Prager University: Four “new” arguments for the existence of God

Here we have Frank Pastore, former professional baseball player (and atheist) who, once becoming religious, jumped the rails when he went to the evangelical Biola University. This all explains his video (below) giving four “new” arguments for the existence of God. Pastore died in 2012, but these arguments weren’t new even then; all of them are long-familar  and long-refuted arguments about either first causes or biological complexity that seemingly defy naturalistic or evolutionary explanation.  In this case the short (5.5-minute) video, made for the conservative Prager University, lists four “Big Bangs” that science supposedly can’t explain. Pastore calls them “bangs” because he sees these transitions as not only momentous but virtually instantaneous, which for the last three cases certainly wasn’t so.

Here they are:

1). The “Physical Big Bang”: how could “time, matter and energy” arise from nothing? Pastore says this is convincing evidence for God, but he doesn’t raise the question of where God came from. Now that needs a cause, and would have to be a fifth Big Bang. It still amazes me that theologians don’t bother themselves about the origin of God. They blithely claim that he didn’t need a cause, but give us no reason why a complex divine being would be exempt from causation. For an answer to his invocation of God, read this piece by physicist Sean Carroll.

2). The “Biological Big Bang”: This refers to abiogenesis, or the origin of life from nonlife.  We don’t know how this happened yet, and perhaps never will, but if we’re able to create what we consider “life” in the lab, under conditions mimicking those of the early Earth, then it’s much more parsimonious to assume a naturalistic than a supernatural origin of life. But this event—which must have begun with chemical evolution with those evolving chemicals somehow crossing the nebulous threshhold of we call “life”—was almost certainly gradual. To understand this, read Addy Pross’s nice book, What is Life?: How Chemistry Becomes Biology

3). The “Anthropological Big Bang”: According to Pastore, evolutionary theory can’t explain the diversity of life, or (especially) the origin of humans (humans are always the kicker). The big question for him here is this: “How did evolution begin?” Well, we already know the answer to that: after chemical evolution produced genetic replicators that could be considered proto-life, natural selection would operate on those replicators, favoring ones that made better copies of themselves. It’s just natural selection, and is inevitable if we have heredity with replication that is imperfect. This process is, contra Pastore, certainly not  instantaneous, as the fossil record well attests. As for the many diverse species, well, someone wrote a book on this (Coyne and Orr, Speciation, 2004), and the process is pretty well understood and definitely not gradual!

4)  The “Psychological Big Bang”: According to Pastore, it’s a mystery how “a mechanistic animal brain can become a self-reflective human mind”. (Apparently he sees the human mind as not “mechanistic.”) Trotting out Shakespeare, Beethoven and our ability to produce art and ponder morality, Pastore simply asserts that there must have been some “Big Bang”—presumably in the hominin lineage—that produced our aesthetic and moral senses, as well as our ability to reflect and exercise free will (!). Again, this is likely a product of both genetic and cultural evolution. And it would not have been instantaneous, although it would be accelerated when humans developed language and the attendant ability to produce culture and art, as well as pass on the thoughts of those who died before us. Language almost surely produced a punctuated change in culture. But language itself probably evolved (both genetically and culturally) in a gradual fashion.

As for punctuation, at 4:47 Pastore asserts “You must understand that these problems require bangs—sudden binary pops into existence— since there’s no evidence for gradual development in any of these.” But we have the evidence for the last two, and the theory of abiogenesis certainly does not require an “instant evolutionary transition.” Nobody except religionists think that chemicals evolved into living organisms all at once.

At the end, Pastore says we have a choice: faith to believe in these FOUR Big Bangs (not just one!) or “faith in some kind of Creator God behind it all.” You know his preference.

Shame on Prager University for disseminating not just a religious viewpoint, but actual lies about what scientists say about the pace of abiogenesis, the origin of biological diversity, and human biological and cultural evolution.

61 Comments

  1. Achrachno
    Posted December 28, 2016 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    How could “Prager University” disseminate anything but lies? It was founded by a delusional nut and is not a university.

    • Erp
      Posted December 28, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      To be exact its total presence is as a youtube channel and a web site. I don’t think it offers degrees so at least it isn’t a diploma mill.

      • Achrachno
        Posted December 28, 2016 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

        Yes, it’s not a university, and is even less than a diploma mill. Its very name is a complete lie.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 28, 2016 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      Wait. It’s just as much a university ad Trump University…right?

      • Achrachno
        Posted December 28, 2016 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, you got me there.

      • Filippo
        Posted December 29, 2016 at 12:03 am | Permalink

        Re: McDonald’s “University.”

    • Posted December 28, 2016 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

      In fact, Dennis Prager regularly condemns colleges and universities as horrible places that you should avoid at all costs. Learning is the devil! I’m not sure why he would want to call his little propaganda machine a “university”.

