March 29, 2010

Content, Contradictions, and Cookies

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , , at 11:54 AM by E. M.

The very idea of the Bible as a reliable source of information on virtually any topic is controversial.  After all, nothing induces more visceral and irrational reactions in people than the subjects of religion and politics.  But I try to steer clear of politics because these days the political landscape has become the intellectual equivalent of a college football rivalry.  And as for religion – specifically the topic of the Judeo-Christian Bible, irrationality occupies both ends of a polarized spectrum.

Fortunately, I am not religious.  So although I tend toward the idea that the Bible is reliable, I attempt to make my points with logic and rational thought (this blog being a macrocosms of those thoughts), and hopefully many of the irrational thoughts on both sides will be addressed to some degree as this blog progresses.  Nevertheless, I do want to use this post to address a few of the most common irrational objections to the Bible by relating the essence of some past conversations that I have had with rationality-challenged people.

The first (and perhaps silliest) one I will tackle is the argument that the Bible cannot be trusted because it was “written by men”.  It goes something like this:

Irrational Idiot: “How can you believe the Bible is true?  It was written by men!”

Me: “Your high school math book was also written by men.  Do you not believe math is true?”

Irrational Idiot:  “That’s different!  I can show that the contents of my math book are true without relying on the contents of the book itself.  Plus I’ve experienced the truth of mathematics”

Me:  “I can show the exact same things about the Bible.  In fact I have this nifty little blog where I do just that.  But if you’re relying on personal experience for truth, then what about your history books?  They were also written by men.  Do you not believe that any history occurred before you were alive to experience it?”

Irrational Idiot: “ Well history…um… its documented, and history books are on a different level of reliability because…uh, because…”

Me:  “Yeah.  Why don’t you go outside and play now?”

Our entire system of education and intellectual pursuit is based on information and truth gathered from reliable sources and relayed from one set of human beings to another.  The idea of rejecting the Bible on this basis while accepting other information sources on the same basis is utterly hypocritical.  And as my last post showed, the supernatural origin of the information in the Bible is demonstrable.

Equally silly are those who dismiss the Bible because of its age:

Irrational Idiot: “You can’t trust the Bible because its ancient!  It was written over two thousand years ago by primitives!  We know so much more now.”

Me:  “If that’s the case, then why do you trust anything you know now?  People who live two thousand years from now will have the same argument about us.  And two thousand years after that, what those people know could be dismissed for the same reason.  By your logic, no one can ever know anything for sure because people in the future will always know more.”

Irrational Idiot: “uh…”

Me:  “Here, have a cookie.  Then later you can take a nice long nap!”

Irrational Idiot: “Cookies and a nap?  Wheeeeeeeeeee!!”

Another common objection is that the Bible is unreliable because it contains contradictions.  This one is so common that its veracity is taken for granted. Yet, it’s difficult to find anyone who claims, “Everybody knows the Bible is full of contradictions” and can actually name some contradictions.  But this, like many other modern axioms is just an excuse to be intellectually lazy.

Of course if the Bible really is full of contradictions, then that would be very problematic because we know that contradictions cannot exist so the First Cause could not be the originator of such an information source.

There are plenty of books and websites on alleged contradictions in the Bible, and there are plenty of books and websites that refute these contradictions. (here is a website that presents both)  For the most part, what look to be contradictions in the Bible are usually errors the readers makes in context, language, vernacular, culture, assumptions, and/or translation.  Here is an example that includes all the errors:

The Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8), and that He loves everyone (John 3:16), but the Bible also says that God hates:

“As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated” – Romans 9:13.

This looks like a contradiction, but it isn’t for several reasons.  First, “love” and “hate” are not contradictory terms.  In our vernacular, hate is antithetical to love, but even that concept is rendered suspect by the commonly referred to idea of the love/hate relationship.  The verse would only be contradictory if it said that God did not love Esau.  Furthermore, the word translated “hate” in the verse is the Greek work “miseo”, which means to “love less”.  So the verse actually says that God loved Jacob, but He loved Esau less.  And since the Bible never claims that God loves everyone equally, there is no contradiction.

