“There is no God” is a positive statement

You’ve probably encountered atheists who say, “There is no God” and then insist that the burden of proof is on you, the believer, to prove it wrong since you’re the one claiming that God exists.

That’s not how it works.

Atheists frequently confuse “positive” (philosophy) with “affirmative” (grammar), which is why they think “There is no God” isn’t a positive statement. That’s how they try to push the burden of proof to the God-believer after they make their claim.

“There is no God” is a negative statement in the grammatical sense, but the opposite of this — grammatically — is not a positive statement, but rather an affirmative statement. An affirmative statement in grammar is a statement that asserts the truth of something. Its opposite is a negative statement, which asserts falsity. For instance, “George Washington was the first President of the United States” is an affirmative statement, while “Benjamin Franklin was not a President of the United States” is a negative one. They are, however, both positive statements in the philosophical sense.

A positive statement in philosophy is a statement that is (at least ostensibly) based in fact and is subject to empirical testing. Some examples of positive statements:

“The average donut contains 500 calories.”

“There is no eighth continent.”

“Dinosaurs once existed on Earth.”

“The Earth is flat.”

Note that the statement doesn’t have to be affirmative or even true to be a positive statement, it just has to be based in fact and subject to testing. For instance, “There is no eighth continent” is a positive statement, because it makes a factual claim that is subject to testing. If a person were to make such a claim, he would then be obligated to show evidence of its truth. Satellite images of the Earth’s surface clearly showing only seven continents would suffice. “The Earth is flat” is a positive statement — it’s ostensibly based on fact and it’s subject to testing — even though it’s demonstrably false.

Positive statements that assert the non-existence of something are notoriously difficult to prove, which is why people don’t often make them, at least not seriously. While few people would contest the statement, “There are no rainbow-farting unicorns,” it’s actually difficult to prove, since you would have to have knowledge of everything everywhere on Earth to do so. This is why savvier atheists don’t fall into the trap of stating that there is no God. They will instead say that God’s existence is doubtful, laughable, risible, etc., which they know are much more supportable statements than God doesn’t exist.

“There is no God” is a positive statement. Whoever makes such a claim therefore has the burden of proof. If anyone denies this, he doesn’t understand the difference between positive and affirmative statements — or he thinks you don’t know the difference. If you find yourself with an argumentative atheist making this statement, point out his error and give him the opportunity to either retract it or to supply the proof.

Science needs Christianity to survive

Christians must realize that they need science in order to defeat atheism. But, what’s even more true is that science needs Christianity in order to survive. It has to be stated clearly that genuine and productive science cannot exist without Christianity.

The historical truth is that science was born of Christianity. All of the great pioneers in astronomy and physics were devout Christians, because modern science has been based from its beginning on uniquely Christian beliefs and faith. If Christianity had never existed, there would have been no science to lift humankind out of ignorance and barbarity.

Most atheists are not only ignorant of the true history of science; they make up their own history as in the totally false story of the alleged persecution of Galileo. Those few atheists who know and admit the truth about the origins of modern science would undoubtedly argue that science has outgrown its Christian roots. Richard Dawkins and other scientists-turned-professional-atheists argue that science has been liberated from Christianity, which is either a self-serving delusion or an outright lie. The one thing atheists are correct about is that Christianity has become a diminishing factor in science through the last few generations.

The loss of Christian guidance is distressing, because science cannot survive as a source of truth and useful knowledge without the preeminence of Christian values, beliefs, and faith. Individual humanists and other non-Christians can certainly do real science, but only in a Christian intellectual environment that inhibits the natural anti-scientific impulses of the human mind. Secular humanists see science as a human endeavor that must be in constant and unfailing service to humankind, which really means that science must be bent in service of humanist preconceptions of how the world should be.

True science can serve only one purpose — the search for truth. It is up to engineers, entrepreneurs, and others to use the results of science in ways that are beneficial to society. Scientists, however, can have only one guiding concern, and science is corrupted to the degree to which other concerns (wealth, reputation, and political power) motivate them. Christians as a group were never perfectly motivated by the desire for truth, but the Christian scientific community was effectively guided by that ambition. It is difficult for people who really believe that the scientific search for truth is an attempt to learn something about God to disappoint their God by allowing worldly concerns to get in the way of the search for divine truth.

