As you will have noticed, Celia, formatting doesn't work in the question field. That's because it was designed for much shorter questions. We don't mind at all if you split up your thoughts into separate questions, and it might also help you organise your thoughts. For now, I'll just follow along and answer what I see.
- Do you realise that with each exchange we're looking further back in time? You meet each of my responses with, "But how did X get there in the first place?" Eventually we'll reach the stage when I simply don't know, but beyond that is not simply a gap in which gods must sit, as you'll see.
The Earth formed from a cloud of loose rocks and gases, containing nearly every known element, which was pulled together by gravity. The heaviest elements, like iron and lead, sank towards the middle. The lightest elements, like hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen, stayed around the edges. The heavy clump in the middle solidified and formed the rocks which make up the planet beneath us. The aura of gases around it became the atmosphere. Some of the hydrogen and oxygen combined to form water, and rained down into what's now the oceans. The earth, air and water were now separate.
- They were not stable, though; earthquakes, mudslides, lava flows, winds, tides and rains still moved everything around, slowly and quickly. That's how the molecules of everything came together, and still come together every moment of every day.
- The likely reason that life isn't still forming from scratch is that the combinations were different back then. For example there was a lot more ammonia and methane in the air; what if those two are needed as gases? (This is very likely. In an old experiment, they shot canned lightning into a replica of the ancient atmosphere. They produced 22 amino acids.)
- Most chemical reactions occur as a result of contact and friction between atoms and molecules. That doesn't mean that all contact causes reactions, but with more and varied contact you will likely get more types of reactions. In a muddy, gassy swamp, where the earth, air and water all mix together, you've got massive potential for interesting new combinations.
- I'm not a good enough chemist to explain the origin of self-replicators. This short video shows one likely way.
- The Big Bang was when everything in the universe rapidly expanded outwards from a single point. It's often seen as the beginning of the universe, but it ain't necessarily so. The vast amount of material in that single point might have always existed, and spent some time compressing together beforehand. It might have been contributed by another universe, one of many. Or, if you subscribe to a certain part of quantum theory, it might have emerged spontaneously from a quantum "foam".
- If you use a god to explain the origin of the matter in the universe, you then need to address the origin of the god. If you declare, without evidence, that the god has existed forever, then why not declare that the universe has existed forever and didn't need to be created? As an explanatory device, gods are quite useless here.
- Not every effect of evolution must be beneficial. A new feature doesn't have to be perfect to be passed on, simply more beneficial than the alternative when all's said and done. The benefits just have to outweigh the costs.
Think of all the "crap" emotions put us through and consider how many lives are actually lost. Just how many suicides are there, anyway? Compare this with the billions of little nice things people do for each other every day, just because it makes them feel good. Consider the children who would not exist without their parents' love and devotion to each other in the face of any circumstances. The benefits of emotions outweigh the costs for most people, most of the time. That's all it takes for them to be passed on.
- Nature, as Darwin said, is red in tooth and claw. Countless animals die in fear and pain because they have been defeated in pursuit or battle by other animals who intend to eat them. To me, this makes more sense if there is no god than if a god continuously allows all this suffering. (The Christian response to this is that even the most loving animals don't have souls, and although we should be nice to them they are not ultimately important.)
- Life does just go away. This life will end for each of us. Does that make it any less enjoyable to live? Doesn't the possibility that there is no afterlife make this life all the more important? Think of the things you enjoy in life. Would you enjoy them any more or less if God has never existed all along? Why does life need to have meaning to some distant, external observer anyway? If it has meaning to you, if there is something you have to live for, that's plenty. Atheism does not lead inexorably to nihilism, as Christians sometimes charge.
- Humans think there is "something more" because there always is something more. The universe, and even the planet, has more in it than we can ever explore in one lifetime. Simply because we can, we extend this beyond the natural world and wonder about the possible existence of the supernatural. It's at this point that we may not have any grounds to continue. I think it occupies our thoughts anyway because there's no good way to explore the supernatural. It's a permanent "undiscovered country".
- You've developed a great many questions about your own faith. There are many answers the faithful and those without faith can give you, but there are no concrete answers and there may never be. The nice thing is, you don't have to be sure to be happy. I'm not sure there are no gods, but I think the chances are so low that I am content to live my life as if there aren't any. It's like going out at night despite the tiny possibility that I'll be hit by a meteorite; why bother to worry about it?
