Sunday, November 25, 2007

Astonishing Lack of Comprehension

A theist named Scott Caan opened a ridiculous strawman argument on the Atheism, Logic and Truth forum on Facebook:

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the Earth” -- Genesis
“The cosmos is that that is, or ever was, or ever will be. ” – Carl Sagan.

The two statements above are both statements of faith. Neither can be experimentally verified and both make assumptions. The two statements also offer a remarkable contrast. The first statement indicates:
1. There was a beginning.
2. The beginning was caused.
3. The cause was God.
The second statement indicates:
1. There was no beginning.
2. The cosmos is self-existing and thus uncaused.
3. The universe was not created and thus is the product of non-intelligence.

Amazing, isn't it? As I said in my reply,

The Sagan quote does not support any one of the three things you claim it does. It is simply a definition (not a "statement of faith") of the word 'cosmos' as being inclusive of all phenomena throughout all time; it does not even address the existence or not of an origin point, nor does it address causation or processes of the cosmos.

It's a pretty astonishing feat of reading incomprehension to so totally misread so short a quote you selected yourself, or indeed even to select a quote from someone whose body of work so totally fails to match the position you want set up in opposition to your preferred conclusion.

To give you the citation, the Sagan quote you used is from the first textual page of the first chapter of 'Cosmos' - page 4 of the book. Had you made the scholarly effort to read the remainder of that chapter - all the way to page 21 - you would have found this:

"We now know that our universe - or at least its most recent incarnation - is some fifteen to twenty billion years old. This is the time since a remarkable explosive event called the Big Bang. At the beginning of this universe, there were no galaxies, stars or planets, no life or civilizations, merely a uniform, radiant fireball filling all of space."

Needless to say, this is in total opposition to the viewpoint you chose to attack, that the universe has always existed in its present state - a viewpoint Sagan never held, and which no astrophysicist of any stature has supported since the COBE cosmic background measurements in 1964 at the very latest.

You make really shoddy strawmen, my friend, and you should work on your quote mining too. Granted that you don't really understand basic physics (Hint: the Second Law of Thermodynamics is a *statistical* observation), it still behooves anyone with pretensions to intellectual honesty not to totally misrepresent another person's stated positions.

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