The vitality and trustworthiness of science is in direct proportion to the Christian influence in a discipline and in inverse proportion to the influence of secular humanism. The following is a list of the major fields of sciences starting with those which have been most influenced by Christianity to those that have been least influenced:

  • Physics and astronomy
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Medicine
  • Climatology
  • Social and behavioral studies

The above also serves as a list of scientific fields from the least corrupted by secular humanism to the most corrupted. It is ironic that humanists think of themselves as the great rational defenders of science, but in truth, the more influence secular humanism has in a discipline, the more it prevents real science from occurring.

Astronomy and astrophysics was for centuries the bastion of Christians trying to understand God through the study of His magnificent creation. Atheists supported astrophysics as long as its findings could be used to undermine Christian beliefs and faith. When the discovery of the big bang confirmed Christian scriptures and a new understanding of the exquisitely precise fine-tuning of our universe for intelligent life destroyed the atheists’ cherished principle of mediocracy, humanists abandoned genuine science and grabbed onto the quasi-scientific notion of the multiverse the way a drowning person clings to a life-preserver. Atheists will destroy astronomy and cosmology before they will accept any science that supports Christian beliefs and faith.

The corruption of science by secular humanism is far worse in biology, medicine, climatology, and the social and behavioral studies. Biology, climate science, and medicine have gone off the rails as secular humanists have infiltrated and appropriated them for humanist social and political purposes. The behavioral and social studies have been constant failures of science because humanist followers of Freud and Marx controlled them from the beginning.

Science can survive individual humanist scientists, but when a critical mass of humanism occurs in a discipline, all of the intellectual failings of the human race are let loose and the ancient barriers to knowledge that prevented science until the intellectual triumph of Christianity 400 years ago are once again raised. Humanism will always destroy everything it touches.

Articles will follow that demonstrate the corrupting humanist influence on science in biology, medicine, climatology, the social fields of study, and the study of individual human behavior.

Fire Back: Where the Readers Respond

In which we discuss the specific ‘scientific’ reason for my conversion to Christianity.

LC writes:

Thank you for making the story of your conversion to Christianity public.  I am a Christian apologist who is using your story as a discussion point in a meetup I am holding.  One of the atheists that is attending is asking what specific scientific reasons (not philosophical or theological) you found most compelling in your conversion.  The article mentions your work on deuterium abundances as well as your amazement that the universe is comprehensible.  Do you have any other scientific reasons that I could share with the group that you find compelling?

My conversion was a two-step process that took place over many years. I first went from atheism to theism, and then after a few years, I went from theism to Christianity. The former was completely unexpected; the latter was a very deliberate process.

You will have to explain to your atheist attendee that you cannot separate science from philosophy, so there was no ‘purely scientific’ reason for my conversion. What specifically led me to believe in God was the idea best expressed by Einstein when he said, “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.”

Through my research in cosmology, I got an overwhelming sense of a universe that is so rational that it’s as though it wanted to be understood. I had a specific question I was trying to answer with my research — how much of the universe is comprised of ordinary matter* — and it shocked me when I realized not only how answerable the question was, but that there was no reason it had to be this way. How is it even possible to have a rational universe without some kind of rational cause? I realized that by far the best explanation for the existence of the universe is that it was caused by a personal, rational, transcendent being of some kind. At that time, I called this personal cause “God,” but didn’t have any specific religious beliefs beyond God as the Creator.

Note that this is not a God of the gaps argument or an argument from incredulity, which is how atheists often try to spin it. It’s simply the most rational explanation, and I had no choice but to accept it on that basis. If you want to understand this explanation in greater depth, William Lane Craig has some good articles and videos on the philosophical argument that the cause of the universe has to be a personal being.

