02 Feb 2015

Science vs. Religion? Ravi Zacharias Fields a Question Citing Agnostic Thinkers

Religious 29 Comments

Last one for now. I want to show why I said RZ is very educated in his apologetics. Just watch the guy’s question (takes about a minute), then fast forward to the 7:15 mark or so when Ravi takes the floor to respond.

29 Responses to “Science vs. Religion? Ravi Zacharias Fields a Question Citing Agnostic Thinkers”

  1. Zack says:

    Interesting stuff. Thanks for posting

  2. Major.Freedom says:

    1. Berlinski’s rhetorical question of whether anyone has conclusively disproved the existence of God: shifting the burden of proof.
    2. Berlinksi’s claim that secularism is insufficient to establishing morality: “not even close” to bring true. There are many avenues available to establish morality, including the already existing moral beliefs of the writers of the Bible which present day Christians regard as the primal source of morality!
    3. Berlinski’s insinuation that an inability to currently explain every phenomena is proof of God: Already debunked God of the gaps argument.
    4. Berlinksi’s suggestion that the 20th century horrors are the fault of secularism: academic fraud.
    5. Berlinksi’s characterization of scientific atheism as “a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt”: epic straw man. Side note: I did not like Ravi’s stern glare at making that statement. Such “contempt” right there!
    6. Ravi’s claim that the moment you make a truth claim, you have violated the bounds of strict materialism: does not disprove materialism. Strict materialism holds that EVERYTHING we think and believe, including that which Ravi would label a “truth claim”, is the result of determine causality. He can it disprove strict determinism by mentioning something that strict determinism would have as strictly determined.
    7. Refuting strict determinism does not imply the existence of an external omniscient God.

    PS the guy who asked the question was muddleheaded, or nervous. And the Bible has been scientifically falsified. I find it ironic that the first gentlemen to respond to the claim that the Bible was falsified felt obligated to insist that no it hasn’t, as if there is, I don’t know, some credibility in the ” scientific materialism” being smeared and thrown through the gutter onstage.

    Ravi is frightening. All jolly and happy at the end, as if thanking the poor sap for giving him (Ravi) the opportunity to engratiate himself at the sap’s expense. “Yes, come to my house for dinner so that I can do something other than feel all superior to the “20 questions” that my clique have heard and refuted a zillion times. I am really open minded to scientific atheism. You’re exactly the kind we want to debate. Please tell Dawkins to stay at home.”

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Major Freedom, put aside everything for a minute and just consider this hypothetical as a stand-alone issue:

      Suppose I go to a college to give a presentation on my vision of a free society. During the Q&A, a young guy approaches the mic and says, “Hi, I’m a Keynesian economist. I think it’s funny we can even hear these arguments, when modern economics has proven that laissez-faire policies caused the Great Depression. Anyway, my question is: How can you have a rule of law in your system, when different factions will simply pay for justice to the highest bidder? Disputes will be settled by shoot-outs in the streets.”

      Then I respond to the guy, “Thanks for your question. You know, you sound very certain in your challenge, but believe it or not, I’ve been fielding these types of questions for years. First, let me point out that your own vision of a democratic republic suffers from the same problem: The voters have different value systems, right? So the problem you’re trying to pin on me, I can flip right around and pin on you… Thanks for your question, and please come up afterward if you want to discuss further. I’m not here to preach to the choir, I’m fielding these tough questions to convince skeptics like you!”

      Now after watching this video exchange, Major Freedom, be honest about what your reaction would be:

      MF response #1: “Great job Murphy, you pwned that guy! Plus you were a gentleman about it. What a class act.”

      MF response #2: “Murphy is frightening. All jolly and happy at the end, as if thanking the poor sap for giving him (Murphy) the opportunity to ingratiate himself at the sap’s expense. “Yes, come to my house for dinner so that I can do something other than feel all superior to the “20 questions” that my clique have heard and refuted a zillion times. I am really open minded to technocratic interventionism. You’re exactly the kind we want to debate. Please tell Krugman to stay at home.””

      • Major.Freedom says:

        If we assume you spoke the way Ravi spoke in that video, with that glare of death, and if we assume I don’t know you to be a nice guy, then I would honestly recommend that the guy not accept your invitation and I would believe you to be scary. It is kind of unfair to ask me, because I have to assume you’re actually as mean as Ravi seems to me to be in the video.

