Thoughts on the movie American Sniper

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Bradley Cooper in American Sniper

Instead of watching President Obama’s recent State of the Union Address, my son and I paid some of our hard-earned cash to see American Sniper.

In retrospect, I’d have to say our money and time were wisely spent.

It’s probably a little too soon for me to write a full review of the film…to be perfectly honest, at the moment I’m tempted to declare it the best movie ever made in the history of Hollywood.

That degree of adulation may be a tad premature. Only time will tell, after the impact of watching the movie fully sinks in. I’d really like to see it at least one more time before going completely overboard with my praise.

It surely jaded my opinion that we were watching American Sniper in IMAX, which seemed to turn what would normally be just an emotionally draining ordeal into an absolutely surreal experience.

As of this writing, my emotions are simply still too raw.

If I may borrow a line from the movie, “I guess I just needed a minute” or more accurately in my case, a couple of days to recover.

Even so, I can offer a few of my thoughts on the film with anyone who might be interested.

For example, there is no doubt in my mind that Chris Kyle was truly an American hero. End of debate. The cruel irony that Kyle survived four tours of combat duty serving in Iraq only to be murdered by a fellow veteran he was trying to help recover from post traumatic stress disorder has been a bitter pill to swallow.

I can easily say that American Sniper may be the very best movie I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen quite a few over the years. I actually know a little bit about the art of filmmaking, having taken several courses on cinema in college.

American Sniper definitely bumped Saving Private Ryan and Patton from being the top contenders for best “war” movie of all time. Unbroken was excellent as well.

But those films simply don’t compare.

Right now I can already say American Sniper will fit somewhere in my list of the top five films of all time, ranked with true classics like The Princess Bride, Memento, and As Good As It Gets.

Furthermore, I can safely say that Michael Moore is a complete idiot.

However, I knew that a long time ago, when I watched his ridiculous faux “documentary” of revisionist history titled Fahrenheit 9/11.

Chris Kyle

Chris Kyle

To be brutally honest, Michael Moore doesn’t deserve to even be mentioned in the same article as Chris Kyle, but he opened his big mouth and described all snipers as cowards that shoot people in the back — and that merits rebuttal.

I would like to point out that Mr. Moore would not be able to denigrate the memory of brave soldiers if these men didn’t risk their lives to preserve our freedom. If Moore had actually bothered to watch American Sniper, he’d know that men like Chris Kyle have suffered when they have been forced to kill to save a fellow soldier.

They don’t take death lightly, nor do they take pleasure from ending the life of another human being.

But these men and women were sent to Iraq to defeat evil men known to brutally torture and murder innocent children using cordless electric drills.

Just try to wrap your mind around that incomprehensibly horrible thought for a moment. Think about that, and then try to remember it because that’s the exact same sort of evil our troops will be fighting against, when they eventually confront ISIS.

Before this article turns into an anti-liberal rant against Hollywood elitists like Michael Moore and Seth Rogenlet me just make a couple of brief observations about this cinematic masterpiece and be done.

First, let me say that my perception of Bradley Cooper as an actor has been completely reversed from his days in the Hangover movies, and light romantic fare such as Silver Linings Playbook — which I didn’t even bother watching.

He will never again be considered a lightweight actor with limited range that one typically expects to see in mostly forgettable, “fluff” movies, at least not in my esteem.

Cooper previously captured my attention in American Hustle, which starred Christian Bale at his very best and featured a stellar cast including Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Jennifer Lawrence.

But if it hadn’t been for a dazzling lip synch performance by Lawrence, Cooper would have stolen the movie, wearing his hair in curlers.

In a cast loaded with talented actors, Bradley Cooper’s performance in American Hustle stood out.

And now American Sniper will turn Cooper into a superstar, assuming he wasn’t one already. He absolutely blew me away.

People like me — movie goers who care more about talent than seeing a pretty face — will take Bradley Cooper very seriously going forward, as a lead actor not only capable of starring in a film, but carrying it if necessary.

I predict he’s about to become the one guy in Hollywood that you can’t wait to see in his next movie.

Second, the “controversy” over the fake baby used relatively early in the film is simply absurd nonsense. The not-very-lifelike doll was on-screen less than a minute, a few seconds at most. It’s much ado about nothing, really.

If the doll’s appearance hadn’t been blown completely out of proportion with a barrage of snarky public comments by media types, I seriously doubt I would have paid any attention to it during the movie — even in IMAX.

The explanations that have been offered why director Clint Eastwood chose to use the prop instead of a live baby more than satisfied me — according to some reports, stupid legal restrictions that would have adversely impacted scheduling when the infant hired to fill the role became sick and was unable to “work.”

Such snarky criticism smacks of desperation in those who look for something to complain about.

The anti-American Michael Moore

The anti-American Michael Moore

Finally, I should say one other thing about critics of the movie, or those who would impugn the character of Chris Kyle, which is this: If it weren’t for people like Chris Kyle bravely serving in our military, bloviating know-nothings like Rogen and Moore wouldn’t have the freedom to criticize our country that has allowed both of them to become wealthy men.

Ungrateful bastards.

In short summary, I haven’t said that American Sniper is the best movie of all time. At least not yet. Not until I’ve seen it again.

But I can most enthusiastically recommend that you go see it.

Then you can decide for yourself.

 

The court of public opinion

AP Photo

AP Photo

In the court of public opinion, Bill Cosby has already been tried and convicted of serial rape.

Now that more than twenty women have come forward to publicly accuse Mr. Cosby, apparently that is enough for most people to decide he’s guilty.

Before going any further, let me be crystal clear about something– rape is NOT even remotely funny. Rape is no joking matter.

Period. End of discussion.

The act of forced rape is a despicable crime committed by cowards, an act of violence that is usually perpetrated against women. Rape should never be excused or tolerated, no matter the identity of the accused, or the victim.

Convicted rapists and sex offenders should be punished to the full extent of the law, with no exceptions whatsoever.

I need to be very clear to say that I don’t know whether or not Mr. Cosby is guilty — only that if he is guilty of any of these horrific accusations and they can be proved in a court of law, that he should be tried, convicted, and sent to prison.

On the other hand, it’s very important to note that as troubling as these allegations may be, it is equally troubling to see his reputation destroyed without these charges being proved in court.

More than twenty potential rape cases couldn’t even find one prosecutor like Mike Nifong? Why has Bill Cosby been immune from prosecution all these years?

A preliminary investigation into the histories of the accusers of Cosby represented by attorney Gloria Allred suggests at least some of these cases are fraudulent.

However, if even one of them is true and can be proved in court, then Bill Cosby should be sent to prison. That isn’t subject to debate, in my opinion.

Except…why did these charges suddenly become a topic of conversation?

Well, a relatively obscure and bitterly jealous comedian named Hannibal Buress decided to make a name for himself by making references to the Cosby allegations into his stand-up comedy routine and media interviews.

This “comedian” has admitted that he despises Bill Cosby — not because he knows Cosby is guilty of rape, but because Bill Cosby has been known to admonish young black men for their sloppy dress and behavior, telling them to pull up their pants and to speak using proper English.

Bill Cosby has said that black men need to be part of the family and sharply criticized the welfare state mentality, identifying that as a significant part of the problem when it comes to violence involving young black people.

The enemies of Bill Cosby’s message are using the rape allegations to impeach his character. These people care nothing about getting justice for the accusers. They only care about destroying the reputation of Bill Cosby when they claim the rape allegations against him must not be ignored.

Meanwhile, yesterday former President Bill Clinton was honored to receive an award from the King Center for “inspiring youth.”clintonlie

He gave a speech denouncing the dangers of a “shame-based culture” — you know, the culture that Bill Cosby was describing as what we need to fix society, a culture where people are held accountable for how they behave.

