My Photo

The Out Campaign

Atheist Blogroll

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 05/2005

« Home Carbonation, and Contrary Human Nature | Main | Blog Carnivals! »



What a great post. I have spun around thoughts like this, but never so well. That's what a donation/subscription is for, to read Greta's excellent work and sigh "Finally, someone has done the hard work for me in writing what I wished I could write."


I went through basically what you describe as transitional deism in high school. I'd drifted away from Catholicism and traditional religion, but I couldn't quite make that final leap and say "I don't believe in God." So I hung out as a deist for a while, until I got to college, when I went with agnostic. And now I've settled on atheist.

But I think deism is fine as a stepping stone to atheism, if that's how you end up getting there. I know some people have more of a shock type thing, but for people whose beliefs evolve, deism is almost a necessary way station. Not bad, but not someplace you can really stay for too long if you think about it too much.


Why do you hate Invisible Pink Unicorns...?

Overall I can't gainsay your objections to Deism. I suspect you're correct about its being a gateway to atheism. However, I do have to take some issue with your contention here:

I care because [Deism] gives legitimacy to the idea that it's okay to believe in undetectable supernatural entities, simply because you want to: because you find the idea of a god comforting, and because you find the idea of there not being a god weird and upsetting.

This, and the couple of grafs preceding it, seem a little too much like dictates for my taste, a little too much like thought censorship.

I personally don't care if a given individual believes in a god, goddess, All-Embracing Kumquat or any other such entity, as long as that belief doesn't seem to interfere with their capacity to behave in tolerant, reasoned ways to outside stimuli.

I can think of individuals whom I believe have improved the state of the world by improving the lives of those whom they interact with, and some of those individuals have beliefs in invisible sky daddies and mommies.

I don't know if the correlation suggests causation or not; it would be arrogant of me to presume that because someone is a believer in some thing or other that seems like nonsense to me, she or he is predisposed to doing nonsensical things; or his or her actions are all invalid, whether or not they're verifiably influenced by those beliefs.

Just as I don't appreciate it when a believer suggests that my point of view is illegitimate because it's not backed by the Bible, or Koran, or Vedas.

But that aside, what really set my teeth on edge was the refrain that certain types of thinking are not okay, which I read as declaring them to be unacceptable. Declaring certain types of thinking to be not okay is not a slippery slope anyone wants to begin down, I think.

John Manning

Maybe the former minister you recently "read" was Bart Ehrman's interview on Fresh Air March 4? If not, it's worth a listen:

John the Drunkard

The biggest knock I have against Deism is the way that so many people are closet deists while paying lip service to much more aggressive beliefs.

How many 'moderate' Muslims, 'I'm a catholic.....buts,' or wishy washy biblically illiterate Xians are actually deists? The vague 'god talk' enables them to rationalize their support for irredeemable institutions while excusing the moral outrages that are part and parcel of them.


I think that most deists already recognize that the deist god is unfalsifiable. But this is not a problem for them because they do not think of it as a scientific claim. It's not clear that it needs to be a scientific claim.

I would say that the problem with deism is that it's not a very useful concept, and potentially misleading. If you define "God" to be that which explains the existence of something rather than nothing, then we know nothing about the nature of this god. We do not know whether it is conscious, whether it is singular, whether it is eternal, whether it is relevant or irrelevant, whether it can properly be referred to as an object at all. To call it "god" is, if not misleading to the deist, misleading to people who use other definitions of "god".



I don't think there's much wrong with insisting that people at least think things through logically before they spout silly rubbish. It's not censorship to say: "I think Deism is less dangerous than conventional religions -chiefly because it makes an utterly useless claim- but it's still a silly idea that gives legitimacy to other, more dangerous and ridiculous claims".
It's especially important to write innocuous but thought-provoking posts like these in the times we live in!

John B Hodges

Actually (this is a long-held peeve of mine) the important thing about Deism, the central message of the Deists in the 1700's, was that "revelations" were completely untrustworthy. Some of them may have believed in a non-interventionist god, all of them certainly believed in a creator-god, but that wasn't their central point. Theirs was a critique, a rejection, of a huge class of religions. They did not reject the purely philosophical arguments for the existence of god (this being before Hume and before Darwin), so they still had some religion remaining, but they rejected all attempts by one person to speak with divine authority to another person.

Some quotes from Thomas Paine:

"Revelation then, so far as the term has relation between God and man, can only be applied to something which God reveals of his will to man; ... yet the thing so revealed (if anything ever was revealed, and which, bye the bye, it is impossible to prove), is revelation to the person only to whom it is made. His account of it to another person is not revelation; and whoever puts faith in that account, puts it in the man from whom the account comes; and that man may have been deceived, or may have dreamed it, or he may be an impostor and may lie. There is no possible criterion whereby to judge of the truth of what he tells, for even the morality of it would be no proof of revelation. ...

The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion. It has been the most dishonorable belief against the character of the Divinity, the most destructive to morality and the peace and happiness of man, that ever was propagated since man began to exist. It is better, far better, that we admitted, if it were possible, a thousand devils to roam at large, and to preach publicly the doctrine of devils, if there were any such, than that we permitted one such impostor and monster as Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and the Bible prophets, to come with the pretended word of God in his mouth, and have credit among us.

Whence arose all the horrid assassinations of whole nations of men, women, and infants, with which the Bible is filled, and the bloody persecutions and tortures unto death, and religious wars, that since that time have laid Europe in blood and ashes -- whence rose they but from this impious thing called revealed religion, and this monstrous belief that God has spoken to man? The lies of the Bible have been the cause of the one, and the lies of the Testament of the other. ...

It is incumbent on every man who reverences the character of the Creator, and who wishes to lessen the catalogue of artificial miseries, and remove the cause that has sown persecutions thick among mankind, to expel all ideas of revealed religion, as a dangerous heresy and an impious fraud. What is that we have learned from this pretended thing called revealed religion? Nothing that is useful to man, and everything that is dishonorable to his maker. ...

