fury thinking, 'You deserve it, you bastard!' before your wrath is sated and you can put the dog out of its misery.

You'd have to be awfully mad at that dog to do that, wouldn't you? Most likely, anger and vindictiveness like that is not something you would really be capable of. You or nearly any human being, save for the sort a sane society would have to keep trussed up like Hannibal Lechter in "Silence of the Lambs."

Now, the canonical Gospels portray Jesus (that great icon of peace and mercy) as claiming that God will torture people in fire *forever* for failing to have the proper set of beliefs. After Gandhi has screamed in agony for ten trillion years for the crime of believing in the wrong deities, King Tutankhamun for having been born a few centuries before Yahweh decided to start any of his One True Religions, etc., the nightmare is only just beginning.

Yahweh will continue to hear the cries of the damned with teeth gritted in fury thinking, 'You deserve it, you bastards!'...forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever. If the New Testament is to be believed, the creator of hundreds of billions of galaxies will never, ever be at peace in his own heart (or equivalent thereof), for all eternity.

While he may dote on the relative handful of people who managed to grovel before him in the proper way so as to become his little pets, he will still spend all of eternity seething with wrath at the majority of his children, whom he tortures unrelentingly.

Think about that for a moment. Think about the sheer magnitude of hate, anger, and sadism it would take for any being to want any other being to suffer so horribly, and keep right on suffering, forever.

Now, if you are going to worship a being whom you believe manifests anger and hate on this level and call this being the epitome of moral perfection, what basis could you possibly have for criticizing the anger of an atheist who merely writes commentary in a book?

You imply that atheists are hypocritical, since they cannot really believe God does not exist if they're so angry at him. The immediate flaw in this 'analysis' is that if atheists "really" believed in God (and did not choose to toady before him in hopes of currying his favor), their response would be one of stark terror, unless they had some expectation of being able to defeat God somehow. At the very least, we would expect "atheists-who-really-believe-in-god" to invest in a chariot of iron (Judges 1:19).

"Atheism" as an untrue denial by someone who actually believes in God would be silliness on the par of a capitalist in Stalin's Russia saying, "Bah! Stalin doesn't exist!"

That is, if we define "God" as some omnipotent super-spirit of the Universe. It is quite possible and rational to say that the Biblical God does exist--as an idea. People can hate ideas and the practical results of those ideas without agreeing that the ideas are true. In fact, it is more common for people to hate ideas they genuinely consider to be false. Or would you accuse the people who show up at Ku Klux Klan rallies to shout angrily at the Klansmen of being closet racists themselves?

As to the claim that the Biblical deity exists as anything other than an idea in people's heads:

You feel a stabbing pain in your side, and you think it could be appendicitis. Quick! What do you do?

A) Call the elders of the church so you can be healed by the prayer of faith (James 5:14-15)

B) Call 911 and have an ambulance take you to the hospital

If you chose "B," you are acting on the premise that the passage in James is inaccurate, that healing comes from science and reason and human effort, rather than the miraculous power of God. Oh, you can try to give God credit for the surgeon's skill afterwards (regardless of whether the surgeon was an atheist or a Hindu or some brand of Christian you consider to be heretical), but when push comes to shove, you trust in "the arm of man" rather than in God.

You live in the same godless Universe we do.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

They're Not "Fascists"

The time has come to debunk the neoconservatives' favorite propaganda term "Islamo-fascism," and the nuttiness and folly that derives from it. As despicable as fundamentalist Islamic ideology may be, it is not Nazism any more than it is Maoism or Stalinism. Ideologically, culturally, and organizationally, Al Qaeda and the Nazi Party could hardly be more different.