Clinton, who was impeached for committing perjury, is a man guilty of sexual misconduct with a former intern that would have caused any other executive guilty of the same offense to face prosecution for sexual harassment.

And Monica Lewinsky was not the only victim.

Remember Paula Jones? Kathleen Willey?

Before you say the affair with Monica Lewinsky is different than the Cosby allegations because it was consensual, what about all the other allegations of sexual violence against Bill Clinton that weren’t?

Juanita Broddrick isn’t the only woman who claimed Bill Clinton raped her, not by any stretch of the imagination. In my opinion, about the only thing worse than raping an adult woman is the rape of a child. And evidence has surfaced in the last several days linking Bill Clinton to an alleged pedophile and domestic child sex trafficker named Jeffrey Epstein.

Yet Bill Clinton was honored yesterday.

The double standard shown by the media in the way allegations against these two public figures have been handled would be funny, if politics played no role.

Of course, no one who has been falsely accused of such a heinous crime would find it amusing — like Bill Cosby, for example.

As a writer, I find the irony of this sort of hypocrisy can be quite delicious. And if I were a liberal instead of a Libertarian, I would relentlessly accuse the Cosby denigrators of being racists, at this point.

The double standard by which these two men are being judged, however, is both galling and very offensive to me.

Mostly I’m sad for the victims, whichever of the actors in this drama they may prove to be.

 

More popular criticisms of my book Counterargument for God

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Writers need to have a thick skin when it comes to receiving criticism.

Personally, I value every review that any reader has posted on Amazon, whether positive or negative.

Of course, positive reviews help sell books. More importantly, negative reviews, if the author listens to his or her audience, can help make future books better.

For if we do not learn from our mistakes, we will be doomed to repeat them.

My philosophy is when anyone takes the time and goes to the trouble of writing a review of something I’ve written, I tend to pay attention, even more so to critique than praise.

As an example, even though my novel Secondhand Sight won a Readers’ Favorite gold medal for Fiction/Horror, I thought the comments on Amazon were very fair criticisms when some readers suggested the sections that described tennis activities intended to provide local color were too long.

Those lengthy sections really only served as plot devices that got the protagonist out of his house and could have been achieved with at least a thousand fewer words, to be perfectly honest.

It was Shakespeare who, as Polonius in Hamlet, famously said, “…brevity is the soul of wit.”

As a result of listening to those readers, in my novel titled Premonition that followed Secondhand Sight, my editors and I worked even harder to trim every scrap of unnecessary fat from the manuscript.

Our goal was to establish a steady pace that never lagged, increasing speed as we moved from start to finish, which I hope to have accomplished, thanks to the feedback from readers.

Once again, we will listen carefully as new reviews are posted for Premonition, wanting to learn from our mistakes. Our goal is to make every book better than the last. Premonition_eBook_Cover_Draft_variationB

On the other hand, not all feedback is created equal.

Call me crazy, but in my opinion, people can’t really provide fair or useful criticisms of a book in particular when they haven’t bothered to read it first.

Unfortunately, ignorance does not necessarily stop some people from publicly sharing their thoughts.

Strangely enough, of the six books I’ve written thus far, my book Counterargument for God inspires more of that sort of criticism than any other published work.

Writers aren’t supposed to respond to their critics, but since these are “generic” complaints and these critics aren’t actually members of my reading audience, I think an exception can be safely made in this instance.

The list of complaints enumerated below is not exhaustive by any means. Nor are they ranked in particular order.

Most of these criticisms come from people who have refused a free PDF copy of the book when offered to them. My responses to their complaints are in blue.

13. You aren’t a scientist.

So what? I conceded that fact in the first few pages of the book, in fact, when I wrote the following paragraph in the section titled “About the Author”:

I’m not a scientist. Nor do I claim to play one on television. All of the credit for the scientific research belongs to those scientists and intellectual giants on whose shoulders I stand. The blame for any flaws in my logic, conclusions, and opinions belongs only to me.

12. You don’t understand evolution theory properly.

The problem with that assertion is twofold.

First of all, esteemed biologist and vocal atheist Richard Dawkins wrote the following in an essay titled Evolution is a Fact:

“You can write it [a description of evolution theory] out in a phrase: nonrandom survival of randomly varying hereditary instruction for building embryos. Yet, given the opportunities afforded by deep time, this simple little algorithm generates prodigies of complexity, elegance, and diversity of apparent design. True design, the type we see in a knapped flint, a jet plane, or personal computer, turns out to be the manifestation of an entity–the human brain–that itself was never designed, but is an evolved product of Darwin’s mill. Paradoxically, the extreme simplicity of what the philosopher Daniel C. Dennett called Darwin’s dangerous idea. People have a hard time believing that so simple a mechanism could produce such powerful results.” 1

Furthermore, Professor Benoit LeBlanc had the following to say about my understanding of the basic fundamentals of speciation, also known as macro-evolution theory: “And your basic understanding of the process is sound: groups reproductively isolated from similar groups will eventually grow apart, genetically speaking, due to genetic drift, the accumulation of different mutations, and very likely different selection pressures.”

To be perfectly clear, Professor LeBlanc was not endorsing the conclusions I reached, just conceding that I understood the fundamental concepts of the theory as well as anyone who’d read Coyne’s book could be expected. In other words, according to Professor LeBlanc, I’ve reached the wrong conclusions about this idea that according to Dawkins is so simple it is difficult to believe because I don’t know enough about how the intricate details of the theory work to believe it.

Those two ideas simply don’t go together.

It all boils down to one simple thought: complex living organisms exist either by descent or by design. There is no third choice that would not require some combination of those two basic options.

If descent is true, then even plants and animals share common ancestry via sexual reproduction. The magic ingredient that allows this to occur is called deep time.

If design is true, the magic is called God.

One way to look at the existential solutions from which we have to choose, you’re going to believe in either “natural” or supernatural magic.

The problem with deep time as the solution of choice is that we must assume entities that only appear to be designed can based intelligent design on the undesigned organism.

To this day, the personal computer remains an inferior approximation of the human brain, the thing that the computer is modeled to emulate as much as possible.

It seems kind of silly to believe the design of an intelligent object can be based on the product on stupid luck, simply if allowed enough time for basically anything to happen.

11. The universe could have always existed.

Not true, according to an overwhelming majority of physicists, who have declared that redshift and cosmic microwave background radiation, also known as CMB, have effectively debunked the steady state universe theory in favor of Big Bang cosmology or some variation of a secular creation theory that attempts to describe the origin of this particular universe.

10. We don’t know enough about the universe to say it was fine-tuned.

Actually, physicists know a lot more about the composition of this universe than one might realize. Nor is fine-tuning “my” argument — I’ve merely accepted that the physicists who’ve suggested the universe has been fine-tuned make a compelling case for their argument.

In his book The Living Cosmos, physicist Chris Impey wrote this:

“Apart from hydrogen, everything else is just a trace element. Just how rare? Suppose a deck of cards represented randomly selected atoms in the universe. In one deck of cards, the aces would be helium atoms and the other forty-eight would be hydrogen atoms. You’d need thirty decks of cards before you’d expect to find one carbon atom. In the thirty decks of cards, there’d be a couple of oxygen atoms, too, but all the other cards would be hydrogen or helium. You’d need to search three hundred decks to find a single iron atom…How do we know what the universe is made of? Astronomers use remote sensing by spectroscopy to measure the composition of star stuff. Each element has a unique set of sharp spectral features that acts like a fingerprint, so by identifying that fingerprint in starlight, astronomers can measure contributions of different elements.”