As to the fragments of morality that are irregularly and thinly scattered in these books, they make no part of this pretended thing, revealed religion. They are the natural dictates of conscience, and the bonds by which society is held together, and without which it cannot exist, and are nearly the same in all religions and in all societies. "

Greta Christina
This, and the couple of grafs preceding it, seem a little too much like dictates for my taste, a little too much like thought censorship.

Brief tangent here... but how, exactly, is it either dictating or censorship to express my own opinions in my own blog?

I do think that certain kinds of thinking are not okay. I think certain kinds of thinking are sloppy, misleading, contradictory, bigoted, ignorant, small- minded, etc. etc. And certain kinds of thinking can lead to great harm. (The idea that some races are inherently superior to others leaps to mind.)

But nowhere have I said anything about wanting to censor these ideas, or in any way silence them. I want to speak out against them. I want to debate people who hold them. I want to suggest better ideas to replace them. But I am puzzled as to how saying, "I am not okay with that idea" somehow constitutes censorship, or anything like it.

It's called the marketplace of ideas. It's how good ideas rise and bad ideas get filtered out. I don't understand why it's supposedly a bad thing.

David Ellis

Because a deistic god is essentially indistinguishable from no god at all, it is an entirely untestable, unfalsifiable hypothesis.

In most versions of Deism (I have in mind the way the deist God is represented in THE AGE OF REASON and similar books), God is assumed to be a benevolent God.

So there is one quite strong objection to deism. The problem of evil. The evidence of nature is far from consistent with a benevolent deity.

Unless this deistic God is a lot less powerful or a lot less competent than the traditional one.

Nor is there any logical reason for this God, if benevolent, to be so utterly hands off. This element, the one essential to deism, is a purely ad hoc addition to the concept of God---probably to explain away the lack of evidence. But if God is benevolent, as they contend, and his creation is as drenched in suffering as it is, then this inaction is a very serious problem for the internal consistency of Deist beliefs.


The only thing I believe in is secular heaven:


A few years ago, I heard an article on NPR in which a physicist hypothesized that universes could be created in the lab. A micro-black hole could expand into a complete universe starting with a Big Bang just like our universe and continuing through all the stages of cosmological evolution. Or it could evolve in a completely different fashion, with different laws of reality. Of course, because it would be a completely different universe, there is no way we could study, interact or even know for sure that it actually existed, except perhaps mathematically.

This scenario fits the definition of a deistic god.



Sorry; I read "it's not okay" as being somewhat equivalent to "it's something that shouldn't be happening" or perhaps "I'd forbid this if I could". If that wasn't your intention, I apologize for misunderstanding.


I tend to agree, and love the handle you're using.


I haven't talked to a deist in a while, but next time I do, I'm tempted to say something like "I believe in a god that is a blue winged turtle with pink polka-dots, that likes herb tea, and created the universe and had no other contact with it since then". Because any claims of the absurdity or unreasonableness of this belief seem to me to apply equally well to more conventional formes of deism.


I went through a brief deistic period before becoming an atheist. I think there were a number of reasons why. First, I hadn't been exposed to atheism itself. Period. Until then, the only time I've heard references to atheists were from Christian preachers who claimed that there were no true atheists, just disgruntled believers who in their hearts of hearts decided to hate god.

Secondly, my moderate religious/secular education implored me to look at the wealth of available religions and "pick one" that's right for me. Only problem was, once again, they never mentioned atheism. I learned about deism in American history class. At the time, this was the best possible choice, given the alternatives, of satisfying the requirement I've been given of finding the one religion that's "true" for me.

It was a belief that came and went very quickly. For some reason, my deism was of great interest to my classmates. But by the time the first person ever asked me why I was a deist, I answered that I actually didn't believe in any god at all anymore. But I still hadn't realized that "atheist" was the correct term for that. It wasn't until I really began to see the malicious nature of religious beliefs, questioning things such as that Christianity is generally a positive force in the world, that I realized that what I've been taught about atheism by Christians was a lie.


What about hell?
I don't know much about deism, but would believing in a god who exists, created the universe, has nothing to do with it now, but will return to judge when the world ends still constitute deism?
Because if it does, then deism pretty much equates to being just as harmful as theistic beliefs because of the lengths people will go to to avoid going to hell (or to keep their loved ones out of hell).
To me, a non-interventionist god, who still started out with a plan, could quite easily be coming back to impose this plan on us any time.
I think I was trying to agree that deism is a load of shit.

J Nernoff III

Nobody knows what caused the Big Bang, or even if the BB had a cause, or even if the BB was the cause or initiating event of the universe. This is unsettling to many people who want *some* kind of answer, so they invoke "God." The term "God" has all sorts of baggage associated with it -- you've heard it all: love, omniscience, a floating human wearing sandals, a half-man half elephant. Yeah right. "God," 13 billion years ago created a universe with trillions of stars we don't know the end of, with the vaunted PINNACLE OF CREATION, Homo sapiens hanging around for the merely the last 200,000 years or so. The whole creation was just for us.

Aren't you impressed?

the chaplain

Nice post. Like many others, some sort of deistic mindset was my last stop before atheism. I think I needed that stop while I read about atheism and humanism, because I honestly could not conceive of what life would be like without some sort of god-belief. It took me a while to understand that life could make sense without a god. In fact, I discovered that life makes a great deal more sense without a god than with one.

Alumno deVerum

You're arguing against 18th century Deism.It has evolved. Here is a link to an essay explaining modern Deistic thought:

Alumno deVerum

Oh what the hell I'll just post the whole damn thing. If you're going to argue against Deism argue against what it is not what you want it to be. There are links to illustrations that explain the argument.

If the world is logical it must have a logical reason for being. If it does not have a logical reason for being it is not fundamentally logical and we should have no expectation that it would behave logically. As science suggests the world does appear to behave logically (which is why it has been so successful in describing it) must be assumed it is logical. And if it is logical it can be explained. So what is logic?

