Thursday, January 10, 2013

Talking about higher powers

Had a chat with an old friend yesterday. I won't get into too much about what started the discussion, but it turned to religion how it's not necessarily about God (capital G) or even god (lower G) but about a higher power - believing in a higher power. As examples he tried to throw concepts of infinity, and cause and effect at me... at me can you imagine :-)

Anyway as the concept of 'higher power' is helping him I didn't throw the big guns at him; despite what some people might conclude I'm not into breaking people's faith I'd rather they came to their own conclusions and help them with some of the false 'scientific' concepts religions tend to throw at their followers.

First I thought I'd try a little mind-blow with infinite. I probed slightly and found that he didn't understand the concept of things like bounded infinities etc. despite using them as proof. So I presented the simple example of countable sets:

I drew a series of apples in a line and then a series of stones next to them. "I have some apples and I have some stones. If I arrange them like so I can see that there's the same number of apples as there are stones. I don't have to count them to discover that I can see that I have an apple for every stone"

He agreed and I wrote out a set of counting numbers 1-6. "So how many numbers are there?"
"Six" he replied correctly
"And if I carried on how many would there be?"
"Okay so I'm going to write down a list of the even numbers in the same way... how many are there?"
"Right so are there more of these [counting numbers] then there are of these [even numbers]"
"I want to say yes, but the way you've laid them out [next to each other] makes me want to say no"
I smiled "What if I take each of these [counting numbers] and multiplied it by two?"
I matched each counting number with an even number with a line
"Am I missing out any of the [counting numbers]?"
"Am I missing any even numbers?"
"Am I duplicating any of the even numbers?"
"So I have a one-to-one relationship between every [counting number] and every [even number] just as with the apples and stones?"
"So the infinite set of even numbers is the same size as the infinite set of [counting numbers] which contains all the even numbers?"
Pause "Okay that's... woah"

The other part was regarding cause and effect. I'll use the big gun a little later, but I pointed out our brains spot patterns we exist in a cause and effect universe and so we've evolved to look for and find these things. Start dealing with things at a quantum level and even though we can say this might happen, we can't predict it will happen and in a lot of cases can't say what caused it.

"Bounce an electron against a 'wall' multiple times and eventually its probability field will cause it to appear on the other side. We know this can happen, but we can't say when and we can't say why it happened at that particular time. Is there a cause?"

The big guns in this argument is the one that theists seem to easily miss or gloss over when dealing with cause and effect. Their arguments runs that "Everything effect has a cause, the universe is an effect, so it must have had a cause, that cause is God/higher power"

At which point the sensible person then asks what caused God? To which they tend to reply "Nothing, God has always existed" which negates their entire point about why there needs to be a God in the first place - why can't the universe or the pre-cursor to the universe also 'always have existed'?

Ah well it's all fun until someone tries to kill you because of it.