9. We don’t know enough about probability to assess the relative probability of the universe or the origin of life.

The calculations on which my arguments are based have been credited to their authors. It was Sir Roger Penrose who calculated the probability of this universe occurring by random chance as something like 1 in 10 to the 300th power, based on the work of Sir Martin Rees.

Others have come up with values even lower. I think we can safely assume the probability of this universe has been determined by the experts to be extraordinarily low, which is why new theories such as multiverse have cropped up.

8. Careful conjecture by scientists who argue science has proved God is superfluous any explanation for our existence is superior to anecdotal evidence of supernatural phenomena collected by amateurs.

What may be nothing more than anecdotal evidence to a critic may be considered empirical evidence collected according to scientific method by the actual person who is actually investigating those claims. It’s a lot easier to dismiss something if you never seriously evaluate the evidence in support of it.

7.  Your work hasn’t been peer-reviewed. You haven’t been nominated for a Nobel Prize.

I hate to be repetitive, but so what? I’m not claiming my book is a science textbook. I never expected to be nominated for the Nobel Prize. I would say I don’t deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, but neither did Al Gore, and he got one. I would take the money that goes with it, no doubt.

But in particular, I’d like to note something else Richard Dawkins slipped up when he made this reference to modern peer review in the same article previously referenced:

“Even without his major theoretical achievements, Darwin would have won lasting recognition as an experimenter, albeit an experimenter with the style of a gentlemanly amateur, which might not find favor with modern journal referees.”2

Peer review does not determine what is and isn’t science–it only defines the means by which some prima donna academics who consider themselves absolute authorities can manipulate conventional wisdom, at least temporarily. Look no further than the influence of peer review on the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction.

6. NDEs are nothing more than euphoric hallucinations caused by chemical reactions in a dying brain.

Actually, there is scientific evidence known as corroborated veridical NDE perceptions that, if true, clearly and completely debunks that argument.

5. Corroborated veridical NDE events defy the laws of physics.

The problem with that assertion is the claim that accurate new memories can be formed by an individual while separated from his physical brain can and has been investigated. Rather than being debunked by having the evidence investigated and proved false, investigations have allegedly been able to corroborate many examples of this “impossible” evidence that would seem to defy “laws” of physics as they are currently understood. Refusing to look at evidence such as the Pam Reynolds memories apparently created outside her physical body during her famous “Operation Standstill” surgery, an extraordinarily well-documented medical procedure in which her physical condition was being carefully monitored by scientific instruments and medical observers while the events in question occurred.

4. Your book is nothing but quote mining. You’ve taken experts out of context and twisted the intended meaning of their words.

Quote mining has been defined as the deceitful practice of taking a quote out of context to make it appear the author of the quote agrees with your position.

In my book, my practice has been to quote various scientists verbatim to illustrate their obvious bias toward atheism, but I’ve never pretended any of them agreed with me.  I’ve merely used their own words, properly referenced and attributed to each source, and used the exact words of these atheists posing as scientists to expose the fallacy of their logic. One particularly persistent critic insisted that one quote in my book from George Wald was quote mined, apparently because the talkorigins website said as much.

However, the context in which the quote was used did not attempt to twist the meaning of what Dr. Wald was saying in order to deceive the reader. Dr. Wald and I were agreeing that in his context, the word “impossible” was changed to mean “highly improbable” and not the literal interpretation of the word.

My argument was to show how the quote illustrated how the atheist/scientist deliberately created a bias toward his atheistic worldview by attempting to redefine impossible to mean something else.

This particular critic seemed to be worked up that the phrase “It will help to digress for a moment to ask what one means by “impossible” had been omitted from Wald’s quote but that utterly fails to negate the point I succeeded in making in my book this critic refused to read.

As a writer who depends on the English language, let me be clear in saying the meaning of the word “impossible” is not open for negotiation.

The word impossible simply means “not possible”, as in “can never happen.” It doesn’t mean “highly unlikely”, unless that interpretation is being deliberately used in a deliberate attempt to create confusion by the quote’s author.

It seems the only time that atheists use the word ‘impossible’ and actually mean it is when they claim it is impossible to believe in a supernatural God.

Only then do they sincerely mean ‘not possible.’

Because I was not twisting, but in fact reinforcing the intent of Wald’s words with my specific usage of the correctly cited example, my book will not require any retractions or corrections due to its usage.

3. Evolution is a fact. No scientist agrees with you.

Evolution is not even a scientific theory — those are called speciation and natural selection. Evolution theory is an atheistic philosophy formed by an interpretation of scientific evidence that assumes descent rather than design as the only possible explanation for modern life, which is absurd.

Until Darwin wrote his book, the only person who might have been said agreed with him about his theory of natural selection was Alfred Russell Wallace.

And Galileo failed his peer review. As long as it is assumed evidence of something cannot exist, that evidence will successfully be ignored until the alternate theories all have failed completely.

2. The Earth cannot be/must be 6,000 years old. You aren’t a “real” Christian.

On some issues, it truly seems impossible to please anybody.

Apparently, I can’t get away with just saying “I don’t know, and I don’t really care.”

But it’s true; I don’t. It isn’t critically important to know, I don’t think.

I have referred to myself as YEC-agnostic, which means I really don’t know how old the Earth is. Scientists have estimated the age of the Earth as approximately 4.54 billion years, I am aware of that much. Evangelical Christians may reply that according to the calculations of Bishop Ussher, the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

The only thing I know with absolute confidence is the Earth is older than me. Above and beyond that, I’m not sure how important it is to know the precise age of Earth when it comes to answering our existential questions, to be perfectly honest.

While recent discoveries of soft tissue in dinosaur fossils lends credibility to the argument at least some dinosaurs may have survived the Cretaceous extinction, but I’m not quite ready to declare it is likely that dinosaurs co-existed with humans in the past.

My Big Picture equation has no variable or constant to represent the age of the Earth. Because I don’t care. It won’t affect my worldview.

1. If God truly existed, evil would not exist. There would be no suffering in the world.

Ah, what truly seems to be the last gasp of desperation from an atheist desperately seeking any excuse to reject the logic that has been applied to the scientific evidence available for answering the existential questions in my book.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Michael Ruse by phone. We were discussing the Cambrian Explosion and the ability of various organisms to identify things called “environmental niches” these creatures were subsequently able to mutate in form enough to occupy. I wanted to understand how this process might have worked in the absence of any supernatural forms of intelligence to somehow manipulate DNA so these organisms would be better suited.

Apparently Dr. Ruse assumed my question was leading to the possibility a deity of some sort might exist, because he asked if God could create organisms perfectly suited for various environmental niches, why would this omnipotent entity allow evil to exist in the world? Why did God allow pain and suffering? He then brought up the subject of the devastating earthquake that had just occurred in Haiti.

I don’t remember how I responded to Dr. Ruse. I do remember how surprised I had been at the abrupt change in subject, going from asking specific questions about how evolution might have worked to the more abstract and completely unrelated question about the motives of God.

Today my answer to Dr. Ruse would be that God has given us three great gifts: the gift of reality, the gift of life, and the gift of free will.

Reality is the material world. We all have assets and material goods of some sort, no matter how poor we might be in comparison to others.

Life is self-explanatory. If you’ve been able to read and comprehend this article until now, you know what it means to be alive.

Free will is the least obvious of these gifts. We can choose to marshal our resources and try to help each other with humanitarian aid when a catastrophe strikes like the earthquake in Haiti or Hurricane Katrina, or we can selfishly hoard what we have been blessed to receive.

If God exists, and I believe He does, and if this supernatural form of intelligence created the universe as I believe, then He can be described as omnipotent, or all powerful. Therefore, it would certainly be within His power to destroy Satan at any given moment in time. However, in the absence of evil, we would not really be able to enjoy free will and choose between good and evil.

