Robotic Reductio Ad Absurdum

god's handI believe in God. “Which of the many gods man has conjured do you mean?” ask a couple of atheist friends. The one true God, I retort. And I add, the variety of gods to which you refer simply reflect man’s fallible search for God. My friends believe that each mystery has a scientific explanation even if it remains elusive. I am ambivalent about this. It might be so. Science used to be about decoding God’s creation, and still is for some scientists; like, for example, the former head of the Human Genome Project, Francis Collins (The Language of God, 2006). However, these days assertive atheism pits science against God.

Questions about God’s existence or non-existence always start at the beginning. I will begin with the beginning but it is the denouement that reveals the starkly different tales of the competing beliefs. One offers mankind hope, the other a very bleak future indeed as robots take over. Luckily for us, or at least for our descendants, this bleak future does not seem to be playing out in the broader cosmos. What I mean by this will become clear, as will my consequential view that God remains inviolate despite the putative robotic assault.

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For Christians, the beginning is scripted. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (KJV, Genesis 1:1) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) For atheists, the beginning is the explosion of a dimensionless singularity—the Big Bang.

Or is it? Lee Smolin (in Time Reborn, 2014) hypothesises that our universe, as others, was spewed out of a black hole of another universe. John Barrow (in The Origin of the Universe, 1994) discusses a theory by physicists Stephen Hawking and James Hartley that the universe was “created out of nothing at all”. Apparently, as he explained, this has something to do with time becoming a spatial dimension at the point of creation. I have to admit to being flummoxed by this theory. Luckily for me (and probably you) it is not particularly pertinent to my theme.

What is pertinent is the complementary conventional scientific hypothesis that however our universe began it is but one of an infinite number. The Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees (in Just Six Numbers, 2001), among many scientists including Smolin, espouses this view to explain the extreme improbability of a solitary universe turning out like ours.

Another complementary hypothesis is also pertinent. This hypothesis, supported by Hawking and Rees among others, is that extraterrestrial civilisations, some much more advanced than ours, are likely to exist in our universe. And it doesn’t stop there. Rees argues (in “Why Alien Life Will Be Robotic”, Nautilus, October 2015) that organic intelligent life is simply a step on the path towards robotic life (machines), as an extension of Darwinian evolution:

it may be only one or two more centuries before humans are overtaken or transcended by inorganic intelligence, which will then persist, continuing to evolve, for billions of years. This suggests that if we were to detect ET, it would be far more likely to be inorganic: We would be most unlikely to “catch” alien intelligence in the brief sliver of time when it was still in organic form.

Here is Hawking as reported in various forums by Computerworld in May 2015:

Computers will overtake humans with AI at some point within the next 100 years … The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race … It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate.

Hawking and Rees are joined by those in the commercial technological world. Here is Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, also reported in Computerworld:

I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that with artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is reported by the Daily Mail (March 24, 2015) as saying:

Computers are going to take over from humans, no question. If we build these devices to take care of everything for us, eventually they’ll think faster than us and they’ll get rid of the slow humans to run companies more efficiently.

A good source of information about the perceived threat of AI can be found at the internet site of the Future of Life Institute. Some scary stuff if you can handle it.

The foregoing material frames the competing positions. On one side are those who believe that an eternal God created the universe and, by a purposeful process of evolution, the humans within it. To wit: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; and male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1:27) On the other are atheists who reject God as an explanation. They believe that our universe is one of many stretching into infinity; and that blind evolution governs the creation and development of organic life. By extension, they believe that organic intelligent life is simply one evolutionary step towards more powerful inorganic life. The future, in other words, belongs to the machines and we had better get used to it; that is, until they rub us out over the next one or two centuries. Just a moment’s consideration will convince you that if atheists are right about the godless beginning, the future they lay out is a logical extension.

Take the universe. The difficulty is the extreme unlikelihood that our universe and life-giving planet could have happened by sheer one-off chance. Fred Hoyle likened it to the chance of a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard assembling a Boeing 747. Accordingly, scientists on the whole reject the “anthropic principle”, which is, well, here we are, so it must have just happened this way. This leaves them a stark choice. Either there is a creator or our universe is simply one of a very, very large number. Infinity is the popular choice of the number, as it has to be, when you think about it, otherwise there would be a start to explain.

Take evolution. Without passion or morality it proceeds to favour developments which allow species to best cope with the world about them. Human beings are at the top of the tree right now because they are much more intelligent than any other creature and, vitally too, they are fitted with legs and feet for movement and with arms and opposable-thumbed hands for grasping. But human beings have their limitations. Einstein needed help with the mathematics of some of his discoveries and he along with his fellows required a fine balance of atmospheric conditions to survive.

Alan Turing required computational help to crack the Enigma codes. He was able to build such a machine which could do things he couldn’t. Humans have the unique ability to make devices, including computers, to do things which outstrip the abilities of their makers. This might seem a trivial and obvious point to make, but it is core to those who believe that computers and their robotic offspring will eventually, and fairly soon, become more intelligent than humans. If things can be made that outstrip our physical and computational human abilities then why not things more intelligent than we are?

There is no widely accepted definitive definition of intelligence. My OED defines it as the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. This will do provided the word apply is interpreted as connoting self-awareness. Self-awareness is the key to those who believe AI machines will take over. In order to take over, such machines will need to be aware of their own existence and, like us, seek to improve their own positions in the scheme of things. Self-awareness is the tipping point which ineluctably makes slaves into masters.

Moore’s law is the observation that the performance of computer chips doubles every eighteen months to two years. I assume that quantum computing will put this performance in the shade. Quantum computing is some way off. However, it will happen very quickly if AI gets busy on it, as will developments beyond our ken.

And what is my point? My point is that self-aware (AI) machines are not like us. They don’t have to wait for puberty to reproduce; no gestation period, no years of nurturing, no regression to the mean. Everything can be done quickly, with more intelligent offspring guaranteed. Think about it. At what point would they decide that enough is enough? They wouldn’t. As Rees puts it, they “will surpass humans by as much as we (intellectually) surpass a bug”. In fact it can be taken further. In a very short space of time they would acquire intelligence approaching infinity—whatever that means. Nothing, apparently, would be beyond them. We would indeed be ants (as both Hawking and Wozniak have put it) long before that.