  2. BobTerrace
    Posted December 28, 2016 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    1, 2, 3, 4. “How could” “we don’t know”, “can’t explain (in his opinion)”, “it’s a mystery “.

    That says a lot about his (willful) ignorance, not about reality.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 28, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    It looks just about right for a baseball player. Next…

  4. Posted December 28, 2016 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    God of the Bangs?

    • GBJames
      Posted December 28, 2016 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      Frank Pastore does bang on, doesn’t he?

    • darrelle
      Posted December 28, 2016 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      I thought Bangs were out by the end of the 80s?

      • busterggi
        Posted December 28, 2016 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        Louise Brooks will never be out!

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted December 28, 2016 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

        I always wondered how bangs got the name bangs. Perhaps that was God as well?

        • Mark Sturtevant
          Posted December 28, 2016 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

          According to the internet, the term refers to a cut that goes ‘bang’, right across.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted December 28, 2016 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

            Google – more useful than God.

        • darrelle
          Posted December 28, 2016 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

          Hmmm. You inspired me to search. No idea but here is what word-detective dot com says about “bangs.”

          “”Bang” continued to evolve, and by the 19th century was used to convey suddenness or finality, which brings us at last from Old Norse hammers to modern haircuts. “Bangs” are so-called because they are created by cutting the hair “bang- off,” abruptly and straight across the forehead. And finally, at the risk of offending our bang-coiffed readers, I must tell you that “bangs” as a young lady’s hairstyle almost certainly originated with the practice of cutting horses’ tails straight across, a style known to this day as a “bang-tail.””

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted December 28, 2016 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

            Ha ha – I’m not sure it’s going to help with the affrontery to bring horses into the argument! 😀

            • darrelle
              Posted December 29, 2016 at 8:06 am | Permalink

              Yeah, I’m not too sure about that either!

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted December 29, 2016 at 5:49 am | Permalink

          Do you call it “bangs” in NZ. Here in the UK that style is known as a fringe. I’ve only recently discovered the meaning of this USian term, which has caused me some confusion over the years.

          • Posted December 29, 2016 at 6:03 am | Permalink

            +1

            Sent from my iPhone. Please excuse all creative spellings.

            >

          • darrelle
            Posted December 29, 2016 at 8:07 am | Permalink

            Though it is now certainly a USian usage the evolution of it took place mostly on your side of the Atlantic.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted December 29, 2016 at 9:32 am | Permalink

            Yeah, we call it a fringe too, and I’ve been a bit confused about “bangs” for years as well. I always thought it was two bits of hair on either side of the face because of the use of the plural. I’ve only very recently worked out they mean fringe.

            And I’ve never heard a horse with its tail cut straight across called “bang-tailed” either. But it’s a long time since I rode or had anything to do with horses, so I might just have forgotten.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted December 29, 2016 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

              Me too, re ‘bangs’. I might even have thought that Carrie Fisher’s ‘buns’ were a sort of bang.

              But then I’m always confoozled about hairstyles.

              cr

      • Posted December 28, 2016 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

        Everything comes back sooner or later.

    • barn owl
      Posted December 28, 2016 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      Apparently forgotten is that hoopy frood Zaphod Beeblebrox, the best Bang since the Big One.

      • Posted December 28, 2016 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

        Was that in there? I don’t remeber it, and I read it all, twice!

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted December 28, 2016 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

          Oh yes. I believe it was Eccentrica Gallumbits who gave Zaphod the endorsement.

          cr

          • Posted December 29, 2016 at 12:09 am | Permalink

            Now the triple-breasted whore I remember.

            • barn owl
              Posted December 29, 2016 at 6:08 am | Permalink

              Isn’t it funny how the mind works? 😉

  5. Posted December 28, 2016 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Wow! That’s almost all I could say.

    What we have here is a prime example of why an ever-diminishing segment of our species is condemned to forever shoveling shit against the tide.

    This is precisely what happens when an psycho-ward inmate is allowed to learn about the visual arts as part of his “recovery.” Marketing, videography, and the like must be off-limit career choices for confined or recovering ignoramuses and certified nutjobs.

  6. Posted December 28, 2016 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    “As for the many diverse species, well, someone wrote a book on this (Coyne and Orr, Speciation, 2004), and the process is pretty well understood and definitely not gradual!”

    Don’t you mean to say the opposite?

  7. Posted December 28, 2016 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    More P.R.A.T.T. arguments. Previously Refuted a Thousand Times.

  8. loren russell
    Posted December 28, 2016 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Pastore was, in fact, a pitcher.

    His BigBang pitches went high, wide, inside, and in the dirt. Four balls and Evolution trots down to first base.

  9. Sastra
    Posted December 28, 2016 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    The first argument and the fourth one are connected.

