The Church of Rationality

You can believe in whatever you want, but if you want to believe in the truth -- you must be rational.

  "In the absence of compelling reasons to believe, unbelief should be preferred."


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The Falsehood of Intuition

Intuition is the believing in things based upon previous experience.  While this may work in most instances, it is not reliable when talking about things outside our normal experience.  Reliance upon intuition has resulted in the following:

Believing the earth is flat.

Believing the earth must have to set upon something.

Believing the earth is the center of the universe.

Believing the brain has to flip the upside-down image on the retina right side up. Achieving proper orientation is actually just a learning process, the brain flips nothing.

Believing that insects are enormously strong for their size.  Insects are able to lift great weight in relationship to their body weight not because they are amazingly strong, but because they are small.  As an object decreases in size, its volume (weight) decreases twice as fast as its cross-sectional area (general strength), thus it appears to get stronger and stronger.  If an ant were the size of a human, it wouldn't even be able to lift its own weight.

Believing that astronauts are weightless in orbit -- that there is no gravity in space.  Astronauts in orbit are not weightless, they are in a constant state of free-fall.  The vectors of the pull of gravity downwards plus the vector of their forward velocity combine to create an arc long enough to circumvent the earth. Only being in deep space, far away from any gravitational forces could render a person to be truly weightless.

Believing a design requires a designer.  Technically yes, but are structures in nature, designs? A beautiful sunset is clearly not designed, nor are crystals that grow according to initial molecular shape.  If a design requires a designer, and God is a designer, then why doesn't God make a watch?  Actually structures in nature are patterns, not designs.  While a true design may require a designer.  Patterns do not necessarily require a pattern maker.  Patterns can be formed naturally.

Believing that time in linear.  It may be that time just must be perceived as linear because that's the only way we can use it.  There may in fact be simultaneousness to time.  This article provides interesting reading.  Semi-Linear Time

The Misunderstanding of Cause and Effect

Most Christians believe that determinism, behaviorism, and in general the principal of cause and effect, is counter to accountability, having a free will, and making true decisions and choices.    First, it isn't rational to reject something just because you don't like the implications.  Determinism is a reasonable concept, and If human thinking and behavior is not due to cause and effect, then what?  Ask a Christian to explain an alternative, and what you will get is: "It's difficult to explain, it's hard to find the right words, I mean there must be a real you that makes decisions apart from cause and effect, etc." 

Determinism and Crime and Punishment

The fact is, of course, all behavior including thought processes is the product of cause and effect.  We hold people accountable and punish them because punishment itself is just another antecedent cause to bring about a different behavior pattern.  Punishment is ultimately about changing behavior, not about casting blame, or finding ultimate causes. 

Many Christians like bringing up the Clarence Darrow defense of Leopold and Loeb.  Darrow used a strongly "deterministic" defense of the killers -- arguing it was their upbringing that was at fault, not the defendants themselves.  However, contrary to what many Christians assert, he was not successful.  "Caverly [the trial judge] said that his 'judgment cannot be affected' by the causes of crime and that it was 'beyond the province of this court' to "predicate ultimate responsibility for human acts.' Nonetheless, Caverly said that 'the consideration of the age of the defendants' and the possible benefits to criminology that might come from future study of them persuaded him that life in prison, not death, was the better punishment."  So, as we can see, the judge himself stated that it was not its province to cast ultimate blame.  Punishment is not about who or what is actually responsible.  Also, Darrow pled Leopold and Loeb guilty, so how then can anyone assume that Darrow felt they were without fault.  Darrow was only attempting to spare their lives, not relieve them from all responsibility in the murder; and it was not the deterministic aspects of Darrow argument that was successful, it was only his arguments as to their age and benefits there may be in keeping them alive to study that were successful.

Was Clarence Darrow wrong in arguing that the lives of Leopold and Loeb be spared?