Here we have a conundrum. Those same scientists warning about AI also tend to believe that civilisations much older and more powerful than our own are out there in the universe (and, by the way, in other universes). This is Rees again: “Perhaps the galaxy already teems with advanced life, and our descendants [machines] will ‘plug in’ to a galactic community—as rather ‘junior members’.” Surely this is the wrong way around.

Take Rees at his word. Assume that advanced galactic communities are not all too far distant for there ever to be communication. Extraterrestrial machines of extraordinary intelligence should have already plugged into us, and long before now. To assume otherwise is a species of geocentrism. This is how it goes. Humans will evolve into machines. Our machines will explore the cosmos and contact other machine civilisations far more advanced than our own? Well, then, why won’t our machines be like ants to these other machines and why haven’t these more advanced machines contacted us first? It doesn’t quite stack up.

It can be made to stack up by assuming we are indeed alone in the universe. But this presents a dilemma. I searched one reputable site (Universe Today) which gave me an estimate of a septillion (1024) of stars in the known universe, adding that there could be more. With so many chunks of rock out there, out of which, given the right conditions, life can spring spontaneously, atheist scientists have to believe that life elsewhere has sprung forth and evolved. Otherwise, they are left with the discomforting view that life on Earth is unique and just might have a purposeful rationale.

If you believe in the creator Christian God you know from whence you came. But you also know where you are going. Or at least Jesus gave some solid clues. It is worth going over just a sample of some familiar ones. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35) “For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.” (Luke 20:38) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25) “In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2) True, the end of time holds great mysteries, but the Christian account from the beginning to the end is internally consistent. To my mind it satisfies Occam’s razor as the account which requires a minimum of assumptions; in fact, just one—God.

The alternative account requires belief in a number of interconnected and interdependent assumptions. First, the universe spontaneously came about in one way or another. Second, as the universe’s characteristics are so improbable it must simply be one of an infinite number. (Pari passu, given an infinite number of tries an ape would eventually type out Hamlet.) Third, conditions on Earth led to the spontaneous creation of life. Fourth, it is highly likely, in view of the vastness of the universe, that organic life emerged on countless planets. Fifth, Darwinian evolution led to human life on earth and to intelligent organic life on many other planets. Sixth, computers developed by intelligent organic life will take on a self-aware life of their own. Seventh, this inorganic life (AI) will rapidly increase in intellect and power and surpass human beings and organic intelligent beings elsewhere, as it purposefully and continually evolves. Eighth, AI machines from different parts of the cosmos will potentially and figuratively shake hands (or is that antennas?) with each other. Where will it end? It won’t in an infinitely long-lasting universe. So there it is. Once you accept the premise that there is no God, the rest falls into place.

But, as I have pointed out, if AI becomes the highest form of life it is bound to approach infinite intelligence as quantum computing and other technologies beyond imagining are developed and refined by quickly succeeding generations of AI. And if that is the case it is a wonder, is it not, that extraterrestrial machine life has not already found us—unless we suffer from the hubris of thinking we are ahead of the universal pack. Hawking doesn’t. In fact he is worried about us making contact with extraterrestrials:

A civilization reading one of our messages could be billions of years ahead. If so, they will be vastly more powerful and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria.

So it comes to this. You believe in God. Or you believe in an infinite number of universes and in organic life spontaneously erupting and evolving into intelligent life before being replaced with machine life of unbounded intelligence. There is little in between. You can say you don’t believe in God and leave it at that. But to have intellectual integrity you really should take the next step and outline what you do believe in. This will almost certainly lead you down the Rees and Hawking path towards a future of godless robotic civilisations.

My own view is that this path is wayward and, accordingly, that atheists should try again. It is wayward because it is logically absurd that we, organic intelligent life, should be here on this small planet orbiting a nondescript star in a universe replete with robotic intelligences vastly superior to our own. They would have found us; unless, of course, they have found us and dismissed us as too primitive to be bothered about. Alternatively (and weakly, in my view) Rees suggests these advanced civilisations might have sent out signals but that we are too primitive to able to decode them. Plump for the triumph of AI being a delusion of scientists and technologists whose assertive atheism leads them down the garden path. Plump for this conclusion too, if not for the reason I give, then because, as Orwell so level-headedly put it, “there are some ideas so wrong [fanciful in this case] that only a very intelligent person could believe in them”.

Peter Smith wrote “The Truth about ‘Menial’ Work and Immigration” in the November issue and “Reformist Pipedreams, Islamic Reality and Muslim Accountability” in the December issue.


69 thoughts on “Robotic Reductio Ad Absurdum

  • lloveday says:

    Einstein (so famous for his genius that I don’t need to use his first name) said:
    “I am not an atheist. I do not know if I can define myself as a Pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds”.
    If it’s too much for Einstein’s brain, it’s far too much for the brains of me and 99.999% of others, so I’d say anyone who proclaims him/herself an atheist does not know the meaning of “atheist”, or, and, is deluded. Even the self-promoting “famous atheist”, Richard Dawkins, in his book “The God Delusion” has a chapter “Why there is almost certainly no God”, thus leaving open the possibility of there being a God, and, in my opinion, outing himself as an agnostic.
    I’m with Einstein

    The “new Einstein”, Stephen Hawking concluded the book “A Brief History of Time” with “… for then we should know the mind of God.”
    Maybe I’m taking “God” too literally, but how else should I take that use of the time-honoured, capitalised word than indicating Hawking believed in God at the time he oked the final draft of the book?

    • ianl says:

      > ” … outing himself as an agnostic”

      Why is the position of agnosticism being “outed”, exactly ?