Your train of thought seems a little bit scattered. I'll try and follow along as I respond.
- In order to prove the non-existence of a god, you have to rule out not only all possible places it could be, but all possible things it could be. The study of what something is is called ontology, and the ontology of even the Christian god is terribly vague.
- The idea that the real god might not be the Christian one is the best response to Pascal's Wager. Well done coming up with it yourself.
- There is no available physical evidence for any of the figures or events you mention, only documentation in the form of the Bible and some other writings. That's why these texts are defended so aggressively. They're the last and only line of defence for Christianity, and Judaism too.
- When the gospels were written is no more settled than who wrote the things. As the link explains, Christian scholars tend towards a range of dates in the middle of the first century (20-30 years after the apparent crucifixion), while others think it was closer to the end of that century (30-60 years after).
- The God is Imaginary website doesn't really prove that God is imaginary. It does have some very clever arguments which turn scripture against itself and portray certain beliefs as very silly indeed. It's become infamous enough that evangelists have posted direct responses. This guy has written fifty proofs God is real to counter the site's fifty "proofs" God is imaginary. Not one of his is a real proof either.
Blimey, that's a hunka hunka burnin' pseudoscience if ever I saw one. Thanks for bringing it in.
First I'll put on my fact-checking hat.
- The two most commonly accepted examples of duality in our universe are the wave-particle duality of light and the decayed/not decayed state of unobserved unstable atoms (often explained using Schroedinger's Cat), and they're not even mentioned here.
- There probably isn't antimatter equivalent to all matter, or vice versa. We observe tremendous asymmetry, for example the fact that our part of the universe appears to contain almost entirely matter and almost no natural antimatter.
- In contrast to antimatter, which we can not only observe but deliberately produce and store, negative energy is still entirely hypothetical and may not exist at all. Antimatter in fact appears to consist of positive energy.
- There's an old saying that if you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics. The author of this argument apparently thinks he understands quantum mechanics.
- A vacuum may not be neutral at all, according to zero-point energy theory.
- Matter doesn't just house energy, it is energy in another form. It's really not separate from it.
Ultimately, none of this has anything to do with consciousness, so if the argument had left out everything before "So what does this have to do with god then..." it wouldn't make any less sense.
Next up, I'll put on my targeting scope and go for the central point of this shemozzle.
If consciousness is energy, just because it's made of the same stuff as everything else doesn't give it power over everything else. Our collective consciousnesses have no godlike influence over the rest of reality. Besides, we don't have a collective consciousness or "hive mind" as we understand the concept so we've got no way of combining our mental powers to physically affect the universe. All we can do is move our own bodies and get things done through ordinary teamwork. Not much of a god, are we?
Even the idea of consciousness as independent energy is a contested premise. It requires a position of mind-brain duality (that is, mutual independence) that most atheists don't share. Consciousness in any materialist view is simply a function of the brain itself, kept running by electrical impulses which have no external influence and no autonomy. It's like a computer program: wipe the computer, and it disappears.
Finally, there's a more general point to be made, so I'll go up in my mehve to see the big picture.
If when considering the world at large you feel you must posit the existence of a major hypothetical entity, like a collective consciousness or a Prime Mover or a Designer (none of which are likely necessary), you're free to call it anything you like. However, if you arbitrarily give it an existing name which also refers to an separate, well-established concept, it's an unsupported link between the two entities. It's a big problem with the Transcendental Argument and all others which end with, "We call this creator/lawmaker/intelligence/feeling/cupcake God." Even if the argument is sound, the entity you've successfully argued for may well not be your god at all, and it's a dishonest leap to assume that it is.
I hope this is the kind of ammo you're looking for.
Deny: "to state that (something declared or believed to be true) is not true". Dude didn't have a leg to stand on.
I don't know about the worst attempted proof I've ever heard (probably something about impossibly pretty sunsets), but here's my favourite bad one, courtesy of a well-known YouTube evangelist.
Here's a paraphrasing: If I say something will happen after an infinite amount of time, will it ever happen? No. Could there have been an infinite amount of time before the present? No, because if there were then we would never have reached the present. Therefore there has only been a finite amount of time, and God started it off.