It was that realization that took me from atheism to theism. What took me from theism to Christianity was mostly Gerald Schroeder’s book, The Science of God, which I highly recommend. After reading the first four chapters in particular, I reasoned that the odds of Genesis not being divinely inspired were so low as to be effectively impossible. Once I realized that Genesis was, contra the odds, rather scientifically accurate for a thousands year-old document, I began investigating the rest of the Bible and specifically the evidence for the gospels. I came to the conclusion that the best explanation, given the evidence, is that the gospels were true, so I accepted Jesus on that basis.

* One of these days I’m going to write a post about the details of the research project and how it ultimately led to my conversion.

How (not) to argue with atheists

As a scientist who is Christian, I often get requests to help other Christians in their arguments with atheist friends and relatives. These requests are usually borne of desperation, because Christians often don’t know how to respond to scientific objections to Christian belief. However, enlisting the help of someone like me is almost always doomed to failure in these cases, and I’ll explain why.

Years ago, when I was a freshly-converted Christian, I got into a protracted argument with a militant atheist who was a retired engineer. For months, we went back and forth about the scientific validity of Genesis, about the reasonableness of miracles, about the historical evidence for Jesus. To my frustration, it went absolutely nowhere. I finally realized he wasn’t merely devoid of belief, as he claimed, but was deeply invested in the idea of the Bible being false. He’d read countless books purporting to debunk Christianity, which struck me as a bit odd for someone who insisted he simply lacked belief. He also got noticeably angry when talking about God, which, as I would gradually realize over many arguments, was a big tell. After months of arguing, I discovered the reason for his anger. His father and grandfather were bad men who had treated him very harshly when he was a young boy, and both died when he was still young. He recalled asking his Christian mother if his father and grandfather were going to heaven or hell. When she told him they were going to heaven and closed off all further discussion, he became angry and resentful. He never forgave God for failing to administer justice to his bad father and grandfather, and an atheist was born.

Many atheists have had similarly bad childhood experiences with religion, and became atheists when they were young. This is because children have a highly tuned sense of justice, and without a wise adult to help them put pain and disappointment into perspective, it can turn into anger and resentment toward God. Anything that is perceived as an injustice on the part of God — a failure to act on their behalf in a time of distress, a failure to punish someone for wrongdoing, or the failure to prevent a parent from abandoning them — is paid back with anger and denial. The scientific arguments against God are just cover for the anger, to give it an air of intellectualism.

The reason logical arguments don’t work against militant atheists is that you can’t logic someone out of an emotional belief.

My engineer acquaintance expressed his anger with God by actively rejecting anything to do with God and trying to convince others to do the same. That was the reason for the books debunking the Bible, the scientific arguments against God, and so on, in spite of his professed “mere lack of belief.” And that was the reason my rational arguments in favor of God and the Bible were ineffective with this man.

However, this is not true of all atheists. I was an atheist for many years, and my lack of belief wasn’t rooted in pain and anger, but in arrogance that was founded on childhood experiences. Growing up in a secular country with atheist parents, what little I observed of Christianity was from a great distance, it was extremely limited, and it was filtered through an adolescent mind. It left me thinking Christianity was silly and for the weak-minded. It took some maturing to humble my attitude, but mostly I came to believe in God by being exposed to evidence that Christianity was intellectually deep and consistent with what I observed in the world around me.

To be effective in an argument with an atheist, you have to first discern what forms the basis of his disbelief. Is it a casual sort of atheism that’s based on lack of convincing evidence? If so, present him with evidence. Is it an arrogant atheism based on preconceived but false ideas? If so, knock down the false ideas. If it’s an angry atheism based on a deep-rooted emotional experience, then you will not be able to convince him through even the most rational arguments and powerful evidence. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do with an angry atheist.

One of my colleagues is a converted Christian who says that in his angry atheist days, his favorite thing to do when arguing with Christians was to knock them off balance. He knew he couldn’t dissuade them from their beliefs with his arguments, so instead he’d try to get them to doubt just a little, knowing it would be a growing source of consternation to them. Christians can take a page from his book and likewise knock atheists off balance.