Nazism teaches that everything, including religion, should be an adjunct to the modern bureaucratic-industrial State, with the Fuhrer as the embodiment of the will of the Volk. Militant Islam rejects the State (as it has existed since the Treaty of Westphalia), favoring a society governed entirely by religion, via clerical rulers, and under Sharia law as revealed in the Koran. Islamist societies are organized along clan/tribal lines under a clerical judiciary. Nazism stands for "National Socialism." Radical Islam is neither National (bound inseparably to any State) nor "Socialist." Osama bin Laden is a mult-millinaire semi-capitalist, from a rich and decidedly non-socialist family and society.

The Fuhrerprinzip ("Fuhrer Principle") was an essential doctrine of Nazism. Radical Islam has no equivalent. It operates in decentralized cells, united by religious doctrine, rather than a centralized Party/State apparatus. Even Osama bin Laden is no Fuhrer, as he deferred meekly to Mullah Omar during the Taliban rule, and has no direct hierarchical control over the Islamic militant movement.

Another core doctrine of Nazism is the supremacy of the Aryan Master Race. Osama bin Laden would be hard-pressed to mobilize a single platoon of Tall Blond Brutes, much less a new Waffen SS. He would be utterly doomed if he tried to restrict Al Qaeda membership to non-Semites (Arabs are Semites) of Nordic extraction. Militant Islam transcends race. The movement includes Arabs, Persians (Iranians), blacks (Somalis, Sudanese), Asians (Fillipinos, Indonesians), and even a few whites.


Nazism celebrated the State and the collective will of the German Volk. Think of the Nuremburg rallies. Islam arguably doesn't recognize the modern State at all. Apart from secular dictatorships Islamists want to overthrow, the nations of the Muslim world are governed according to sectarian, tribal and personal loyalties, rather than allegiance to the abstraction of the State. It is precisely the State-lessness of the Islamists that makes this a "different kind of war." When was the last time anyone saw an Al-Qaeda army marching in perfect unison under Roman-style standards bearing swastikas, to the sound of a Sieg-Heiling crowd?

Though Nazism taught that women had their "place" (Kirche, Kuche, Kinder--Church, Kitchen, Children), it still possessed a Western, even semi-Pagan acceptance of female sexuality. Have you ever seen that bizarre Nazi film of pretty, but nearly-identical, almost Borg-like young women in miniskirts exercising in perfect unison with hula hoops, showing off their lissome Aryan bodies? Not the sort of thing we'd see broadcast under the Taleban, or on Iranian National Television.

In terms of religion, the Third Reich was a mixture of Christianity and restored Germanic paganism, with the Christianity dominant (nobeliefs.com/Hitler1.htm) Radical Islam is...well...Islamic, isn't it?


The Nazi Party and State were strictly centralized, top-down, hierarchical organizations. Once those centralized institutions were destroyed, the Nazi Party ceased to be a significant force on the world stage. The "Werewolves" (an attempted Nazi insurgency) never amounted to anything in post-WWII Germany. The Islamists have no Party or State apparatus. Even if we were to find and kill Osama bin Laden, fundamentalist Islam would continue to exist, if not get stronger as a result of his "martyrdom." OBL's power is derived from his status as a semi-mythic symbol of their movement, not his direct control of State military forces or Secret Police units.

From beginning to end, Nazism was organized around uniformed paramilitary and military units. Osama has not one single such unit to his name. He has no Brown Shirts, no Wermacht, no Luftwaffe, no Kriegsmarine. He has no Gestapo or SS. His forces are all irregulars, and currently control no significant territory.

If we must attempt to turn Islamic Fundamentalists into some other enemy from America's past, there is one they have a lot more in common with, in terms of their organization, equipment, tactics, etc.: The Viet Cong. But then, we have a good reason not to go around calling Osama bin Laden the next Ho Chi Minh, don't we? "Islamo-VC," anyone?