The phrase “I think therefore I am” is a self-referential observation that provides certain knowledge of our own conscious existence (in fact it is the only thing of which we may be absolutely certain). But that observation can also be put in the form of a syllogism which is the formal expression of a logical statement:

I am a thinking being.
In order to think a being must exist.
Therefore I must exist.

This is the basis of all philosophy and everything we know about logic is derived from it; proper distribution of terms to avoid non-sequiturs, the copula which establishes the relationship between those terms, either positive or negative, by using a form of the words "is" or "is not", and the fallacy of contradictions because how could I be aware of myself if I did not exist? In order to better understand it let’s look at it in generic form:

A is B major premise
B is C minor premise
A is C conclusion

Notice how the term "B" occurs in both the major and minor premises thus connecting the term "A" to the term "C" allowing for a conclusion. This connection must exist so if a statement does not conform to this model it must be dismissed as illogical because the conclusion is a non sequitur that does not follow unbroken from the premises.

Now it could be argued there are some things that do appear to be illogical or contradictory. However to know if they truly are illogical we would have to have a complete theory of knowledge. But we don’t. And history is overstuffed with things that were once thought beyond understanding but which were later explained and there is no reason to think the problems of today are any different. So as long as that trend continues we must, again, assume the world is logical and regard any theory that contains contradictions as incomplete (which science is otherwise there would be no more need for research). Therefore we should be prepared to follow logic wherever it leads without predjudice.

Traditionally attempts to answer to the question, "why is there something instead of nothing?" have failed because, if we assume our common materialistic notion of "nothingness" as a void that is absolutely "without property" is correct, "something from nothing" is a non sequitur. But is this definition correct?

According to the rules of logic as revealed above there are only two ways we can legitimately derive definitions; induction (observation or experience), and deduction (the syllogism). Since we see "something" when we look around us we cannot experience "nothingness" so the only way we can define it is by deduction.

Utilizing the methods allowed by those rules then we should be able to strip away all the permutations of existence and reduce it to its essence simply by putting a form of the words "is not" (the negative form of the copula in the syllogism) in front of "being as a whole". This ought to give us a definition of "no being" or "nothingness" as absolutely "without property".

But potential is a property and the world could not exist if it did not have the potential to. So is this itself not a contradiction proving the world is not logical?

No. Because of what is known as the fallacy of composition, which states it cannot be assumed that what is true of the whole (being) is also true of it's parts (the attributes of being), the definition of nothingness cannot be assumed to be absolute because it is derived from being as a whole.

A good example of a concept that may not be considered to be bound by the same rules as a lesser one is the universe as a whole. Consider entropy. The apparent conservation of matter and energy has been well established by scientists and is referred to as the laws of thermodynamics.

The first law says that neither matter nor energy may be created or destroyed only changed in form. And aside from the fact there apparently is no evidence energy can be created from nothing there are good philosophical reasons to accept this as true. If we assumed that “new” energy could be created from nothing shouldn't we also suppose that there would probably be an equal chance “old” energy would be destroyed at the same rate keeping the total energy level in the universe constant?

The second law says that energy flows in a definite direction. Heat from a flame will flow into a block of ice melting it but we never see heat flow from the colder ice back into the flame making it hotter. Energy levels tend to equalize and once that equilibrium has been achieved energy flow stops.

The universe as a whole, however, is not the same as the systems within it. The total energy level of the universe appears to be finite and will probably never change. There is no apparent input from outside of it nor is any energy seen to be released. All the energy that has ever existed still seems to be a part of it (in fact accounting for so called "missing" energy has led to the prediction and discovery of previously unknown particles such as the neutrino a feat which would be highly unlikely if the conservation laws were wrong). In this way the universe as a whole is different from the subsystems within it, like the fire and ice, which we know can gain or lose energy.

Likewise the concept of absolute nothingness is not the same as the absence of something in the world. Absolute means just that. ABSOLUTE! No property. No potential. No exceptions. Therefore, since the world exists, logically "nothingness" is not absolute and thus must have at least one property. So perhaps the question should be rephrased as "what is it about nothingness that keeps it from being absolute?"

"Nothingness" is the only thing (and since it has property it is a thing) that can be thought of in completely negative terms except for the fact it is a concept that can be thought of. Nothingness is a concept. You're thinking about it right now!

So even when "being" is stripped of every other attribute we are still left with the idea of nothingness. It has no other property. But what does that mean?

Consider a scale with 1 ounce of gold in each pan. The scale would read 0 because the pans are balanced but there would still be 2 ounces of gold. So in this case 0 means "no difference" or "neutrality" not "empty".

Likewise what we call "nothingness" is not an empty void "without property" but is actually a neutral concept (which is something) permitting us to now define it as absolute equilibrium (which is also exactly what the conservation laws imply). All other definitions must, for the time being, be dismissed as unfounded and meaningless. So how can the world emerge from that?

Imagine a straight line that extends outward forever.

Such a one dimensional line is analogous to "nothingness" by this definition because it has but one property- it is a concept in equilibrium (this technique is called the principle of equivalence and was used by Albert Einstein to equate gravity with acceleration when he formulated the theory of relativity).

There are an infinite number of waveforms that exist in potential in such a line.

Now if things happen simply because they can happen and they can happen because they don't result in contradiction then as long as the probability of an event does not equal zero (which is what happens when two identical but opposite waves try to emerge at the same time and cancel out) they may occur for no reason other than the fact there is nothing to prevent them from occurring. Therefore any of these waveforms may emerge spontaneously by themselves or in combination by simple addition.

By themselves the most basic waveforms (sine waves) have no meaning but, utilizing a technique developed by the French mathematician Jean Baptiste Fourier, we can see that merged with others they can create radically different patterns which not only match the same patterns we see in our world they also permit the emergence of an infinite number of other universes each with different physics.

