Friday, February 06, 2009

Off to Asia!

I'm heading off to sunny SE Asia this weekend for a few weeks, and may have only intermittent access to e-mail and the web. So things might get a little quiet around here. In the meantime, here's a question for everyone to ponder:

Was Adam created perfect?

Answer when I return!
Have fun, and play nicely!

Best regards,


Blogger Vytautas said...

Bahnsen Burner: Was Adam created perfect?

Vytautas: Yes, since God made him very good. He did not have any defects such as being dead in sin, which causes men to hate God. Also he was made with the potential to fall into sin, so that he had free will with respect to whether or not to obey God.

February 13, 2009 6:17 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Vytautas,

Thank you for your input on this curious question. There are likely many Christians who would agree with you.

Once I return from my trip to Asia, I will be posting my own thoughts on this topic.


February 18, 2009 4:24 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Dawson and Vytautas

Since the two Genesis creation accounts are fictional, then the only creation that occurs, perfect or otherwise, happens in the brains of those who fantasize about those stories.

Welcome back Dawson. I hope you had a good trip and that your family is prospering. Although, I've been too busy to blog much, I will find time to spend reading your fine philosophical expository comments.

Many Thanks

Robert Bumbalough

February 19, 2009 3:09 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

speaking of this fictional tale, who here considers the serpent to be the hero of the story. After all he asked Eve to stop being a child, take responsibility for herself which of course requires knowledge, hence the fruit of the tree of knowledge. I have always thought the serpent was the good guy and god the villain of that tale

February 19, 2009 7:43 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Justin: I agree with you. The Genesis chapter 3 serpent story depicts the serpent as the truth telling hero and Elohim as the villain. I think this story is a remnant of an Elohimist religious tradition related to "Nehush'tan" worship. In Numbers 21:9 is the story of Moses holding up the bronze serpent for snake bite relief, and in 2 Kings 21:1-4 is the story of "Hezeki'ah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah..." who "...broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had burned incense to it; it was called Nehush'tan."

When Ezra and his priestly posse wrote and edited as the Deuteronomic editor the OT texts, they likely included the Gen. 3 serpent story to provide a basis for the Numbers 21 and 2 Kings 21 stories.

I arrived at this thesis from listening to Dr. Robert M. Price's podcasted lectures on Genesis. Price makes a fair case that the Gen. 3 serpent is a reference to Nehush'tan.

Best Regards and Wishes for Continued Success.

Robert Bumbalough

February 20, 2009 7:43 AM  
Blogger madmax said...

"Was Adam created Perfect?"

This is one of those things that proves the contradictions inherent in religion in general and Christianity in particular. He was supposedly created without sin but then he eats of the Tree Of Knowledge and thus The Fall. The Christians will say he had free will but how could he have? God is omniscient. So god had to know what Adam's fate would be. If god didn't know then he is limited and if god is limited in even *one* way then god is nothing more than a super powered alien and he solves nothing.

So, for me, this ultimately goes to the ultimate incompatibility of an omniscient, omnipotent god with free will. Of course we could argue over what is meant by "perfect"? What the Christians mean by it anyway.

Anyway, I hope you are enjoying your vacation. I look forward to your next post.

OT: I wonder if and when you get time you could give a quick refutation to this:

I debate with this Christian Conservative from time to time and I am trying to formulate a good, concise response to this. This is pure Platonism and the solution is ultimately Rand's theory of concept formation. But I am having difficulty of finding a way of stating it without getting into too much Objectivist terminology.

February 21, 2009 7:52 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Greetings Madmax and all

M wrote: So, for me, this ultimately goes to the ultimate incompatibility of an omniscient, omnipotent god with free will.

Indeed. Either an omniscient and omnipotent being knows what it will do tomorrow and thus cannot choose to do anything differently or it does not know about its future actions and can make choices. Omniscience necessitates hard fixed determinism and is completely incompatible with omnipotence.

Christianity's doctrine regarding prophecy is problematic. If prophecy is real, then the future already exists, and hard deterministic fatalism is true. This is evident because knowledge is a mental grasp of facts of reality. If the Chistian God were to exist and if it propagated knowledge of the future through prophecy, then it would have to have knowledge of the future. Having such knowledge would be impossible unless there was already reality in the future from which knowledge could be harvested. This would be fatal to Christianity. If hard deterministic fatalism is true, then freewill is an illusion. The freewill defense would then be a farce, and the problem of evil would entail the non-existence of any wholly good, wholly powerful, wholly knowledgeable being. The resultant paradox renders Christianity non-cognizable and incoherent. For that cause alone, Christians and all people of faith should reject the notion of prophecy.

Best Regards and Wishes

February 22, 2009 7:04 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

A possible way out of this problem could be the following. Lets just assume that the universe is not strictly deterministic, quantum probability and chaos theory and all that good stuff. It however does not matter as god knows all, he knows weather a neutron will decay in 13 minutes or not, while we can only assign a 50% chance. He knows if a butterfly flapping in Hong Kong will cause a tornado in Kansas, while we can only forecast. However for us, it does not matter, weather or not the decisions we make are the only ones we could make does not change the fact that we have to make them. To me free will is the inter-subjective experience of thinking, making choices and acting on them. I seems to be that in common usage we define free will as the ability to make arbitrary decisions divorced from identity, and well thats nonsense. So yes in this fable god knew in advance that Adam would make the decision that he did, but that does not absolve Adam of the responsibility of making it. Ok guys remember, I am an atheist, I just think the free will argument is weak and that we should use better ones. God on the other hand if he is all knowing cant have free will, he knows in advance even if he changes his mind. I don't envy an all knowing being. So our free will would be compatible with an all knowing god but not god's own free will,mmmm odd.

Also I realize that my view on free will is more a pragmatic view then an objectivist view.

