Sunday, 8 July 2012

Does the Higgs Boson Disprove God's Existence?

Hi Folks,

Some Atheists have recently been jumping up and down thinking that the discovery of the Higgs Boson disproves God's existence. This is quite sad as this is clear proof that many atheists 1) don't know anything about science, let along physics and 2) they don't really think their beliefs through. In other words, aside a few flashy slogans like "if God created everything, then who created God?" and "I don't believe in things I can't see", they're just a bunch of unreflective cult-minded secularists (here they are very similar to some irrational religious fanatics whom they ironically spew their vitriol against). Of course, not all atheists are like this, but I can say that a great deal are.

Anyways, what is the Higgs Boson? Not surprisingly, Wikipedia gives the best summary and definition:
The Higgs boson or Higgs particle is a proposed elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics. The Higgs boson is named afterPeter Higgs who, along with others, proposed the mechanism that suggested such a particle in 1964. The existence of the Higgs boson and the associated Higgs field would be the simplest known method to explain why certain other elementary particles have mass. In this theory, an unseenfield permeates all of space; this field has a non-zero value everywhere, even in its lowest energy state, and various other elementary particles obtain mass when they interact with it. The Higgs boson—the smallest possible excitation of this field—is predicted to exist by the same theory, and as this would be detectable, it has been the target of a long search in particle physics. One of the primary goals of the Large Hadron Collider ("LHC") at CERNin GenevaSwitzerland—one of the most complicated scientific instruments ever built—was to test the existence of the Higgs boson and measure its properties which would allow physicists to confirm this cornerstone of modern theory.
In other words, the Higgs Boson is an element that is part of the Standard Model for Particle Physics. It explains why matter has mass. For example, a photon has no mass, and an electron has a little mass. The Higgs Boson is what gives matter mass.

Now think about it, how does a particle that gives mass to matter disprove God's existence? As an ex-atheist, I can't think of anything, let alone physicists who have made no such argument. If anything, it just shows the beauty of the universe and the intricacies of creation. With that said, even modern arguments that are used to prove God's existence (the cosmological argument, the fine-tuning of the universe) actually depend on the Standard Model. So a discovery like this merely reinforces a theory of the universe that has been adopted to argue for God's existence.

There is, however, another question. Why is the Higgs Boson sometimes called the God Particle? This name, as far as I know, as coined by Leon Lederman in his book The God Particle (1993). The reason why he called it such is because the Higgs Boson underlies every physical object in existence and just like God, it is very hard to detect. I think this is quite interesting given that it is testament to the fact that something may permeate all of existence yet be almost impossible to detect (which flies right in the face of anti-theistic rhetoric).

Saturday, 7 July 2012

God and The Limits of Reason?

Hi Folks,

One of the more common atheist arguments against the Cosmological Argument for God's existence has been that we cannot use reason in trying to prove the existence of God given that physics has constantly been 'proving' theorems that are counter-intuitive and go against the brain's rationalistic ways of conceptualizing the world. At most, reason can only be restricted to analyzing certain elements of the natural world, but we cannot use it in determining the nature of the universe's beginning or anything beyond our material universe.

Now most of this argument (which I only offered a brief summary of) is taken from Kant's arguments on the limits of reason when it comes to delivering us to important truths about reality. Anyways, this argument has been taken apart quite a number of times in sophisticated and academic treatments of the subject, however I feel that they have been quite complex for the layman to understand (although I have an undergraduate degree in philosophy, I still find myself scratching my head at times when reading this stuff).

Luckily, I came across one of Dr. William Lane Craig's posts on the subject where he refutes the Atheist/Kantian attack on reason's ability to attain truths about (metaphysical) reality in a simple, brief and easy-to-read fashion for lay readers.

For this fun and interesting read, please see The Limits of Reason

Enjoy the read!

Monday, 2 July 2012

How Can One NOT Believe in God After Seeing This?