Since calling OBL and his ilk "Islamo-Fascists" is clearly absurd, why do it? Simple: it's propaganda. The Nazis are the one, single enemy in all world history that it's indisputably OK to hate. If we tried calling them "Islamo-Stalinists," there would be those who still think the Worker's Paradise was a good idea, poorly executed, who wouldn't be swayed. Call them Islamo-Kamikazes, and the War Party would be confronted with the internment of the Japanese and the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Pick any other enemy the U.S. has waged war against, all the way back to the War of Independence ("Oh, come on, those stamp taxes weren't so bad!"), and you can find some people willing to empathize with the other side.

The Nazis though...well, all you have to do to portray Evil in a movie is dress it in a Nazi uniform (e.g. Star Wars, Indiana Jones). We'll overlook the firebombing of Dresden even as we wring hands over Hiroshima because the folks in Dresden were, well, Nazis. If we can slap a swastika on somebody, it's more than OK to kill them, and anyone who appears to support them, or who just happens to live within the blast radius of their hideout.

Furthermore, should anyone ever question the latest war do jour, the Administration can invoke the specter of Neville Chamberlain and label any critics as “appeasers.” And so, we get a spectacle of bizarre mutant Hitlers springing up all over the world whenever the US wants to start putting "steel on target."

Slobodan Milosovic, a Slavic "Hitler" whose tiny country was a client state of Russia.

Saddam Hussein, an Arab "Hitler" whose “Fourth Reich” was so poorly equipped, American forces could crush his “Wermacht” while suffering fewer casualties than in training operations of comparable scale.

Osama bin Laden, a “Hitler” leading his “Fourth Reich”...er, decentralized, non-State guerrilla insurgency...from a cave.

Hugo Chavez, whose tin-horn oil-funded socialist regime is no doubt poised to conquer the planet with its vast and technologically superior military-industrial complex.

President Ahmadinejad of Iran, certified nutjob whose virtually figurehead role is certainly a novel application of the Fuhrerprinzip.

Perhaps the only reason the U.S. never called Mohammad Aideed (that Somali warlord they were never able to catch) or the thugs in Rwanda "Hitler" is that A) the American government doesn't seem to care that much about oil-less African countries, and B) even the folks in Texas might not buy the idea of a black "Hitler."

Not one of these odd Boys From Brazil comes close to Adolf Hitler in terms of power or scale of criminality. To label every two-bit thug the U.S. government doesn’t like a new “Hitler” is an insult to the entire World War II generation. To every Londoner who kept a stiff upper lip while huddling in a bomb shelter during the Blitz…to everyone who endured shortages and rationing so that the economic output of their entire nation could be mobilized for the fight…to every man who stormed the beaches of Normandy or fought in the Battle of the Bulge, or faced Rommel in the desert, or the Russians who lost nearly 11 million people fighting the Nazis on the Eastern Front.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Return of the Qadoshin

In ancient times, the cultures of the Near East had priestesses who served in the temples of goddesses of fertility and pleasure, embodying the Goddess in sexual rites. These women were as highly-regarded in their day as other clergy are in ours. Their beauty, and the power they possessed to give pleasure and bring forth life were regarded as sacred.

The Hebrew word for these women is “Qadoshin,” meaning literally, “Holy Woman.” The ancient Hebrew priests and prophets hated these women and what they represented so much that they slaughtered them and anyone who honored them and worshipped the Goddess. Naturally, the word “Qadoshin” is translated “harlot” or “prostitute” in our English Bibles.

Thanks to the efforts of the ancient Hebrews and their Gentile successors, we now live in a world where a life-sized statue of a man being brutally tortured to death, with blood running down his emaciated flesh can be hung in a church for all to see, while a picture of a beautiful naked woman is universally regarded as “obscene.” Pictures of Iraqi bodies lying in pools of drying blood or torture from Abu Gharib elicit little more than a shrug. Janet Jackson’s breast, seen for a fraction of a second, brings forth howls of protest and a fine to the network of more than half a million dollars.

Can this be regarded as sane or healthy? What does this say about America as a society?