February 22, 2009 11:14 AM  
Blogger madmax said...


Excellent response. Omniscience does indeed imply fixed determinism. Omniscience also doesn't reconcile with omnipotence. To me, the omniscience claim really does Christianity in. And if you remove it, the best you could get is a super powered alien. Isn't that Scientology?

February 22, 2009 4:15 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

madmax, however if we can not know even in principle what that deterministic future will bring, do we not have free will? Only for the all knowing being is free will removed.

February 22, 2009 4:32 PM  
Blogger madmax said...

"madmax, however if we can not know even in principle what that deterministic future will bring, do we not have free will?"

I would say no. Our fates are still determined and we are just playing out the script as it was written by god. Our free will would be an illusion, kind of like the matrix.

But all this confusion is just the product of the contradictions of the god-concept. For Objectivism, it would be arbitrary to posit cosmic or supernatural determinism because there is not even the slightest proof of it. The proof would have to be evidence of a supernatural deity and no such evidence could ever exist; the god-concept being so fatally flawed.

I think Dawson dealt with this in one of his blog posts on Katholon. I think one where he is countering Bahsen but I'm not exactly sure. I'll try to find it.

February 22, 2009 5:11 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

agreed on the confusion caused by theism. I think the possible conflict here arises from unclear definition of free will. Free will is not the ability to make decisions removed from context in which they are made. I can hardly make decisions on information I don't have for example. I think that if someone had sufficient knowledge about the state of my mind they could at least make a very accurate forecast on the probability of what action I would take. This however does not negate that I have to consciously dwell on and make that decision, even if it is in the end the only one I could make. I think the way we define free will is an example of trying to divorce consciousness from the context in which it takes place. So am I just an actor playing out a script handed to me by god, is this an excuse to sit down and do nothing? perhaps that is in fact the script set for me. I guess my point is that from out point of view, with a limited and contextual knowledge, it really does not matter either way, we still have to make decisions, and we will be responsible for them.

February 22, 2009 5:26 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Friends

Justin wrote: So yes in this fable god knew in advance that Adam would make the decision that he did, but that does not absolve Adam of the responsibility of making it.

I respectfully disagree. In the myth, prior to the time when the Adam first ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, he did not know good from evil. Hence he could not have a basis for culpability. But the Elohim did know and did have culpability even if we were to stop retrojecting late medieval theology into a 9th century BCE myth.

February 22, 2009 6:54 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

I wrote "even if we were to stop retrojecting late medieval theology into a 9th century BCE myth."

Since the Elohim should have known what the Adam would do, and because the Adam cannot be held culpable for disobedience, the Elohim is guilty of unnecessary cruelty even without the idea of determinism. But with determinism, Elohim becomes a monster unless it is fully determined only having an illusion of free will. Thus the role of the serpent would then take on significance. If the Elohim were only the demiurge, the carpenter who would be at home inflicting cruelty as the story suggests, then the serpent would likely be the herald or revealer of the god who created Elohim. And like Prometheus, the serpent sacrificed himself to bring the sacred fire of knowledge to man, so man could free himself and the woman from the evil and cruel Elohim. I like this gnostic stuff much better than the dull staid orthodoxy of nominal Christianity.

February 22, 2009 7:13 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

yes of course you are correct Robert. In fact I have used that very same point in arguments with Christians. The point I was making was even if our decisions are some way predetermined, we still have to make them and still bear the responsibility for them. In Adam's case if he had no knowledge of good and evil, then he could not have any standard for evaluating his actions. Christians tell me that I need god to know right from wrong, but never seem to figure out how I know its right to fallow god in the first place if I need him to know that, a catch 22. I think this illustrates the difference between a moral code based on the commanded and obeyed as opposed to one based on the understood and the chosen.

February 22, 2009 7:57 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

"Elohim becomes a monster unless it is fully determined only having an illusion of free will"

Makes me ask why God even bothers all, if he is all powerful and all knowing, what could be possibly need, why make the universe, why meddle in it. It just does not make sense, unless he is some sort of sadist.

February 22, 2009 8:21 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Mr. Justin Hall wrote: "Makes me ask why God even bothers all, if he is all powerful and all knowing, what could be possibly need, why make the universe, why meddle in it. It just does not make sense, unless he is some sort of sadist."

Thank you for this prescient insight. When I think back to the Calvinist religious indoctrination I suffered through as a small child, I can still feel the terror, pain, and sense of worthlessness instilled into my child mind. But the Light of Truth shines into the darkness, illuminating the wickedness of Christianity. And that light consists in part of that which Justin so wisely typed.

"...why God even bothers all, if he is all powerful and all knowing, what could be possibly need, why make the universe, why meddle in it.

McCoy said in Star Trek V I doubt any god who inflicts pain for his own pleasure.

While "The Final Frontier" was probably the worst Star Trek movie, Shattner, to his credit, had the good sense to include the scene that shows up how ridiculous religion actually is.

February 24, 2009 7:52 AM  
Blogger danielj said...

I respectfully disagree. In the myth, prior to the time when the Adam first ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, he did not know good from evil. Hence he could not have a basis for culpability.

God told him not to eat of the tree. Presto! Culpability.

February 24, 2009 2:14 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

god may have told him, but if he had no knowledge of good and evil, that is right and wrong, how could he have know it was wrong to disobey him. Again as I said earlier this catch 22 illustrates the fundamental difference between a morality that is premised on command and obey as opposed to understood and chosen. In the former you do as you are told for the sake of doing as you are told weather its good for you or not. Adam could not have known what as good for him prior to eating the fruit, only after could be comprehend that he has done wrong and would be punished. If he could figure this out on his own, what need for the tree of knowledge in the first place?