    The reason Pastore and other theists don’t think God needs a cause is because they believe Mind is magic. It couldn’t evolve, it’s not material, and its existence is its own explanation. If you grant the assumptions in last argument, then the first one makes sense. Mind is the Big Banger. If you remove that, then all the other apologetics, including Cosmological Arguments, fall apart.

    That’s why I think that the fourth argument, though it sounds deceptively modern in nature, is really prior to everything else.

    • darrelle
      Posted December 28, 2016 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      You’re always banging on that a belief that mind is magic is a common factor in woo of all sorts. 🙂

      I think you are right on the money with that point.

      • Sastra
        Posted December 28, 2016 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        I have my own Big Bang then 😉

        The only counter examples I can think of involve “woo” like Big Foot, space aliens, conspiracy theories, or those bits of alt med which are simply wrong (like exaggerated Vitamin C claims.) Those forms of woo don’t seem to overlap with the supernatural, though — unless believers make a special point of adding it in via aliens really being angels or a naturalistic fallacy or something like that.

      • Posted December 28, 2016 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

        Yes, and she’s right.

        People seem to have the most difficult time thinking that their conscious experience could possibly be a result of the completely physical processes unfolding in their bodies. It just has to be separate. It feels so separate. Minds must be completely separate from bodies.

        • darrelle
          Posted December 29, 2016 at 8:24 am | Permalink

          Yeah. It’s the last low-hanging-fruit gap left for people to fit their supernatural beliefs that they need to legitimize religious style human specialness, because science hasn’t figured it out yet.

          As with so many religious and other woo claims, that these people can’t see how much more amazing and beautiful the naturalistic explanation of mind is compared to theirs makes me feel a bit sad for them. Sort of like when my children were pretty good young readers but not quite at a level at which I could meaningfully share my favorite books with them.

          • Zetopan
            Posted January 2, 2017 at 5:23 am | Permalink

            “they need to legitimize religious style human specialness, because science hasn’t figured it out yet.”

            Actually it’s quite common for religionists to reject a large portion of what science *has* figured out, so that they can claim that science hasn’t figured it out, thus straining to make some room for their irrational “explanations”. e.g. “no intermediate fossils have ever been found”, and other totally counterfactual claims.

            As far as the mind being separate from the body, chemistry (i.e. drugs) and electrical stimulation dispel that nonsense *very* quickly. False memories can even be implanted.

  10. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 28, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    If I had watched the TV sitcom “Big Bang Theory” more than I have (only 2 episodes), it would be fun to figure out which of the four male leads corresponds to which of these 4 arguments.

    Like many arguments for God, these just work on suggestive speculative maybe-supposals. And claim things are not gradual which are.

  11. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted December 28, 2016 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    1. The best idea for what caused the big bang right now is that it was an energy conversion from dark energy. The big bang was a hot event, which is a hallmark of all energy conversions, and dark energy (and space and time) could have existed before the B.B. Cosmologists are saying that this seems sufficient to have caused the B.B., and so I suggest we take their word for it before we look for infinitely more fantastic causes with no evidence. Next
    2. The universal metabolism of all life is centered around specific organic compounds (acetyl and pyruvate), and these are generated by enzymes that augment the action of specific mineral catalysts. These features — the organic compounds and the mineral catalysts, along with proton gradients (another universal feature of all life) are thought to be spontaneously generated at alkaline sea floor vents. Once again we have a mystery about origins, in this case the origin of life, but it seems an extrapolation of a natural system that would have existed even earlier. I suggest we pursue all possible trails for natural origins before we seek answers in the supernatural. Supernatural arguments have never panned out, and by now we should have no trust in them. Next
    3. & 4. are also non-issues. We have a fossil record beginning with a record of microbial life. All life today shares nested relationships in their genetics and anatomy that can not be explained except by common ancestry. We have a purely naturalistic model for how populations evolve and speciate, and this model perfectly comports with known facts.
    We have a fossil record of our less ‘mindful’ primate ancestors, but even they would have possessed some of the characters that the theologically inclined considers unique in our species. In other primates and in other intelligent mammals we see insight learning, joy, mourning, deception, curiosity, play, experimentation, culture, language, and so on. We differ from other such species not in kind, but only in quantity.
    The human mind is pretty amazing, but selection for ecological dominance is a known powerful force in evolution, and our mind has certainly given us ecological dominance over not only other species but over different factions within our species. Once we became the smartest thing around, populations of us would have undergone natural selection to be even smarter, pushing out our ancestral competitors. Notice that the Australopithecines did not stick around long after members of our genus appeared? And see any Homo erectus lately?

  12. Posted December 28, 2016 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    There are things we don’t understand today, and there probably things we will never understand. What puzzles me, though, is how people believe in simple solutions as “God” or “soul” to explain them. If we don’t understand it, why try to explain?