Of course I’m not being exhaustive in my defense of the Bible in this post because I don’t have the space, and as you can probably tell from the tone of this post, I have very little patience for dealing with superficial arguments.  But as I said, this blog will progressively serve as my proof points.

Now I’ve postulated that the First Cause gave us an information source that gives us more detailed information about Him.  But this begs a more fundamental question: Why would God want to give humanity this information?  Stay tuned…

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March 22, 2010

And now, a Word from our sponsor

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , , , , at 9:48 AM by E. M.

The First Cause of existence is made up of the causeless principles of “Right” and “Just”.  That is all we can know about the nature of the First Cause based solely on human understanding.  Anything else we come to know about the First Cause has to come from a source beyond human understanding; that source would preferably and most accurately be the First Cause itself.

IF the First Cause was to give information about itself to humanity, how would we be able to know that it was authentically from the First Cause and not just some mindless gibberish that someone made up and introduced to a naïve and susceptible portion of the population, turning them into irrationally devoted fanatics (you know, like the “Twilight” books)?

First of all, the information source would have to accurately and consistently reflect what we already know about the First Cause.  It would have to acknowledge that the universe is finite (had a definitive beginning), and that the First Cause is greater than and outside of the physical universe.  The information source would describe the First Cause as immaterial (spirit), supernatural, transcendent, and eternal.  It would have to present the First Cause as possessing all the information in existence (all-knowing).  It would also have to show that the First Cause is always and completely right and just (that righteousness and justice form the core of all else that the First Cause claims to be).

The second, and perhaps most important criteria from an authentication standpoint, is that the information source would have to have self evident proof that it has a supernatural origin, so that no one could claim that it was the result of natural (human) volition.

It just so happens that one such information source exists.  This information source claims to originate from the First Cause itself.  It presents the First Cause with all the attributes that we understand it must have. This information source authenticates its supernatural origin by presenting information that originates from outside of time and space.

This information source is commonly known as the Judeo-Christian Bible. The Bible refers to the First Cause as “God”

The Bible presents God as a transcendent, eternal, all-knowing spirit whose nature is always and completely right and just.  The Bible proves that it has a unique supernatural origin because it does something that no other book can do – it tells history before it happens with 100% accuracy.  Examples of some of the many sites that explain this in detail are here and here.

Now I know what a few of you are thinking right now – “AHA! I was wondering how long it would be before this Bible-thumping Jesus freak abandoned all pretense of reason and rationality and started trying to force God to fit into the logic of existence!  Release the hounds!”

Well, please remember that I spent seven posts proving the existence of God without using the Bible.  Why? Because as my “About Me” page says, I believe that God is true, and if He is, then He should be provable using objective measures.

Of course the Bible is not without controversy, and while it is not the express purpose of this blog to serve as an extensive source of textual criticism, it would only be fair to address some of the common concerns that many people have about the Bible.  And I’ll begin doing just that in the next post.

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March 15, 2010

The Principle Answer

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , , at 11:32 AM by E. M.

Note: this post borrows HEAVILY from Modeling God.  Specifically here, and here.  For more in-depth information on the concepts presented in this post please go to the links presented.

All right, I’m (finally) ready to identify the First Cause of existence.  Lets begin with a recap.  Information is transcendent and time-less, and can have a dramatic affect of the physical world.  Principles are the first cause of information. Principles are qualitative (subjective) and quantitative (objective) values.  The First Cause of existence must consist of causeless principles; principles that require no preceding cause.

The qualitative principle that defines the First Cause is “Right”.  The concept of being right is causeless.  At the most basic qualitative measure, something is either right or it is “not right” (wrong) – yes or no, true or false, etc.

The First Cause cannot be wrong because “wrong” is actually a measurement of how “less than right” something is.  In other words, “wrong” cannot exist without “right” existing first. You wouldn’t know that something was wrong unless you had something “right” to compare it to.  (We know that “Spam” is wrong, because filet mignon exists).  And, of course the First Cause cannot be right and not right because we know that contradictions are impossible.

Not only is the First Cause “Right”, it is always and completely Right.  How?  Well, since the First Cause consists of principles, and principles are the first cause of information, then the First Cause is always completely right because it has all the information in existence.