        In my defense, I found Ayn Rand to be very much like that, even though I agreed with a lot of what she said, and did consider her arguments to have “burned” some of the yahoos in the Donahue crowds for example. I believe she was scary. Someone I would not want to have dinner with. Another example was Ron Paul in the 1980s videos when he was on Morten Downey Jr. I though wow he burned some of the idiots in the crowd who heckled him, but boy was he hot and someone I would believe I should let alone or else.

        Hey, to be fair to your point, I admit to being quite superficial. Maybe Ravi is a nice guy and that’s just the way he talks on stage. But I just get the feeling I don’t want to debate him lest he do what some other Christians have said to me, that they welcome my fiery death and torment in hell to suffer for eternity. Yes, I know you said not all Christians are like that the last time I brought this up, but is it really my obligation to make sure my first impressiins about everyine are proved right when I don’t even care if I’m right or wrong and would accept being wrong in my superficial assessment if it means not risking the potential hostility that often arises from theists against atheists? I mean I can’t get that glare from Ravi out of my mind. He seems like someone who will verbally accost me if I was my plain old prideful, arrogant self with him in my atheism.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          MF okay fair enough, if you admit Rand comes off as scary too. FWIW I never really liked the way Milton Friedman handled questions from the crowd either, even when free-market fans are saying, “Awesome watch Milton pwn this idiot!”

          However, on this particular exchange, I really think Ravi Z. was sincere at the end. What you call his “stare of death” I would call his “stare of life”; he is extremely intense because he thinks this young guy is making a mistake that will cost him his soul. I have listened to a lot of his lectures and so I think it’s possible you are misinterpreting his body language / tone.

          Also, it is possible that this guy really p*ssed Ravi off and that some of it slipped through. Ravi used to be an atheist, he was raised in a non-Christian household, and he’s very well acquainted with science and religion. So when this young guy gets up and prefaces his actual question about free will with a throwaway line about science disproving the Bible–even though it had *nothing at all* to do with his question–maybe you can at least understand how insulting that was. In other lectures, Ravi quotes from Fred Hoyle, Francis Crick, and others, talking about abiogenesis etc., and also his own quantum physics professor. So I find it interesting that your reaction to this was, “Wow, what a jerk Ravi is.”

          • Major.Freedom says:

            I won’t disagree with anything in what you wrote. It is all reasonable to me.

            It is sometimes difficult to discern intensity out of goodness and intensity out of contempt, especially when one is serious about ideas, which Ravi seems to be. Perhaps I am seeing a bit of myself in how he behaved. Sometimes I am intense about ideas and I imagine it may look indistinguishable from hostility.

            But I trust your judgment, so I’ll concede my superficial assessment misfired in this case…for now.

          • Major.Freedom says:

            ” So when this young guy gets up and prefaces his actual question about free will with a throwaway line about science disproving the Bible–even though it had *nothing at all* to do with his question”

            Yeah that was awkward and eye rolling. It is like prefacing a debate with “you have silly and inane ideas, and my question to you is this…” One of the reasons I referred to him as a sap.

            If Ravi was pissed and had no trouble showing as much in front of that many people, I imagine a one on one with him where I put my foot in my mouth and said something jerky but not too jerky, and me getting and ear full. Maybe it just style. When someone insults me, and it is often where I tread, I feel sorry for the person more than anger. Don’t want to sound all holier than thou on that one, but the way Ravi sternly remarked “don’t shake your head”, and selectively quoting a passage that essentially tarred and feathered the entire scientific atheism project as “frivolous intellectual contempt”, well even good intentions can have results I do not wish to associate myself with. I’ll remain inclined to agree with your judgment, but with strong reservations. I confess to being a bit embarrassed…as if my opinion on this really mattered to those seeking knowledge of the world. Maybe I’m just used to shooting from the hip in a hall of silence 🙂

            • Bob Murphy says:

              MF, I’m swamped with “day job” stuff so I can’t keep up with this conversation, but anyway as long as we both agree it was pretty intense going both ways, I’m happy. Like I said, knowing Ravi’s personality a bit, I think I interpreted his actions differently from how you did, but I agree that’s pretty intense to read that quote to a guy’s face like that. It’s not my personal style, but the questioner’s approach wasn’t my style either. (Once my friend took me to a meeting of actual Marxist feminists at NYU and I asked them a question at the end. It was suuuuuuper gentle.)