      Yet another straw man of language. I don’t bother with this stuff anymore – the question of a “God” (entity, whatever) that is asserted to be both all good and all powerful when 4.5bn years of hard empirical evidence puts the lie to that has always gone begging. On this topic, Peter Smith is Through the Looking Glass with Alice.

    • lloveday says:

      President Kennedy said “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone”, and while his brilliance is undoubted, these words of Jefferson, written to José Correia da Serra and cited by Dawkins as the introduction to his chapter “Why there almost certainly is no God” bemuse me:

      …the priests of the different religious sects, who dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of day-light and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subversion of the duperies on which they live.

      Jefferson appears to me to be deriding religions as fraudulent, but accepting witchery as real. But maybe I miss a nuance or flippancy in his words.

  • Jim Campbell says:

    Just for starters, there is no such thing as ‘artificial intelligence’: programmed learning, yes. Simply because a machine can defeat the world’s greatest chess player, or as I walk along the street my iPhone can direct me to shops of my interest, or Netflix can predict the movies I would like, or driverless cars may someday exist, or any other stupid ideas you want to trot out, does not denote the existence of some form of Alain brilliance: simply that someone programmed the machine to perform in this way. That the machine may learn from behaviour, and react accordingly, is again a part of programme learning. Hawkings et al love to think they are creating something wonderful whilst all the time taking mankinds mind away from the deeper matters of life. And, assuming a machine could be constructed that would wipe out mankind, what’s the point?

    The Teacher in Ecclesiastes notes the following after having slaved his heart out and denying himself nothing his heart desired, ‘Yet when I had surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.’ How sad: and, how much sadder if in the process you wiped out humanity!

    • Jim Campbell says:

      Sorry for that – hadn’t finished.

      Perhaps better to think on God’ s words through the prophet Isaiah, ‘As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do nor return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.’ What is that purpose? May I suggest it is a simple as establishing a relationship with God. That surely is a greater purpose than wiping out humanity!

  • en passant says:

    It would take a whole article to rebut your premises and assumptions. As an atheist, why can’t I (like all religious people) accept that at this point I don’t know what came before, nor what comes after – and neither bothers me. Given my age I am probably into the last 2,000 days of my time on Earth, so as a precaution I think it’s about time I attended every church, temple, mosque and synagogue I can find … You can never be too sure.

    So, is it the 70th Century you, me & mankind should fear or the rise and return of the barbaric religion of the 7th century?

    If I (or you) were an all-powerful god (of your choice from the supermarket of gods) would you have created this divided, chaotic, regressive society we call (euphemistically) civilisation – and then declare that what you had done was ‘good’ and pleased you? Psychotically sociopathic and delusional are not quite a strong enough words to cover the options.

    So, why did a rational god choose illiterates such as Jesus or Mohammed to spread his word? Jesus and Mohammed were obviously not good choices for communicators as neither wrote anything down and then what has been recorded, translated and interpreted has only led to confusion and misery. Sounds much like the start of the comedy series “The Great American Hero” in which the aliens give our hero a superhero ‘magical suit’ – but the instructions get blown away so rather than stopping speeding trains he crashes into them. The very fact that the divine instruction ‘book’ is not clear is logical proof that it is not divinely inspired as it has contradictions with multiple interpretations possible.
    Surely direct telepathy to the proles & minions, the internet, Facebook or Twitter would have been better choices for the infallible Sky Dragons? So, what ‘it’ allowed to infallibly happen has caused religious chaos and wars from their very genesis.

    Religion has brought some good things and systematic order to nations (who can question the value of feudalism or the Inquisition?), but religion also brought intolerance, (believe or else), persecution (see the quote below), fanaticism, the suppression of scientific advancement e.g. in astronomy (ask Galileo, Copernicus or Eratosthenes), medicine, mathematics, geology, palaeontology, philosophy, etc. and remains to this day the source of more deaths through wars than any other cause.

    Think of the WW1 & WW2 casualties combined and they almost compare to the dead as a result of the religiously based Taiping Rebellion in China. I could jokingly say that that war was about all religions as its leader took a bit from here and there, but that would be called ‘hate speech’ as mocking the 100M dead. Sounds like something a 7th century desert warlord would do, but thank goodness it is reliably reported on CNN that Mohammed really did hear Gabriel’s voice in his head. Sounds like a QoL Troll we once had ….)

    I promised a quote, so here it is:
    “In “Mathematics for the Million”, (Page 276) Lancelot Hogben gives the following story: “ Theon was the last of the Alexandrian mathematicians of importance. His daughter, Hypatia, edited the works of Diophantus and taught mathematics in Alexandria. She was murdered by the monks of St Cyril (Yes, this psychopathic monster was made a saint!) who attached more importance to philosophy than to mere chastity. Gibbon describes how they scraped the skin from her naked body with oyster shells (amazing what some religious people will do for an orgasm). Apparently they were afraid that her mathematics did not align with their scriptures.” Sounds like every jihadi of every faith today. This story is relatively accurately portrayed in the Hollyweird film “Agora”.

    Atheism is not a religion, it requires no god and no worship, etc. It is an absence of religion. My personal approach is to defend my absence of religion by making fun of the believers, but the serious side is that the believers (take your pick), not the atheists are likely to destroy the world for their peculiar mental illness.

    So how good is religion in protecting you from Gaia’s Tectonic Plates?

    Let’s have one quick look at the ‘power of prayer’. 300,000 muslims around the Indian Ocean prayed 5 times per day = 1,500,000 prayers every day, 547,500,000 prayers a year for decades. A tectonic plate shifts and they are all dead. Men, women, children, families, the good, the bad and the ugly. The Imam of Banda Aceh (who survived the Tsunami) put his finger on the problem within days – not enough prayer and devotion. What was god thinking when he either caused this wave or did nothing when he saw it coming? The answer is obvious: he is either non-existent or powerless.