The First Cause must also be a quantitative principle.  That principle is “justice”.  Justice is inherent balance. Justice states that if a value is taken, it must be replaced exactly.  Or if a value is given, then it must be paid back in the same proportion. (On a physical/cosmological level, justice is the first cause of the second law of thermodynamics).

Like “Right”, justice is causeless.  Balance (or stasis) is inherent.  As in the “right” example above, we wouldn’t know what injustice, fairness, or balance was unless justice/balance existed to compare it to.  The First Cause is always and completely Just because, again, it has all the information in existence to insure complete balance.

Now before you start scratching a hole in your head, realize that we all believe in the causeless nature of Right and Just.  We all believe that things are either right or wrong.  Even moral relativists who claim that there is no right or wrong contradict themselves because they believe that moral relativism is “right”!

We all believe in justice.  We prove it anytime we say, “that’s not fair!” We know justice exists and we rely on it as motivation for all our actions.  When we do something, we know that there are consequences which we expect to conform to a code of justice.  We work because we feel we justly deserve compensation.  If someone does something nice for us, we believe that they should be justly thanked.  If someone does something wrong to us, we believe they deserve to suffer just punishment.  Even those who intentionally do wrong and commit injustice recognize “right” and “just” by their intentional violation of it.

So, in summary, the First Cause of existence is Right and Just.

And that concludes this blog, thank you and goodnight.  Watch your step on your way out.  Be sure to tip your waitress.

Oh…you’re still here.

I know what you’re thinking – “Is that it?!  Is that all the First Cause of existence is?  A set of $@%# principles?!  The great force that birthed this grand universe, the cauldron of creation that flung the galaxies against the black of space, that formed the great nuclear furnaces we call stars, that holds atomic structures together and caused the formation of the fantastic metaphysical complexity known as life… is nothing more than the abstract principles of “Right and Just”?  Is that all the First Cause is?  Really?

No.  I’m NOT saying that’s all the First Cause is.  I’m saying that’s all we can know about the nature of the First Cause based solely on Human understanding.  Anything else we know about the nature of the First Cause has to come from a source beyond human understanding.  Logically, the best source of additional information about the First Cause would come from the First Cause itself (and since we know that the First Cause is Right and Just, we can probably trust what it says about itself).

But does the First Cause actually “say” anything about itself?  As a matter of fact, I believe it does…

More Next Week

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March 8, 2010

Spirit in a Box

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , at 12:33 PM by E. M.

The First Cause of the physical universe is causeless, supernatural, transcendent, and eternal.  The First Cause of the physical universe can only be described in non-physical terms…because the First Cause is non-physical.

This shouldn’t actually be all that surprising, because when contemplating the answer to “What’s the point?” (the question that started this whole thing), we intuitively know that whatever the “point” is, its outside of our physical selves.

The tough part is that we naturally tend to define how “real” and substantive something is by its physical proof.  We rely on proof that we can see smell, touch, taste, and/or hear.  But if the First Cause of the universe is non-physical (immaterial) AND greater than the material universe (the effect), then we’re going to have to become comfortable with the idea that some of the things we consider immaterial may actually be more “real” than what we can experience with our physical senses. (Don’t worry; when we get to my April 19th blog post, that sentence will make complete sense.  Probably).

What kinds of things are immaterial, transcendent, and time-less, yet are substantive enough to have a dramatic effect on the physical/material world?

In a broad sense, I’d have to say that the answer is “information”.  Let’s use something in close proximity to demonstrate what I mean – your computer system.  The system in front of you works because of functioning hardware and software.  Hardware is, of course, the physical/material parts of the system – the monitor, the CPU, mouse, keyboard, etc.  But all that hardware is nothing more than expensive paperweights without software.  Software is the information and rules that tell the hardware what to do and how to do it.  Software has a dramatic affect on the physical.  This information makes the physical “work”.

Software is information.  But even the most powerful software is immaterial.  If you take a blank disk or other storage device, weigh it, then load it up with all the software that it can hold, and weigh it again, you will find that it weighs exactly the same as before.

Information is weightless.  It has no mass.  If information has no mass, then it transcends the physical world.  Information is also time-less because according to Einstein, time can only affect objects with mass. (Remember, whenever someone wants to show how smart they are, they always reference Einstein).