              • skylien says:

                “(Once my friend took me to a meeting of actual Marxist feminists at NYU and I asked them a question at the end. It was suuuuuuper gentle.)”

                Maybe that is a story worth telling?

            • skylien says:

              MF, I actually think your own “Ravi” comes through from time to time…

              😉

  3. Tel says:

    Please don’t keep shaking your head.

    But how did he know I was shaking my head? Wow, that’s a spooky guy.

    I disagree with his point about “making a truth claim” implies rising above determinism. Something like Pythagoras Theorem is a truth claim, but could easily be the output of a computer program. Perhaps Ravi has some more specific type of truth he is talking about, but that kind of begs the question. I mean, the whole box and dice is about whether we can assemble constructs (like a theorem or what have you) in such a way as to reach a moral truth. I’ve yet to see anyone do it, but that’s hardly proof it cannot be done.

    Would such an event disprove God? Probably not, it would merely make God unnecessary. Mind you, I claim that Athiesm is a statement of efficiency, not a statement of truth. The burden should be on God (as a concept) to prove there’s some beneficial condition which can only be reached by first believing in God. The general default state of all belief is not to believe, simply because it’s always easier the throw away an idea, than it is to adopt an idea.

    Now I guess you will point to morality and claim it can only be reached by God, while I claim it was reached largely empirically with a lot of trial and error and a lot of false starts (and there’s been atrocities during every age of humanity, and in the natural world as well). For example, the Asian cultures don’t have the same clear monotheistic concept as the Christian God, the Hindus have many, and the Taoists and Zen Buddhists don’t really have any God, but they all came up with fairly similar moral principles.

    Maybe in that context God guided our discovery, and that’s fair enough but it would imply that God guides the outcome regardless of personal belief… once more pointing to a conclusion that disbelief is the efficient option (even in cases where God is real).

    • Z says:

      “but they all came up with fairly similar moral principles”

      This is not evidence that morality exists. It is evidence that similar sets of behaviors lead to survival and flourishing in many different environments. Whether actions that lead to survival and flourishing are a part or all of morality is another question separately. I for one don’t believe in morality at all. There is no action which actually meets the definition of being ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ This whole concept is a social construct, but it is widely held to be an intrinsic part of us or of the universe because virtually everyone in most cultures has been instilled with moral terminology since they were toddlers.

      • Tel says:

        This is not evidence that morality exists. It is evidence that similar sets of behaviors lead to survival and flourishing in many different environments.

        What purpose does such a distinction serve? You can call it “asparagus” if you like, but the advantage of calling it “morality” is more people will know what you are talking about.

        Whether actions that lead to survival and flourishing are a part or all of morality is another question separately.

        Suppose someone wrote a book of moral principles that led to the rapid death of all of its advocates. How many people would still be following that?

        I for one don’t believe in morality at all. There is no action which actually meets the definition of being ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ This whole concept is a social construct, …

        Hmmm, do you believe in any social construct? Is money real? What about a contract? Marriage? Birthdays? Ownership of property? Democratic elections?

        • Z says:

          “What purpose does such a distinction serve? You can call it “asparagus” if you like, but the advantage of calling it “morality” is more people will know what you are talking about.”

          Because they are not the same thing. When someone says ‘murder is wrong’, is that the same as if they said ‘murder reduces the survival of the human species’? Virtually nobody uses the term ‘wrong’ or ‘immoral’ to just describe that the action in question is bad for human survival. There is a component of ‘oughtness’ attached to terms like ‘wrong’ or ‘immoral.’

          “Suppose someone wrote a book of moral principles that led to the rapid death of all of its advocates. How many people would still be following that?”

          Zero people. But the point is that’s not relevant. What does that have to do with whether those moral principles are actually ‘right’ or ‘wrong’?

  4. David R. Henderson says:

    The guy’s good.

  5. OFelixCulpa says:

    Major,

    Boring. Before we can take your responses seriously, you have to be careful to represent the person you are responding to correctly. Sorry, but you failed to do that.

    That said, I have to agree that RZ didn’t do a very good job on the truth claim/vs determinism point. I can guess (but I have to guess) that he means something like, “if materialistic determinism is correct, then truth claims about morality have no meaning, so the accusation of immorality on the part of God makes no sense from within your deterministic framework.”

    I may not understand RZ correctly, but that is the best I can do to put it together.