After completing this list and checking the word count, obviously I still need to work on my brevity.

Just remember, this list represents the most commonly heard criticisms of my book from people who haven’t read it.

Conversely, those who have actually read my book Counterargument for God and posted a review online have had complimentary things to say, for the most part.

 

Cited sources that weren’t from my book:

1. Gerdes, Louise. Intelligent Design Versus Evolution. Page 41. Detroit. Greenhaven Press. 2008. Print.

2. Ibid. Page 45.

The probability problem

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe fallacy in Paley’s famous Watchmaker analogy was not that the Watchmaker was blind, as Richard Dawkins has suggested.

The problem is that Paley’s analogy assumed the rock could have always existed in an eternal universe, whereas if physicists are correct and the Big Bang created our universe, we can safely assume the rock has not.

No one is certain why a prehistoric civilization built a monument that we call Stonehenge, but we know this peculiar rock formation exists, because we’ve all seen pictures of it and can easily visit the physical location.

Was it a temple to worship the sun? A giant calendar? An ancient medical center?

Nobody knows who built Stonehenge, or why it was constructed. We can rather safely assume that someone built it, though.

Or can we? What makes us so certain that Stonehenge isn’t merely a natural rock formation somehow created miraculously by the vagaries of Time?

Because if you listen to Richard Dawkins explain the probability problems associated with our existential questions, he seems to be saying that as long as something is theoretically possible, it doesn’t really matter how improbable the event in question might be.

What makes us so sure that Stonehenge is not a naturally occurring rock formation? Well, it is extremely unlikely, no matter well how you craft any alternate explanation.

The rocks that form Stonehenge appear to have been quarried from a location several miles away.

The rocks that form Stonehenge shouldn’t be where they are — unless humans put them there. The rocks shouldn’t be stacked and apparently organized in alignment with constellations, if they don’t mean anything and served no purpose.

The much more feasible alternative to Time and luck  to explain Stonehenge is to say that even though we have no idea how they managed to figure out how to lift tons of rock without the aid of cranes or other heavy construction equipment, for whatever unknown reason, human beings must have created the monument.

It simply isn’t logical or rational to assume the rocks managed to form such an intricate pattern by accident. Please remember that thought as we proceed.

Logic and rational thought are crucial elements in my Counterargument for God.

Recently, an atheist friend challenged something I said on Facebook in reference to the alleged fine tuning of the universe — a theory proposed and supported by a rather impressive collection of experts in the field of physics.

The problem with that complaint is I’m not the one who claimed the universe was fine tuned both to exist and support life in the first place. Fine tuning isn’t my theory. If anyone should be asked to defend the idea of fine tuning, it should be Sir Martin Rees.

In his book Just Six Numbers, Rees described six values, which he claimed any of which, given the slightest variation from current value. it would cause the universe to collapse upon itself.

Rees himself said,

These six numbers constitute a ‘recipe’ for a universe. Moreover, the outcome is sensitive to their values: if any one of them were to be ‘untuned’, there would be no stars and no life. Is this tuning just a brute fact, a coincidence? Or is it the providence of a benign Creator? I take the view that it is neither. An infinity of other universes may well exist where the numbers are different.

For the record, these six cosmological “constants” are as follows:

  • omega (value=1) to represent the amount of matter in the universe.
  • Epsilon (value=0.007) represents the degree to which atomic nuclei are bound together.
  • “D” is the number of dimensions (value=3).
  • “N” is the strength of electrical forces that bind atoms, divided by the force of gravity:(value=1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000).
  • “Q” is a number that represents two fine-tuned fundamental energies (value=1/100,000).
  • Lambda (value=0.7) represents a measurement of anti-gravity in the universe.

If Rees is correct and the universe is indeed fine-tuned to the degree Sir Roger Penrose has calculated, the relative probability that the Big Bang would have produced this universe from absolutely nothing is approximately 1 in 10 to the 300th power, which is an astronomical small fraction of a single percentage point.

Furthermore, it’s very important to note that the probability problems of an atheistic worldview merely begin with creation of the universe.

One might attempt to argue that separate and apart from the “improbability” of the Big Bang is the improbability of inflation, and I wouldn’t quibble the argument too long. There are simply too many compounded improbabilities to consider that prohibit the focus our attention to be on just one or two of them. Stephen Hawking described the sensitivity of the inflationary period immediately following the Big Bang thusly:

First, why was the early universe so hot? Second, why does it look the same at all points of space and in all directions? Third, why did the universe start out with so nearly the critical rate of expansion to just avoid recollapse? If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million-million, the universe would have recollapsed before it ever reached its present state. On the other hand, if the expansion rate at one second had been larger by the same amount, the universe would have expanded so much that it would be effectively empty by now. Fourth, despite the fact that the universe is so uniform and homogenous on a large scale, it contains local lumps such as stars and galaxies. These are thought to have developed from small differences in the density of the early universe from on region to another. What was the origin of these density fluctuations? The general theory of relativity, on its own, cannot explain these features or answer these questions.

Now I won’t pretend to know a specific statistical value to assign the improbability that inflation would so precisely manage to begin and end so conveniently from our perspective, but it should be safe to say the odds of a fine tuned universe produced by the Big Bang would be extraordinarily low and were not improved by the fact the first event required this expansionary period for success.

In other words, the success of this universe required both fine tuning AND inflation.

The Big Bang could have occurred without inflation, but this universe would no longer exist. Conversely, inflation could not have occurred without the Big Bang, and the need for inflation to create this universe.

The extraordinarily cynical atheist might ask why God didn’t get the Big Bang right in the first place? Why was the  inflation period even needed to get the universe to proceed according to plan?

My reply to such a query would be if you have a problem with Hawking’s analysis of inflation, you should address those concerns to him. Likewise, if you have issues with how God orchestrated the origin of the universe, you should ask Him.

However, if you have questions about the probability problem as described, specifically how the calculations of much smarter people are being utilized, those questions may be addressed to me and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Our probability problems haven’t ended with the fine-tuned Big Bang and inflation.

We also have the problem of abiogenesis, the origin of life, and then its diversity.

Two-time Nobel Prize-winning chemist and physicist Ilya Prigogine suggested that the probability of abiogenesis could be due to random chance was zero. Personally, though, I don’t like extreme values that imply certainty or assert knowledge lacking facts in evidence.

Conversely, if the probability of abiogenesis were claimed to be 100 percent, we should see incontrovertible and reproducible evidence that life can be artificially created in the lab–essentially proving that abiogenesis was only a series of chemical reactions that occurred due to random good luck. However, Prigogine was apparently saying just the opposite — that we’ll never be able to prove the origin of life was possible due only to good luck.

For the sake of argument, I would propose we accept a “low” value of probability to represent the improbability of abiogenesis. It should be greater than zero, so I would propose that the calculation result of Penrose could be borrowed. The probability of abiogenesis cannot be greater than the probability of the universe that facilitated an origin of life event. It’s probably much lower, but we’re already talking about some unbelievable good luck.

Physicists have proposed alternatives to supernatural creation of the universe such as multiverse theory that specifically attempt to address the grotesque improbability everything that has allegedly happened according to their theories and calculations has been by accident.

However, the multiverse only attempts to resolve the improbability of a fine-tuned universe, not even inflation or the subsequent, compounded improbability of life spontaneously generated in this highly improbable universe.