Most angry atheists like to assume a stance of intellectual superiority over Christians, so you can use that to knock them off balance. Present them with this list of Christians who are in science and tech and note how many of them are also Nobel laureates. Present them with this collection of quotes about God and religion by great scientific minds (not all of them Christian). The reaction will be to wave their hands and say that it just goes to show it’s possible to be smart and believe stupid things, but that’s okay. You will have planted the seed of doubt, and it will grow.

There are other ways to knock atheists off balance, but it requires some skill in rhetoric. Rhetoric is an argument that appeals to the emotions rather than to the intellect, and with most people it has far greater power to convince than rational arguments. This is why so much of politics and advertising is based on rhetoric. So, don’t bother with rational arguments when dealing with an angry atheist — rhetoric is what you should use. If you want to master it, start with Aristotle.

Remember, always respond to atheists in a way that addresses the real problem:

  • respond to lack of evidence with evidence
  • respond to false notions with truth
  • respond to anger and superiority by knocking off balance and with rhetoric, and let God take care of the rest.

 

Weekly Psalm 19: The Heart of Cygnus

Here is your weekly reminder of Psalm 19 — the heart of Cygnus.

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Also known as IC 1318 or the Sadr region, this nebula lies at the heart of Cygnus the Swan, a summer constellation in the Northern hemisphere. IC 1318 is an emission nebula, ionized by the radiation from a nearby hot star.

The bright star on the left is Deneb (Alpha Cygni) and the bright star on the right is Sadr (Gamma Cygni), neither of which are actually part of the nebula, but lie partway between Earth and IC 1318. These stars are clearly visible to the naked eye, but the emission nebula is too faint to be seen without long exposures on a telescope.

The pink patches are ionized hydrogen gas, and the dark streaks are dust-infused gas blocking visible light from view.

Image credit:Bill Mark.

Backyard Astronomy: August 2016

backyard_astro

Here are some fun astronomical events you and your family can enjoy in the month of August. All you need is an inexpensive telescope or binoculars for most of these events, but some of them are viewable with the naked eye.

August 12-13: Perseids Meteor Shower. Meteor showers occur when the Earth moves through a cloud of debris left behind by a comet. The Perseids are debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle. As meteor showers go, this one is top-notch, producing many bright streaks and up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. The shower runs every year from July 17th to August 24th, but will peak on the night of the 12th and the early morning of the 13th. Look in the direction of the constellation Perseus after midnight for your best chance.

August 16: Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation. Mercury will be at its greatest apparent distance (~27 degrees) from the Sun in the sky. It can be a little tricky to observe tiny Mercury as it follows the setting Sun on the Western horizon. The closer you are to the equator, the higher Mercury will be in the sky before it descends, and the easier it will be to see it.

August 27: Conjunction of Jupiter and Venus. You don’t want to miss this one. A conjunction occurs when two or more planets appear to overlap or come very close together in the sky. (Remember, in terms of their physical separations, these planets are still very far away from each other.) This conjunction will take place just after sunset, when Jupiter and Venus will appear less than a tenth of a degree away of each other on the sky. That’s super-close!

Weekly Psalm 19: Bode and the Cigar

Here is your weekly reminder of Psalm 19 — the galaxy pair, M81 and M82.

1200px-AnttlersM81M82

This galaxy pair is part of the M81 group, a collection of 34 galaxies that are all gravitationally bound to each other. These two galaxies (click the image to enlarge it) are particularly strongly attracted to each other, which has triggered some extreme activity in both.

The spiral galaxy on the left is M81, and is also referred to as Bode’s Galaxy, after J.E. Bode, who discovered it in the 18th century. Bode’s Galaxy has an active black hole in its center weighing in at 70 million times the mass of the Sun. The gigantic black hole is feeding on gaseous material that has spiraled down to the center of the galaxy, which causes it to shine very brightly. The galaxy on the right is M82, and is sometimes called the Cigar Galaxy because of its cigar-like shape, which is due to its gravitational interaction with M81. This interaction has triggered massive star formation in M82.