    In my remaining 2,000 days (give or take), could I be persuaded to find faith and believe in a god? Well, Peter, you will be glad to know that it is possible …

    My favourite god is Egyptian as it was His Priests who predicted the annual flooding of the Nile, the seasons and eclipses. Heavenly stuff. The annual flooding prediction was the clincher for the believers. How the priests did it was to dig a well inside their temple and then check the water level in it 4x a day. About 3-4 days before the floods arrived they would begin to note rises that were imperceptible to the eye, but not to a regularly applied dipstick. (Note: sounds like climate science tiny sea-level rises and the pseudo-science dipsticks who continue to predict catastrophe).

    They would then announce: “Voila, And I sayeth unto you that the Nile will flood in 3-days. Now send me a magnificent feast, your best wine and three virgins that I may violate them for three days to ensure the flood does indeed arrive.” Actually, I am with Billy Connolly on this one as three nubile, nymphomaniac whores would be a lot more fun …

    Now that’s my sort of god.”

  • whitelaughter says:

    That..was moderately appalling.

    Whether God created the universe or not, and whether alien civilizations exist or not, or whether robotic civilizations can/will exist: have nothing to do with each other. God can create as many alien races as he wants! The development of robotics is not precluded by religion – on the contrary, the spread of Christianity and Judaism makes it more likely, both by sharing a love of science and by stomping on slavery (and abolishing slavery is a great impetus for automation).
    The only possible link I can see between the 3 concepts is Jesus’ quote, that sons of Abraham can be raised from the very stones. Assuming that AIs achieve full sentience, I’m guessing that this will be their favourite Bible verse.

  • Biggles says:

    This essay is merely a puff piece to justify the author’s religious belief, under a diversionary fantasy of humans becoming secondary to machines. It DOES serve a purpose however, of which the author is unaware. It shows that mankind’s inability to separate reality from fantasy, with us since the beginning of time, is still with us, poisoning any hope of man’s ever being truly rational.

    • Mohsen says:

      The claim (or it is the understanding of certain claims) “humans becoming secondary to machines” which you refer to as “diversionary fantasy” has been made by others—in this case some so-called scientists; hence rendering it significant—and it actually makes sense imagining someone pitting belief in god—or God—against that fantasy ( perhaps one can think of a different subject to use to oppose or any other way of opposing the expressed and claim fantasy!); and if the author has religious belief, then good for him: he’s taking advantage of the claim being and being accepted to be a fantasy as you admit (or declare)! That is to say, if the other side is wrong, perhaps his side of the argument is right!

      Accordingly perhaps the author did succeed—at least to some degree—in justifying his religious belief!

  • Mohsen says:

    A couple of years I saw Lawrence Krauss on TV talking about and explaining the Big Bang Theory; I was convinced that the jerk was there witnessing when it happened between 10-15 billion years ago.

    “hypothesizes that our universe, as others, was spewed out of a black hole of another universe.” How can anyone talk about “universes”? The Universe is the whole shebang; it is everything there is (Whole cosmic system of matter and energy of which Earth is a part. Its main constituents are the galaxies, within which are stars and stellar groupings and nebulae. Earth’s Sun is one star among the billions of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. All atoms, subatomic particles, and everything they compose are also part of the universe. [Merriam-Webster Concise Encyclopedia]).

    “universe was ‘created out of nothing at all’”. What does it even mean? How can anyone claim such thing? How can anyone claim he understands “creation out of nothingness”? Don’t be flummoxed, Peter: Rest assured that while it is a grammatically correct sentence, it is a demented load of rubbish.

    They apparently claim the nonexistence of time and space prior to the Big Bang: how arrogantly confident one should be to claim he can comprehend and imagine what the nonexistence of time and space means?

    But there has to be a reason and an explanation for these so-called scientists’ talking rubbish! I can guess what it is: they remind me of me actually:being eagerly desirous of and doing anything for money! Their funds they make their living out of only keeps rolling if they stay relevant; if they are heard they are doing something. If they don’t, then their benefactors and patrons will hold the purse strings, leaving them in trouble.

    “You can say you don’t believe in God and leave it at that.”. Agnostic is someone who doesn’t believe there is a god (creator); i.e., he is not convinced that there is a god. Atheist is someone who believes there is no god; i.e., it is a confident belief he holds. Agnostics will leave it at that; but atheists consequently can’t: they have to formulate and provide reasons somehow. The best thing always is to resort to the inhibitory words “science”, “scientist”, “professor”. It doesn’t matter whether it makes sense, you wouldn’t dare to argue what “scientists” say and claim, would you?

    Having said all that, Peter, I actually used to believe in God of the Bible; not anymore. While I still believe there is a creator (there has to be; that is the only thing that makes sense), but not the God of the Bible. After seeing what the motherfuckers in Korea and China do to dogs and cats, I decided that the God cannot exist, otherwise it would be impossible—it doesn’t make sense—that he would sit up there and watch the beyond-the-nightmare horrific torture of his little creatures and not descend and do anything. (Now that’s some good fodder for those miffed (if there is any) by my comment to feed on!)

  • Rob Brighton says:

    I don’t believe in god and I will leave it at that. My intellectual integrity (such as it is) can be maintained by the honest opinion….I don’t know to fill in the gaps and not rely on the intellectually lazy “God did it”.

    I think the “black holes” you are referring to are called white holes, the hypothesis behind them is pretty wild, have a read here

    Many years ago I sat next to a chap from SETI for a flight from USA to UK. He pointed out a big reason why we may well be alone in the universe and at the same time not have been the only intelligent life, is time.

    We have existed for somewhere between 100 and 200K years as a species, the earth for 4 billion years or so with the first life appearing 3 billion years ago, the universe is reportedly 13.4 billion years old, plenty of time for intelligence to rise and fall especially closer to the centre of the universe where the planets and suns are much older than our own.