The central problem is that infinity can end at a given instant. An infinite amount of time can have passed before the present if time extends backwards to negative infinity, rather than starting at a definite point. The same way positive infinity can start at a given number, e.g. (4,5,6,...), negative infinity can end at a given number, e.g. (...-1,0,1,2,3,4). Imagine two arrows starting in the same spot and pointing in opposite directions.
There are other issues of course. Even if the universe were finite, there are plenty of theories for its origin which do not involve gods (and often point to very eccentric properties of early time). Even if it proved a god, it provides no link to the Christian god advocated in the video.
However it's the way the argument makes a pig's breakfast of high school mathematics which really stands out to me as an occasional maths tutor. You have to wonder whether the guy genuinely doesn't get it, or he just hopes the video will reach others who don't, in which case the video is pure sophistry. Considering that he doesn't allow any critical comments, let alone official video responses, I tend to think the latter.
First, I think it's important to understand the incredible amount of information one has to look over tediously before they can reach a conclusion of a historical or ahistorical nature. The truth is, I've been researching this subject for seven years and there are things I'm just starting to skim over now.
Now that that is out of the way, let's tackle your questions. You ask, "What evidence is there to support that Jesus never existed?" First and foremost, if you can provide me evidence to support that fairies don't exist, I'm all ears. One can't ask to disprove a negative, because there is nothing to disprove. One must look at the available evidence that already exists (or doesn't...as in this case) and determine if that evidence is sufficient to establish historicity.
To help you better understand this lets use an example given by Christians where they assume that we mythicists assume the historicity of somebody famous without evidence. Aristotle is usually totted around the most by some ignorant or misinformed person as having no contemporary evidence of his existence - as a standard if you will to suggest that Jesus should be considered to be on the same level of accepted historicity as Aristotle. However when comparing the list of evidences between the two, there is no compatibility. Here's a brief list of the differences between Aristotle and Jesus:
And this is not the half of it. Aristotle not only wrote tomes of prose in his time, by his own hand, but also contemporary accounts exist of Aristotle. As Richard Carrier states on Aristotles contemporary accounts, "There is one fragmentary inscription dedicated to Aristotle still extant at Delphi that I believe was erected in his lifetime. We have substantial portions of the Elements of Harmonics by Aristoxenus, a contemporary of Aristotle, which mentions him briefly. Anaximenes of Lampsacus (not the presocratic of the same name), also a contemporary, wrote an Art of Rhetoric that survives, and it addresses Aristotle. Theophrastus was his pupil and contemporary and we have some few of his writings, but I don't know off hand if they mention Aristotle by name. Isocrates was his contemporary and sometimes opponent and he may have mentioned him, too, but again I can't say for sure if he ever actually names him in extant works. There was certainly a great deal of contemporary writing about Aristotle, but as far as I know little to none was preserved, except in later sources. TLG shows a few hundred contemporary, named references to Aristotle, which are cited or quoted by later authors." Carrier also suggested a book, "Lloyd's book "Aristotle" would probably say what else there is."
This is vital because we have NO accounts of contemporary evidence for Jesus. None. The earliest extant manuscripts for Jesus date to Paul, thirty years after Jesus supposedly died, written by a man who never met Jesus, knows nothing about him, or about any of his deeds, or miracles or speeches. Paul doesn't attribute any words to Jesus nor does he seem to - in any fashion - refer to Jesus in a physical, literal sense.
After Paul, we have a forty year gap of nothingness. At the very end of the first century CE, we have rumors (just rumors) of hearsay about a being Jesus. The earliest Gospel fragment we possess is the P52 fragment, and it's barely a scrap of parchment from what appears to be John. But it's too weak a source to use to compare. That is it. And when is this P52 fragment from? 130 CE and no earlier. That's a hundred years after the supposed death of Christ. Now here's the funny part, we have works from Aristotle that survived from 500 years before THAT, and yet we can't find one contemporary account of a man who is said to have walked on water, and preformed all these miracles, or even rose from the dead?
I hope that helps you understand a little bit as to the problems associated with the question of whether there can be a way to disprove a negative, and also with understanding what sorts of evidence is looked for when trying to determine historicity. Your second question is far easier to answer, as I have already written extensively on the subject.
At this link HERE you will find all you need to know about the supposed evidences for Jesus and why they hold no water. You can ALSO check out THIS LINK for additional information on the Mythicist position and the case against a historical Christ.
Oh, by the way....welcome to the campaign.
Rational Response Squad Co-Founder