  13. Phil_Torres
    Posted December 28, 2016 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Whoa, whoa, whoa!!! Jerry, what about free speech? Are you suggesting that the university should have prevented the expression of these ideas?

    “Shame on Prager University for disseminating not just a religious viewpoint, but actual lies about what scientists say about the pace of abiogenesis, the origin of biological diversity, and human biological and cultural evolution.”

    • jeremy pereira
      Posted December 29, 2016 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      Your right to free speech does not translate to my duty to provide you with a platform.

  14. keith cook +/-
    Posted December 28, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Four bangs inside the head is all it took, internal bleeding and pressure and life as a mystery is now explained.

  15. Carl
    Posted December 28, 2016 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    I hope many here are familiar with 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction by Rebecca Goldstein. It’s a novel with religious/atheist themes. It has a non-fiction appendix where Goldstein carefully goes through and demolishes 36 arguments for the existence of God.

    If you don’t know Goldstein, you are missing out. Both her fiction and non-fiction is fantastic. Her novels are quite philosophical, and she brings a novelist’s touch to her non-fiction. She is married to Steven Pinker. I doubt if Duck Dynasty is watched often in that house.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted December 28, 2016 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      Or either of them read in the homes of the Trum…proles…AH!…trolls!

  16. BJ
    Posted December 28, 2016 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    I’m as atheistic as they come, but I have to take up the title of Devil’s Advocate (heh heh) on your first point. The most common response to your question is that god exists beyond the bounds of time and space; he/she/it is infinite, has always existed, and always will exist.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted December 28, 2016 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

      Well, that is what they may say today, while conveniently forgetting that this agoraphobic god has a history of retreating to hide from our detection. In the past they were claiming that god was above the clouds, then later they god’splained that he was of course waaay out there in deep space. Now he hides in a parallel dimension.
      Some god.

      • BJ
        Posted December 28, 2016 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

        I didn’t say it was a good answer or that it comported with previous religious ideas of god. PCC said that theologians don’t seem to have an answer for the question, “if god created the universe, who created god,” so I was merely providing it.

      • busterggi
        Posted December 29, 2016 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        If its any consolation he was no nicer when he just lived on the top of a very high hill nearby.

      • Zetopan
        Posted January 2, 2017 at 5:42 am | Permalink

        “In the past they were claiming that god was above the clouds”

        Going back even farther, all of the gods lived in the rocks and the trees, but then people figured out how rocks and trees formed.

        At that point the gods had to move to the sky and underground to get farther away from any actual scrutiny. Even before people found out how the Earth was formed and what the stars really were, the gods had to pack up and relocate farther away because too many people were starting to understand the Earth and the sky.

        Where did they move to? Well, young Earth physicist [sic] Robert Gentry claims to have found that his god’s home is some 20,000 light years distant from the Earth. The more samistimicated members of the supremely superstitious looked head and decided that their gods were outside of the universe altogether. For rational people that means that we need not worry at all about any gods mucking things up, since they are now located safely outside our universe.

  17. Ken Phelps
    Posted December 28, 2016 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    It’s so cute when people trot out Beethoven and cathedral windows and string quartets and such as evidence of our artistic sensibilities, when much of humanity hates that stuff and would prefer Stompin’ Tom Connors and a can of Kokanee.

    While Stompin’ Tom might in some situations convince me that there was a realm beyond my understanding, I would not attribute that realm to a benevolent deity.

  18. Kevin
    Posted December 28, 2016 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Ok Prager, let everyone on planet earth rejoice. You did it! 1,2,3,4. We’re done. What next?

    I am no better off than five minutes ago and neither was anyone else. Oh wait. Are you expecting everyone to be convinced and only then will we all rise tomorrow and God will appear for the first ever and we will see that Prager’s thesis was correct.

    Really? What next? God can exist, I get it, but that does not appear to have any empirical difference on the universe. Congratulations you have made the 1234-Agnostic God.

  19. Walt Jones
    Posted December 28, 2016 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    I left the game at #1. Because we cannot do more than speculate about what happened – or existed – before (if that has any meaning in this context) the Big Bang, the rational position is to assume that something existed.

    Unless nothing can exist. Can it?

    • Posted December 28, 2016 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

      That’s a great question. I frequently rebut the argument “why is there something rather than nothing” by asking why the arguer thinks nothing should be the default.

  20. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted December 28, 2016 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    And God said, “Don’t touch tha…” *!!!BANG!!!*

    – one of my favourite taglines.

    cr

  21. Posted December 29, 2016 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    I have a question about abiogenesis:

    When you say “we don’t know how this happened”, does that mean we don’t know of any way that it could have happened, or does it mean that of all the ways we can think of that it might have happened, we don’t know which one is correct? (Of course if it’s the latter then we would also have to allow for the possibility that it happened in a way that nobody has thought of yet.)


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