Hi there,

Alexander Tsiaras is an associate Professor of Medicine and Chief of Scientific Visualization at Yale University in the Department of Medicine (this guy seems to have contributed to the invention of the MRI machine). He carried out a detailed algorithmic study of fetal development and its sheer mind-blowing complexity. According to this Professor, small parts of this magical world are slowly surfacing and just these bits of information about fetal development have made it extremely hard for him in NOT attributing it divinity (this is despite the fact that we still know so little about it). In other words, how can you say there is no God, no Designer when confronted with such concrete and mind-blowing design?

The following video is his talk at TED where he illustrates fetal development through breath-taking medical visualization:

Even though I am a mathematician, I look at 
[fetal development] with marvel: How do these
instruction sets not make mistakes as they build
what is us? — Alexander Tsiaras

Sunday, 1 July 2012

God's Foreknowledge vs. Free Will

Hi Folks,

A common line of attack on theism is that if God exists, then humans have no free will given that the traditional and mainstream understanding of God is that He is Omniscient (i.e. knows everything).

The argument goes like this:

If God knows everything, including all that will happen in the future and that no deviation can ever occur from  the course of that knowledge, then all of my future actions as an individual have been determined before they come about. In other words, God's foreknowledge of events necessarily leads to determinism and as a consequence of this, I can never have free will.

Although some religious people (among Christians, Muslims etc.) have adopted this view and are thus known as fatalists, I don't think this view is correct because if we were truly to accept that we have no free will and that all of our actions are predetermined, then why should people be punished in the Afterlife for actions/sins/crimes they ultimately did not? For example, a Jew who goes against the halakhic ruling against eating pork doesn't really break the law as the action is not done through his own choice.

Another example would be your typical Iranian diaspora youngster living in the West. Although he fornicates, takes drugs, drinks alcohol, talks like a girl, has no sense of fashion (although many of his religious compatriots don't fair any better in this regard either) and commits every single sin that has ever existed in Judaism, Christianity and Islam combined and basically offends and shames the Milky Way Galaxy solely by existing, he actually commits no wrong at all! Why? Because although he (along with his female like minded liberal compatriots who are worse than him) are the most wretched mishmash of atoms that have ever been assembled in the history of this 13 + billion year old universe (with perhaps the sole exception of Wahhabis), they are not responsible for any of the stench that is emitted from their figures because none of what they do is out of their own free will but out of God's own predestination of the universe. Alternatively, no merit should be warranted to a decent person's actions because he, like the sinner, did not will his good deeds either.

If this was the case, then God would indeed be cruel and unjust (both in terms of punishment and reward). This is something that atheists have picked up on and used against the "absurdity" of belief in God.

Luckily, there is an alternative and more logical way at looking at God's foreknowledge. In this alternative way, we can distinguish what we call logical priority over chronological priority in God's knowledge. God's foreknowledge of someone's actions may be chronologically prior to the action itself, however it is not logically prior to the action. Put differently, although God knows beforehand what you are going to do (chronologically prior), his foreknowledge does not cause whatever action you take in the logical context of cause and effect (i.e. it is not logically prior). In other words, God's foreknowledge, in the logical context, is positioned after the individual's action.

Think of it this way (this isn't strictly meant to be a logical analogy, just a loose example in order to help simplify things by putting them into perspective), if out of the corner you see someone's shadow approaching, you can conclude that someone going to come out of a corner. However, your foreknowledge of this does not mean that your knowledge caused the guy to come out of a corner. Similarly, although God knows what you will do in advance, his knowledge does not cause whatever action you may take in your life. Instead, is it your actions which determine God's knowledge of you even if that knowledge has existed eternally (that is, God's foreknowledge is determined by whatever actions you may take in the future).

Now it is true that in some religious traditions, there are certain elements of a person's life that are predetermined (like the timing of your death etc.), but I won't get into this for now as it goes beyond the point I'm trying to make in this post.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Seduction Worse Than Rape?

Hi folks,

I recently saw an article by K.J Dover called "Classical Greek Attitudes to Sexual Behaviour" (you can find this article in the book Sex and Difference in Ancient Greece and Rome, edited by Mark Golden and Peter Toohey, Edinburgh, 2003).