Fortunately, the Qadoshin is making a comeback. Maybe just in time to save the world. In 1997, photographer Eolake Stobblehouse created a website called Domai.com, featuring beautiful photographs of utterly lovely, naked women, along with articles about respect for women and adoration of beauty. This is not a porn site. You will find no painted, soulless creatures with gigantic mutant siliconized breasts engaged in uglified sex acts here. These are real, natural women who embody Goddess in all her rapturous majesty.

[Warning: If the sight of a beautiful naked woman frightens you, think twice before clicking the following links or visiting Domai.com. They could be drive you stark staring sane]

Can the Qadoshin still fill her holy office today? Consider this letter featured on the site:

Tonight ... tonight, I sure needed this.

Needed Ekattrina's set, needed Ekattrina ... Needed to "connect" with someone like her. Never guessing it, just knowing something was lacking. You know...?

Rainy night. Streets slick and whiny with wheels slishing outside my window. Just got home a bit ago from a party of people that looked like "death warmed over," you know...? People who acted like they were just going through the motions, people who acted ... Yes, people who *acted*. The faces and smiles they put on looked so false, like replications of faces they'd seen and thought they could get away with looking that way & tricking people into thinking they were sincere.

Well, it *was* a party where people were looking for people to impress, to make good connections with. I left early, slipped out. That kind of connection I can do without. And I knew I'd be of no help. So when I came home & logged on to your site, little did I expect to see someone with a smile so... so... rewarding, renewing, rejuvenating as Ekattrina's. Her unusually easy invitation of a smile, so accepting and without guile, without tease, only just an acceptance -- a willingness and pleasure at some inner thoughts playing across her eyes. The positions of her hands so unself-conscious and graceful, the slight tilting of her head. As if she were listening to me ramble ... Like I am right now.


That bright forest, that bright smile, those unforgettable eyes ... so assured and smiling even in their untold depths ... The camera "snapped" them together, rapping them in time and then sent them on the internet to the universe, all unknowing, all trusting. My eyes, at least, are where they've landed, caught for a moment. And it's the only thing I can do, to smile back...at her image, at you, through you, through the camera's small end of a telescope knowing it's certainly diminished in time & space but nonetheless hoping something like gratitude finds its way to her heart. Who knows but a thought like this might warm her heart somehow...

Who knows where her smile has ended, whether she smiles that way today... I only know that her smile in that brightly lit forest has brought a measure of spring's eternal hopes into this long winter night. She, Ekattrina, and Mikhail, and you, Eolake, have all given me something subtle, sure, but don't ever forget that it is enduring...

Think about that. This young woman, simply by being who she is, and allowing her beauty and spritual loveliness to be captured on film and unleashed on the Internet, was able to bring joy to a heartbroken man she will never meet. Is this not what a "minister" is supposed to do? Scroll back up to the top of this article, or behold her in all her glory if you dare. Can you look into those beautiful brown eyes and tell her that she is anything but holy, or that this magnificent joy-creating power of hers is "obscene?"

If you can't... If you are like me, and the sight of her brings a radiant sunrise of adoration in your heart, then you might want to consider defending her and everything she stands for. Domai.com has pioneered a movement toward restoring the sacredness of the feminine in our time. Who knows? Perhaps it can turn us away from the dominator culture's quest for "full-spectrum supremacy" in time to save us from ourselves.

Towards Real Security from Nuclear Terrorism

Our present response to the threat of nuclear terrorism is a complete farce. And an incredibly dangerous one.

The recent brouhaha over the Dubai Ports World deal, along with all of the political posturing ignore a basic fact of physics. For the benefit of our esteemed political leadership, I will try to make this very, very simple: a nuclear bomb makes a really, really big explosion when it goes off.

What this means is that by the time any port worker--whether he’s from Dubai, or someplace Wholesome and American like Amarillo, Texas—can even see the ship a nuclear weapon is on, it is already too late. Too late for him to allow it in as part of a Nefarious Islamic Plot. Too late for him to Heroically Defend America by inspecting the container it’s in. Because, a nuclear bomb makes a really, really big explosion when it goes off.