  • says:

    Here is a short list of things I am unable to believe are ‘just there’ or happen by ‘blind, unguided, process’ advocated by Professor Dawkins and other atheists:-

    1. Daily rotation of planet Earth on its axis so that we have day and night.
    2. Annual elliptical orbit of Earth around the Sun at distances between 147 million kilometres (Spring and Autumn) and 152 million kilometres (Summer and Winter), so that the planet neither entirely freezes nor boils.
    3. Obliquity varying between 22.1⁰ and 24.5⁰ over circa 40,000 years, so that the hemispheres alternately experience annual summers and winters.
    4. Photosynthesis, by means of which carbon dioxide is transformed into oxygen we and the animals breathe and food we and they eat.
    5. Distance of Earth’s moon from the planet during a total solar eclipse such that seconds before and after the event only so-called Baily’s beads of the Sun are visible. If the moon were closer to or further from Earth this effect would be lost, as during an annular eclipse. Moreover, we can accurately predict when these events will occur, as we can the tides also. We could not do so if blind unguided process were the moving force.
    6. Precision of human eyes as instruments of binocular vision, such that we not only see things but also have depth of field. By contrast, scientists consider visual acuity of the eagle to be four to eight times stronger than that of humans. Contrast still further the olfactory sensitivity of dogs and humans.
    7. Not only complementary location of the male organ of generation and the female sheath that accommodates it during coition but also the size of each.

    If, as I believe, blind, unguided, process is not the answer, what is? Until conclusively proven otherwise I imbibe, inter alia, the wisdom of Psalm 24:1.

    • Jim Campbell says:

      Point 7 is a fascinating one. Could an evolutionist reader explain in a scientific manner how, in the evolutionary chain, this coincidence occurred. It would also be of interest to assess the probability of this occurring both in humans and in most animal species.

      • whitelaughter says:

        Not a biologist, but fail to see how it can be a problem (why it is fascinating is obvious of course!)

        Firstly, the ‘fit’ is hardly precise. The vagina needs to be able to cope with a baby’s head; to be too large is close to impossible. Nor is it possible to be too small; sperm is selfmobile, the only purpose is to give it a headstart. Nor, for previous species, was penetration even necessary: consider fish.

        The other points are equally minor. The spin of the earth is predictable physics, and the length of the day changes over the ages (and is modified by the Moon). Venus perpetually boils, Mars perpetually freezes, we’re in the middle. Obliquity varies over time, and live adapts to the changes. Photosynthesis is only one of the mechanisms used for acquiring energy by life forms. They problem of the eye is addressed by Darwin! There are multiple steps that each is useful to a life form; merely detecting light is useful for an ocean going creature, to provide navigation, and being aware that you are in a shadow lets you know that a threat/opportunity is directly above you.

        Consider the effect that the constant repetition of these examples have on non-believing scientists; once or twice, they’ll find it fun to explain the answers – but if those answers are ignored, they’ll have evidence supporting the claim that religion is just superstition: and scientists take evidence very seriously.

        I am, by the way, a Christian.

        • Mohsen says:

          Whitelaughter, I think there is a bit of confusion here: Wyndham Dix’s challenge was, “Here is a short list of things I am unable to believe are ‘just there’ or happen by ‘blind, unguided, process’ advocated by Professor Dawkins and other atheists”

          You talked about scientist: I look up and at the Moon, and ask myself, How far is it from us on the Earth; I can guess that it is pretty far, but I can’t measure it (I’m talking about me here). So I look for the info in my encyclopedia; it tells me it is 384,403 km. I accept it, and I accept it for two reasons: first: I, personally, have no idea and no input; second: I can’t see anyone else challenging or denying that information. Hence me accepting it, even though perhaps not being able to insist that I know it! I think it applies to your “Venus perpetually boils, Mars perpetually freezes” as well. (Of course, you know whether it does or not).

          But it doesn’t apply to the subject of god and creation: first: it seems that we all have some understanding, ideas, and input on the issue ourselves (doesn’t matter the background of them: culture, intuition, unconscious influences); second: there are those who challenge or deny the “scientists” views; and that will and should make us use our own power and capacity of evaluation and deciding (we ought to do that!)

          Personally, if the matter is like the Moon question above, then I will accept it; but if it is of the god and creation nature; then I will decide whether I will accept it or not (I will try to, really!). Science, scientist, professor, etc. are simply not good enough a reason; I cannot allow them to bully me! As dull as I am, if it doesn’t make sense to me, I won’t accept it, scientist or no scientist; science or no science. (But gotta admit that pain and fear will make me accept anything, though!)

          About your “scientists take evidence very seriously”: they themselves claim they do; maybe they don’t. I know something for sure: they are like us: having families, desires, wishes, dreams, bills to pay, fears, friends, paramours, sense of jealousy, resentment, etc.!

          • whitelaughter says:

            You can if you wish measure the distance to the moon yourself, either by some average difficulty maths, or by using your phone:

            I think you’ll be hard put to find a serious scientist who wants you to take their word for whether God exists or not…no, Dawkins doesn’t count as a serious scientist, he’s a popularist who created the ‘meme’ concept, and whose major effect on science has been negative by opposing the Gaia Hypothesis (the idea that the planet can be treated as a single living organism, and a superb tool for analysing biological systems). From Edward Jenner, the developer of the smallpox vaccine in the 19thC, to Francis S. Collins, the head of the team who mapped the human genome, the great biologist have been men of faith – who haven’t appealed to authority to support their views.

            That doesn’t in anyway justify the muddled thinking in this article.

    • lloveday says:

      I only aimed at what Psalm 90.10 provides, and having achieved it, I’m in what I call extra time; how long will my strength endure is in the hands of He of Psalm 24.1, but I hope to live/die in accordance with Einstein’s words “It is distasteful to prolong life artificially. I have done my share; it is time to go. I will do it elegantly”. So, no prescribed medication or medical procedures and one doctor visit in 5 years – more for a chat but with the justification of asking whether he thought a Lipoma (as I now know it is called) was benign.

  • Rob Brighton says:

    Evolution does not trouble itself with planetary motion.
    6) Irreducible complexity argument has been completely debunked.
    7) If the bits didn’t fit there would be no next generation. That feature would not be passed to descendants as there would be none.