Nobel Prize winning biologist George Wald had this to say about the hypothesis called abiogenesis:

The reasonable view was to believe in spontaneous generation; the only alternative, to believe in a single, primary act of supernatural creation. There is no third position. For this reason many scientists a century ago chose to regard the belief in spontaneous generation as a “philosophical necessity.” It is a symptom of the philosophical poverty of our time that this necessity is no longer appreciated. Most modern biologists, having reviewed with satisfaction the downfall of the spontaneous generation hypothesis, yet unwilling to accept the alternative belief in special creation, are left with nothing…one has only to contemplate the magnitude of this task to concede that the spontaneous generation of a living organism is impossible. Yet here we are as a result, I believe, of spontaneous generation.

The problem with Wald’s comment is probability. His statement seems to be committing what philosophers would call a post hoc fallacy. Wald basically said our choices are that God did or did not create life.

The only alternative he can offer to the special creation of life is spontaneous generation, and he clearly seems be agreeing with Prigogine to say it’s impossible. Then he completely contradicts himself to say he believes in something he knows can’t be true, apparently only because of his atheistic worldview.

Wald apparently realizes the only true alternative to incredible serendipity is an act of deliberate intent in creation by a supernatural God.

It seems that most people approach the probability problem backwards, in part because the biologists who are atheists, meaning almost of them, have decreed that evolution is no longer a scientific theory, but a proved fact.

No sane person can deny that sexual reproduction of two members of the same species will not produce clones. The offspring will vary slightly in their genetic composition.

Indeed, when we compare humans to chimpanzees and bonobo apes, the appearance of common descent seems virtually inarguable. Genetically and morphologically speaking, humans appear to be fur-less apes.

The problem with that idea is extrapolation, taking Darwinian natural selection all the way back in time to abiogenesis. In doing so, we must accept, as Richard Dawkins has written, that:

Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact. The evidence for evolution is at least as strong as the evidence for the Holocaust, even allowing for eyewitnesses to the Holocaust. It is the plain truth that we are cousins of chimpanzee, somewhat more distant cousins of monkeys, more distant cousins still of aardvarks and manatees, yet more distant cousins of bananas and turnips…continue the list as long as desired.

The problem with calling evolution a fact is that the only way we can be related as cousins to bananas and turnips is natural selection via sexual reproduction.

In other words, some living organism that was neither turnip nor human had sex with another member of its alleged species, and its offspring through many generations, mutated through sex into both plants and animals.

This alleged fact of evolution cannot be observed. Time is the magic ingredient that creates the great diversity of life, instead of God.

That is the argument from descent. The only conceivable alternative is that we are related by design. The funny thing is, humans created the concept of time.

So Time, the magical god of evolution, is truly a human invention.

What again would seem to be, at least on the surface infinitely more probable as an explanation to a universe produced by blind luck, inflation for no good reason, abiogenesis that seems impossible, and magical sex would be a form of supernatural intelligence far superior to any human intellect, even the collective of human intellect.

Like the atheist advocate of evolution theory, can I boldly claim that the existence of God is a known fact? No. That would make me a liar.

And I can’t even prove beyond all doubt that Stonehenge wasn’t accidentally built by Time.

Lacking the courage of one’s convictions

argument_book2Obviously, Professor A. C. Grayling must be a very busy man. I don’t doubt that teaching, writing, and interviews keeps him quite busy.

However, I confess that I am finding it very difficult to believe that his schedule has been completely booked for the rest of his life.

I simply can’t understand why he can’t carve out a few hours of spare time to burst my bubble of egotistical pride, by demonstrating the intellectual superiority of his atheistic humanism once and for all.

After reading his book and blogging about it twice because I appreciated the skill of its authorship, I grew bold and wrote the good professor to propose a written debate that would pit his GOD Argument versus my Counterargument for God.

You see, I paid attention when I read his book. I believe that already know much of what the professor might say, and it gave me the confidence to approach him.

I am quite convinced that my counterargument can defeat his argument, even though my book was originally intended to rebut The God Delusion of Richard Dawkins.

So when Grayling’s first assistant asked me to define the parameters for the debate I proposed admittedly, my hopes rose.southernprose_cover_CAFG

My reply suggested that Professor Grayling could set the debate parameters for debate himself. My offer said that we could schedule our discussion for any future exchange at his convenience.

So you might imagine my surprise when his second assistant replied and said that it would never be convenient.

Not even sometime in late 2016? I asked.

Nope. Never, as in never, ever.

Please forgive me for stating the obvious, but I believe that if Professor Grayling’s schedule is truly that jam-packed and inflexible, the first assistant would almost certainly have known that and simply could have declined my offer, rather that requesting details of a debate that could never happen. The fact that the assistant asked for some details and then declined my invitation for a discussion suggests something else may be going on here.

Rather than actually being too busy, it seems much more plausible that Professor Grayling simply doesn’t want to debate me, and probably because my credentials don’t impress him.  After all, I don’t even have a master’s degree, much less a PhD.

I’m not any sort of religious leader. I’m just a writer. Therefore, he would have more to lose in this exchange. He also probably thinks it is beneath him to condescend to debate me.

Surely he cannot be afraid of my argument…unless he knows what it is.

Well, I suppose that’s only fair because I’m not afraid of his argument, either. Or his curriculum vitae.

But I am still puzzled.

I must admit that if the situation were reversed, I would feel compelled to give Grayling something of an intellectual smackdown for having the temerity to challenge my authority as an academic and educator, which in my case doesn’t exist.

Yet we all have some pride.

Let me be abundantly clear — I am saying without equivocation that I am sure my argument is superior, and would defeat Grayling’s in a fair debate. After all, I’ve read his book. I know what he has to offer.

If that brash assertion doesn’t goad Professor Grayling into coming forward to accept my offer, nothing will, because I know if someone boldly claimed they could destroy my published argument in debate, I would want to teach such an audacious person a real lesson in humility.

Assuming that I could, of course. I would even make time for it in my schedule, if necessary.

So perhaps Professor Grayling considers himself above the fray — and if he can ignore having his authority questioned in such a brash and audacious manner, he’s right.

Because I am saying here again that his argument cannot defeat mine.

Now I know that if anyone were to read my book and challenged one or more of my assertions about God with an alternate interpretation of the evidence in question, they would hear directly from me — they would not get the brushoff from one or more of my editors.

But I am not Professor A. C. Grayling.

I am also not lacking for the courage of my convictions.

 

Heaven Is for Real

HeavenIsForRealSome atheists seem to think that if they relentlessly attack theists and blame God for all the evil in the world, they will eventually succeed and completely eradicate all religious beliefs.

Frankly, that will never happen. The goal is simply unattainable.

As long as people inhabit the earth, at least some of them will believe in a supernatural God.

Nevertheless, a rather persistent atheist acquaintance recently posted links to several news stories on Facebook about mothers who had allegedly murdered their own kids because they wanted the children to go to heaven. His argument apparently was that religious beliefs, not mental illness, motivated these women to commit such heinous crimes.

Now were the situation reversed — for example, if I insinuated that people who believe Darwinian theory explains their existence were all prone to become serial-killing atheist cannibals and used Jeffrey Dahmer as an example, I would be committing the same flawed, illogical “guilt by association” argument my acquaintance had attempted. And that would be just as juvenile, and wrong.

Two wrongs don’t make a right. Nor do two left turns, but three do.

This acquaintance went so far to direct a question specifically to me, asking, “how many more have to die before someone says ‘Stop!’ This heaven stuff isn’t real?”

My reply was to say that I believe heaven is for real. However, I also know that I can’t prove it any more than an evolutionary biologist can prove that I share a common ancestor with an oak tree.

I won’t claim to know heaven exists beyond all doubt, because that would make me a liar.

On the other hand, I have looked at some fairly compelling evidence that strongly suggests heaven exists. I have personally investigated numerous accounts of alleged near death experience and spoken to multiple people with various claims of visiting either heaven or hell.