A nuclear weapon does not need to reach the shore to destroy a major American port and cause incalculable damage to our economy and society. It need only reach the port itself, and go off before even the most vigilant Customs inspectors have a chance to find it and cut the red wire just as the timer reaches zero.

In the article linked above, Robert Pfriender offers a solution far too sensible for the political Establishment to take seriously. He proposes that offshore inspection facilities be built entirely with private funds, where every container coming to the United States will be physically opened and its contents inspected. The company (his) would earn its revenue from a small inspection fee per container. These inspection ports would be located far enough offshore that a nuclear explosion there would not seriously affect the American coast.

That this could be done at no cost to the government virtually insures Congress will not approve the plan. Pfriender would have done better to design it as a massively expensive pork-barrel project involving as many strategically chosen Congressional districts as possible. This is, after all, how we get a ‘reusable’ spacecraft that has to be virtually taken apart and rebuilt after each launch, which turns out to be far more expensive than expendable space vehicles, and a multi-million dollar high-tech fighter-jet with goodies like vectored thrust and the latest Stealth technology (the F-22) with no enemy to fight, unless the flying saucers come.

However, even Pfreinder’s proposal would not truly seal the door against nuclear terrorism. If every single shipping container coming into the United States were inspected by conscientious agents who could not be bribed or threatened, a nuclear weapon could still be smuggled into—or just close enough to—the United States on a private yacht, fishing trawler, or private airplane. Any terrorist network well-heeled enough to gain access to a nuclear warhead and the knowledge necessary to detonate it would be able to afford such a vehicle to transport it in.

Or, they could smuggle it across one of our borders, along with the millions of illegal immigrants and thousands of tons of drugs that make it across. In short: if terrorists get their hands on a nuclear weapon and the know-how to use it, they will find a way to get it into the US. It is neither possible nor desirable to create a Fortress America in which every vehicle attempting to enter the United States is boarded and searched.

What then can be done? A real program of nuclear security can be created, if it is based on a simple, practical principle: track the nuclear materials, not people and goods. In addition to avoiding the expensive, potentially totalitarian, and ultimately futile “solution” of comprehensively tracking people and goods, this approach goes to the root, focusing on the far easier task of monitoring a relatively small quantity of nuclear materials.

A Comprehensive Nuclear Security Program

A nuclear weapon detonated by terrorists in any major port would not only cause horrendous loss of life, it would cause incalculable damage to the world economy, and perhaps even to civilization itself as governments and peoples panic. The adoption of a comprehensive nuclear security program is no longer a matter of ‘national security.’ It is a matter of survival for the human race. Adoption of such a program will cost us some of our cherished illusions. Failure to adopt it could literally cost us the world.

Nuclear Warfare is in No One’s Interest

First, it must be emphasized that no one wins a nuclear war. No one. Islamic radicals might imagine that they could gain if a mushroom cloud sprouted over a major U.S. city. To disabuse themselves of this allusion, they should look at the massive carnage that has thus far resulted from the American reaction to 9-11, an event of almost infinitesimal magnitude compared to a nuclear attack.

The United States has 10,000 nuclear warheads at its disposal, and a significant portion of its politically-powerful elite who believe in an inevitable “Clash of Civilizations” between Islam and the West. Who would want to wager on the continuing existence of Mecca and Medina, or Tehran—or any major Muslim city from Algiers to Islamabad, in the wake of a nuclear attack on America?

Nor is it in the interest of the United States. We have no chance of controlling nuclear proliferation while we “modernize” our own nuclear arsenal to include new nuclear weapons designed not for deterrence but for preemptive use against non-nuclear adversaries. As long as it is our stated policy to consider the “nuclear option” as a way to deal with deeply-buried bunkers, we can only expect hostile nations to seek—and consider using—nuclear weapons of their own.