    • Major.Freedom says:

      Sorry, which specific thing are you referring to that I misrepresented? I was verbose and wall of texty…

      If your guess is right, then it wouldn’t be a response to the guy’s question, because the guy never said God if he existed was immoral. He just said he’s atheist, bible was falsified, he believes in strict materialism, and some muddleheaded references to “nature versus nurture” which Ravi justifiably glossed over.

  6. Nicholas says:

    Cop out. Ravi Zacharias goes on the attack. Which is good rhetoric but it does not answer the question. A perfect all knowing god, invalidates free will. There is no possible choice of what to have for breakfast tomorrow, because god knows what you will have. Therefore you must have that otherwise you are proving god wrong and he is not omniscient. Combine this with the fact that ‘free will’ is the standard answer to the problem of evil and you have a problem.

    This pithy little problem is what ended my brief fling with Christianity and religion. The logic is completely sound as far as I am aware, and no one so far no in my experience has managed to give a coherent answer. I felt how Hayek must have felt when he went round asking priests and his teachers to give a coherent definition of god.

    This Zacharias you show me just validates my opinion that given the huge intellectual and personal commitment it takes to subscribe to religion the case simply isn’t good enough. Bad show.

    • Z says:

      There is no such thing as free will. God or not.

      • Nicholas says:

        @Z

        “There is no such thing as free will. God or not”

        Are you talking to me? If so it does not matter whether there is ‘free will’ or not with regard to my point. Nor does it really affect atheist ideas in general, but it does matter for Christianity. Without an agent that can choose; the whole god judging you thing is made a nonsense.

    • Major.Freedom says:

      I think the debate on whether human free will and God are compatible, can be rather easily answered by realizing two things, one, if the nature of me is X, then in principle it should not matter whether or not there also exists an entity outside of me with a nature. If that other entity acquires the nature of omniscience, then that alone should not alter my nature. It changed, I did not change. So if I question whether I have free will, my conclusion should not depend on the nature of some outside entity. So if God exists and if God knows exactly what I will do, then that does not rule out me having free will.

      Free will does not require an absence of an omniscient deity.

      Or maybe there is some kind of “spooky action at a distance” that escapes me.

      • Nicholas says:

        @Major.Freedom

        “Or maybe there is some kind of “spooky action at a distance” that escapes me”

        I don’t see why we would have to bring causation into it. It seems to me to be a purely logical argument.

        Omniscience is complete and perfect knowledge of everything that has or will ever happen. Therefore an omniscient being(OB) will know without any possibility of error the outcome of events that you ether have, or perceive to be in your future. It follows that it is necessary that everything you do fall exactly in line with how the OB knows it will. If our OB knows that on the 21st of May 2022 at 8.00am you will eat corn flakes, and you decide instead to eat bran flakes then it proves that OB not only is not Omniscient but never was Omniscient in the first place.

        Omniscience and the ability to contradict omniscience can not exist together. Unless one wants to argue that we have the ability to contradict the OB but NEVER in fact do. In which case I don’t see any real distinction.

        • Major.Freedom says:

          Nicholas,

          I get what you’re saying, and on the face of it, it makes sense.

          But I notice problems with it. I tried to explain but I am not sure you read it. You want to emphasize the traditional argument of omniscience equals no free will.

          So let me ask you this then. Suppose for the sake of argument that this omniscient being that knows exactly what you will do, suddenly disappears from existence, or, and this might open Pandora’s box, suppose that this omniscient being knew of a way to IGNORE your existence. For the latter, I am assuming that omniscience includes knowing everything including knowing how that omniscient being can use his substance or body to purposefully ignore you.

          The reason I ask it in this way is because I believe that the traditional argument you are bringing to the fore is one that seems to me as one that seeks to rebute free will “by definition”. For that is what the meaning of free will is. Perfect determinism, which to make the argument presupposes KNOWLEDGE of perfect determninism. So to me the argument that “Omniscience rebutes free will” boils down to “Knowledge that I don’t have free will is another way of saying I don’t have free will.”

          But then here’s the question again: If that omniscient being for whatever reason loses its ability to be omniscient, then is that sufficient to changing me to have free will? If yes, how could a change in the nature of something else suddenly make me have free will? If not, if you say that I still don’t have free will because we assumed I don’t because of the existence of the omniscient being, and that just because it lost its ability to be omniscient it doesn’t mean I changed, then I would argue you would still be assuming the existence of an omniscient mind in some memory or echo like manner. I was deemed to not have free will because of the presence of an omniscient mind, and that is permanent regardless of what happens after that.