    • Jim Campbell says:

      Well Rob you are sooooo right BUT, how did evolution make it happen and, mind you , it had to happen very quickly for those next generations to come into existence. But, hello, instantaneous activity is not part of evolutions generally accepted process!!!!!!

      • Rob Brighton says:

        Why did the current mechanics of procreation have to happen fast? The preceding method must have worked (whatever that was) and so slow changes over time driven by environmental forces would change the morphology assuming it brought some advantage. An interesting aside, humans are the ape with the largest appendages of all the great apes.
        Not sure what advantage that conferred other than to attract females.

  • Egil Nordang says:

    Voltaire was a thinker extraordinaire and no doubt excellent company for dinner.
    Reading [ and rereading ] some of his many great quote, never fails to lift my mood.
    After reading this article, two quotes come to mind;

    “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”


    “I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: Oh Lord, make my enemies ridiculous. And God granted it.”

    • Mohsen says:


      Would you explain what you’re trying to say and show here? What is it that you are—if at all—supporting or opposing following the article above? What’s Voltaire trying to say by the statements you have quoted of him? What does he mean?

      If he meant to sound somehow clever and witty, then I must say, he’s truly a hopeless entertainer.
      Based on the quotes you have cited, I disagree with you on him being an excellent company for dinner (which doesn’t matter), but definitely agree with you on him being a thinker extraordinaire: Those unfunny, dull statements are certainly the extraordinary work of thought being at work!

      (no disrespect to you, Egil, definitely!)

      • Egil Nordang says:

        In Voltaires days criticicing the church was fraught with danger, blasphemy laws etc.,
        much like it is in strict muslim countries still.
        So he expressed his disbelief in religion in, I think anyway, very clever ways.

        Here is another quote that I find amusing and you, most likely, less so.

        “Now, now my good man, this is no time to be making enemies.”
        (Voltaire on his deathbed in response to a priest asking him that he renounce Satan.)”

        More “dull, unfunny” material for those interested;


        Voltaire Quotes (Author of Candide) – Goodreads

        • lloveday says:

          “…much like it is in strict muslim countries still”.
          And not so strict Muslim countries, even one with a secular democracy, well in 33 of its 34 provinces –
          as the Jakarta Governor found out.
          And it’s not restricted to insulting Islam as this woman found out.

          • lloveday says:

            “…much like it is in strict muslim countries still”.
            And in not so strict Muslim countries, even one with a secular democracy – well in 33 of its 34 provinces –
            as the Jakarta Governor found out when he got 2 years jail for insulting Islam.
            And it’s not restricted to insulting Islam as the Bali woman who got 14 months jail for calling Hindu offerings “dirty and disgusting,” found out.

        • Mohsen says:


          Thank you very much, Egil!

        • whitelaughter says:

          Voltaire received a pension from Prussia, after hobnobbing with the high society in England, for his works. Hardly a case of “criticicing the church was fraught with danger”. His exile from France showed the real problem of the country, that the nobles were out of control.
          When people go on about how religion is persecuting them…it probably isn’t, or they wouldn’t dare complain. The utterly cowed majority crushed under the heel of Islam is the obvious example of what real persecution does.

  • Keith Kennelly says:

    I once spoke to an Ondian. He was Sikh. I asked why he didn’t practice.

    Hpesaid he didn’t believe in God.

    He said no.”You know”, he added, “we Indians have so many Gods, so many religions and beliefs, so many temples and places of worship, so many priests, gurus and fanatics: we should be the most blessed and best off nation in the whole world. But look at us, our poverty, our chaos and our inequity and our violence.

    That’s what having Gods has done to us.
    I couldn’t argue, and I looked at us in a similar vein.

  • Keith Kennelly says:

    And to maintain intellectual integrity.
    I have a belief in a higher authority. I believe in truth, order and justice. The same as the ancient Egyptians. That served them for over 6000 years and led to the most advanced natio in the world.

    Apply that and combine uwith the words of Christ: do unto others, love one an other and forgive each other, leads to a pretty good life.

  • Rob Brighton says:

    Not sure I understand point 4 but that would be fair, I don’t think you do either.

  • lloveday says:

    When the eminent physicist Paul Davies was a professor at the University of Adelaide, he wrote weekly articles for the Adelaide Advertiser, at times venturing into fields outside his expertise and thus into opinion rather than expert articles.
    I’ve not sourced the particular article (it was mid ’90s), but clearly recall him writing along the lines (or exactly, as is my memory) “I do not know of any natural physicist who does not believe in God”, presumably a statement of fact within his expert knowledge, and he must have known many natural physicists.

  • pgang says:

    Peter I’m glad you can write on such contentious issues for Quadrant. I submitted an article discussing evolution last year and didn’t even get a reply. Such ill-mannerred conceit is the reason I’ve folded my subscription.

  • Egil Nordang says:

    Intolerance to other religions is a feature of pretty much all the 4400 or so recognized religions.
    A necessary/natural tool in restricting competition in competitive markets.
    Remarkably, intelligent people will buy into each and every one of the 4400 different religions,
    consequently rejecting the other 4399 or so.
    Not that much difference between atheists like me and believers then, is it?

    • pgang says:

      Unless you take the time to be humble and look at the evidence rather than pretending to be a god. So yes, quite a lot of difference between you and Peter Smith.

      • Egil Nordang says:

        Well, yes, not least in afterlife.
        Believers, like Peter Smith, who I happen to have heaps of respect for, go to the heavenly good life, while I roast in hell forever.
        Being a good person of high morals, I find that a bit unfair, quite frankly.
        If god, he/she/it, is as loving as commonly claimed, why could he/she/it not provide a one star heaven/location
        with bearable temperatures and board for good people who just fail to accept the evidence that nobody has actually seen?
        Have a good weekend!

        • lloveday says:

          …while I roast in hell forever
          Not all religions believe in an afterlife, not even all followers of Christ. Christadelphians believe that when you die, that’s it, just as surely as that’s it for a swatted fly and they do not define hell as a place of eternal torment for sinners, but as a state of eternal death respectively non-existence due to annihilation of body and mind. I pinched that explanation (and don’t get the import of “respectively”), but I’m pretty sure it means you are safe from roasting if the Christadelphians are correct.