“Information” is as broad a concept as “the universe”.  In fact, like the universe, information is an “effect”.  So to get a better understanding of it, we should use the ladder of causality that we used on the physical universe.  We need to find the “causeless” cause of information.

Information is an effect of knowledge.  Knowledge is an effect of intelligence.  Intelligence is an effect of the ability to understand.  Understanding is an effect of thinking.  Thinking is an effect of interpreting stimuli.  The ability to interpret stimuli is governed by qualitative (subjective) and quantitative (objective) principles (values) that we apply to the stimuli.

The interesting thing is that since humans are thinking beings (for the most part), we conform to the computer systems example above.  The most valuable part of the computer – the most “real” part if you will, is the software, not the hardware. The “real” part of the computer system (software) is immaterial and transcendent.

And so is the real “you”.

What makes you, you is not “hardware”; not the physical body you occupy that is slowly wearing down, losing elasticity, gaining liver spots and losing hair.  The real you; the things that make you special and unique  – your personality, your intellect, your understanding, your memories, your experiences, your knowledge, your talent, your will…all your information – the real you is “software”.  Your software makes your physical body function and tells it what to do.  Your physical actions are just an effect of your will.

If the real you is software, then the real you has no mass.  The real you is immaterial and transcendent.   The real you is eternal.  There is a term for this.  Its called “spirit”.  The real you is spirit.  The first cause or your spirit are principles (we’ll address this more at the end of April).

The First Cause of existence is also spirit.  The First Cause of existence is “principles”.  But unlike the first cause of your spirit, the First Cause of existence must consist of causeless principles; principles that require no precedent cause.  Are there causeless principles?  And if so, what are they?

More answers in one week

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March 1, 2010

Where and When

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , , , at 1:18 PM by E. M.

So here’s where we are – we know that existence exists, and we know that one of the cardinal rules of existence is causality.  We also know through the rules of causality that the finite universe in which we live had to have a First Cause (a cause without a preceding event).  And we know that the First Cause has to be supernatural since there is no natural way to have energy and matter come into existence out of nothing.  What else can causality tell us about the First Cause?

Under the rules of causality, not only must the cause be greater than the effect, but it must also be independent to, or “outside of” the effect.  So the First Cause of the physical universe has to be outside of the universe (the technical term for this is to say that the First Cause is “transcendent”; it transcends the physical universe).

The universe consists of time, space, matter, and energy.  We dealt with matter and energy in the last post, now we need to address time and space. Space is locality.  Space defines “where”.

Ok, so where exactly is “outside the universe”?  Well that’s actually not a valid question because “where” implies that the First Cause occupies some specific location or space…and “space” is a part of the physical universe that the First Cause must be outside of  (if you just said “huh?” you’re probably not alone).

Our perceptions and senses are rooted in the physical universe so it’s tough to wrap our minds around the idea of something that exists without being in a “where”.  We can only conceive of transcendence conceptually.

But wait, it gets worse.

“Time” is also a part of the physical universe, so the First Cause has to also be outside of time.  Time is how we perceive and measure events sequentially (first one thing happens, then another, then another, etc.). We perceive time in a linear way – everything has a beginning, middle, and end.  Think of the time-lines your school teachers would draw on the chalk board during your history lessons (I apologize for any trauma these memories may cause you).  Time defines “when”.

But since the First Cause is outside of time, it does not have a “when”.  From our perspective, it has always been.  It never “wasn’t” and it will never “not be”. It has no beginning, middle, or end.  It simply…is.

The First Cause is eternal.  The “where and when” that the First Cause occupies is referred to as “Eternity”.  Again, this is something that we can only conceptualize. We have no ability to perceive it with our senses.  We can only conceive of eternity in the abstract (or as a cologne I wore in high school that did not make me nearly as popular as I had hoped.  Although it was a significant step up from Old Spice)

So far I have been examining the First Cause as it relates to the physical universe, but all the terms I’ve used to describe it (causeless, eternal, transcendent, supernatural, etc.) are all non-physical.  What if its because the First Cause is non-physical (immaterial)?  If the First Cause of existence is immaterial, what are the implications?  More next week.

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