Nuclear warfare is no safer for the U.S. or the world now than it was during the Cold War. To achieve nuclear security, we must be willing to accept this fact, and impress its importance in our communications with other nations and non-state actors.

Complete, Global Accountability for Nuclear Weapons and Materials

If the United States is to have any chance of being secure from the threat of nuclear terrorism, we must seek a complete, transparent international accounting of every single nuclear weapon on Planet Earth. Yes, that means ours too, and those of friendly nations like Israel. Every nation must be able to have an equal degree of trust in the system. Every nation must be able to, in the words of Ronald Reagan, “trust, but verify.”

The credibility of the system must be such that any nation that refuses to participate, or attempts to hide any aspect of its nuclear capability will find itself completely isolated, and at the top of the “suspect list” should a nuclear terror incident take place. The system must be created in such a way that even “rogue” states like North Korea find it in their interests to join and participate.

In proposing such a system, the United States will have to take significant actions to establish its own credibility and seriousness:

· Repudiate the concept of “bunker buster” nukes.

· End the use of Depleted Uranium (DU) weaponry.

· Establish, as a Federal statute, a no-first strike policy.

· Provide a complete, comprehensive accounting of its own nuclear arsenal and other WMD to the nations of the world.

· End the policy of preemptive war based on claims of telepathy and precognition, i.e. in “response” to another nation’s alleged “intent” to build or use WMD.

· Initiate a unilateral program of nuclear disarmament aimed at cutting our nuclear arsenal in half, in advance of further disarmament negotiations with other nations.

· Require Israel to disclose the nature and extent of its nuclear arsenal as a condition of continued U.S. aid and support.

From this moral high ground, the U.S. will be in a position to seek the international cooperation necessary to make global nuclear security possible. At present and for the foreseeable future, the only entity on Earth capable of creating nuclear weapons is a State. The only way a terrorist will be able to acquire a nuclear weapon, is from a State. Therefore, every State must be required to provide a full accounting of its nuclear arsenal, including regular and surprise on-site inspections and remote camera monitoring of every nuclear weapon.

Furthermore, the extraction, refining, and enrichment of nuclear materials must likewise be subject to comprehensive, internationally transparent monitoring.

Global Nuclear Disarmament

Since it is easier to monitor and guard, say, 200 nuclear weapons than 10,000, it is in the interest of every nation to foster and participate in a global nuclear disarmament initiative. This initiative will be designed to limit the arsenals of the major nuclear powers to a small number still sufficient for mutual deterrence (say, one or two hundred warheads each) and the smaller nuclear powers such as North Korea, Pakistan, and Israel to a lesser number such as ten warheads each.

Gaining universal agreement for such a program will not be easy. This is why it is of the utmost importance for the United States to acquire the moral high ground and credibility needed to pressure holdout nations with widespread international backing.

Swords to Plowshares

As a further incentive to nuclear disarmament, the United States should foster large-scale development of peaceful uses for nuclear energy. As the world nears (if it has not already reached) Peak Oil, new sources of energy will be needed to meet rising global energy demand. Industrial-scale facilities for “impoverishing” weapons-grade nuclear material (transforming it into fuel-grade material unsuitable for weapons) should be constructed and put into use.

Creation of new, modern breeder-reactor nuclear power plants in the developed world, as well as in the energy-hungry, rapidly-expanding economies of India and China should be promoted. Nuclear-powered desalination plants to turn seawater into fresh water for irrigation should also be created to help increase food production in arid regions, such as Africa.

Nuclear Rocketry

Nuclear-thermal rockets generate a specific impulse twice that of chemical rockets. With this extra power, nuclear rockets can be made much more robust than chemical rockets and still offer huge advantages in power and performance. With nuclear-thermal rockets, trips to Mars and the asteroids would take weeks instead of years.

Such expanded space-exploration capability would offer not only access to the vast resources of the solar system and the ability to undertake large-scale projects such as solar power satellites and “space mirrors” designed to reduce global warming by reflecting sunlight away from Earth, it would give us the ability to divert a "dinosaur killer" asteroid away from our planet.