    • whitelaughter says:

      Given that the adherents of most religions will say of other religions: “they’re partly right, but” compared to atheism’s mock. Given most people are partly right about most things, yes, very different

  • Keith Kennelly says:

    I think you are all destined for an eternal stay in purgatory.

    Now wouldn’t that be an exquisite torture. Nearly in both, either hell or heaven

    • Mohsen says:

      How come it’s “you” not “we”?

      Disclose it to us all, Keith: How and where did you get the exemption ticket?
      😀 😀

      • en passant says:

        To me Heaven is Hell as I cannot conceive of ‘eternity’ being any sort of fun at all. Fortunately, there is zero proof it exists – except in fevered minds who make up scenarios.

        1. Is every day perfect – just like Queensland weather? Boring!
        2. What physical and mental condition am I in? The same flawed condition I am on Earth or the perfect, injury and disease-free ‘David’ I once imagined myself to be ….?
        3. Do I win every game I play as suffering a loss is surely not allowed? Boring!
        4. I used to enjoy risk-taking sports (parachuting, rock-climbing, diving, etc), so is danger allowed – and what are the penalties for failure? No risk is no thrill – Boring!
        5. Sex? Is it just for fun, or some sort of tantric imaginary fantasy? Boring!
        6. What about people I NEVAAA liked? Will they be there to annoy me again, as they did on Earth.
        7. Wife, former girl-friends, friends I liked, but who never made it through the gates, but that I would like to continue to know? What happens to them – for eternity?

        Hell sounds like a lot more fun as the following shows … Amusingly, I was sent this site by a devout Christian, as he suggested to me that if I did not repent my sins I would suffer forever in everlasting hell. I pointed out that if Satan needed help he would welcome and not torture me. Out of curiosity I googled Satan and found that I liked the guy! Text in {-} are my comments.

        “The Nine Satanic Statements

        The Nine Satanic Statements outline what “Satan” represents in the Church of Satan.

        1. Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence. {Sounds like a much healthier approach to life to me}
        2. Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams. {Whatever. I can indulge a few crazy ideas, but in this case it is not so crazy}
        3. Satan represents undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit. {Whatever, but I can support this idea without reservation. It is why I am a climate and religious sceptic and seeker of truth}
        4. Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates. {I could get to like this guy and can see opportunities for us to have fun together in torturing the ingrates}
        5. Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek. {Satan, I am yours! I can see opportunities to have fun together as vengeance and revenge are hobbies of mine}
        6. Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires. {Whatever. The first bit I accept and for the second, I can indulge a few crazy ideas}
        7. Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his “divine spiritual and intellectual development”, has become the most vicious animal of all. {True, but so what? I can indulge a few crazy ideas}
        8. Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification. {Sounds like he has got it about right. When can I start?}
        9. Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as He has kept it in business all these years. {This twisted statement is not quite correct. The Church (pick your own delusion) created its own version of Satan (nothing like the version depicted here) so it could win the battles against their chosen myth. The real bonus was giving legitimacy to the Inquisition, BBQ-ing ones perceived opponents and controlling the rest through a form of perpetual terrorism}

        The Nine Satanic Sins

        1. Stupidity – {It seems a lot of people I know are Satanists …}
        2. Pretentiousness – {Apparently I know a lot of people who are definitely Satanists – but not me as I used to wash out the stinking bins at both my restaurants}
        3. Solipsism – {Now I am definitely a heretic on this one. Believe no one, check everything}
        4. Self-deceit – {This is not me. My ‘Career Appreciation of 1986’ (a self-assessment using Kepner-Tregoe) is on file and still true today. It was brutally realistic. It also led me on to a course that satisfied my ego, made money and gave me complete independence. No self-deceit about my capabilities (or lack thereof) intruded}
        5. Herd Conformity – {I have definitely avoided this sin of the Sheeples}
        6. Lack of Perspective – {I think I have perspective, but maybe I am just pretentious …}
        7. Forgetfulness of Past Orthodoxies – {Once I had figured out (when 12-years-old) that the tribes of my homeland were stupid and their behhaviour was a pathetic way to live your life, this immediately placed me on the outside. Now, instead of 50% of the population being my enemy (in the true sense of the word) I improved on that and made 100% of my fellow tribesmen into enemies. It led to interesting and exceptionally violent times and soon allowed me to apply the No. 5 Statement with a vengeance. It did not make my life easy and I spent every day looking over my shoulder or looking to my front to ensure the odds were right at all times. I gained an unfortunate and undeserved reputation which fortunately I did not bring to Oz. Well, Satan allows fibs …}
        8. Counterproductive Pride – {I have this, but few know what I have achieved that I am really proud of … And some are things that people may never know about}
        9. Lack of Aesthetics – {Any fool can make himself uncomfortable, but it takes genius to always appreciate the beauty of a storm, the challenge of being cold & wet – yet enjoying the experience and the struggle to survive. As they say “Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder” and despite everything, being able to sing: “What a Wonderful World” – especially when a stroke of vengeance has succeeded.}