In other words in this model there is a spectrum of universes. And they don't just obey mathematical rules they are mathematics- manifest. Ours just happens to be one that is conducive to life explaining why it seems so finely tuned.

However all the evidence we have says that for a concept to exist there must be a mind to consider it. And if you claim to believe in science and reason you have to go with the evidence you have not the "evidence" you want to have. And there is just no evidence concepts can exist without being observed.

For example you can have 9 coins in one hand and 9 stones in the other but where is the number 9 apart from what you hold? Aside from the fact they are “physical” we can sense no other property they have in common. But changing the quantity doesn’t seem to affect the physical characteristics of either group so that particular integer itself is not intrinsic to either group physically. 9 has attributes we can understand. It is the square of 3. It is an odd number. And we can distinguish those traits from; say, the number 8 which is even and not a square. So even though it is not tangible it is a thing in its own right as a concept but that is all. You can not point to anything in nature and say, “This is the number 9 by itself.” You can only think about it.

A materialist (someone who assumes the world has an objective existence and does not need to be observed) may reply that the number 9 must be expressed physically as stones or coins to exist but what is the "physical"? Albert Einstein proved that mass (matter) is just energy in particle form. Then the physicist Erwin Schrodinger discovered that energy could be manifested as a wave as well as a particle. And finally another scientist, Max Born, showed that waves are just the probability distribution of a possible event. Probability, in turn, is mathematical in nature and mathematics itself is nothing more than the rules that govern numbers which are concepts.

Others say the numbers themselves are merely the products of material processes in the brain we impose on the world. But it seems to me this is just substituting one unsubstantiated statement for another.

One can not assert the brain and its processes are material in order to prove the brain and its processes are material as that is a circular argument. The brain is made of tissue composed of cells built from molecules of atoms that are particles of matter which is energy...

Even the evidence of science itself seems to cast doubt on materialism.

One of the consequences of the wave/particle nature of physics touched on above is Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. Simply stated, this points out a fundamental mathematical law that says that an observer can never know both the position and the speed or frequency of a "particle/wave" at once. To know it's position energy must be at rest and in particle form and to know its speed it must be a wave. Since it can’t be both at rest and in motion at the same time, it creates uncertainty.

The first evidence of the dual nature of matter was discovered in 1801 when a medical doctor named Thomas Young built a device called an interferometer and sent a beam of light through it. Until that time it was thought light was composed of only particles because Isaac Newton showed they seem to travel in straight lines.

The instrument Young built is very simple. An interferometer is just a box with a pin hole at the front end to admit light, a panel with two off center slits in it which divides the front of the interior from the back, and a screen at the rear. If light really is made of particles they should travel in straight lines and either strike the panel in the middle of the box so they could not be observed on the screen or, if they had just the right trajectory, pass through the slits and show up on the screen as a concentration of dots right behind them and no where else. But if light is a wave it should spread out like a ripple and strike the entire center panel. The slits in the divider would then act as new points of origin for that part of the light that happened to fall there. As they passed through they would, again, spread out like ripples but as there are now two of them they would interfere with each other. That is when a trough of a wave met another trough (or a crest met a crest) they would reinforce each other. However when a trough met a wave they would cancel out. Together these would appear as light and dark bands on the screen. And that is exactly what Thomas Young saw proving light was a wave.

However about a century later Albert Einstein revived the particle theory of light in order to explain a phenomenon known as the photo electric effect. It had been observed that an electric current could be produced by shining a light of a specific wave length on certain metals. But other frequencies would have no effect no matter how intense the illumination. For instance a very bright red light was unable to cause an electric current but a very dim blue could. Einstein theorized that the current was initiated by the light kicking out electrons from the metal itself. Because the electrons were bound to the atom so tightly it would take a great deal of energy to dislodge them. But if light was a wave it would spread the energy out too thin. The only way it would work is if the energy of the light was concentrated in a particle. That was why a bright red light could not create a current but a dim blue one could. The individual particles of red light are just not energetic enough to overcome the force binding the electron to the atom. But the individual particles of blue light are much more energetic and so can knock the electrons out and make an electric current.

So depending on how they are observed light can appear as either a particle or a wave. The experimenter determines which form it will take by the way she
decides to measure it. If she sets up an experiment to detect particles
that is what she’ll find. Likewise, if she wants to find waves she will
see them. Not both at once.

The uncertainty principle has created a great many problems for physicists and philosophers alike. The consequences that arise from it deeply troubled many scholars when it was first set forth, Einstein among them. He, along with the scientists Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen (tests based on their views are called EPR experiments after them) pointed out that if two particles are produced by the breakdown of another and one of them is then sent off into space while the one that remains is examined to determine it’s direction of spin, for example, it’s twin must instantly assume the opposite spin in order to keep from violating the law of conservation no matter how far apart they are!

Up until it is observed all the properties associated with a particle, including its direction of spin, exist only in potential so that trait is also bound by chance and it could just as easily have spun the other way. But, by what mechanism does the other particle “know” to assume the spin opposite it’s counterpart?

The fastest means of transmitting information available is light but even it can only go so fast and nothing can make it go faster. Imagine yourself in the intersection of two roads. To your right an old jalopy is puttering along at 50 mph. Straight ahead comes a sports car at 100 mph. If light could gain speed it should pick up an extra 100 mph from the sports car so the light from it should reach your eyes before the light from the slower car. But if that was the case when the cars collided it would appear as if the faster car collides with nothing and then when the light from the slower car car finally reaches your eyes it would seem to perfectly form itself around the damage on the other car. But that's not what we see. We see both cars enter the intersection at the same time. So we may conclude the speed of light is finite. And so is the information it can transmit. And there is nothing known that can go faster.

Light travels at the incredible speed of 186,000 mile per second, but even that takes time and what if an observer on another planet tests that particle for direction of spin before the information can reach it? Is there a chance it could assume the same spin as its partner and violate the conservation laws?