February 24, 2009 5:03 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Greetings friends: Justin is correct. The story depicts the Elohim as the bad guy because it inflicted punishment on the man and wo-man without just cause. The serpent (Nehush'tan ?) was the good guy. The Elohim made the man to be its slave to tend the garden so the gods would not be bothered by such triviality while the serpent came to spring the man and wo-man from bondage. The knowledge gained by eating the forbidden fruit was not just that of right vs wrong, but of sexual fecundity. The story relates the man and wo-man hid themselves and made coverings to conceal their nudity. They had acquired the concept of procreation. This would have been of concern to the Elohim as the offspring would have quickly overwhelmed the gods. Consequently, the evil Elohim drove out the man and wo-man before they could eat of the tree of life and afterward protected the tree with the flaming sword that turned this way and that.

February 24, 2009 7:24 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Greetings Objectivists

I've started a new thread over at

Link to Thread wherein I ask about the possibility of Einstein's Special Relativity's use in showing the Law of Identity to only hold in low velocity cases where Newtonian physics likewise hold. If you fine folks have time, I'd be interested in reading your comments.

Best Regards and Wishes

February 25, 2009 8:58 AM  
Blogger danielj said...

In the former you do as you are told for the sake of doing as you are told weather its good for you or not.

I agree with you 100% here. It doesn't matter whether he knew if it was right or wrong. He was told not to by the God of the universe.

Again as I said earlier this catch 22 illustrates the fundamental difference between a morality that is premised on command and obey as opposed to understood and chosen.

There is no 'intuitive' right and wrong. It is all 'command and obey.'

Additionally, this site has got me interested in Objectivism and I was wondering where I could get some stuff on the net to introduce me to the subject. Are Ayn Rand's philosophical works available for free on the net?

February 25, 2009 12:35 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

danielj: greetings. It is my hope you are well.

d wrote: I agree with you 100% here. It doesn't matter whether he knew if it was right or wrong. He was told not to by the God of the universe.

Sir, you are anachronistically retrojecting late medieval theology into a 9th century BCE mythological fiction story. To the people who composed this fairy tale, the Elohim was not "God of the Universe" per Aquinas or Anselm. Recall that this story comes from a polytheistic culture ripe with many beliefs. The story we have is the revised version handed down from the post Ezra priestly tradition. It thus very likely lacks all the subtle nuances of what may have been original to its culture of origin.

February 25, 2009 2:59 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

There is no 'intuitive' right and wrong. It is all 'command and obey.'

What I meant by a moral code that is understood and chosen is this. A proper moral code is a guide to action. All decisions can be expressed as the following, if I want to obtain value X and the facts are Z, then I must do Y. Example my cardinal value is my own life, a condition for my life is that I must eat, or I'll starve. Therefore I want X (to live) and the facts are Z (I require food in order to live, then I must do Y, mainly eat. No god or state or any other authority kicked in my door and ordered me to eat. In fact no one is ordering me to be rational, I just want to live the good life and that is a requirement, again something I understand and chose. For Adam however the above example could not be conceptualized, he had no idea of good and evil. Good is what promotes ones life, evil is what promotes ones death, thus it is good to eat. Adam could not figure this out if he had to first eat from the tree, so he is in a awful catch22. For Adam its just do as you are told, don't eat from that tree and don't ask why, you would not, could not understand. Christian morality is a terrible thing.

February 25, 2009 4:29 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

Sir, you are anachronistically retrojecting late medieval theology into a 9th century BCE mythological fiction story.

Robert I sometimes dwell on the possibilities that modern Christians are retro fitting modern cultural filters to there biblical interpretations. I don,t think much of it tho, for I fail to see of what possible value to me can there be in the barbaric mystical rantings of ancient middle eastern cultures. What can they inform me of that will aid me in modern life that is unique to there philosophy? nothing that I can tell. An old friend of mine once remarked that yes she could learn all about the bible in order to refute it, but why bother when it is so obviously nonsense. I at the time thought that presumptuous, then I tried to read genesis, which relates to our current discussion about Adam, morality, etc and realized how right she was. That people spend years of their lives dedicated to studying the bible just boggles my mind.

February 25, 2009 4:58 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

My comment failed to post. In it I thanked Justin and noted my agreement with his summary of Objectivist Morality. Secondly I posted a notice about Dr Hector Avalos' book "The End of Biblical Studies" I and John Loftus recommend it. Its well worth the small price. Dr Avalos shows what a waste of effort it is to study that text.

I also posted a link to today's science news where Dr David Deamer's latest origin of life work is discussed. Here is the link.

Best Regards and Wishes

February 26, 2009 2:35 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

Robert in reference to an earlier post about the law of identity and special relativity. I would say the law of identity holds true no matter what. That one's velocity in respect to what one identifies does not undermine the law. The corollary to A is A, is non contradiction, A can not be A and not A at the same time within the same respect. However if you are moving close to the speed of light you sure as hell have a different respect with regard to what you observe and due to time dilation effects it's hard for me to say you are even in the same time reference. Thus a star you are heading toward at 99% the speed of light could appear to be a super hot blue star while I just orbiting it see a middle of the road yellow star, all the while A being A.

February 27, 2009 3:51 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Justin and fond greetings to the thread.

Over at, baalchatzaf offered the following good comment in response to my question regarding the Law of Identity and Special Relativity.

Special Relativity in no way contradicts the logical law of identity or the logical law of non-contradiction. If two events are observed in different inertial frames in uniform motion wrt to each other the times and positions will differ but the -interval- will be the same. The intervas ds is defined by the equation:

ds^2 = -dt^2 + dx^2 + dy^2 + dz^2 where dt, dx, dy, dz are the time and spatial differences for the two events. In either frame ds^2 is the same. The Lorentz Transformation group is the set of transforms which keep the interval invariant. It is analogous to the set of transformations on a Euclidean space that keep length invariant. The set of such transforms are the isometries on the space.