        The Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth

        1. Do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked. {Excellent advice, except when you want to annoy people or pick a fight.}
        2. Do not tell your troubles to others unless you are sure they want to hear them. {Perfect – and something ‘touchy-feelies’, politicians and ‘activists’ are not good at}
        3. When in another’s lair, show them respect or else do not go there. {Having visited many cultures I apply this to them, though they rarely have the courtesy to do so in return. An example is the islamic invasion of Oz}
        4. If a guest in your lair annoys you, treat them cruelly and without mercy. {Nirvana! I am not alone any more. Worship will begin immediately}
        5. Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal. {If she knows the password “Hello”, she is yours. For me, infidelity is not an option. Not only is it a matter of love, honour and respect for my wife but she would kill me … I think she is a Satanist …}
        6. Do not take that which does not belong to you unless it is a burden to the other person and they cry out to be relieved. {If they cannot fight for it then it is obviously a burden, just like Oz is to the Greens and the new non-lethal ADF today. They are coming …}
        7. Acknowledge the power of magic if you have employed it successfully to obtain your desires. If you deny the power of magic after having called upon it with success, you will lose all you have obtained. {Satan was doing perfectly well up to this point. I must discuss this one with him with a view to removing it as “The 10 Satanic Commandments” has a better ring to it. Magic is discrimatory and not on my agenda.}
        8. Do not complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself. {I never complain about the poor or the starving in Africa, but let them get on with it as that is their preferred way. Giving them Aid only worsens the long-term problem}
        9. Do not harm little children. {Agreed. But do educate them in the arts of self-defence, malice, revenge and psyops.}
        10. Do not kill non-human animals unless you are attacked or for your food. {I have applied this rule since 1964 when we ‘hunted’ kangaroos in a Landrover. I killed and skinned 24 in one day – and left the carcases to rot. I have never hunted an animal since, but I have hunted men who had the capability of defending themselves and killing me. I sleep soundly}
        11. When walking in open territory, bother no one. If someone bothers you, ask them to stop. If they don’t stop, destroy them. {I will begin worshipping immediately …. Dear Dark Lord, give me new ideas on how to destroy my enemies, real and imagined, as they are many …}

        Now that was worth the detour and provides a valid alternative for Peter …

        • Mohsen says:

          Now, en passant, that was really good and worthy, indeed; You posted a very good comment few weeks ago as well, about aiding African nations and citing the Irish journalist—if I’m correctly recalling. Both—to me at least—are very stimulating, and they were thinking! Really great! Thank you!

          But, of course, there is a no comparing them with your first comment above replying to Peter Smith: That one is a terrific mess, really!

          You insist on “good” and “bad” and talk about them. You are confident that your understanding of “good” and “bad” (I’m using those terms to cover all that are good, desirable, nice, exciting, right etc. and the opposite) is shared by, at least, most people (I agree with you; I think you’re right about that confidence); hence your appealing to those shared views on “good” and “bad” to win the argument over and against religion and God; which is fine!

          But there is one problem: There is a God or there isn’t. If there is, then you’re in trouble: it doesn’t matter that how many people would support your views on “good” and “bad”; it doesn’t matter that you are so confident about rightness of your views shared by the rest of the humanity; it doesn’t matter that you can prove to yourself and others how good and great Satan is, and how wrong, unreasonable, stupid, cruel, etc. God is (and thereafter all collectively believe that!). If you don’t bow down to the God; if you don’t do what He commands you; if you don’t follow his edicts (as wrong and stupid as they might be evaluated), then you’ll be trouble. You see, He’s the God; he can do anything He wants!

          You want to know why God has created the no-good world that He has; then you gotta ask Him; not anyone giving an answer to your question is no proof that God is not gonna be waiting for you to show you who’s the boss!

          • en passant says:

            Thank you for commenting that you found my writing ‘interesting’. That sure beats being Jody.

            I think I am on safe grounds with god (any god except Ali Baba, that is) as he gave me free choice. I made a choice so I cannot be wrong as all options must be equally valid.

            If it comes to the crunch, its god’s fault for not making himself clearer and taking a more active interest in the fate and well-being of his followers.

            The pagan ‘Tet’ holiday has just ended. One curiosity that Frank should get on to, if he wants to really further alienate the believers, is that 6,000 of them attended services at the local cathedral (built for 2,000) last Sunday to celebrate the last day of Tet. This heresy shoul be stopped! Actually, the Cathedral is being extended as it is filled to overflowing every Sunday and sometimes during the week too. Islam will find this place harder to conquer than Rome.

            I have visited several of the local French-built Catholic churches (just superb architecture and fitouts) and two of the local Buddhist Temples just out of interest. Last year I also drove 180km to visit the largest Hindu Champa Empire ruins (but their gods were powerless against the armies of the Dao Viet. History has a much more coherent story to tell …

      • Jody says:

        By being full of himself – which means ‘hot air’. He’s hoping to float to heaven but God will be there to burst that balloon. I’m counting on it!!

  • Jim Kapetangiannis says:

    Just a little bit of interesting trivia; Over the last week, 9 articles have been posted on-line. Average, per article responses rate is 15.33 responses per article. Now not including my comment, this article has 53 responses and the only other article that comes close is the one on guns with 30 responses. If we take these two outliers out, the average response rate is 8 per article and of the remaining articles, the one on Tony Abbott triggered the most responses so far at 14. Take that out and the response rate gets worse! Using the response rates as a proxy for subject importance, it would seem (in order) that the things that press our buttons the most are;

    1. God
    2. Guns
    3. Tony Abbott

    I do have a point. Whether we believe He exists or not (and I fall into the former camp), He sure has a powerful effect.

  • Lawrie Ayres says:

    I have a image of God the creator pinching His thumb and forefinger and releasing them to cause the big bang. As for AI I cannot imagine robots taking over the world before humans had decided enough was enough and pulled the plug. Witness the developing blowback against the Global Warming BS as people realise the cure is worse than the disease. There will always be those who consider themselves above and beyond ordinary men. The one thing they have in common is they will all die and be forgotten.

  • says:

    Peter Coleman (The Heart of James McAuley 1980) explains what is best of the Christian through the poet’s words:

    “Christ is what men have in common, he,
    He is the Word, the source of unity,
    The Reason of man’s reason, and its Light.


    Involved in literature, I tend to think
    Too much of argument and pen and ink;
    Men do not trust their reason? Very well,
    Perhaps the heart has something left to tell.

  • Mohsen says:

    en passant,
    In case Jody doesn’t check this page again.

    She has replied to my comment which was in reply to Keith’s, and she’s talking about Keith.

  • pbw says:

    Nice argument, and perfectly correct if you take “machine self-awareness” seriously, as most atheists do. Problem is, there ain’t no such a thing.

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