While in confinement Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold reformed the prison's educational system and convinced authorities to allow for secondary course work in the form of correspondence courses.  In 1936, Loeb was slashed and killed by another inmate.   Leopold continued on and taught in the prison school, mastered twenty-seven foreign languages, worked as an x-ray technician in the prison hospital, reorganized the prison library, volunteered to be tested with an experimental malaria vaccine, and designed a new system of prison education. In the 1950's, an elderly and retired Robert Crowe [the state's prosecuting attorney] reportedly offered to write a letter to the Illinois Parole Board urging his release.  In 1958, his fourth appeal was pleaded by the poet Carl Sandburg, who even went as far as to offer Leopold a room in his own home. In 1958, after thirty-four years of confinement, Leopold was released from prison.  Leopold migrated to Puerto Rico. He earned a master's degree, taught mathematics, and worked in hospitals and church missions and dedicated much of his time to helping the poor. He wrote a book entitled The Birds of Puerto Rico.  He also married.  He died on August 30, 1971.  He had willed his body to the University of Puerto Rico for medical research.  The next morning his corneas were removed.  One was given to a man, the other to a woman.  He also openly expressed great remorse for his misdeeds throughout much of his life.

 What Are Creationists Afraid Of?


Determinism and Free Will

The question concerning a free will shouldn't be whether we have one, it should be whether such a thing is possible.  We must ask ourselves, "Free from what?"  A mind free from all motivating factors would have nothing to base decisions upon.  There is just no such thing as an uncaused choice.  Our minds are a product of the interaction of an extremely complex network of millions of neurons.  When those neurons process information based upon past and present experiences -- that's what a decision is -- that IS the real person coming to a conclusion about things.  Christians want to believe that thoughts occur before brain activity, and that a decision is comparable to the actions of a librarian in a library, in that there is something akin to a little man inside our brains that makes decisions not influenced by cause and effect, but just accesses our knowledge base.  Christians just can't reconcile that the cause and effect in the mind IS SELF -- that's us making a decision.   When cause and effect becomes extremely complex, it takes on a new meaning beyond just what action-reaction implies, and words like "decision" are used to describe the process.  Everyone is unique, with different genetic traits and experiences that can cause a nearly endless assortment of decisions.  I would not go fishing this weekend because my experiences have taught me that it's not enjoyable, but someone else might jump at the opportunity.  A free will is not logically possible, but we have a mind with more possible choices than lower animals because we have more complex brains that gives us more options.

Determinism vs. Self-Determinism

Many people, religious and secular alike, wonder if cause and effect ultimately means that everything in the universe including human behavior is predestined, bound to happen, or predetermined.  When we speak of the possibility of behavior being predetermined, we should ask by what?  Does the universe care?  Was there intent way back when the first subatomic particle bumped into another one and got things going?  The answer to these questions is "No."  Without a governing design, method, or purpose outcomes are random, thus should not be considered predetermined, determined, or inevitable; despite the presents of causality.  

We are not made to do things by cause and effect -- we are PART of cause and effect -- we make ourselves do things.  The cause and effect that goes on in our minds is what constitutes SELF, and our particular cause-effect process is manifestly different from what we normally think of cause and effect; we remember our past, and direct our actions to bring about specific results to satisfy feelings of need and desire -- something random causality cannot do.  What else in nature can bring about an effect based upon a cause that happened in the past as if it were happening now? 

Imagine a billiard ball remembering how it was struck a year ago and every time since, imagine now that when you hit it with the cue ball it doesn't react just according to how you hit it, but according to how you hit it and all the previous hits.  Now imagine that all those hits are not just added together, but added together in a way according to something intrinsic in the ball that makes it want to do something, like help you win.  If it could also have the physical ability to guide its own direction, its memory and intrinsic properties would always allow it to roll into a pocket.  There would still be cause and effect, but a far different kind from the cause and effect of a normal billiard ball.

Our intelligence turns random causality into directed causality, and does so in such a complex way that we spawn chains of cause and effect events that are only superficially related to the causes that caused us.  Only intelligence can determine or predetermine anything specific because only intelligence can have intent.  This is the reason why nature produces so many dead planets, and why humans produce things that all have uses.  What we do isn't random.  The principle of universal determinism just has no valid application, though it may be mechanistically valid to say everything is cause and effect, and in a purely theoretical sense, predictable.  Nothing that caused the initial chain of events was doing any predicting, nor had anything in mind.  In going back to the nature of our will, we don't have a free will; we have a "purposeful" or "purposive" will.                  

The Misapplication of "Entropy"

Believing that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics and the process of entropy.  In fact, evolution depends on it.  Click here for a full discussion.