If not and someone on Earth can “determine” the properties of a particle light years away she has never seen simply by measuring another one here, it would seem that the role of the observer in keeping the universe orderly is more important than previously thought. And the reported results of EPR experiments do seem to confirm that order is indeed maintained.

In an effort to do away with the need for an observer while avoiding the problem of super luminal information transference (and, I think, to avoid the obvious religious implications) some materialists have advanced what is known as the “many worlds theory by decoherence", a hypothesis which holds that in order to avoid uncertainty whenever there is an event with more than one possible outcome the entire cosmos actually splits like a wave in an interferometer to accommodate every single one. According to the many worlds theory there is a place where Abraham Lincoln was not assassinated and the Titanic still sails.

However for it to work there must be a way by which a universe can tell what it's sister world is doing so it can do the opposite. The only mechanism I am aware of that has been put forth which can allow for the communication necessary for it to do that is a shared history up to the point of differentiation where they "branch".

If true considering the rapidity of nuclear interactions as well as the sheer number of them and the fact that there is more than a handful of probable outcomes for any event and all must occur separately, parallel universes of this type must be being created continuously at a rate that boggles the mind. Imagine tossing just one coin ten times. The first flip would produce two coins (heads in one world tails in the other), the second would create four since each of those would have two possible outcomes.

The third throw makes eight, then sixteen, thirty two, sixty four and so on until by the tenth flip you have produced one thousand twenty four coins each in their own separate universe (ten more and you will create over a million)!

This seems ludicrous on the surface, but so have many other theories in the past that have been confirmed by observation and if it follows from the premise and fits the facts it must be accepted no matter how outlandish it may seem. My own criticism of it must, therefore, be based on what I believe to be logical grounds and I do have reservations about it, the main one being it appears to violate the laws of conservation. If this materialistic explanation is correct how can an infinite number of universes be created out of a finite amount of energy?

When a wave of a finite amount of energy propagates the total power in it initially stays the same but it spreads out over a greater distance, thinning and thus getting weaker at any particular place. If the ocean is wide enough even a tsunami will eventually become nothing more than a ripple unless more energy is supplied to it to maintain its strength and there is no evidence I am aware of that is happening anywhere in the universe (in fact observation of the residual heat of the Big Bang known as the cosmic background radiation idicates the universe is getting cooler and fainter as it expands suggesting the amount of energy in the universe is, indeed, finite). Splitting a wave only accelerates the process suggesting that the cosmos would likewise become so dilute so fast there would never be enough energy in any specific universe long enough to form the matter we see around us and the world as we know it could not exist.

As we have seen that doesn't mean there are no other universes only that there is no reason to believe they can come into being in this way. So it may be there are an infinite number of types of universes but not every variation of a type may be realized. Nor does it suggest decoherence isn't a real phenomenon. It is. It fact it has reportedly been observed in the laborotory but all the constituent parts remained firmly ensconced in this world.

So to summarize all this the world appears to be made of a finite amount of energy and ruled by the laws of conservation. That energy can take one of two forms;particles or waves. The form they take seems to depend on how they are observed. But it is possible to set up experiments that should allow the possibility for the conservation laws to be violated because the information needed to uphold them is prevented from reaching the appropiate particle in time by the finite speed of light. However the results of such experiments indicate the conservation laws are not violated suggesting they are indeed being observed. In order to get around this some materialists have said the whole universe splits so that every possible outcome of an event occurs so there is no need for an obsever. But that leads to the problem of creating an infinite number of universes out of a finite amount of energy which would not allow the existence of the world as we know it. In my opinion that is just absurd.

My strongest objection to materialism, however, is that it is also appears to be self-contradictory. Even though materialists claim to believe in reason they seem to advocate a form of mysticism when it comes to the problem of origins. For example they often say asking what happened before the Big Bang is misleading and meaningless because that implies time. Since time cannot exist prior to the Big Bang, questions about an era of “pre-time” are non-sensical.

But if we now ask, “Well why was there a Big Bang?” The materialist answer is generally, “Because the laws of physics allow it.” If we then inquire as to where the laws of physics came from they will almost always respond that they are synonymous, co-emerging with the universe. While sounding reasonable this doesn’t explain anything. For the laws of physics to emerge they had to have had the potential to emerge. Without that potential they wouldn’t have emerged so didn’t the potential itself have to be pre-existent? This again begs the question, “Why is there potential?”

“Because of the laws of uncertainty”, the materialist asserts!

“But don’t you have to have something to be uncertain about?”

The question/response pattern that is beginning to emerge here seems to be that of infinite regress; axiom based on axiom based on axiom and so on forever.

There is a story entitled the “Tower of Turtles” illustrating the problem with this type of reasoning. There are different versions of the tale but basically it goes like this:

A physicist is giving a public lecture about the structure of the universe as described by science when an elderly lady in the audience raises her hand.

“Yes?” he says rather annoyed at the interruption.

“Sir you have it all wrong. I know how the world really is!”

“Please enlighten us madam.”

“The universe sits on the back of an elephant which is riding on the back of a turtle.” She informs him.

“But what, pray tell, is the turtle riding on madam?” the physicist asks condescendingly.

“Ah! You can’t fool me sir! Its turtles all the way down!”

This amusing little story makes a serious point. If materialism is logical it must be able to explain itself- but it can’t because "something from nothing" in materialism is a non-sequiter. So it is either forced into an unexplanable infinite regression (such as suggesting this universe was spawned by another universe and that one likewise and so on forever) that is almost identical to the "who created the creator" argument so many delight in ridiculing or it must assert it is intrinsically unknowable which, though few will admit it, means the world is fundamentally mystical. And if that is the case not only does it (contrary to all evidence) imply we should have no expectation logic could explain anything it opens the door to all sorts of religious dogma.

So not only is materialism unable to explain itself it is also lacking any supporting evidence. In fact all it seems to offer is a circular argument, an infinite regression, or a contradiction that suggests logic is an illusion built on a mystery. All the while ignoring the obvious question, “why is there a 'Tower of Turtles' at all?”