The basic argument is that in ancient Greece, seduction was a crime that was worse than rape because it involved the capture of someone’s affection and loyalty away from the man to whom they properly belonged. In other words, as rape was a form of violation in which someone's physical body was captured, seduction was a kind of violation that involved the capture of one's mind and soul whose effects, on some levels, ran much deeper and could potentially be more destructive.

At the moment, most Western countries see seduction as a positive thing where the "individual as a consumer and as a voter is subjected to a variety of allurements through appeals to greed, vanity, envy, revenge" (see Talal Asad, Is Critique Secular? p. 31). I have not researched why this is the case, but perhaps one reason is that this has been part of a corporate agenda throughout recent capitalistic history in making seduction and consumerism (note that Consumer in old English referred to the Devil as he consumed the souls of man) socially acceptable. I don't need to mention the innumerable amount of ideas, values and ethical stances that have been ingrained in our current global culture through corporate propaganda and media brainwashing.

There are instances, however, where seduction is unacceptable. The greatest case in point is the (sexual) seduction of children at the hands of adults which can lead to arrest and imprisonment (the severity of which can almost be as bad as cases of actual rape). Yet if seduction, at least in the case of children, can be accepted as a violation of a child's being, why is the seduction of children through TV ads and commercials acceptable considering that these forms of seduction capture and violate their minds and souls by alluring them into making choices that they otherwise would not have made? That is, choices which inculcate consumerism, materialism, transient self-esteem through material goods, greed, selfishness, loss of self-control etc. Why is there no outcry directed towards the corporate rapist who violates the being and dignity of children for the sake of mere personal profit?

Is this what materialistic secularism (which purports to "free" people's minds) leads to?

That's for the readers to answer. 

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

You Wouldn't Believe That If You Were Born Somewhere Else!

Hi folks,

There is a famous argument going around that if you were born, for example, around two thousand years ago into a native american tribe in North America, you wouldn't believe in God or any of the "prophets" since you would be worshiping nature and dancing around fire.

Somehow this is supposed to invalidate the belief in God. The first response, as any serious anthropologist would give, is that you don't know what native Americans at that time really believed in, they could have believed in some kind of a Creator whilst honoring nature (and believing in some lesser gods), but no definitive statements could be made given that we have too little evidence at the moment. 

The biggest problem, of course, is that this kind of argument falls into the category of logical fallacies we call the genetic fallacy where you try to invalidate an argument by explaining how the belief came about rather than assessing the veracity of the claim itself. A good example at how problematic this argument can be it to invalidate someone's belief that the Earth is round by saying that "well, if you were born in medieval Europe, you would have believed that the Earth was flat". Well, the fact that I might have believed the Earth is flat at that time and place certainly doesn't mean that my current belief that the Earth is round is false!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Breaching Secular Law is the New Blasphemy

So I've been reading a lot of Talal Asad lately who is probably the biggest heavy weight today in Anthropology. He teaches at the City University of New York and currently specializes in the anthropology of secularism.

His analysis of this phenomenon has so far been superb as he demonstrates how secularism is not only a historical construct (this is self-evident, but the how of it is what's important which only a few people have been able to demonstrate) but also a self-defeating category. One of his recent writings (in the wake of the Muslim cartoon protest a few years ago) is about how secular critique defeats itself by criticizing the concept of blasphemy while maintaining an even more passionate obsession over its own limits over "free speech" by severely dealing with those who breach its secularized communication laws.

See the following quotation from Professor Asad on the subject:

If blasphemy indicates a limit transgressed, does secular criticism signify liberation? Modern societies do, of course, have legal constraints on communication. Thus there are laws of copyright, patent, and trademark, and laws protecting commercial secrets, all of which prohibit in different ways the free circulation of expressions and ideas. Are property rights in a work of art infringed if it is publically reproduced in a distorted form by someone other than the original author with the aim of commenting on it? And if they are infringed, how does the sense of violation differ from claims about blasphemy? My point here is not that there is no difference, but that there are legal conditions that define what may be communicated freely, and how, in liberal democratic societies, and that consequently the flow of public speech has a particular shape by which its “freedom” is determined ...

