In a previous article of ours
on atheism, we read the beginning of this discussion, where the
atheist proved he was unable to support his views (that
supposedly all those who are believers are "unscientific" in their
stance), and was forced to direct the discussion towards the
experiences and proofs. The present article is the continuation
of that same discussion, with the arguments that were brought
In reply to the
question posed by the Christian to the atheist: "If you believe
ONLY in your personal experience, then how come you believe in
the conclusions reached by Physics scientists, without actually
having witnessed their experiments?", he responded as follows:
Of course I have not personally
been a witness to scientific experiments. The reason that
I believe in their conclusions is simple: they coincide
with the perceptions that I have created with my own (physical)
senses about the world. The reason I do not believe in the
various kinds of miracles is also simple: they totally
disagree with the logical manner of confronting the world.
Let me give you an example on the
matter of your senses and your perception of the world, as
opposed to Physics, and then think over whether they coincide:
Suppose we have two observers in
two separate spaceships that are moving in opposite directions,
towards each other. The one is travelling at 10 kilometers per
second, and the other one is also travelling at 10 kilometers
per second. To calculate the speed at which they approach each
other, we need to add their speeds. In other words, 10 + 10 = 20
Now, if we were to send a beam of
light in parallel to one of the two spaceships, common logic
based on experience would say that if the one who is travelling
parallel to the beam wants to measure the light, he will
calculate: 300.000 kilometers/second, MINUS 10 (= 299.990) because it
is moving alongside it, whereas the other would have to
300.000 kilometers/second, PLUS 10 (= 300.010), because he is
moving in the opposite direction.
BUT THAT IS NOT HOW THINGS ARE!
Regardless of the speed and direction of the observers, light
will always travel - for both observers - at 300.000
I could give you TENS of similar
examples. And yet, even though all the above go contrary to
common experience and logic, you accept them, simply because
they have been told by Physicists. So, how exactly are
you more open-minded than a religious person who
accepts something unusual in his daily experiences?
As you can see, I am not speaking
arbitrarily, but am basing what I say on clear-cut facts and
Who is a correctly thinking
person and who is not is by no means an objective matter. The
correct thinkers are those who rely on empirical rules and who
base their convictions on evidence - as opposed to those who do
no research whatsoever and just simply believe in things that
are nonexistent. Now, the reason they choose to believe in
nonexistent things is an entirely different matter; sometimes it
may have to do with one's intelligence, and other times with the
social environment that one has lived in.
So, if the correct thinkers are
those who rely on everyday experience, then the physicists who
teach the above example that I mentioned (about the speed of
light) - which is contrary to everyday experience - must be
irrational. And to personalize the matter, if you yourself agree
with something like that , then you too are irrational, because
it conflicts with your actual experience. I will stress
once again, that I can mention TENS of similar examples - which
you accept, without having any personal experience thereof,
simply because you BLINDLY BELIEVE in whatever the physicists
On the contrary, even though I
myself may not necessarily believe ONLY what my everyday
experience provides, I do NOT blindly believe what every
religiously-oriented person tells me. The things that he
says must be LOGICAL, because something that is unusual
in one's everyday experience is not necessarily something
contradictory. The fact that recently human beings didn't
fly (this being an unusual thing in the everyday experience of
ancient man), does not mean that an airplane is something
impossible or illogical.
Beyond that, who told you that I
do NOT base my faith on experience also? It may not
be a daily experience, however, I do have experience of the
"supernatural" element, and thus have tangible reasons to
believe it; in fact, I have had tens of experiences in my life -
not to mention the hundreds of testimonies of close friends and
to our subject: In your opinion, I am irrational for supporting
my faith in something that may be unusual, but is nevertheless
existent and empirical; whereas you are supposed to be the
rational one, when supporting your faith on something usual, but
accepting the UNUSUAL findings in the realm of Physics? I think
the latter is irrational and inconsistent, not the former.
So, is it, or isn't it objective, when determining who of us
thinks rationally and who doesn't?
You claim that
Christianity is not an unsupported religion. I wonder, how
is the creation of Man and the transforming of stones into fish
nothing mentioned in the Christian faith on stones turned into fish. As for God
having created Man and everything else that we can see, there is
nothing irrational there. Irrational would be for someone
to assert that everything around us came to be - and evolved -
at random. Because everyday experience tells us that if
you find a computer inside an office, then something intelligent
has definitely constructed it. Therefore, the non-acceptance of such an
EVERYDAY fact with regard to God would indicate irrational
thinking. In other words, how can you accept something
that so blatantly contradicts everyday experience?
What is hindering you from accepting the simple, everyday and
logical finding (as you would, that computers were developed by
Man), that Man was in the same manner developed by God?