Look at it mathematically and the mystery disappears. Intuitively you have to give up on the notion that simulteneity is absolute. Events simultaneous in one frame are not simultaneous in a an other frame in uniform motion wrt to the first. This is hard to do at first, but work on it and it will come clear to you.


This made sense to me. Thus Red Dave's objection to logic fails.

February 27, 2009 4:48 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hey everyone,

Wow! I go to Thailand for a few weeks, and look what happens when I'm away? Lots of fascinating discussion! I love it! I should do this more often.

I'm not back in the States yet, though. Currently in Ninlapetch recovering from the requisite "mystery illness" - this time three says of diarrhea and intense stomach cramps (it must have been the homemade soy milk in Sanamchaikiet - for future reference, try to avoid homemade soy milk in a small dusty town you've never heard of before and whose name you find difficulty pronouncing on a first try...).

It hasn't been all bad, though. In spite of 100+ temperatures everyday and the teeming buglife here, I've had some great adventures on this trip (my fifth to Thailand over the past 8 years), seen some interesting religious sites (temples - "wat" - everywhere here, a very mystical culture) and have visited with many friends and members of my wife's family, who live here. Though Thailand is full of Buddhist mysticism (95% of Thais are Buddhists, so it is an extraordinarily homogenous culture here), it is always a delight to move around in a culture that is pretty much untouched by Christianity. It's very live and let live here, no "convert or burn" mentality rules these people's minds.

Unfortunately I haven't had much of any time to work on my post about Adam being created perfect or not, which is frustrating. I will have an 8-hour layover at Incheon, so maybe I'll park myself at the internet cafe there and dive in. I'll do my best to resist the urge to run into Seoul and do some shopping.

Until then, I'm just trying to be extra careful about what I eat and drink... I've probably lost about 5 lbs so far, which my wife says "is a good start". I'm at the point where I really miss pizza, Mexican food, real brewed coffee, and dark beer - something that I can never find over here. So the lbs are bound to come right back shortly after my return.

I wish I had the time to go over everything discussed above in more detail, but just don't have the time now. But let's see! In the meantime, keep on keepin' on!


February 28, 2009 7:16 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Did I say "...three says of diarrhea..."? No, that's three days. Clearly I'm still on the mend!

February 28, 2009 7:20 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

Thanks for the update.

March 01, 2009 8:46 AM  
Blogger Harold said...

Oh, and I hear the women down there are lovely.

March 01, 2009 8:51 AM  
Blogger madmax said...

I have a question regarding theodicy and the Euthyphro dilemma. The Euthyphro dilemma is designed to show that either god answers to a moral standard outside himself or divine morality is arbitrary because god sets it himself. On another O'ist board someone raised an objection they encountered; one which I have encountered too. So I raise it here.

If the theist says that god is simultaneously goodness and truth and does not issue moral commandments by fiat but just is goodness, does this answer Euthyphro? In other words, can the theist define god in such a way that the contradictions highlighted by the Euthyphro dilemma don't exist? At best this tactic might be a way around Euthyphro but that's about it. It still seams to me though that if you say that god is goodness and truth then you are saying that god is limited by his nature which he can't change. Doesn't this destroy omnipotence?

March 01, 2009 12:07 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Greetings Dawson: I hope you are enjoying your trip and look forward to seeing your photos.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that an immaterial, non-physical, A-spatial, A-temporal consciousness lacking energy, thought, information, substance of any sort, potential for action, and existence could somehow A-casually instantiate existence.

In order to devise a protocol that might lead to an answer to the question, "Was Adam created perfect?", the terms must first be defined.

What is meant by "create" and perfect? The only way by which modern science speculates matter can come to be from nothingness is via cosmic inflation or quantum vacuum fluctuations. Both are thought to a-casual. Create means:

1. to cause to come into being, as something unique that would not naturally evolve or that is not made by ordinary processes.
2. to evolve from one's own thought or imagination, as a work of art or an invention.
3. Theater. to perform (a role) for the first time or in the first production of a play.
4. to make by investing with new rank or by designating; constitute; appoint: to create a peer.
5. to be the cause or occasion of; give rise to: The announcement created confusion.
6. to cause to happen; bring about; arrange, as by intention or design: to create a revolution; to create an opportunity to ask for a raise.

These definitions presuppose existence as casualty requires. Consequently Dawson is asking the wrong question. This is because religious people presuppose a false doctrine that there is existence outside of and prior to existence. This simply cannot be. (If there was a beginning to existence, it was an a-casual phenomena. The Wave Function of the Universe, discovered by Stephen Hawking an James Hartle, provides an unrefuted explanation for the origin of cosmic inflation and the big bang that is supported by the evidence we currently have.)

Since knowledge is direct mental grasping of the facts of existence, how can we acquire a direct mental cognitive apprehension of the purposed consciousness that is alleged to have done this "creating" and may have done so "perfectly"?

We are temporal, spatial, physical, material, organic and energetic beings wherein information can be encoded. How can that which is imagined as an immaterial, non-physical, A-spatial, A-temporal consciousness lacking energy, thought, information, substance of any sort, potential for action or existence able to interact and connect in a relational manner with us in actual existence?

But beyond these obvious considerations, when we read the seven days account in Gen. 1:1-2:3 and the Garden account in Gen 2:4-25 there is no mention of perfection. Good as used in Gen 1 and 2 is the Hebrew "towb". Strongs reference H2896 says:

1) good, pleasant, agreeable

a) pleasant, agreeable (to the senses)

b) pleasant (to the higher nature)

c) good, excellent (of its kind)

d) good, rich, valuable in estimation

e) good, appropriate, becoming

f) better (comparative)

g) glad, happy, prosperous (of man's sensuous nature)

h) good understanding (of man's intellectual nature)

i) good, kind, benign

j) good, right (ethical)

2) a good thing, benefit, welfare

a) welfare, prosperity, happiness

b) good things (collective)

c) good, benefit

d) moral good

3) welfare, benefit, good things

a) welfare, prosperity, happiness

b) good things (collective)

c) bounty

The idea of perfection is a late medieval theological notion anachronistically retrojected into these ancient myths. In a moral sense, as Justin Hall pointed out, the Elohim are far from perfect. The Elohim lied and appears to have made the man and wo-man to be slave laborers. I think the hero here is the Serpent who sacrificed itself to save the man and wo-man from slavery.