Given all these problems I just see no reasonable basis for a belief in materialism. So unless it could somehow be shown that one can observe the world not being observed (which is itself a contradiction) it must be dismissed as unfounded and illogical.

Idealism (the view the world is basically nothing more than a concept), however, follows, as demonstrated above, directly from the definitions of being and nothingness themselves and suffers from none of those problems. The difficulties that arise from thinking about the world in materialistic terms just don’t exist in it. In fact because immaterial ideas in the form of numbers seem to be the building blocks of everything, including the atoms the brain is made of, idealism would seem a more logical belief.

But if, as the evidence suggests, the world is basically concept and concepts must be observed what was observing it before intelligent life evolved? This "problem" is really no problem at all. Lines may curve in many ways. One is a circle. Bending a line in on itself makes it self referential or self observing. Bending the line representing the "concept of absolute equilibrium" in on itself makes it self referential or self observing. That also makes It conscious because structurally It is identical to the self referential observation "I am" which tells us just what "concept" it is in equilibrium and thus gives it meaning. It is awareness itself and it is a true tabula rasa.

It also stops infinite regressions similar to the "who created the creator" problem because looking at the world as concept seems to fit a general trend in the advancement of knowledge which is completely incompatible with the notion of infinite regress. That is generalizing and simplifying a field to a succinct school of thought. In biology, the entire spectrum of life on Earth has been reduced to one idea - DNA. Chemists have gone further by taking the very stuff of DNA (as well as what everything else in the world is made of) and explaining it with the atom. Again, one simple theory that unites an entire science. Reducing the universe to a concept, based on its common relationship with nothingness as an idea, is the ultimate expression of this, it cannot be reduced any further.

I call this foundational state the Prime Observer because It is literally observing Itself. The circle in this model is perfectly smooth and therefore in equilibrium but contains within It an infinite number of potential worlds which may emerge spontaneously as an epiphenomenon or side effect. In other words It is the simplest possible structure but contains within It all the complexities that can ever be.

By this model the Prime Observer could be thought of as an
ocean unbounded by any shore and the world as a wave of pure
mathematical patterns of probability traveling through it (which is all
that is needed to constitute an observation) explaining how observers in the world can interact with it in a way the Prime Observer can't. Imagine secondary
observers such as ourselves as icebergs in that ocean. If it encounters no
obstruction the wave would move through the water unhindered but if it
hits an iceberg it will be deflected. The ice is made of the same
“stuff” as the ocean it floats in but while it is in a solid state it
can affect the wave in a way liquid water can’t. Thus even though the wave needs the ocean it has no influence on the wave and the wave will develope guided by nothing more than it's own internal dynamics.

As it is a concept we can say "nothingness" is not nothing. That is a contradiction thus such a state cannot exist if the world is logical. Just saying "nonexistence exists" is absurd. But an unobserved concept is also paradoxical and therefore unstable. It must collapse into a state that is stable but in order to do that it must have something in common with that state. Since the only property that which we commonly call "nothingness" (but which is better defined as the "concept of absolute equilibrium") has is that of a concept it can only be reduced to something else that is also a concept to avoid a non sequitur. And all it has to do to accomplish that is bend back on itself. Nothing more.

Thus may we construct a model providing us with a possible answer to our original question, "why is there something instead of nothing?" that not only explains itself but matches what we see in the world. And though it is not a proof when contrasted with the problems arising from the alternative (atheistic materialism) it seems, to me at least, the only reasonable conclusion. However its most profound revelation may be that, contrary to traditional Theism which holds the cosmos is a purposeful creation, because of the possibility the world may only be an unintentional "byproduct" of what is essentially a Deistic "God" the only purpose to our existence may be that which we choose to make for ourselves.

Adler, Mortimer J.
How To Think About God: A Guide For The 20th Century Pagan
Collier Books

Asimov, Isaac
Understanding Physics
Walker and Co.

Dawkins, Richard
The Blind Watchmaker: Why The Evidence Of Evolution Reveals A Universe Without Design
W. W. Norton

Greene, Brian
The Elegant Universe
Vintage Books

Hawking, Stephen
A Brief History Of Time

Isaacs, Alan
The Survival Of God In The Scientific Age

Pagels, Heinz R.
The Cosmic Code: Quantum Physics As The Language Of Nature

Smith, George H.
Atheism: The Case Against God
Prometheus Books

Stenger, Victor J.
God: The Failed Hypothesis How Science Shows God Does Not Exist
Prometheus Books

Thomas, Norman L.
Modern Logic: An Introduction
Barnes and Noble


The almighty god of creation has no need to intervine in our day to day lives. Everything we need now and in the future has already been considered in the creation. If god were to guide us day to day, we would have no reason to do anything for ourselves. All his instructions have been laid out for all to see, it is entirely left up to us to find and follow his plan.

Kyle Rasmussen

Actually, there is one thing that does prove a god of some sort exists... how about the entire universe? The idea of an extremely dense point of matter simply popping into being is just ridiculous. Atheists believe that they have science on their side, but there is the little matter of "Conservation of matter-energy." We are made of matter, and we exist. Therefore, that matter must have been created at some point in time. But matter cannot be created or destroyed. Thus a supernatural being intervened, and ignored the laws of nature for one moment to make the universe (and you at one point bring up the argument "Who created god?" You are SERIOUSLY questioning what an omnipotent god who has already been proven able to ignore the laws and logic of nature can and can't do?) Please, tell me if i do have any logical fallacies, or whether i just proved Atheism. With science.


You are SERIOUSLY questioning what an omnipotent god who has already been proven able to ignore the laws and logic of nature can and can't do?)

We seriously question you and your so called proof! Just because you can think up such a concept does not mean that it is then proven that it's true. Just because you are able to imagine a magical being that can be outside the laws of nature doesn't mean that one actually exists! That's your logical fallacy!