Talal Asad, intro by Wendy Brown, Is Critique Secular? p. 27-28.

Monday, 25 June 2012

MSNBC article reports that the Big Bang didn't need God to start the universe

Hi Folks,

I just saw an article on msnbc called Big Bang didn't need God to start universe, researchers say. Basically the argument holds that the Big Bang could have come from "nothing" due to the laws of gravity. I promised myself when I first started this blog that I would try to keep my posts as short as possible (people have busy days and don't have the energy to read through long rants).

Anyways, the first problem with this is that this argument isn't new, it has been rehashed over and over again and made popular by Stephen Hawking. The argument is very problematic as it is a blatant attempt at equivocating the term "nothing" in physics. For your regular non-physicist, "nothing" usually connotes the ontological non-being, i.e. absolute nothing (zip, nada!). However, in physics "nothing" does not mean that at all! It actually refers to a pure state of vacuum energy. In other words, "nothing" is a point where all the positive and negative energy of the universe balance out and the net energy of the universe becomes zero. This, however, has absolutely nothing to do with the ontological state of non-being (absolute nothing). To consider this state of energy as really nothing would be the equivalent of thinking that I have $8 in my pocket, but I also owe $8 to UPS. Since the net sum of both is $0,  there is, therefore, no money in this situation. Well try telling that to UPS because they were willing to take me to court for that $8 (the reason I owed them that money was because the UPS guy at the door didn't charge me the full amount for my package - it's a customs thing).

Anyway, even the smallest peak into the concept of nothing in physics on wikipedia will confirm this. What is most disturbing, however, is that the clowns that are writing these articles know very well that they are equivocating the term "nothing" (and so does the msnbc reporter). So this gets me thinking, are certain parts of the mass media in collusion with certain parts of the scientific establishment in promoting an atheistic agenda? The answer here is quite clear and even a retard can figure it out.

For those who are interested, please see the following youtube debate on the subject where William Lane Craig completely trashes and humiliates the atheist physicist  Lawrence Krauss on the evidence for God and exposes his slick deceptions and lies. You can see another debate of Craig's on whether or not Stephen Hawking has eliminated God (his opponent, like Krauss, gets humiliated).

Finally, for those who don't have the time or energy to sit down and watch these debates, see the following 2 minute clip on the subject:

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Craig, Ayala and the Intelligent Design Debate

Hi Folks,

I recently saw a debate between William Lane Craig and Francisco J. Ayala called " Is Intelligent Design Viable? "

See the video on youtube here: 

I think that this debate was quite significant as Ayala is considered to be, in some sense, the God-father of evolutionary biology today. So Craig was facing a "Big Shot" as you may call it. After watching the whole thing, I can conclude that Craig by far won the debate.  On the one hand, he managed refute everything that was thrown at him (like the the Malaria virus mutation argument), on the other hand, he managed to pose challenges to Ayala which completely baffled him and set him to rant about things that had nothing to do with the debate.

Now I think that Ayala could have done much better if he had actually been more prepared. However, a consistent problem with the anti-ID movement (ID = Intelligent Design) is that they think ID is a joke so they don't actually bother to read their arguments (which can be quite compelling as its various theories are extracted from current scientific journals). An example of this has been Ayala's so-called review of Stephen Meyer's book Signature in the Cell

Anyone who has read Meyer's book will immediately notice that Ayala didn't read more than 3-4 pages from the book and as such, he just gobbled up a non-sense critique. This is something Meyer picked up on as you can see in his rebuttal against Ayala's review:

Unfortunately, not reading the arguments of the other side (theists) seems to be a common characteristic of this new atheism. Although Ayala is a Catholic, his views on ID, evolution etc. fall right into the side of the atheist camp.