One argument that I tackled in an earlier post was the fine tuning argument. I thought about it for a while, and I thought of one of my interests: Astronomy. I realized that there are thousands of galaxies and millions of stars and planets out there. So are we really “fine tuned”? Why us and not any one of the other millions of planets? Why haven’t we found life on other planets? For those of you who do not know much about cosmology or astronomy there is a certain Goldilocks zone that a planet must be in to sustain liquid water. It is called the Goldilocks zone because the planet must have an eccentricity (orbit) of about .2. Kepler came up with a scale for measuring a planet’s orbit (his first law: The orbit of every planet is an ellipse with the Sun at one of the two foci) from a perfect circle to more of an oval (from 0 to 1). A 0 is a perfect circle while you get closer to 1 it becomes more of an oval. So is it by chance that the earth has an eccentricity of .2? Yes. This may be a disturbing and difficult concept for us to grasp, but it is true. Let me demonstrate with an example. Think of your birthday. Let’s say that it is today’s date April 1st. Imagine you are in a room with one other person, what is the chance that they will have the same birthday as you? Probably very low. As you add more people to the room the chance that someone will have the same birthday as you increases. When there are 34 people in a room with you there is a 4 to 1 chance that someone else will have the same birthday as you. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself. With only 34 people in a room (35 including you) pass around a piece of paper and tell everyone to write down their birthday. You will get at least one other person in the room with the same birthday as you. So what does this prove? This shows us, that if there are millions of planets orbiting suns all over the Universe it is extremely likely that a few of them will be able to sustain intelligent life on them. So now I must ask, where is the fine tuning? This seems more like laws acting around us rather than some supernatural being fine tuning this planet to have intelligent life. With the small amount of space that we have explored, we can conclude that there are more than 4 trillion planets orbiting other suns. With a number like that there must be hundreds of planets that have intelligent life on them. Probably extremely far away from us, father than our telescopes of space ships can take us. However, statistically it is highly probable that we are not alone in this gigantic Universe, and so the fine tuning argument is dead.
For hundreds of years it has been thought that this world is a result of God. God made everything we see, hear, touch, etc. but is this really the case? In science, once a theory has been proposed it is tested in a way to try to disprove it. If it cannot be disproved, then it works. Does God work?
In an earlier post i took some religious claims and how science has refuted them. In a way I am simply continuing that post. However, I want to look at something different: human nature. Why do we do the things we do? Why do we pray? Why do we have these rituals? The answer is easy, yet complex. The easy answer is conditioning. Conditioning is an extremely powerful tool that has been used ever since human beings have existed. There are many psychological studies done on conditioning. I will use an example to explain further. Imagine a baby sitting in a square. Babies are predisposed by nature (like all human beings) to examine their surroundings. If, every time they move to a corner of the square they are given food, they will move toward a corner, rather than a side of the square when they are hungry. So, the baby concludes that the will not get food at. The sides of the square. However, as a parent you can choose to give the baby food when it moves to a side rather than a corner, so the babies conclusion is false. The easy way to explain this is a hot stove (I’m sure that you know where I’m going with this). You feel pain when you touch it and learn not to. This can be applied to groups quite easily and worked more effectively on ancient people. Lets look at prayer. What does prayer do? I always say that prayer is a form of mental masturbation (not to be confused with physical masturbation). Prayer feels great to the person doing it, but does nothing to the person you’re thinking of. So why do we pray? There are actually more answers than simply conditioning (although conditioning is a large part of it). If, every time you pray you stubbed your toe, at some point you would associate prayer with stubbing your toe, and you would not do it. Inversely, if every time you pray, you find a dollar on the ground you would pray more and associate prayer with getting money. However, the primary flaw of this kind of reasoning is that correlation does not equal causation. Just like with the baby in the square they found a correlation with corners and food and to them going into a corner causes food to come, but that is incorrect. Just like prayer being the cause of finding a dollar or stubbing your toe is incorrect. Obviously, in the real world, you would not get those results EVERY TIME you pray, but more likely less than half the time. It does not make prayer any less effective to the human mind if it doesn’t “work” every time. In fact, it only really has to work once you someone to equate correlation and causation.