Kyle Rasmussen

The thing is though, i DID prove that a "magical" being is outside nature. Now, I may not have proven how he got there, what he looks like, or any of the details on it, but i know that it exists, because science says so. I don't imagine things. I prove them true, and then i watch people flail around, trying to hold onto their delusions for one last minute. Like you.


Kyle, all you've proven with logic is that an unbreakable law of conservation is incompatible with the notion of the universe suddenly popping into existence. However, your solution ("God did it!") is far from the only one. Here are some other possibilities:

* The universe extends backwards in time forever
* The universe actually has a net energy of zero, and all the matter is balanced out by antimatter
* Causality didn't always apply; that is, the creation of the universe included the creation of time itself, and so the concept of there being a period before the creation of the universe where all the matter and energy weren't around might not be necessary
* The laws of conservation and/or causality only came into being at some point after the creation of the universe. The only reason we know about physical laws like the law of conservation is inductively; so, for periods we don't have much inductive information about (i.e. the very beginning of the universe, or some period "before" then if that even makes sense), we don't necessarily know that the laws applied.

Also, it's fallacious to fill in empty spaces of knowledge with "God did it!" without any positive evidence in favor of that explanation over any other. Even if it's not any of the explanations I listed above, the most we can say is "dunno"; making unnecessary assumptions isn't helpful.

Jimmy Crummins

Several points:

"I care because it gives legitimacy to the idea that it's okay to believe in undetectable supernatural entities, without any evidence to support that belief.

I care because it gives legitimacy to the idea that it's okay to believe in undetectable supernatural entities, simply because you feel it intuitively.

I care because it gives legitimacy to the idea that it's okay to believe in undetectable supernatural entities, simply because you want to: because you find the idea of a god comforting, and because you find the idea of there not being a god weird and upsetting."

It IS OK to believe in these things. If these things give people comfort, then it is perfectly OK for people to believe in them. There is something slightly perverse in your desire to remove their comfort for the sake of your intellectual clarity. As long as their beliefs remain theirs and they don't use their beliefs to foist laws upon you (and that is, after all, your core concern given your lifestyle) if they want to believe in God or whatever, that is their choice. And it's a choice that should be respected. When you start attacking very fundamentally basic notions such as whether someone believes in the existence of a God, your atheism begins to take on a certain militancy.

"The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion."

I would say I would have to disagree with this on two levels. CErtainly atheistic communism and it's close relative, fascism, made the 20th century one of the most vicious. Atheists can kill every bit as efficiently as the religious among us.

Secondly, we have to remember that many who cite religion as an excue are using it as just that, an excuse. Were that excuse not close at hand, another would be found. Calling conflicts such as the one in Northern Ireland a religious conflict is to grossly simplify the roots of such conflicts.


The thing is though, i DID prove that a "magical" being is outside nature.

No, you did not. You thought that only being able to imagine it makes it real.

Now, I may not have proven how he got there, what he looks like, or any of the details on it, but i know that it exists, because science says so.

It does not say this, and you are drawing the wrong conclusions from what it does say.

I don't imagine things.

Yes, you do.

I prove them true, and then i watch people flail around, trying to hold onto their delusions for one last minute. Like you.

*LOL* No you are not proving it true. I do not have illusions about this to hang on to. I don't know how the universe came into being, no one does at this point in time, so how can I have illusions about something I do not know at all? I do not put magical beings in this gap of knowledge though, because that would be just a tad silly.


Jimmy, if Greta posting articles on her own blog respectfully but firmly disagreeing with people is "attacking" and "slightly perverse" and "being militant"... then you going onto someone else's blog and disagreeing with them in a 90% polite but still somewhat pushy way is like being that guy from near the end of Dr. Strangelove who waves his cowboy hat and hoots while he rides a falling nuclear bomb.


Or to put it another way, Jimmy, how is civilly disagreeing with someone's choice in any way disrespectful of that choice?

Jimmy Crummins

It is a useless critic. It is a critic with only one objection - to remove the security and comfort that billions take in such faith. It serves no purpose.

I understand Greta's position (though perhaps I do not always agree with it) where the religious among us, in applying their given beliefs, impact negatively upon her life. She most certainly has the right to defend herself in that context. But the more fundamental attack, as witnessed here in this blog, goes beyond that. I would think that is self evident, but perhaps not.

As for this being "Greta's blog" - well it is in the sense that she controls it. But it is also a public medium. This is the equivelent of a privately owned newspaper. The owner can (and does) decide it's content. But it is then accessed by the public at large - thus making it grist for the public mill. I don't know how many people access this blog every month, but given she has advertisers paying her for it, I would dare say the numbers are reasonably high. Of course the bulk of those are basically going to be people who share her outlooks, but some of those will then go on to use her arguements against friends and family members to attack their beliefs. I would dare say this is part of Greta's objective. In that context, counter-arguements I think are perfectly reasonable.


Jimmy Crummins | April 23, 2010 at 07:06 AM:

CErtainly atheistic communism and it's close relative, fascism ...

First - the Stalinists, Maoists, etc, did what they did in the name of Communism - not in the name of atheism.
Second - the fascists of the 21st century were almost all Christians. Hitler, Franco, Pinochet - devout Christians one and all, like most of their followers. (Yes, I know Himmler liked to mix pseudo paganism with his Christianity - but his ilk were the minority.) They remained in good standing with the Catholic church throughout all their lives.
Finally - and this so widely known I think you know you are lying - communism and fascism come from opposite ends of the political spectrum; they are not close relatives.

Jimmy Crummins

I did not insinuate that Stalin and company killed in the name of atheism (since atheism is a lack of faith of any type, it would make little sense to do ANYTHING in the name of it). I said that it demonstrates that atheists CAN commit plenty of violence. Atheism is not an antidote to human condlict - which many here are trying to paint it to be.