Furthermore, exceptionally-robust nuclear-thermal rockets could be used to propel dangerous-but-unusable nuclear waste on ballistic trajectories toward the Sun. While some may blanch at the idea of putting nuclear materials aboard a rocket, the risk of launch would be temporary. Once away from the Earth and headed for the Sun, nuclear waste would never threaten us again, ever.

If a sufficiently robust and safe nuclear-thermal rocket cannot be designed, nuclear energy could still be used to power a laser or microwave-powered ground-based launch system that would launch vehicles with no on-board nuclear power systems.

As a source of energy after Peak Oil and a key to practical human access to the Solar System, nuclear materials become a valuable resource wasted in nuclear warheads. Therefore, powerful economic and social incentives are created to reduce nuclear arsenals to the minimum necessary. For non-nuclear powers, nuclear weapons would be seen for what they really are: a wasteful and potentially dangerous folly.

Some estimates suggest that the world’s supply weapons-grade plutonium could be depleted in 50 years were it employed as a major energy source in response to Peak Oil. Adding a robust, widespread program of space exploration and settlement using nuclear-thermal rockets could accelerate this process. Which would be a Good Thing. Weapons-grade nuclear materials are a resource that should be depleted, as soon as possible.

In place of nuclear terror, the world could have a new Renaissance and Age of Exploration, and rising standards of living fueled by nuclear energy until renewable energy sources are ready to fill Earth’s energy needs. Rush Limbaugh has famously said that the only way to get rid of nuclear weapons is to use them [1]. Then let’s use them—for energy and rocket thrust, not our extermination. A future of hope for all humanity that by its very promise, could also help to “drain the swamp” of hopelessness and nihilism in which terrorist ideology breeds.


1. This is one of Limbaugh’s “Undeniable Truths of Life,” a claim on his part that (conventional) nuclear disarmament proposals are impractical. However, conventional disarmament proposals which call for destruction of nuclear weapons followed by costly and risky disposal of radioactive material, offer economic disincentives rather than the economic incentives proposed here.
O, Print Me A Home...

Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California has developed a 3-D printing technology suitable for building large structures such as homes or commercial facilities. Called Contour Crafting, it could be used to create a single house or a whole neighborhood of houses in a single production run. Each house could have a different design, and all conduits for plumbing, wiring and air conditioning would be built...er, printed in.

As with current rapid prototyping technology, CC would build a home layer by layer from a variety of materials ranging from various ceramics to adobe. The goal is to be able to create a 2000 square-foot, one-story building in one day from a 3-D model in a computer. The system employs a robotic crane mounted on tracks similar to a container ship crane. It has enormous potential for saving lives and resources, while providing creatively-designed and affordable homes.

From the Contour Crafting website:

Every year in the United States, 400,000 workers are seriously injured or killed doing construction work. Construction work is dangerous and takes to high a toll on human life and human resources. Resulting litigation from work place injuries areincreasingly raising the overall costs of construction. Waste is also a major concern for conventional construction methods. Construction of a typical single family home generates a waste stream of 3 to 7 tons. Globally more than 40 percent of all raw materials are consumed in the construction process. Construction, in addition to wasting valuable resources, contributes significantly to environmentally harmful emissions.

Building a contour-crafted structure would create virtually no waste, and since it is a robotic production method, it would create no danger for workers. One "objection" to this process would be the loss of high-paying, if risky, construction jobs. However, combined with renewable energy and an efficient recycling and resource-utilization technology, CC could help usher in an "internet of things" in which "stuff" is free or nearly free, so that humans can be liberated from the job culture to engage in more creative and life-affirming things than "work."

Monday, January 09, 2006

A Science of the Divine?