I did say there are more reasons that people pray, and they can actually add to the conditioning process FOR prayer being effective and lead people to find conditioning against prayer less effective. One example is nurture. If you are brought up to believe that prayer is true and actually does something, you will be harder to condition out of that frame of mind. Lets take the above example of stubbing your toe when you pray. If you stub your toe 9 or of 10 times you pray, BUT find 10 dollars 1 or of 10 times (and were conditioned by nurture to believe in prayer) then prayer would have worked in your mind. This principle is seen when someone goes to see a psychic. First let me say, there are no real psychics. They use a technique called cold reading. They make vague general statements that apply to almost every human being on the planet (Ex. You are introverted for the most part, but sometimes feel the need to be extroverted — well duh!). If you do go to get a psychic reading i highly suggest you record the whole thing. Listen to it and count the times that the psychic gets something wrong. I guarantee it will outweigh the times they get something right. So how do they stay in business? When someone goes to a psychic they will often times only remember the things that the psychic gets RIGHT. We will often forget the things they get wrong and focus on what they got right. Why do we do this? We do this for an intrinsic reason, that is we want to believe, we want some greater meaning in our lives. This idea is something that really drives religion. A grater meaning, a greater cause. Convince someone they are more important than they are, and that person will really like you. The same thing with God. If a belief in God makes you feel as though your like means more, or that there is more out there it will fill you with a sense of wonder and awe and will be more inclined to believe it.
There is an overarching problem here. That is all the wonder and awe in the world won’t make a falsehood any more real. If feeling good could cure cancer, bring world peace, and feed everyone in the world then we wouldn’t have any more wars after the 70’s. The facts are that prayer does nothing more than make you feel like you are contributing to a solution to some problem and take up your time. Similar religious rituals are the same way. None of them do anything other than make you feel good, and that does not make it correct. The facts may not fit into the way you see the world, but they are what is true and nothing will change that.
This is a photo of Akkadian hieroglyphs depicting none other than the Genesis account of the snake deceiving Eve to eat the apple. Genesis was a plagiarism from more ancient mythology (the Akkadian/Babylonian myths. Much like the Epic of Gilgamesh)
One thing that has perplexed me is how Jesus came to be regarded as the one true God. When I was young I just accepted that as fact because I did not possess the intellectual capabilities to question things I was told by people who were supposed to lead me. Now I am a student of ancient history and after some research I found out that Jesus was not the only person during the first century to be claiming they were the Messiah. In the words of Michael Shermer “There was a plague of Messiahs.” This only raised more questions: why don’t we know about any of these other people? How did Jesus rise to the top of the charts? Did Jesus appeal to ancient people more than these other prophets? What if Jesus was the wrong choice? I have a few more questions, but I’ll leave it with the ones I already have. I have some thoughts about these questions but the reason that I throw them out to the public is I really want to hear what others think about it because I could be wrong.
Lets look at the first question (we’ll call (1)): I don’t think we know about these other prophets because they were prophets to a dead religion, or just didn’t have as many followers. I think that the fact that these people must not have had as many followers answers (2). Let us not forget that Jesus was a Jew, and Judaism is not only an ancient religion, but one that has survived and became a predominant religion today. To answer (3) I think we would have to look at the popularity of the Jewish religion during the first century. Then we would have to see how many Jews recognized Jesus as the son of God. I think in this case there was a small following of Jesus, however his message of love and kindness appealed to people more. George Carlin said that someone’s popularity skyrockets after they die, and I think this is true. The thing that happened with Jesus is not what he did, but what his followers did. They were essentially transcontinental Jehovah’s Witnesses. For example, the Romans who were putting Jesus to death (a few of them) were influenced by Jesus’ teachings and converted. A little way down the road (during the Middle Ages) more specifically, the 1300s when Spanish and Portuguese missionaries went to Japan to try and convert the Japanese. The Middle Eastern Jews and Christians also passed on their beliefs down the Silk Roads (which if anyone is interested in learning about the spread of ideas should read all they can. The Silk Roads are extremely important and interesting) to India, China, and Korea. Hopefully you are still following me, it looks like I got off topic a little, but in a good way I think 🙂 Moving on to (4) which I think is the most difficult question to answer. What if Jesus was the wrong choice? It sounds a little ridiculous, but I think it is important. Lets look at a prophet who was known for: preaching to his followers, healing the sick, walking through walls/buildings, being tried and crucified by the Roman court, resurrected where his followers saw him again. Sound like Jesus? Well it’s not, these are all things attributed to Apollonius of Tyana. This is probably the first you have heard of this man, but don’t be surprised not many people have. To be honest, knowing how many people were claiming to be the Messiah fills me with doubt about the choice of Jesus as the one true messiah.
Please leave your comments, concerns, questions, anything you want to say really 🙂
Many people are inclined to think that atheists are somehow bad human being, immoral, and full of irrational doubt. However, I don’t find this to be true. I am an atheist, a magician, a student, and many other things. Upon first meeting me I doubt that you would have any indication as to my personal beliefs or lack thereof. The point is that I am a human being just like anyone else on this majestic blue spec in the suburb of the Milky Way. I am not here to tell religious people that their beliefs are good for nothing, wrong, silly, or anything like that. I am however, trying to foster some sort of debate about the topic of religion, morality, and the existence of god in whatever form you may believe him (or her or them) to take. I am generally interested in this topic and I will be posting things by many authors and posing questions to whoever wants to take it on and try to answer it. I really hope that this is a positive and overall beneficial discussion!