March 01, 2009 12:46 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Madmax: I hope you are well and prospering

You asked: “If the theist says that god is simultaneously goodness and truth and does not issue moral commandments by fiat but just is goodness, does this answer Euthyphro? In other words, can the theist define god in such a way that the contradictions highlighted by the Euthyphro dilemma don't exist? “

I say no. Defining their God as some modal property or other does not solve Euthyphro's dilemma. The argument below was about logic but I reconfigured it for morality by replacing logic with morality. This line of reasoning is based on Francois Tremblay's Materialist Apologetics at

Recently a theist asked how an atheist justifies morality. The context of the question carries a large number of spurious presuppositions that have origin in a broad scoped fallacy not unique to theism. This fallacy is called the epistemological reversal of the subject-object of thought reversal. (Objectivism defines and discusses this fallacy at length.) Theists imagine as a strawman an argument from Objectivism or Naturalism that morality, logic and what is fallaciously identified as the “laws of nature” are “an effect of random molecules and chemical reactions that can never give nor validate anything whatsoever.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Morality arises from material existence and is necessary for human survival. Morality is ultimately derived from the Law of Identity, A=A. The nature of
physical material existence is that every thing that exists has a specific set ofcharacteristics. Human beings are continuously faced with the moral choice to either live life or die.

'Man has been called a rational being, but rationality is a matter of choice—and the alternative his nature offers him is: rational being or suicidal animal. Man has to be man—by choice; he has to hold his life as a value—by choice; he has to learn to sustain it —by choice; he has to discover the values it requires and practice his virtues—by choice. A code of values accepted by choice is a code of morality. The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics—the standard by which one judges what is good or evil—is man’s life, or: that which is required for man’s survival qua man.'

Since reason is man’s basic means of survival, that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys it is the evil. Since everything man needs has to be discovered by his own mind and produced by his own effort, the two essentials of the method of survival proper to a rational being are: thinking and productive work."

Morality nor logic nor the uniformity of nature transcends existence, for existence is all that exists. Consider the following syllogism.

a. Morality is necessary for human survival.

b. If theism is true, then divine creation obtains.

c. If divine creation is true, then all in existence is contingent to God’s act of creation, and nothing in existence is necessary.

d. If theism is true, then morality cannot be necessary. (from b and c)

e. Theism is false. (from a and d)

Theists attack premise c by declaring that if morality is part of God’s nature, then its existence is a necessary consequence of divine causation. They
may think this an easy escape from the problem, since they imagine God is a necessary entity from a theological standpoint, but it suffers from several
unresolvable problems.

1. Theists often assert that non-believers borrow morality from the Christian worldview. This is absolutely irrelevant to the issue at hand, for it does not
address the fact that morality becomes subjective if a consciousness creates it. The theist is only specifying the nature of that subjectivity. By so doing he
is in fact supporting the argument above. Asserting morality is part of God’s nature does not change the fact that by so doing is to declare it originates
from a consciousness, not from objective existence – which is the very definition of subjective. (This is an example of the subject-object reversal. Reality
is objective. The imagination is subjective. By claiming morality is subjective, the theist reverses the epistemic priority of objective reality over subjective

2. Theistic believers often discuss the nature of their imagined ruling consciousness, but they have absolutely no grounds for discussing the specifics of
God’s nature for two reasons.
First, by acceptance of a fantasy God as Sovereign and Creator, the believer cannot assume anything about its properties any more than we can posit
“complete entropy” of a system and then try to define physical properties thereof. The theist cannot refute the possibility that a fantasy of an infinite god
or a malevolent spirit being is deluding her into believing the statement “God’s nature is moral. Under theism a person can no longer refute arguments
based on extreme skepticism. The theist can only refute the idea of an invisible magic entity manipulating their mind, or being the victim of mental
illness if her worldview entails self-contained existence. Second, to discuss what she thinks is God’s nature, she must presume to have knowledge of that nature. Knowledge, however, is rooted in reality and is held in conceptual form.

“To form a concept, one mentally isolates a group of concretes (of distinct perceptual units), on the basis of observed similarities which distinguish them
from all other known concretes (similarity is “the relationship between two or more existents which possess the same characteristic(s), but in different
measure or degree”); then, by a process of omitting the particular measurements of these concretes, one integrates them into a single new mental unit:
the concept, which subsumes all concretes of this kind (a potentially unlimited number). The integration is completed and retained by the selection of a
perceptual symbol (a word) to designate it. “A concept is a mental integration of two or more units possessing the same distinguishing characteristic(s),
with their particular measurements omitted.” - Leonard Peikoff, “The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy”, “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology”, 131.
The only way to have perceptual knowledge is via our sensory experience. “Man’s senses are his only direct cognitive contact with reality and,
therefore, his only source of information. Without sensory evidence, there can be no concepts; without concepts, there can be no language; without
language, there can be no knowledge and no science.” – (Ayn Rand, "Kant Versus Sullivan", "Philosophy: Who Needs It", 90.) Since theism’s fantasy
of a God cannot be detected by any means of sensory experience or instrumentation, it is impossible for any religious mystic to have perceptual
information that can be used as isolated distinct perceptual units that can be the basis of a concept of God. Thus theism’s claim to have knowledge of
the nature of God is patently false.