The galaxy pair appears in the Ursa Major constellation, and is relatively nearby at 12 million light-years away, making it a favorite of both professional and amateur astronomers. The M81 Group is a neighbor to the Local Group, which contains the Milky Way, and the two groups are part of the much larger Virgo Supercluster of galaxies.

Image credit:Anttler.

Weekly Psalm 19: Spiral galaxy NGC 2841

Here is your weekly reminder of Psalm 19 — spiral galaxy NGC 2841.

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Click on the image to appreciate its full grandeur.

Such a boring name for such a beautiful object. German-British astronomer William Herschel discovered NGC 2841 in the late 18th century, although at that time he wouldn’t have known what he was looking at. Astronomers at the time categorized these indistinct objects as “spiral nebulae” and thought they resided inside of the Milky Way. By the 1920s, astronomers realized they were looking at “island universes,” what we now refer to as galaxies, that are well beyond the Milky Way.

NGC 2841 is, like our galactic home, a spiral galaxy. However, it’s about 50% larger and its arms are “flocculent” or patchy and more tightly wound than the Milky Way’s. At 46 million light-years away, this galaxy is close enough to us that the Hubble Space Telescope was able to snap this magnificent view of its interior. Its golden-yellow nucleus contains a dense population of very old stars, while its arms are punctuated by bright blue dots and glowing pink hydrogen clouds indicating regions where new stars are forming. The dark swirls in the galaxy’s patchy arms are comprised of dusty gas that blocks visible light from view. If you have sufficiently dark skies and a large-ish telescope, you should be able to see this galaxy as an indistinct patch of fuzz in the Ursa Major constellation.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI / AURA) – ESA / Hubble Collaboration.

The grand ballroom of the universe

There are a lot of galaxies in the universe, and like people on a crowded dance floor, they sometimes collide. The time it takes for the full collision to unfold is hundreds of millions of years, so what we see when we observe colliding galaxies with our telescopes are really just snapshots of particular moments during the collision. To try to understand the physics of galaxy collisions, astrophysicists often create sophisticated supercomputer simulations that match our observations of different stages of actual collisions; but instead of taking a hundred million years to play out, we can watch the whole thing happen in the space of minutes.

I love watching simulated galaxy collisions, and I think you’ll find them fascinating, too. It’s as though two galaxies decide to become partners in some cosmic ballroom dance. Even though the collisions are destructive, there is something so graceful and elegant about them that I always hear Mozart in my head as I’m watching.

I wanted my astronomy students to appreciate all this, so a few years ago I put together a video compilation of three galaxy collision simulations by astrophysicists at Case Western Reserve University and set them to one of my favorite Mozart symphonies. The simulations are sometimes paused mid-collision so that the “camera” can pan around to give us a look from different angles. Following each simulation there’s an image of an actual galaxy collision of that type so you can see how well the physics of the simulations matches what we observe in the universe.

 

Weekly Psalm 19: The Bubble Nebula II

I’ve had requests to bring this feature back, which I am happy to do. So, here is your weekly reminder of Psalm 19 — the Bubble Nebula, up close and personal.

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Click on the image to fully appreciate its grandeur.

The Bubble Nebula is a shell of gas surrounding a massive, extremely hot star that is 15 times the size and 40 times the mass of our Sun. Stellar winds from the star push the bubble of gas out, while radiation from the star excites the gas in the bubble and causes it to glow.

The nebula resides in a giant molecular gas cloud in the constellation Cassiopeia, and is about 7,100 light-years away. The Bubble itself is 3 – 5 light-years in size, which, if you could see it with your naked eye, is half the apparent size of the full Moon on the sky.

This image is a composite of images of the Bubble Nebula taken with the Hubble Space Telescope this year, created by NASA to commemorate the 26th anniversary of Hubble’s launch. The nebula is imaged separately with different filters, and then combined with false colors to create this compelling final product. What you’re seeing here is radiation from excited hydrogen (red), oxygen (green), and sulfur (deep red) atoms.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team (STScI / AURA)