Hitler was a pagan who used Christianity and any other motivator whenever convenient. He argued that eventually the Germans should follow their original faith - in his view nordic paganism. He persecuted large numbers of Christians and was perfectly happy to do so. You will note this is a trait of dictators - they are not motivated by religion. They are motivated by power and use religion when that's feasible.

After Hitler left home he never again attended Catholic mass. Not the mark of a good Catholic who remained in good standing with the Church. The Catholic Church feared Hitler and the Nazis, and with good reason. Chrisitan leaders who oppossed the Nazis suffered the same fate as everyone else. Hitler offered no solace to Polish Catholics and intended to kill them all. He ran out of time before he achieved that goal, but he did manage to kill seven million nonetheless. Not the mark of a good Catholic.

As for Communism and Fascism being on opposite ends of the political spectrum, this is only superficially true. In practice Communism IS fascism. To wit:

1. Both brook no dissent among their governed populations.

2. Both use well developed security organs to protect their hold on power.

3. Both are led by unimpeachable oligarchies or individuals.

4. Both are highly nationalistic. The international arguements of the communist economic agenda (when they had meaning at all - a time now long gone thankfully) were simply cover. Communisms short flirtation as an international movement was really a cover for extension of Russian empire: A fact that the Chinese Communists wised up to quickly.

Both will happily fight other like minded states if the need arises. Chinese Communists have fought Soviet and Vietnamese communists, Vietnamese communists have fought Khmer communists, Russian communists have fought Ukrainian communists... and so forth and so on.

Religion is often used as a motivator in warfare, but it is seldom the true cause. Nations fight over national interests - for every conflict you can almost always find a resource conflict behind it if you look for it. This isn't going to change even if religion were to disappear. Which it isn't going to do anyway. Childish discussions about "what if" that envision the Islamic world leaving Islam, the Bhudists abandoning Bhudism and so forth are ludicrous and not worth discussing. Anyone who has lived in the Muslim world for any length of time understands that more than any other peoples, Islam is the social and political foundation where it dominates. Take it away and you remove the entire foundation of Muslims world view. As we have already seen, they are perfectly willing to kill over this issue. It is true that since the reformation the Christian west is becoming less Christian, but that's where the buck stops.

K. Mapson

Ah, but what about PanDeism? It addresses the very problems you raise (legit issues though they are) by the incorporation of Pantheism into the Deistic model; a slightly-less-than-omnipotent "God" does not abandon our Universe, but instead becomes it, underlies it unconsciously and inactively for the purpose of learning through our experience what it is to exist as a being defined by limitations, and the overcoming of same....

Jimmy Crummins

I think most Deists would agree that God's nature and the depth of his/her (its?) influence can not be understood. The universe is clearly connected in complex ways that we are just scratching the surface on in terms of comprehension. If course, I think most atheists would say "so what does believing in this God mean in practical terms?" and the answer is it doesn't have a practical implication. It just acknowledges that there is more to our, the planets and the universes makeup than we understand and that lack of understanding is put under the "God" rubric. Of course this view of "God" is VERY different from traditional views of deity which some Deists still maintain. In my view it's all an interesting theoretical exercise, but from a political perspective I remain a died in the wool secularist, although I have enough world experience to understand that the Islamic world is NEVER going to move away from faith based social and political systems. Well, at least not for a VERY, VERY, VERY long time.

Greta Christina

Thank you for sharing, Jimmy.

Jimmy Crummins

You're welcome seniorita.


"So for any practical purposes, deism is indistinguishable from atheism."

Aside from the concept of rewards and punishment after this life. Some who are called Deists don't believe in that sort of thing, and therefore are atheists in reality in my opinion. But Deists who believe God will proportionally punish immorality after this life (proportionally, this is not Christianty's tyrant who gives a standard eternity in hell just for sneezing) certainly are not anywhere close to atheists.

Peter Hilbig

So you're not okay with people thinking for themselves. As much as your take on Deist beliefs is only partially true, so it seems evident that atheists are bent on converting the world with similar half-truths. The modern Deist does not claim to possess truth, but to be in search of it. Your atheistic push insists that people reject the God notion outright rather than to view it as an unlikely contender. There is a world of difference in the two approaches.
Deism has evolved and continues to evolve beyond the 18th century views you harp on. If you're interested in its progress, then stay the scathing tongue and broaden your mind with our discussions.


"Your atheistic push insists that people reject the God notion outright rather than to view it as an unlikely contender."



Infinity encompasses all that we are, all that we know, all that we dream, as well as every option available to us. Every instance in time that has a consequence, has replicates that permit all permutations of that consequence to be part of the continuum.

To your argument --- any instance of consequence which involves a deist belief (I do or I don't believe) has two replicates which lead towards an infinite stream of consequences. Therefore, the 'belief' in a deity (any deity) in and of itself defines the existence of a 'GOD'.


Honestly, nothing in this post bothered me at all except the "I'm not okay with that" part. This is what I don't like about atheism (not atheists mind you, atheism). We all hold beliefs outside of our rational minds that we trust. Many of us have been lucky enough to experience what we call love. This is a completely human concept, with tons of scientific evidence for how it happens in our brains, yet it still feels somehow real to us. It's something we trust in.

The "I'm not okay with that" sounds intolerant and it rejects half of the human experience. I do not like that a lot of atheists (not necessarily you Greta) feel like they are more justified in their beliefs simply because they come from rational thinking (which requires "faith" in the imperfect human mind). I have read your posts, I honestly find you to be an incredibly tolerant, brilliant woman. But I think you could have worded this differently.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Subscribe/ Donate to This Blog!

Books of mine

Greta on SSA Speakers Bureau

  • Greta Christina is on the Speakers Bureau of the Secular Students Alliance. Invite her to speak to your group!

Your email address:

Powered by FeedBlitz

Powered by Rollyo

Some Favorite Posts and Conversations: Atheism

Some Favorite Posts and Conversations: Sex

Some Favorite Posts: Art, Politics, Other Stuff