3. The theistic point that “Morality is rooted in the nature of God.” is a complete ad hoc rationalization: nothing about the notion of a god indicates that it
must be necessarily good or moral. Humans are capable of being both bad and cruel and self-destructive, it is clearly impossible for a more powerful
being to not be able to do such a simple thing as act with meaness and cruelty.

4. Even if it was the case that a God actually existed and its nature was morally good, there would be no necessary (in the sense of system K modal
logic meaning it is not possibly false) relation between God’s inherent properties and its creation. A burden of proof is upon the God believers to prove
their assertion that it necessarily is the case that a relation between what they imagine as God and objective reality obtains such that the basal attributes
of their God transfer to objective reality by virtue of a creative action. Without such evidence sufficient to establish the thing as true, the assertion that
“Moral goodness is rooted in the nature of God.” cannot have any weight. The believers would need to prove that powerful beings are restricted in their
creations to transferring their basal attributes to that which is created. Were the theist successful in such an endeavor, the religious house of cards
would fall to the old rejoinder that a perfect creator cannot create an imperfect creation.

5. It is impossible to make sense of the proposition that “Moral goodness is part of God’s nature.” That this is so can be observed by taking note of the
Transcendent Argument for God. TAG proposes that “Moral goodness is both dependent on God and necessary." ….. If morality is dependent on God it
must be contingent. If morality is contingent then it is not necessary for human survival. But morality is necessary for human survival. Thus morality
cannot be dependent on God since there is nothing inconsistent about denying the existence of God but there is in denying the existence of objective
morality.” – (Michael Martin: “Butler's Defense of TAG and Critique of Tang” - Morality
cannot both be an intrinsic part of God’s nature and created by God.

6. Theism’s assertions are self-defeating. If morality existed first as a property of God, then it is a non-material principle, and divine causation is not
necessary for its transference at all. All it would prove, at best, is that a non-material principle is involved, but there is a definite lack of specificity in
theism’s claim. How is it that some properties of God’s nature are transferred to reality, but others are not? Theism’s claim that “our need for morality is
rooted in the nature of God and evidenced in creation itself” implies that it is logically necessary for one property of the nature of the alleged God to
transfer to reality but that other predicated properties do not transfer. Why is that? The theist bears a burden of proof here to show why their case for
morality transference does not also entail that their God’s alleged goodness, intelligence, order, logic, self-knowledge, sovereignty, power, justice, etc
are also transferred by the creative act. In no sense is the burden of proof fulfilled by simply asserting the contrary position as a mystery.

7. Theism presumes that it makes sense to speak of morality as a non-material entity, which indicates a commitment to idealism. From my perspective,
morality is an axiomatic fact of reality, and arises because of the fundamental nature of the material world and human requirements necessary for survival. It makes no sense to speak of morality dissociated from the material world, any more than it makes sense to speak of immaterial consciousness.

[*] Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics,” in "The Virtue of Selfishness", 23.

March 01, 2009 1:42 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Madmax: I had an additional thought on this issue.

You asked: “If the theist says that god is simultaneously goodness and truth and does not issue moral commandments by fiat but just is goodness, does this answer Euthyphro? In other words, can the theist define god in such a way that the contradictions highlighted by the Euthyphro dilemma don't exist? “

When a theist says their god "does not issue moral commandments by fiat", they are lying. No religion with a set of sacred stories recorded in a book can honestly assert their stories come from anywhere other than the minds of their priests, gurus, or prophets. This is the very definition of subjective fiat.

Yet they will insist their guys are amongst the elect and deny they other religious stories are true. This defense is vulnerable to the argument from religious confusion. The many thousands of differing religions have as many differing moral or ethical systems; all of which are equally valid under subjectivity and super-naturalism. The teachings of Mohammad counter and nullify the teachings of Paul. The doctrine of Joseph Smith renders Guru Nanak's teaching spurious and so forth.

March 01, 2009 6:38 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

No.... no..... no! I know the truth Robert they are all wrong! Yeah once you let in the arbitrary, you have to let in them all, all or nothing. I am sometimes accused of having a closed mind because I will not entertain even for a moment others arbitrary claims. Well if thats their idea of an open mind, I would remind them that its open to any Tom, Dick or Harry coming along and filling it with junk. Why is it that some people think that if I can not on the spot come up with a refuting argument to there claims that I am somehow bound to at least give them a 50/50 chance of being right all the while they have failed to or refused to provide an argument of there own. Its as if some traveling salesman claims that if I can not give him a reason why I should not buy his product then the right thing to do is buy it. Arrgghh! why cant people at least try and be logical.

March 01, 2009 7:46 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

Disregard my earlier post, I had a very unproductive discussion this weekend, and remember don't argue with a fool, those watching might not be able to tell which is which.

March 01, 2009 7:48 PM  
Blogger madmax said...


Wow. Awesome response. I'm going to reread it a few times and digest it but it really gets at what I was asking. Thank you so much.

For now I just have one question about your post on perfection. You write:

"(If there was a beginning to existence, it was an a-casual phenomena. The Wave Function of the Universe, discovered by Stephen Hawking an James Hartle, provides an unrefuted explanation for the origin of cosmic inflation and the big bang that is supported by the evidence we currently have."

Isn't any assertion that existence had a beginning automatically invalid? Could science ever provide an answer to that? I would think that any answer it would provide would be no better than a religious explanation. How could something come from nothing?

Could you explain how Hawking's Wave Function attempts to explain the beginning of existence. As I understand the Big Bang, it simply explains the state of matter at some point, but it doesn't explain how existence was created.

March 01, 2009 9:51 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Madmax: Thank you for your kind words. Please forgive my inaccurate inferences about Hawkings and Hartle. I should have been more careful to specify that the Wave Function does not explain existence because it assumes a preexistent quantum reality from which the Wave Function emerged. While Hawkings and Hartle provide an a-casual naturalistic explanation for origins of Cosmic Inflation and Big Bang, like all cosmological origins hypothesis',it does not and cannot explain existence. Existence has always existed.