I believe I am
speaking simply and logically, and in fact with EVERYDAY
examples? Unless you have
an everyday example of a computer sprouting from within a
believe, dear Christian, is based on what I can sense:
what I can see, what I can hear, what I can smell, what I can
touch and what I can taste - generally whatever my senses can
perceive. What you believe is often based on the things
that you would like to sense - and that is a fact, not my
I think that
with what I wrote previously, I have already shown that what you
regard as your basis for your worldview is not reality; it's
just the way that you have chosen to believe.
I have no
intention of offending your religion or anyone else's religion.
Of course no-one has perfect viewpoints. However there are
certain things that are doubted, and others that are
uncontested. You say that whoever has an experience of God
can be called a theologian: well, how exactly does one have an
experience of God? Have they discussed the Cyprus issue
with Him, or have they beaten Him at chess?
I did not
think for a moment that you intended to offend anyone.
Those who offend intentionally do not express themselves with
your civility and respect. They make obscene remarks and they do not put
forward any arguments; they simply hurl unfounded accusations
and prejudiced opinions - always negative ones - without
offering anything constructive in a discussion of this kind (and
you know who I'm referring to). On the contrary, you have
all the characteristics of a logical and respectable
interlocutor, to whom I am obliged (and pleased) to respond in
the manner that befits civilized people.
As for who can
be called a theologian: well, he is the one who has transcended
Time-Space and has become united with Him, so that he is enabled to
convey something from God to people. And there are many
such people. For example, I would like to mention Saint Simeon
the New Theologian, who speaks of God out of experience.
And please don't say that this is an old event and that this
doesn't occur today. If you want a contemporary example,
then I would suggest the book by one such theologian
(regardless of the fact that the Church has not yet officially
pronounced him as such): the Elder Sophrony, and the book titled:
"We shall see God as He is" (Οψώμεθα τον Θεόν καθώς εστί).
This man does not speak vaguely about
theories; he speaks of things that he PERSONALLY EXPERIENCED.
yourself haven't had a personal experience of something does not
signify that others haven't either. I myself may not have seen
Him, but I have heard Him....
You say that psychiatry
and psychology contain conflicting theories, therefore if
theology is not a science, then they can't be sciences either,
and you drive me crazy...
Dear Christian, is there any
science whatsoever that is based on an authentic and absolute
theory? The nature of our world is such, that absolute knowledge
apparently never will be attained and therefore the conflict in
theories is absolutely normal, for the sake of reaching the
I fully agree;
That's what I've been saying. Given that you don't have a
complete knowledge of the world, how can you opine that God
doesn't exist, and you reject the idea altogether? And
especially when there is a host of people who have had
experiences of God?
between theology and psychology is obvious: psychology has a
predetermined and familiar subject: the soul of man.
Theology strives to tackle something vague and distant, which
no-one has ever known to exist.
I just caught you acting arbitrarily.
God being something "vague and distant" is your personal
opinion. On the contrary, I can feel Him, both as omnipresent and as
close as my own Father. Therefore there is a specific and
clearly defined (by Theologians) person who is at the centre of
Theology. Furthermore, the statement that "no-one has ever known
to exist" is again your personal view, which lightheartedly
disregards the PERSONAL TESTIMONIES of millions of people who
have had experiences of God. Your personal views naturally
do not constitute proof; more so, when you yourself don't regard
as proof the TESTIMONIES of people who have met Him .
What you are
saying about Orthodox psychotherapy (which I must admit, I have
no idea what that is) goes in one ear and comes out the other.
Are you saying that you believe that by bringing me 2000 people
- according to your theory - I will be convinced about the
veracity of your theory? Man can be logical or he can be
illogical. In order to distinguish between a logical view and an
illogical one, we won't try to discover how many people concur
with it, but only if it agrees with our experiences.
you have come to agree with I have been saying... on the one
hand you put aside something that I said and you don't search
it, but you opine about it as though you are familiar with it,
and on the other hand, you agree that the number of people who
agree with something or not is not a criterion of the truth, and
finally, you speak of experiences, just like I was speaking of
the personal experiences of millions of people (which you
however disregarded). Furthermore, I never spoke of people who
merely embrace a theory, but of people who were HEALED with the
method of Orthodox psychotherapy (some of whom I am acquainted
with), which indicates that this was an effective medical
At this point, the first Christian stopped
writing and the discussion continued, with the intervention of a
second Christian, who also happened to be a Physicist. His
comments were as follows:
friend, you wrote:
"Of course I have not personally
been a witness to scientific experiments. The reason that
I believe in their conclusions is simple: they coincide
with the perceptions that I have created with my own (physical)
senses about the world..... Whatever I
believe, dear Christian, is based on what I can sense:
what I can see, what I can hear, what I can smell, what I
can touch and what I can taste - generally whatever my
senses can perceive."
Dear Atheist friend, forgive me for
what I'm going to say, but the above two statements are the
definition of an anti-scientific stance. Science, and
specifically Physics, has long ago escaped from that framework.