It turns out that there are quite a few very specific examples of scientific evidence known as corroborated veridical NDE events. That evidence is extraordinarily compelling.

Conveniently, the movie Heaven is for Real deals with most of the relevant questions we should be asking both science and each other about NDEs.

I will admit that normally I don’t particularly care for movies of this genre because they leave too many questions unanswered, or they avoid controversial subjects entirely.

However, the writers and directors of the movie did a remarkably good job of presenting both sides of the arguments.

They didn’t just deliver the audience the “feel good” message that there is life after death. For example, Todd mentions in church that Colton never “flat-lined” during surgery — although the surgeon clearly didn’t expect him to live, technically Colton never died.

Yet he claimed to have visited heaven, where he allegedly saw remarkable things.

Also in the film, an atheist college professor tells Todd that she believes that supernatural phenomena like extra sensory knowledge could be possible in a materialist world, though her character fails to explain how. They even talked about Colton’s claim that Jesus owned a multi-colored horse.

Poignantly, a grieving mother who attends Todd’s church wanted to know why her son was killed in combat, while Colton was spared from his near fatal bout with appendicitis. She wondered if God didn’t love her son as much as He loved Colton.

In my book Counterargument for God, I talked about several incidents of this same phenomena that were well supported by medical evidence, such as the NDE of Pam Reynolds or Michaela Roser.

The movie Heaven is for Real gives at least three examples of such corroborated veridical NDE events. The first example occurred during surgery: four-year-old Colton claimed that he left his physical body and watched as his father “yelled” at God.

True, Todd Burpo is a pastor. His son Colton was exposed to religious beliefs at a very young age. And it would be quite natural to expect a father who is a pastor would be praying passionately in a chapel while his son is critically ill. southernprose_cover_CAFG But “yelling” at God? Why would it be normal, or natural, for a four-year-old whose father preached at church every Sunday to hallucinate that his father was very angry with God at the same time doctors worked desperately to save his life?

I would be remiss if I failed to point out anecdotes like this one crush the idea that Christians are glad when their children die, and want to kill their children, as this particular atheist acquaintance had suggested on Facebook.

The second and most significant example of a corroborated veridical NDE perception came later in the movie, when four-year-old Colton told his mother that he knew an older sibling died in her womb, because he had met that dead sister while visiting heaven.

There is not a logical or rational explanation for how such a young boy would know such a painful and intimate family detail, especially at such a young age. Until that point, the movie had portrayed the mother as most skeptical of Colton’s alleged experience, which would be a natural reaction from most people. His knowledge of that miscarriage changed her mind, though.

The third, example of corroborated veridical NDE events was that Colton also recalled meeting and described Todd’s grandfather, a man who had died long before Colton was born.

The film also connected Colton Burpo’s description of Jesus the work of Akiane Kramarik, which I wrote about when I read first the book on which the movie was based.

Skeptical atheists may claim that young Colton had been exposed to all of this information due to family conversations, or his father’s work as a pastor. Or a darker assumption might be made that the story had been fabricated as a deliberate ruse concocted in order to sell millions of books.

However, Colton Burpo’s emergency appendectomy is scientific evidence of a medical nature. There are hospital records that document that he was very sick and would have died without surgery.

Yet the movie also drives home the fact that Colton never “officially” flat-lined during surgery. To classify his experience as an NDE would probably be technically incorrect. The important point was not how near death the person in question may have been, but whether or not the information they claim to have learned while their physical body was incapacitated.

My atheist friends frequently make the mistake of assuming the most important information to be gleaned from an alleged near death experience whether or not medical science had declared the person dead prior to resuscitation.

That doesn’t seem to be the critical piece of information we can learn from an experience such as Colton’s, however.

My atheist friends like to fixate on the more fantastic, unverifiable claims that Colton made of heaven, such as that Jesus rode a beautiful multi-colored horse. Claims such as those make the experience sound somewhat hallucinogenic in nature, which supports the atheistic theory that NDE “observations” are merely the product of chemical reactions in a dying brain.

The most salient facts about an NDE are those pieces of information he could not have acquired through his normal sensory processes at the time he allegedly learned them, specifically the three examples of corroborated veridical NDE events.

As I try to tell these atheist friends of mine, if you don’t like or believe the story of Colton Burpo for whatever reason, simply move on to the next best example. Because if you believe that everyone who experiences an NDE has a euphoric experience and goes to heaven because of chemical reactions in their dying brain, you should check out the accounts of Matthew Botsford or Howard Storm.

Heaven isn’t a metaphor or a fairy tale. I can’t prove it, but heaven is for real. Unfortunately for some, so will be hell.

The good news is that all we have to do to avoid hell is exercise our free will, and love God.

The Christmas Truce

Christmas_truce_2Evangelists of atheism have often suggested that religion has been responsible for much of the pain and suffering we observe in this world.

That belief is badly mistaken — it is actually the polar opposite of the truth. There is evidence that suggests if Christian spirit were allowed to rule the world, there might truly be peace on earth.

The true story of the 1914 Christmas Truce reminds us that peace IS possible, but only for men of good will. Peace doesn’t come from wishful thinking.

A century ago, all was quiet on the Western front. The first war that involved the whole world had almost ended as quickly as it began. And Christian spirit was largely responsible.

The night was Christmas Eve, 1914.  Only five months after World War I began, British and German soldiers were dug into trenches formed along the Western front, where they watched each other from a relatively safe distance. Bodies littered the barren turf of no-man’s land separating the two armies.

Naturally, the British troops were quite surprised when they heard the Germans begin to sing in the quiet night. They knew the tune, but the words were in a foreign language.

Private Frank Sumter was one of the first to recognize the Christmas carol. Years later, he recalled the occasion, saying, “…and then we heard the Germans singing Silent Night, Holy Night. I said, “C’mon, boys. Let’s join in with the song.”

Soon soldiers from both sides were joyfully singing the same hymn together, but in different languages.Christmas_truce

Then on Christmas morning, a German soldier tentatively emerged from the trenches. He held up a small Christmas tree adorned with lit candles before bravely crossing the open field in front of the readied guns of the British, extending an offering of peace to men that had been his mortal enemy the previous day.

Soon troops from both sides had emerged from their trenches to exchange food and other small gifts. Next, British and German troops began working together as they dug graves and buried their dead.

Joint funeral services were held. Soldiers began to treat each other as human beings, not lambs for slaughter. Men who had been desperately trying to kill “the enemy” days earlier were cooperating with each other. They had lost all desire to maim and kill each other simply for wearing the wrong color uniform.

The truce remained in effect after Christmas. Troops who days earlier exchanged gifts with their “enemy” found it impossible to resume the bloodshed. However, the powers-that-be would have none of that. The officers and generals not dying in the trenches were forced to intervene before fighting resumed. An artillery bombardment was ordered that shattered the peace.

Then a British officer visiting the trenches after Christmas grabbed a rifle and murdered an unarmed German soldier to provoke new hostilities. The war had begrudgingly resumed.

By the following Christmas, millions more of these brave young men were dead. In total, sixteen million people were killed during World War I, manipulated by their respective governments run by politicians far from the front lines so they might blow up each other with bombs, shred the opposing forces with machine gun fire, or poison them with mustard gas.

Christmas_truce_3

Unfortunately, the generals on each side had also learned their lesson from that Christmas truce of 1914. Orders were passed down the following December declaring any informal armistices at Christmas would be considered treason, giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

Humans have to be taught to hate, and how best to kill their fellow man.

God is the giver of life. But God also gives us free will. We can choose to maim and kill each other.

God allows us to choose evil. Or we can choose Him.

The message we can learn from the Christmas truce of 1914 seems crystal clear: the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

But only if we allow it.