If reality is configured as an arbitrarily exponentially large assemblage of cosmic domains, a multiverse, then it is impossible for the Abrahamic god to exist. This is so even if there is no scientific consensus as to a favored hypothesis of cosmic origins. Yahweh is defined as the sole and only possible "cause" of any possible sole Universe with any possible arrangement of things (a world). It means that it should be categorically impossible in principle to honestly discover any naturalistic scientific hypothesis of cosmic origins that meets tests to parsimony, explanatory scope, and conservatism with minimal ad hoc assumptions. That Hawkings and Hartle's Wave Function of the Universe, Andrei Lindie's Eternal Chaotic Inflation, Lee Smolin's Cosmological Fecund Natural Selection, and Martin Bojowald's Big Bounce hypothesis honestly exist supported by and explaining the evidence we have means the god of classical theism does not.

However, since existence is conserved and cannot be created, started, modified, changed, or terminated by consciousness and because information can only obtain within a context of existence, then existence has necessarily always existed. Primacy of Consciousness defenders will appeal to Double Delayed Choice and Slit experiments. They result in wave-particle duality breakdown without observers or recording devices on the detectors. Measurement and not conscious observation is key to the breakdown so their objection fails. Religious people depend on the false premise of metaphysical primacy of non-existence to vivify and infuse argumentative momentum into their assertion that a creator was necessary. Rand's insight that consciousness is awareness shows up the notion of metaphysical primacy of non-existence as an absurdity.

You are correct in saying Isn't any assertion that existence had a beginning automatically invalid? And I was careless to not explicitly specify that position in my prior post.

You asked How could something come from nothing?

Some will refer to quantum vacuum fluctuations that are sometimes called zero point energy or to quantum non-locality in answer to the question. Quantum vacuum fluctuations are a property of space-time and so are something. While non-locality is not understood, it could likewise be a property of the quantum vacuum of space-time or the misidentification of the spontaneous appearance of a particle pair and subsequent annihilation of one of the pair. The remaining particle would then be detected as having superluminally transported from the point of annihilation. Thus objections to the very common sense idea that something cannot come from nothing fail.

Best Wishes for Your Continued Success

March 02, 2009 9:09 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Madmax: I'm so full of myself that I forgot to post the link to Dr.Quentin Smith's paper about Hawkings and Hartle's Wave Function of the Universe.

I hope this is of assistance.


March 02, 2009 10:48 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

Robert thank you for a great post, I actually had time to read thru the last two and well re read thru it. The more I study these topics and the further I gain in my understanding, the more it becomes clear that the real issue is the metaphysical relationship between consciousness and existence. Yes, the key is consciousness is awareness. Once this is understood the rest just falls conceptually into place.

March 02, 2009 5:51 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Justin: Good Evening Sir.

Thank you for the kind words. The post I put up about morality used TANG to refute TAG that the Christian employs as a solution to Euthyphro's dilemma. Most of that argument is based up a line of reasoning composed by Francois Tremblay's in his Materialist Apologetics at

Tremblay's stuff is very useful in these atheist vs theist discussions. His argument from non-cognitivism is what convinced me to convert from weak atheism/agnosticism to strong explicit atheism and put me on the road towards Objectivism.

The other posts about quantum and cosmology are based on bit of learning I've acquired here and there over time. I based this statement Yahweh is defined as the sole and only possible "cause" of any possible sole Universe with any possible arrangement of things (a world). It means that it should be categorically impossible in principle to honestly discover any naturalistic scientific hypothesis of cosmic origins that meets tests to parsimony, explanatory scope, and conservatism with minimal ad hoc assumptions. on content from George H. Smith's book "Atheism: The Case Against God" and Victor Stenger's book "God: The Failed Hypothesis".

An interesting observation is that Creationists will attack the idea of an actual possible infinity to defend against an attack from infinite regression of causation. George Smith provides an argument from the Law of Identity that can be used to trap the wylie Creationist in their own argument.

1.To be GOD, YAHWEH must be an ontological person that is infinite in scope.

2.To be an ontological person is to have a specific identity.

3.To have a specific identity is to necessarily be finite.

4.YAHWEH has a specific identity.

5.YAHWEH therefore is necessarily finite and cannot be infinite.

6.By modus tollens from 1 and 5, YAHWEH cannot be GOD as it cannot both be infinite and finite.

To refute this argument the Law of Identity must be shown false. If someone were to be successful in showing the Law of Identity false, the implication
then would be that there is no material existence for material existence requires the Law of Identity. If what we understand to be the world around us does not actually exist, then it is a fantasy of some sort as are we. Then all the evil in the universe is directly attributable to the source of the fantasy. If that were YAHWEH, then it would be directly responsible for all the suffering, pain, misery, death, affliction, natural disasters, predator-prey and parasite-host relationships. The infliction of suffering for sheer enjoyment of witnessing sentient beings (or fantasies) in misery qualifies as EVIL. If the Law of Identity is false, and if YAHWEH is responsible for what we think of as reality, then YAHWEH is malevolently EVIL. And all who worship YAHWEH are duped and deceived.

This argument can be used after the Creationist has attacked the possibility of an actual infinity.

March 02, 2009 7:57 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

yep, the last thing a theist wants is for god to be defined, then the con is exposed. George Smith's The Case Against God is what got me on the road to Objectivism, tho it took about 3 years to finally convince me. I hear that I am not alone, that a lot of atheists discover Ayn Rand though his writings. Had a Christian criticize me for getting my start in philosophy this way, as if the means by which I discovered objectivism in someway invalids it. Once you understand the dichotomy between objectivism and subjectivism, you see it underlying just about every assumption the theists make. I can not tell you how any times I have heard, well if god is not real why do so many people believe in him, uh... yeah...