In fact, common sense and so-called "common logic" are in our
day the greatest obstacle that man needs to overcome, in order
to familiarize himself and admire the beauty of natural reality.
Christian 1 already mentioned one example and stated that there
are tens more like that. The term "tens" is in my opinion
extremely underestimated. Such examples are not merely
tens; they are infinite in number.
Science - true
science - has furthermore accepted that it is not sufficient in
itself for discovering the full truth. It has been proven
scientifically that any logical edifice that man has created or
is going to create (such as mathematics, in which absolute logic
prevails) is imperfect to begin with. In other words, there will
always be premises that we will not be able to opine on - about
their correctness or incorrectness - and we will have to accept
or reject them by means of axioms. It is also proven that no
matter how many axioms there may be, there will still be a
premise like that. The only fully logical edifice would be the
one with infinite axioms!
couple of words on miracles. What is the definition of
"miracle"? One answer is: "that which contravenes natural
laws". Although this answer is not correct, let us accept it as
a definition. Can miracles "defined" in this manner occur?
A classical physicist's answer is: "according to physics, no."
The answer that a contemporary physicist would give is:
"anything can occur". Every occurrence, as crazy as it may
sound, has a possibility of becoming realized.
had once told us during a lesson in the amphitheatre that if we
could gain sufficient momentum and throw ourselves against the wall, it is
possible to penetrate it and come out the other side. We heard
him say that, and were saying to ourselves "what is this madman
telling us?" - but that is, finally, how things are. Of
course the possibility is unimaginably small and I wouldn't
recommend trying it. That is not the way I interpret
miracles. I simply want to stress that nowadays, we know that
there is no law that prohibits even the most bizarre occurrence.
It only renders it rare. Physics does not prohibit it.
Thus, God can intervene freely, without disturbing natural
necessity (which may be a nuisance to some) and without being bound
Common logic and science do not go hand-in-hand. However,
even if we do reject common logic and accept strict scientific
logic, again, we need to know that even that has limits and
weaknesses. Even with it, we again cannot discover the full
truth. And also that it cannot rule out a miracle.
clarifying that it is one thing for us to have agreed on naming
"common logic" that which is exceptionally useful in our daily
lives, and another thing altogether what strict scientific
I am quoting
here a truly interesting text (as I see it), on the theory of
incompleteness, which I have been intending to post in forums
for a long time. This may not be the best place, but I hope
to soon post it in a better place.
"When, at the end of the previous century,
the theorem of infinite sets was developed by
Cantor, they began
to base mathematics on it. A "set" is a group of things
that correspond to a certain definition. For example, the
set of natural numbers, the sum of numbers (3,4,8) etc.
This theory of sets therefore has comprised a foundation
upon which mathematics began to build up to a higher level
of deduction. That is when certain paradoxes began to
appear in the theory of sets; for example the Russell
that the set of all sets that are
not members of themselves. Such a set appears to be a member
of itself if - and only if
- it is not a member of itself,
hence the paradox.
a young German mathematician, wished to
eliminate the paradoxes from mathematics and he had his own
plan for this. Mathematics were to become clear, without any
unforeseen elements, and they would not even require people
to describe them and monitor them. They were to be defined
within a system of axioms. Axiomatic systems have
existed as far back as Euclid; they are not a new idea.
However, Hilbert was going to describe mathematics through a
formalized axiomatic system. One of the reasons for the
paradoxes and the contradictions in mathematics was the
words that we use for them; words in a language are overly
generalized and unclear. Therefore, the solution to the
problems was to be the replacement of the natural language
for defining mathematical problems and solving them, by
means of a technical language and an obsolete set of axioms.
A synthetic, univocal and well-defined grammar and a series
of synthetic, univocal and well-defined rules.
An axiomatic system is a system - a
mechanism - which starts from a number of well-defined
axioms, as well as a series of symbols that it can
manipulate, and all results are an output of those axioms
and those symbols, on the basis of certain rules. One
such system is typical logic.
Man is no longer required, because there
is no need here for intuition, or meaning; only the
manipulation of symbols. Right or wrong, this simply
means that something is the outcome of those axioms and
rules for output, or not. With Hilbert's dream,
mathematics would be able to be executed by computers -
theorem provers - programs equipped with the original axioms
and output rules. These would be able to prove - in a
mechanical manner - all theorems (hence the name, theorem
prover); Mathematics without people and meanings, therefore
without contradictions and paradoxes. As
should be no human element, there should be no subjective
element, there should be no question of interpretation."
showed that the plan is futile -
specifically impossible - in however rich in axioms a system
may be, at least as far as elementary arithmetic can define
or express. In every such system there will be
contradictions, that is, proposals that can be valid but
cannot be provable by that system.
began with the statement by Epimenides
the Cretan: "all Cretans are liars", or, in
other words, "this statement is a lie".