          I see another problem in that traditional argument. Since when did omniscience necessarily require knowledge of something that contradict itself and is also true? In other words, can an omniscient being know a contradiction in nature? I ask because what I have in mind is this: Suppose for the sake of argument I do have free will. Now suppose there is an omniscient being. Is the knowledge of me having free will, and an omniscient being knowing both itself, and knowing me to have free will, a knowledge that an omniscient being can know? If it can, then omniscience and free will are compatible after all. If it cannot, then it would seem that even an omniscient being can’t know everything whatever, including a contradictory truth about nature.

          I am inclined to believe that omniscience does not negate free will. If there is an omniscient being, then I see no reason why it cannot know me to have free will. But doesn’t this then imply that the omniscient being does not know something, namely my future actions? Here I would say that this antinomy does not require us to conclude that because this omniscient being is assumed as not knowing something, namely my future actions, that the initial assumption of there being an omniscient being means we cannot assume lack of knowing my future actions snd therefore free will cannot exist.

          The way I see that antinomy is that we should instead realize that omniscience when it comes up against action, to have full knowledge of an actor IS the knowledge that their future actions are unpredictable. What I am saying here is not that the omniscient being lacks knowledge of something true, but rather that not even an omniscient being can know a contradiction to be true. An omniscient being cannot know a square circle to be true. This does not mean it lacks knowledge. It means total knowledge consists of knowledge of what can be knowledge, and that what cannot be knowledge, can’t even be said or known to “be” excluded.

          I regard action in that way. The mere presence of an omniscient being does not necessarily imply that it can predict future actions. That would be a claim that the omniscient being can know a contradiction to be true.

          Action (free will) and omniscience can be known to co-exist, as long as we do not fall prey to the notion that omniscience requires knowledge of what cannot be known, such as a being with knowledge contradicting itself. I think that to regard ourselves as past causally determined is a self-contradiction, which an omniscient being cannot know to be non-contradictory, and thus cannot know what cannot be known.

      • Harold says:

        Bit late to this one, but.. You say my nature is X. The nature of the other being (god) should not affect my nature. However, if the nature of God means that my nature X is impossible, then I must have been mistaken about my nature – it could never have actually been X at all.

    • cduggi says:

      Even if an omniscient being exists, that does not contradict the existence of free will. We live in linear time. Every moment of our existence can have infinitely many possible futures. Choosing between each future is what we think of as free will. But suppose an omniscient being exists that knows not only all possible futures, but also all possible pasts and presents. How does that change your experience the future that you choose? It does not. You can only experience one possible present and determine one possible future at any moment. But the OB is not dimensionally limited. He can be omnipresent (in all possible pasts, presents, and futures) and be omniscient in all dimensions. That reconciles your conundrum, I think.

  7. Nicholas says:

    @cduggi

    Adding ‘other dimensions’ as a variable I think just pushes the problem further down the road rather the solving it.
    There may be innumerable ‘you’s’. However the OB will still know for any given iteration how your future
    turns out before you do. Even if ‘you’ are constantly splitting into two or more like bacteria in a petri dish.
    However I have never meant to argue that people may not feel like they have free will. Or to argue against every possible definition that people come up with of the term. The way to duck the problem is ether to admit predestination or to nerf god from the ultimate being to something more limited.

  8. Andrew says:

    @Nicholas

    Just because someone accurately predicted that you would eat corn flakes, does not mean that the choice to eat corn flakes was not your own. If someone out there has accurately picked the winner of every Super Bowl, it does not mean that the Super Bowl is rigged. There can be both omniscience (i.e., the ability to accurately predict every event) and free will. Just because you cannot do anything that God has not predicted, does not mean that it was not your choice to act in the way that God predicted.

    • Nicholas says:

      @Andrew

      Please read my comment to Major Freedom again. I think I put the case best there.
      But to respond to your specific point, we are not just talking about some guy that ‘just happened to predict’ what another is going to do. We are talking about a being who’s knowing is absolute & without error. The omniscient being(OB) does not take a punt on what your breakfast will be tomorrow. He KNOWS with absolute certainty and with not even the smallest chance of error that you WILL have corn flakes.

  9. Smiling Dave says:

    As a gift to those who might enjoy it, here is Smiling Dave and his sidekick Devil’s Advocate talking about religion.

    https://smilingdavesblog.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/on-religion/

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