I really liked what you had to say about the first cause line of argumentation. I maintain that the universe has always existed weather the past is finite or infinite. I can say this because time presupposes existence, as we all know. Asking what happened 5 minutes before the big bang is like asking whats 5 miles north of the north pole. So for any given moment the universe existed at that moment. Thats how I can say the universe has always existed, at any given moment its there. A somewhat different meaning to always then in common usage however.

March 02, 2009 8:35 PM  
Blogger madmax said...


Your post on the Wave function was indeed helpful. It was loaded with great information. Your contributions here have helped me better understand Objectivist atheology. Thank you.

March 02, 2009 9:04 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

Robert, I have tried to understand Hawking's finite but boundless universe model and I just feel like I am banging my head against a wall. I may be cynical here, but these various big bang theories and what not come into and out of vogue among cosmologists like clothing fashions and most share a common denominator, they are all really hard if not impossible to test. Really for me the layman, do I need to know these details, I know philosophically that no matter which one if any of them are correct will have to presuppose existence in some way. So none of these theories can ever be of any use to metaphysical subjectivists. However the theories can be entertaining in their own right. I just don't have the time any longer to read yet another book by Paul Davis, or whomever.

However here is a related question for you and Dawson if he is interested and it related to our earlier discussion about free will. I think its a safe bet you are familiar with the concept of block time. I would from an objectivist point of view what you think of it and is it possible to have free will within a block time universe model.

March 03, 2009 3:52 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

argh! once again I fail grammatically. My question was what are you're thoughts on block time and how it relates to objectivism and its description of free will.

March 03, 2009 3:54 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 06, 2009 6:34 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

ok, guys if block time is not a topic of interest, try this one. Is the concept of the number zero valid. It has no actual physical referent. It seems to just refer it's self. I realize this has got to be naive and there must be a simple answer but right off the top of my head I can't think of one. So is the concept zero a case of trying to treat non-existence as if it were something in it's own right?

March 06, 2009 6:36 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Good Morning Justin

Please forgive my negligence in not responding to your cogent question regarding Block Time. I failed to see it in my email box as it is flooded with investment newsletters and blogs. The company I work for will likely go under in a few months, if the economy does not improve immediately. Since I'm middle aged and am in a special line of work related to industrial design, its unlikely I'll find another job in my field. Thus I'll be forced to trade for a living or take whatever work I may find. I prefer to trade, so I'm spending my free time studying Forex currency trading.

The Wikipedia article says Block Time is also known as Eternalism. In this view, all events are in some incomprehensibly timeless sense continuously occurring simultaneously. Eternalism holds the past, present, and future all obtain as extant concrete instantiated reference frames wherein their events continuously happen timelessly and eternally forever. Under Eternalism, H.G. Well's Time Traveler could get into his Time Machine and go to some other time and then return to the London of the 1890s.

If Block Time - Eternalism is true, there is no free will and all, including human volitional consciousness, is fully determined and can be no other way. Theistic believers should reject this view on faith grounds due to the problem of evil. I too reject the Block theory in favor of Presentism.

Under Presentism, time is and unending now. Time then equals duration and is measured on a clock. There is no actual past or future as they are only fictional abstractions that sapient organic beings employ to make sense of the sequence of actions.

Craig Bourne's book A Future for Presentism as linked from the Wikipedia article looks like an interesting read. The blurb reads as follows.

* First book-length defence of presentism - the view that only the present exists
* A fascinating read
* Accessible to non-specialists
* A self-contained and useful resource for those interested in the physics as well as the philosophy
* Many figures to aid understanding

Presentism, the view that only the present exists, was a much neglected position in the philosophy of time for a number of years. Recently, however, it has been enjoying a renaissance among philosophers. A Future for Presentism is meant as a timely contribution to this fast growing and exciting debate.

After discussing rival positions in the philosophy of time, in Part I Craig Bourne shows how presentism is the only viable alternative to the tenseless theory of time. He then develops a distinctive version of presentism that avoids the mistakes of the past, and which sets up the framework for solving problems traditionally associated with the position, such as what makes past-tensed statements true, how to give the proper semantics for statements about the future, how to deal with transtemporal relations, how we can meaningfully talk about past individuals, and how causation can be accommodated. Part I concludes with a discussion of the direction of time and causation, the decision-theoretic problem known as 'Newcomb's problem', and the possibility of time travel and causal loops. In Part II Bourne focuses on the problems for presentism raised by relativity theory. He begins with by giving a self-contained exposition of the concepts of special relativity that are important for understanding the later discussion of its philosophical implications. The last two chapters explore the philosophical implications of certain cosmological models that arise from general relativity, namely the expanding models, which seem to represent our universe, and Gödel's infamous model, which allows us to take a journey into our future and arrive in our past. The necessary physics is explained with the aid of diagrams, throughout.

Regarding Zero and the related issue of the Null Set, your right. There can be no valid concept of either as nothingness or non-existence does not exist. These notions are floating abstractions. Peikoff describes Rand's take on this fallacy.

['Floating abstraction'] is Ayn Rand's term for concepts detached from existents, concepts that a person takes over from other men without knowing what specific units the concepts denote. A floating abstraction is not an integration of factual data; it is a memorized linguistic custom representing in the person's mind a hash made of random concretes, habits and feelings that blend imperceptibly into other hashes which are the content of other, similarly floating abstractions. The 'concepts' of such a mind are not cognitive devices. They are parrotlike imitations of language backed in essence by patches of fog. - OPAR p.96

Courtesy of Anton Thorn

Thank you for taking time to communicate with me on this thread. Best Regards and Wishes

March 07, 2009 7:56 AM  

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