In an intriguing article, Stephen Kosslyn proposes as his most "dangerous" idea the proposal that God is both real and accessible to science:

Here's an idea that many academics may find unsettling and dangerous: God exists. And here's another idea that many religious people may find unsettling and dangerous: God is not supernatural, but rather part of the natural order.

Simply stating these ideas in the same breath invites them to scrape against each other, and sparks begin to fly. To avoid such conflict, Stephen Jay Gould famously argued that we should separate religion and science, treating them as distinct "magisteria." But science leads many of us to try to understand all that we encounter with a single, grand and glorious overarching framework. In this spirit, let me try to suggest one way in which the idea of a "supreme being" can fit into a scientific worldview. I offer the following not to advocate the ideas, but rather simply to illustrate one (certainly not the only) way that the concept of God can be approached scientifically.

1.0. First, here's the specific conception of God I want to explore: God is a "supreme being" that transcends space and time, permeates our world but also stands outside of it, and can intervene in our daily lives (partly in response to prayer).

To begin a science of the divine, we will need a workable concept of what a God/Goddess is, and to clear away some theological misunderstandings that have pitted science and religion against each other. Then we will need to ask what sort of tools and methodologies are available to would-be theologists [1] who seek to validate or falsify the existence of Deity/-ies and study/experience them to a greater degree, if It/They exist.

Here on Intelligent Universe, I have made initial explorations of two different concepts of "god," the "memetic" and the "cosmic." These two categories are not necessarily exhaustive, but they do seem to cover the two main types of gods found in human religions.

A "memetic god" exists as a "software persona" dwelling in a community of human hosts. It may be thought of as a human personality that has learned how to transmit itself from one human to another. Memetic gods think, act, and feel in recognizably human ways, and have human psychological needs and in some religions, physical needs to be met through sacrifices. An M-god can be recognized by its need for worshippers, and the importance to it of mechanisms for transferring it to other hosts, such as statues, oral traditions (myths), Scriptures, and so on.

A "cosmic" god is more abstract; inconceivably vast, "beyond human understanding," non-anthropomorphic, and linked either to the Cosmos or to some even greater "reality" that transcends Universe--or even renders it an illusion by comparison.

"Cosmic" gods are either impersonal, or their personalities consist of things such as “pure Awareness” “perfect Love” or other capitalized attributes that do not correspond exactly to their human counterparts. Examples of “cosmic” gods include the god of Deism, Brahmin from Hinduism, the god of Pantheism, Paul Tillich’s “Ground of Being,” and the “Cosmic” or “Christ Consciousness” of the New Age movement.

The gods of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) seem to be a hybrid of the two, combining super-cosmic scale and assertions of non-anthropomorphic nature [2] with decidedly human motivations and needs, such as their urgent need to be obeyed and praised by their human subjects, exhibited in demands and behaviors that exactly mirror those of human kings and dictators.

Another approach to the subject of gods is the idea that accelerating advancement of technology will make it possible for humans to create godlike levels of intelligence, immortality, and power for themselves [3]. This is a whole new spin on the cliché that “if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.” [4]

From this beginning, it may be possible to construct a genuine science of the divine. By “science,” I mean “a systematic effort to set in order the facts of experience,” which is not necessarily limited to the activities of people in lab coats with beakers and blackboards covered with equations, or the acceptance of caricatured assumptions such as “everything is the result of pointless, random collisions of material particles.” Forthcoming discussion will appear in the Comments section.


1. I use the term "theologist" to denote someone who studies gods in the same way a "biologist" studies life. In contrast, a "theologian" is someone whose job is to defend some particular orthodoxy against all comers. A "Christian theologian" cannot study the gods of ancient Egypt objectively any more than a "Muslim theologian" can objectively examine the Christian concept of God. A theologist is not bound this way, any more than a biologist is bound to consider only mammals as "true" life and all others (e.g. insects, fish, birds, plants) as "false" life.

2. Example: “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,’” declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” --Isaiah 55:8-9

3. See Ray Kurzweil’s book, The Singularity is Near.

4. And Her.