He only altered it slightly, to : "this
statement cannot be proven".
So, the matter
is that in an axiomatic system that describes mathematics
there can be found a way to enumerate its possible
proposals, either finite or infinite ones. That is exactly
what Goedel did: he found a way of enumerating the proposals
of an axiomatic system, by utilizing the proposals of the
elementary numbers theory. So he created a proposal in that
axiomatic system, which said that the proposal with number
so-and-so of the system cannot be proven. The trick was that
the proposal with number so-and-so was the proposal itself.
He thus succeeded in making a self-reference, using the
means of that same system.
So he created a form such as: "this
statement is false" - specifically, "this statement is
unprovable". Can the axiomatic system therefore prove that
proposal? If it can, then it encounters a contradiction,
since itself says that the proposal cannot be proven. If it
cannot, then the proposal is true but it is unprovable. In
either case, the system is not a complete one.
Gödel starts with ``this statement is false'', what I'm now
saying is a lie, I'm lying. If I'm lying, and it's a lie
that I'm lying, then I'm telling the truth! So ``this
statement is false'' is false if and only if it's true, so
there's a problem. Gödel considered instead ``this statement
This was in other words the theorem of
incompleteness that Goedel proved in 1931. It shows that
no sufficiently extensive, closed
axiomatic system can be complete. The
conclusion is that we cannot formalize even the
meticulously-defined mathematics. There will always be the
need for a higher level, in which axioms acquire a meaning -
regardless how broad an axiomatic system may be.
Ross wrote the following:
Roger Penrose in
New Mind" (pp. 105-108)
if David Hilbert were right and all of mathematics could be
completely reduced to a formal syntactic system, then
mathematics need have no meaning -- "true" and "false" would
simply mean "derivable" and "non-derivable" in the formalism
of the system. Hilbert himself recognized this and had said
that mathematical terms could mean "beer steins, sausages,
and tables" instead of what they are interpreted to mean
mathematically (obviously, Hilbert spent some time in German
Gödel demonstrated that in any formal syntactic system there
will be propositions that are true but not through formal
derivation from the axioms of the system. Thus, Penrose
notes, they are true because of their meaning, not because
of their syntax relation to an axiomatic system. This
reinforces the thesis of Jerrold Katz, that syntactic
simples are not semantic simples, and so some truths will
depend on semantic contents that cannot be exhaustively
expressed as syntax.
Goedel destroyed - within one year's work - all the hopes of
the formalists in Mathematics. Goedel showed that at a
given moment, one is confined only to the observation of the
truth, since in a given formalized system it can be proven
that it is impossible to actually prove it, even though one
can see that it is something that is valid. Formalists
sought nothing more than to eliminate the observer from
Mathematics. It was something equivalent to the "final
result" in mathematics. With their labours gone to
waste, Goedel proved that there is an eternal need for an
observer in arithmetic."
Two and a half thousand years ago,
Aristotle had said: "we must
pay as much attention to the unproven sayings and opinions
of experienced people, as to those which are proven, for it
is by having the gaze of experience that they can see
correctly." (ταις αναποδείκτοις
φάσεσι και δόξαις ουχ ήττον των αποδείξεων, διά το έχειν εκ της
εμπειρίας όμμα όρωσιν ορθώς).
He had therefore sensed that his logical
rules of proof were not sufficient, in order to define
to say it differently, he was not afraid of encountering a
logical contradiction by accepting both options.
No matter what system of proof we may end
up with, there will always be contradictions - it will never
be a complete system. Whatever can be proven through
certain rules will be limited, without its meaning. To
salvage the situation, we resort to fantasy, insight, or
whatever else helps us out of that impasse, in ways that are
not already contained in the system.
A later, famous mathematician,
followed in Goedel's footsteps and even proved that
mathematics also contain randomness; that in mathematics
there exist axioms that apply without reason - they simply
apply. This means they can only be discovered; they are not
the output of other pieces of knowledge. The adventure
cannot but continue."
The above is
my dedication to all the incurable rationalists.
above messages by the two Christians, the atheist in this
article - along with the other atheists who participated in the
discussion (but whose messages we have not included, as they had
nothing serious to say) - had no arguments of their own that
could refute the Christians' arguments. They merely began to
repeat the same words about experience etc., as if they had not
bothered to read the arguments that had been presented.
This being the case, we considered it meaningless to repeat the
same, and we in fact did not post those repetitions, or the
Christians' objections to the repetition of the topics that had
already received their responses.
in this discussion had also resorted to another trick; they
began to speak of .... "dragons
and pink elephants" in their attempt to ridicule the
Christians' positions. But this is another topic altogether,
which will be tackled in another article, exposing all the
irrationalities that it contained....