The Confusion of Numbers

I'll start with my personal favorite:  "What if gravity were stronger proportionately, so that the number has only 39 zeros (10 to the 39th power) [instead of 10 to the 40th power] 'With just this tiny adjustment,' continues Breuer, 'a star like the sun would find its life expectancy sharply reduced.'  And other scientists consider the fine-tuning to be even more precise." ~ Is There a Creator Who Cares About You?  p.18. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society Oh brother! a tiny adjustment???  Removing one zero is a factor of 10!  It would be like saying "You don't mind if I make a tiny adjustment to your paycheck do you?  I'm just going to remove one zero and pay you $100.00 instead of $1000.00."  Or, using a big number "We need to make a tiny reduction in the world population.  We need to reduce it from 6,000,000,000  to a 6 with just 8 zeros: 600,000,000.  Going from 6 billion to 6 hundred-million would be a reduction of the world population to just twice that of the United States.  No matter how many zeros there are: two, forty, or a thousand, it makes no difference -- one zero is always a factor of 10.  Changing from 40 to 39 zeros is no tiny adjustment!


A friend once told be that it was only 1 chance in 6 billion that we should have ever met, so it must have been fate.  Well, it's only 1 in 6 billion that I would meet any particular person on the earth, so I must assume that it's a miracle that I ever meet anyone! :)


The wealthy tell us they pay a disproportionate amount in income tax, that the upper 10 percent of earners pay 58 percent of all income tax.  Sounds like a reasonable argument, but what they fail to tell us is that the upper 10 percent make 90 percent of the wealth, so 58 percent isn't even a fair share.


Many Christians give huge odds against something complex being able to come together by chance. 

How do we get complexity?

Like a safecracker, evolution cheats by solving complex problems one step at a time.
  • To open this combination lock by guessing the complete combination is very hard (chance of guessing combination is 1 in 10,000,000,000).
  • But, we can crack each wheel in turn. On average it will take ten spins to get one wheel, so 100 random trials will find the right combination.



Beyond odds?

Many Christians give impossible odds that the things required for life could have all come together here at one place without the help of an intelligent being.  What they don't ever mention that there are 70 sextillion stars in the universe and perhaps 5 to 10 times that number of planets.  70 sextillion is a 7 with 22 zeros and represents a number 10 times larger than all the grains of sand in all the desserts and beaches of the earth.  Now, what do you think the odds are of things coming together here and there that are needed for some type of intelligent life?  If a designer was needed to bring all those things together here on earth that are required for life, then what are we to make of all those other stars and planets.  Intelligent designers don't make uncountable mistakes before having one success.  



The picture creationists paint and what really happens?

[Two views of abiogenesis]


The Falsehood of the Teleological Argument

Question:  "What is the Teleological argument for the existence of God?"

"Answer:  The word "teleology" comes from "telos" which means "purpose" or "goal." The idea is that it takes a "purposer" to have purpose, and so where we see things obviously intended for a purpose something had to have caused it for a reason. Design implies a designer in other words. We instinctively do this all the time. The difference between the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore is obvious - one is designed, one is not. Great, this person has just stated that something in nature was NOT designed by God. The Grand Canyon was clearly formed by non-rational, natural processes,  Ok, so things in nature do not require design.  You would make a good atheist.  whereas Mount Rushmore was clearly created by an intelligent being - a designer.  Yes, true.  This person, so far has proven atheism to be correct.  When we are walking down the beach and see a watch we do not assume that time and random chance produced it from blowing sand around. True.  Why? Because it has the clear marks of design - it has a purpose, it conveys information, it is specifically complex, etc. Absolutely correct. In no scientific field is design considered to be spontaneous, Where do scientists say that? it always implies a designer, and the greater the design, the greater the designer. Thus, taking the assumptions of science the universe would require a designer beyond itself (i.e. supernatural)."  Oh, brother, this argument has just stated several times that nature does not require design, but then somehow when we get to the universe taken as a whole and it all of a sudden requires a designer.  How contradictory can anything be?  It would be like saying the watch is intelligently designed, while at the same time believing that its parts could be "formed by non-rational, natural processes," as is what is said above about the Grand Canyon.

These types of arguments are always completely self-defeating.  The very fact that the watch or whatever is discernable from its natural surroundings amply shows that the surroundings must not be intelligently designed (a point which the author points out himself several times) which is exactly opposite to what the person wants to prove about the universe taken as a whole.  This argument even sometimes has the watch being found in a forest, so the unwitting implication is that the trees are not intelligently designed -- obviously just the opposite from what is intended. 

See "Why Intelligent Design and the Privileged Planet are Flawed"