 

A. C. Grayling and The GOD Argument

A. C. Grayling

A. C. Grayling

I’ve enjoyed reading The GOD Argument: The Case Against Religion and for Humanism, in spite of the fact I disagreed with much of what author A. C. Grayling wrote. As I asserted in my earlier blog about the Scopes Monkey Trial, Professor Grayling is an excellent writer.

At times, his book forced me to exercise the little grey cells in my head quite vigorously.

For example, at first I couldn’t figure out why Professor Grayling described the problem as ‘logically impossible’ when he wrote:

Consider the sentence, ‘I can trisect a Euclidean angle using only ruler and compass.’ This is a grammatical and even in one sense an intelligible sentence, but it claims something that is logically impossible to do — and therefore to think.

I must confess that relatively simple sentence initially befuddled me.

After all, I could envision drawing a two-dimensional right angle with a horizontal line  intersecting a vertical line at 90 degrees, and then trisecting it at 30 and 60 degrees rather easily with a compass. However, I sensed that I was missing something that must be obvious and could not be understanding the problem correctly, if what Professor Grayling wrote was true. And my instincts were correct.

It turned out the operative word in that deceptively simple sentence was ‘Euclidean’ — apparently referring to a three-dimensional angle, like what you would find in the corner of a room formed where two walls meet. Then I realized what Grayling must have meant, and he’s right: the task is impossible to perform using only a ruler, pencil and compass. On the other hand, it’s a piece of cake for me to trisect such an angle using only one tool, that being my miter saw, to cut a piece of base moulding or quarter round. Solving a difficult problem merely requires two things: that you understand the real nature of the problem, and you have the ideal tools for the job.

[CORRECTION: a math professor friend has informed me that I was completely wrong about Euclidean meaning a three dimensional angle. However, my right angle example is the exception to the “impossible” rule, according to the link he gave me. Lucky guess on my part.]

But I like books that force me to think.

Professor Grayling divided his book into two parts: the first section is devoted to his argument against religion, and the second half extols the perceived virtues of humanism.

He uses phrases such as “to see the human mind liberated from religion and superstition…” [emphasis added] as he lauds the work of militant antitheists and evangelists for atheism such as Richard DawkinsSam Harris, Dan Barker and Christopher Hitchens.

In a chapter titled “Naming and Describing a ‘God'” Grayling suggested that we could just as easily refer to God as ‘Fred’ or ‘the supreme egg’, obviously mocking the concept of a supernatural creator.

Coincidentally, in my book I suggested that readers with an atheistic worldview like Professor Grayling’s should do exactly that — refer to “supernatural intelligence” with any substitute moniker for God they felt most comfortable using, whether that name be Jesus, Allah, Krishna, Zeus, Thor, the celestial teapot, or even the flying spaghetti monster, for all I care.

Professor Grayling wrote:

One line of thinking in the theory of knowledge has it that belief is not an all-or-nothing affair, but a matter of degree. The degree in question can be represented as a probability value. [emphasis added.]

We seem to agree that belief is best measured in relationship to probability.

In my book Counterargument for God, I said: “[T]he probability of any form of supernatural intelligence should initially be set very low, like one-half of one percent. Then the probability of good luck would be extremely high: 99.5 percent. Remember, there is a direct, inverse relationship between the two variables.”

We also agreed that the initial probability of God may be set quite low.

Interestingly enough, Grayling also said this, mirroring something I wrote:

The initial probability of there being a deity is not fifty percent, as some try to argue. There is a hidden assumption of agnosticism, which premises the thought that there is insufficient evidence to settle the matter either way.

Keep in mind that the initial probability we assign God isn’t a value of particular importance to me — it’s only the end result that matters.

My counterargument to atheism relies primarily on logic, common sense, and scientific evidence.  If we assume the universe had an origin, there are only two logical alternatives: either the universe came to exist through a series of accidents, or it was created on purpose.

southernprose_cover_CAFG

Grayling also wrote:

But it is not rational to bet on something’s being the case that has a probability of 99.9 percent chance of not being the case, and since acceptance of a belief is exactly comparable to taking a bet, the question ‘is it rational to bet on x’ and ‘is it rational to believe in x’ alike admit of unequivocal yes/no answers.

The problem is that Professor Grayling has expressed the probability problem exactly backwards. He clearly doesn’t understand the relationship between the probability of a creator God versus the probability of good luck being responsible. To suggest that the probability of God is nearly zero would mean the probability that unbelievable good luck explains our existence is virtual certainty, nearly 100 percent.

However, Sir Roger Penrose has calculated the odds that the Big Bang would create this universe were 1 in 10^300th power, which is an infinitessimally small fraction of one percent.

Because of the remarkably low probability that our universe was created in the Big Bang by random chance, multiverse theory exists, mainly to solve the improbability problem of a fine-tuned universe just right for life conveniently existing so that we might also exist.

And the Big Bang is only the first highly improbable event that we must consider in our quest to answer the existential questions.There is also the relative probability that luck also caused inflation, the origin of life, and even the differentiation of primitive life into the diverse forms we see today.

Stephen Hawking has asserted that even the slightest variation in the inflationary period that immediately followed the creation of the universe, even a minor change as small as one in a million-million, would have caused the new universe to collapse. The improbability of inflation is both dependent and independent of the Big Bang event.

What I mean by that is inflation could not have happened without the Big Bang occurring first. Therefore inflation requires the Big Bang.

The Big Bang did not require inflation, however. We cannot simply assume that inflation had no choice but to occur, unless we are prepared to accept the teleological ramifications that arise from it.

In his book the good professor conceded that the ‘Goldilocks enigma’ exists, meaning our universe is extraordinarily, even uniquely apt for life.

But Professor Grayling attempts to counter this scientific observation with an argument based on incredulity — maintaining that no matter how hard it is to believe in good luck, it is even more difficult to believe in a supernatural God. He does this while completely failing to realize that God and incredible good luck are our only two probabilities.

Those probabilities are inversely related to each other. In other words, as the probability that sort of good luck increases, the probability of God decreases in direct proportion.

Unwittingly or not, Grayling has merely attempted to replace the concept of a supernatural deity with Time as the god that solves all of our existential problems.

Frankly, that isn’t exactly a new idea. Not to mention, it’s a very flawed idea.

Nor does Grayling break any new ground with his argument against religion, parroting much of what Dawkins wrote to evangelize his atheism in The God Delusion. 

But Grayling is correct about the importance of relative probability but wrong about its application when he writes:

It is of course the case that it is sometimes uncertain whether something is or is not so, because the evidence pushes both ways, or is insufficient. Then the rational course is either to suspend judgment (this is what agnostics mistakenly think they are doing; see below) or to take a chance, helped by any external considerations that give some inclining help. This typically happens when the probability of something is about 50 percent. But it is not rational to bet on something’s being the case that has a probability of 99.9 percent of not being the case, and since acceptance of a belief is exactly comparable to taking a bet,  the question ‘is it rational to bet on x’ and ‘is it rational to believe in x’ alike admit of unequivocal yes/no answers.

However, Grayling couldn’t have been more wrong…and, of course, there are gradations of wrong — when he wrote:

Depending on your point of view it is just a lucky or unlucky result of how things happen to be. The universe’s parameters are not tuned on purpose for us to exist. It is the other way around: we exist because the laws happen to be as they are.

Academic credentials or not, I can’t simply give Professor Grayling a pass on this one. How could such a baseless assertion be considered any more valid than a religious person invoking a creator God? And who made these ‘laws’ that are being applied?

Grayling also defines the moral argument improperly to say “there can be no morality without a deity.”

But no one really questions whether or not morality exists. The issue is whether morality is relative or objective.

Another reason I liked Grayling’s book is because he delves into another topic of apparent mutual interest — the near death experience.

Unfortunately, Grayling misinterprets the evidence about NDEs at his disposal just as badly as he bungled the probability argument.  He attributes belief that life after death to two possible motives: fear, or a desire to seek justice. I will admit that those are two common reasons why people might want to believe in life after death, but neither is the best reason.

The best reason to believe life after death is possible is this: a phenomena known as corroborated veridical NDE events, which involves a person very near death learning new information that can be investigated and verified, information they should not have known — indicating that the spiritual mind and physical brain were briefly separated, and the mind continued to learn.

Discussing these areas of sharp disagreement with Professor Grayling could prove quite interesting. A written debate could be very challenging, if he were to agree to such a proposition.

One of us would surely be humbled by the experience.

Coaching change

coach Mark Richt

coach Mark Richt

So, you’re a Georgia fan who’s tired of the underachieving football program, huh?

After all, the Georgia coach has been on the job for THIRTEEN whole years and still hasn’t won a national championship, has he?

Enough of this mediocrity!

This is big boy, SEC football. In this conference, it’s always, what have you done for us lately? Don’t believe me? Just ask Gene Chizik

So what if our coach has won a couple of measly SEC championships for Georgia up to this point in his coaching career? That simply isn’t good enough.

Look at the bigger picture — we’ve been in a championship drought for the last few years now.

Our coach has, gasp! a losing bowl record. Can’t win the big game anymore. And we’re talking about big-time college football at a prestigious university. We deserve a championship team.

This sort of incompetence simply cannot be tolerated. We have every right to expect to expect our football team to win at all costs. No matter what.

It shouldn’t matter that we demand more discipline of our players than our competitors.

As alumni, we want to be proud and brag our players are smarter, better people…as long as they win, too. Surely you will concede that our program seems to be headed in the wrong direction. The SEC competition is only getting stronger, while our team seems to be regressing…so enough already!

Just get rid of the guy, okay?

Congratulations!

You just fired Vince Dooley, the greatest coach in Georgia’s history, three years before he led Georgia to the 1980 national championship.

This is exactly why you should never have Greg McGarity’s job.

Ranking SEC football coaches

coach Mark Richt

coach Mark Richt

If I’m ever going to be objective about where Mark Richt stands as a head coach among his peers in the SEC, today would be the day.

My rose-colored glasses may finally be a little dirty after yesterday’s depressing loss to the archrival Yellow Jackets.

Georgia blew its football game against Georgia Tech yesterday in heartbreaking fashion, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory after they seemed to have won the game by scoring a touchdown with only 18 seconds left in regulation. Yesterday’s loss was almost as bad as the infamous Prayer at Jordan-Hare last year.

Inexplicably, coach Richt called for a pooch kick on the subsequent kickoff,  afraid that Georgia Tech might manage a long return for a touchdown if we kicked deep.

The shorter squib kick gave the Yellow Jackets excellent field position, and just enough time to run one play that gained just enough yardage for their kicker to attempt and make the longest field goal of his career, with literally inches to spare.

With that fateful decision, Richt only managed to delay the inevitable winning touchdown, scored by Georgia Tech during their first possession of overtime.

Truthfully, Georgia had no business being in position to win the game at the end. They were thoroughly outplayed by the Yellow Jackets for the entire second half.

Tech managed to take the lead with about five minutes left in the game, and should have iced it after the receiving team failed to field the ensuing kickoff, giving the Yellow Jackets possession deep in the Bulldog territory.

However, they fumbled the ball when they could have run out the clock and gave Georgia QB Hutson Mason the opportunity to drive down the field for what might have been the game-winning score.

When we deliberately kicked the ball short on our final kickoff, it merely cost us a game we never really deserved to win.

Tech gained almost as many yards rushing as Florida had a few weeks earlier. They dominated the time of possession, especially in the second half. When we did have the opportunity to score in the first half, we turned the ball over, twice.

I don’t know what Richt could have done to prevent those turnovers.

One might argue that had our players executed better in the first half, the results would have been different. The game shouldn’t have been tied at halftime. The kicker also could have missed the longest kick of his life. Or, it could have hit the crossbar.

Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

One could also speculate that Georgia suffered from an emotional letdown after Missouri beat Arkansas to win the SEC East.

That sounds like a pathetic excuse. Georgia Tech was the better team yesterday. And it doesn’t really matter why Tech was the better team yesterday, only that they won the game.

End of story.

However today, some Georgia “fans” have suggested Mark Richt should be fired. These alleged fans have asserted that Georgia will never win a national championship, as long as Mark Richt is our head coach. Such ridiculous statements really annoy me, for several reasons. Well, allow me to retort.

First of all, no offense meant, but unless you are a close personal friend or your name is Greg McGarity, your opinion on whether or not coach Richt deserves to lose his job is not very important to me. I’m not so biased that I would declare Mark Richt currently the best college coach in America, or even the best head football coach in the SEC at the moment. That could change over this next decade, if Georgia’s defense consistently begins to play as well as the offense. Based on this year’s improvements under defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, there’s every reason to believe that could happen. The future looks very bright.

Secondly, it’s always important to look at the Big Picture. Georgia has always had good players and recruited well. But with Jeremy Pruitt as defensive coordinator, recruiting has been taken to another level. Keep in mind, this year’s defense has had flashes of brilliance. We don’t seem far away.

Finally, let’s say Greg McGarity lost his mind and fired Mark Richt in the wake of a 9-3 regular season, because we lost to Florida and Tech. Or let’s make you the AD for a day, so you could fire our coach. Who would you get to replace him?

Here’s how I rank the current SEC head coaches, based on their success on the field.

  1. Nick Saban.
  2. Steve Spurrier.
  3. Les Miles.
  4. Mark Richt.
  5. Gus Malzahn — probably overrated.
  6. Gary Pinkel — who has accomplished more with less?
  7. Hugh Frieze — heck of a recruiter.
  8. Dan Mullins.
  9. Kevin Sumlin. — maybe overrated
  10. Butch Jones.
  11. Bret Bielema — could be one to watch.
  12. Mike Stoops — tough to win at UK.
  13. Derek Mason — tough first season.
  14. Will Muschamp — currently unemployed.

Keep in mind, this is my list. Before you shuffle the order, ask yourself this one question: if Mark Richt were fired or resigned after this season, who might Georgia get to replace him?

Who would you rather have? For me, honestly, nobody on this list impresses me as someone that I’d rather have than coach Richt.

Also, let’s be realistic. Saban wouldn’t leave Alabama for another SEC school. Besides, I don’t like the way he “cuts” players if they don’t perform. Success shouldn’t come at all costs.

You can forget about Steve Spurrier. He HATES Georgia with a passion. Plus, I can’t imagine he’ll continue coaching much longer.

Is he a “better” coach than Richt right now? Yes, I’d say so. But would I rather have him than Richt?

No. I like that Richt keeps his cool under pressure. Could you imagine him ever throwing a headset, like Spurrier throws his visor?

In my first attempt to order the SEC coaches based on their success, I ranked Les Miles at #4, just below Richt, because his teams haven’t contended in several years. However, Les Miles can claim the one national championship though. So for the time being, I put him just above Richt on my list.

Don’t get me wrong; I like the Mad Hatter, but not better than “my” guy.

Who would you rather have? Urban Meyer? Rich Rodriguez? Please.

If you’re one of these fair-weather Dawg fans calling for the head of Mark Richt today, ask yourself this one question: who would your next coach be?

I believe Gene Chizik is available. Would you rather have him? Ron Zook? Or Paul Johnson?

Don’t even bother suggesting you’d rather have Jimbo Fisher. His program is a train wreck, completely out of control.

Give me a break.