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Islam or Atheism Which Makes More Sense

This is review of a lecture delivered by international public speaker Hamza Andreas Tzortzis to the Aston University Isoc on Wednesday 27th October 2010.
The lecture entitled "Islam or Atheism - Which One Makes More Sense?" proposed "The intellectual foundations of Islam make more sense than the foundation of the atheist world view."

Before we start let’s make one thing clear. The lecturer has started from an unarguable position; he assumes Atheism is a ‘spiritual’ choice. It is not.
Atheism delivers no ‘system’ of belief. It does not have a manifesto of rituals and prostrations or theories about the unknown. It is simply a disbelief; a position which is merely unconvinced by the concept of god(s). It is in no way ‘like a religion’.
I, for example, find there is no god because of purely philosophical thinking, as evidenced in the TMQ Core.
While the lecturer attempts to drag Allah into the 21st century by trying to weave him into what science has thus far revealed, he at no point makes any attempt to provide concrete details about the Allah proposal. The underlying assumption is still the age old, ‘we are here so there must be a god.’ an accusation which he sneakily levels at atheism!

When I started putting this post together, I was going to give introductions to each point I’m pulling the international public speaker up on but there have been so many, I’m not going to do that. Instead, I think best way to do this is watch the vid till you get to the time code. Read my bit and watch what he says or vice versa.


So here we go, I hope your sitting comfy, this is a long one…

4 mins 11 secs
“We cannot order our perception.”
There is, I think, a deliberate misdirection here. He presents real world items about which we cannot alter our perception and then talks about spiritual perceptions to give the ‘accidental’ inference that we cannot alter any of our perceptions. But perceptions are not merely about real objects; perceptions are emotionally weighted and, often involuntarily, emotions order our perceptions of that which is innately hypothetical. We only have a fixed order of perception when the subject is physical (if we disregard the theory of relativity).
If the origins of the universe appeared physically causal wouldn't every religion have the same creation story?
Every religion tells a different story, and none truly match with what science has uncovered; is this not clear evidence that all the ‘prophets’ got it wrong?
The lecturer uses this introduction to claim that all atheists fit into the empirical group and not the rationalist, and he states “this proves atheists are irrational” but as I sated at the top, not all atheists are empiricist; I for one, and I know there are many, many more, am a rationalist non believer.

I also disagree with his premise here.
The premise is ONLY valid where a person finds god through personal rationalist thought alone.
When you find god from a prescriptive book it is not necessary to have done any critical thinking
All the ‘critical’ thinking was done by the one who penned the book.
So as people of follow someone else’s critical thinking cannot be legitimately be called, by his definition, rationalist, surely his definition of the difference between atheist thinking and magical thinking only holds ‘true’ for Muhammad.

7 mins 5 secs
His first point in this section, "Whatever begins to exist has a cause." is a false premise.
His opening point would be more precise if it were worded
“In our current, very limited, primitive and undeniable short experience, we have found so far that whatever begins to exist has a cause.”

He goes on to state “We hear a bang; we know it must have come from somewhere.”
But no!
When we hear a bang we know we have experienced the sound wave of a bang. Our sound measurement machines (ears to you) tell us roughly which direction and how far away the sound was IF...
a. The sound was not pre recorded and played at a lower volume
b. The sound was not made in a canyon / echo chamber
c. The sound was actually in the real world and not a mental aberration.

While one can say one 'knows' the sound was made, one cannot begin to suggest one 'knows'…
Where it came from, how far away it was or even, unless one had people to ask if they'd heard it also, if it was real or in one's head.
Further investigations using the scientific method are required to discover these unknown variables.

11 mins 50 secs
“Infinity cannot be exported into the real world.”
This is an interesting one. The lecturer doesn't begin to address the question of the notion of infinity but instead decries the statement out of hand.
There's an interesting article by G. Stolyarov II Mistakes Concerning Infinity. It's quite intricate but it's thrust as it relates to this infinity point -
Until ANYTHING is properly quantified or measured it may appear infinite.

The subtext of this section is that infinity is ONLY a mathematical construct but, as far as I’m aware, science doesn't make the claim that some form of infinity is impossible in reality.
As a further thought here, if as the lecturer claims infinity is only a mathematical construct and not exportable to the real world, where does that leave god? Doesn’t that mean that a god can have no effect on a real world in which his "infinity” is only "a potential and never an actual"? Doesn’t that make any eternal god even more incalculably improbable?

14 mins
Horrifyingly only 5 students in this lecture had even heard of the big bang! A clear indictment of the poor science education delivered to students in faith schools?

15 mins
The lecturer loses his train of thought when he wanders off topic into 'politics' and states, “that's for another lecture.” an example of biased education for Muslims?
The point of this lecture is not the furthering of students understanding of science but, patently, to persuade the students that they should stay in love with the Allah dream in spite of science.
And the point of the politics lecture will be? I think you can probably guess. :(

15 mins 26 secs
The lecturer quotes scientists "Schram, Beechers, Tindley and others" who claim that at the moment of the big bang, the universe had "Infinite mass zero volume" then paraphrases for the students to 'get it' "a scientific word for nothing." but the point he raises is fallacious.
The claim of science IS philosophically troubling...
How can a finite volume have infinite mass? It seems irrational. However, I feel it's not irrational, but not because of dubious maths (though it maybe lacking some undiscovered equation or physical observation of which we are unaware as yet), rather because of the description 'infinite'. The scientists could have said 'incalculable', which, I assume, would look a lot like 'infinite' (in a maths equation) Scientists, this time, responsible for not considering carefully enough the word infinity.
It occurred to me at this point, why has he not investigated the meaning of the word? A tentative, intuitive answer came running almost as soon as I’d thought question… because the god he believes in needs infinity to exist?

17 mins 33 secs
He quotes the Qur'an (this is a paraphrase) "When you ponder the universe are you saying that this whole thing came from nothing?"
Clearly displaying the Qur'an as manipulative and confrontational. It forces the reader to make a choice, when nobody ever came to a consensus as to whether one must, should, or even, can choose! It imagines that the person, who finds him / herself existing, actually cares how they got there.
The natural position is, there is insufficient evidence to assume the Qur'an or any other tenet describes reality, especially when so much of every creation fable is actually wrong.

18 mins
He spends a few seconds belittling Richard Dawkins TV programme “The Enemies of Reason”
for more, my comments on the programme are here .
The audience laugh with his joke in spite of the misdirection. If those girls in the "Enemies of Reason" were 7, I'm a Muslim! Further, would the audience have laughed at all if they had not seen the show?
He decries Richard Dawkins as a mere prophet, failing to notice that in that derision he placed Dawkins in the same spiritual category as Muhammad.
Is he not guilty of Islamic Blasphemy for this?

18.35 mins
"That’s the arrogance of atheism" - failing to notice the arrogance of Muhammad; he wrote a manifesto which instructs that all the different varieties of humanity must live the way he thought they should! - How arrogant is that!

Remember Muhammad’s words only have power while everybody still believes in magic.

19 mins 57 secs
This is a paraphrase; he states "We may assume only 1 cause because we don't have any conceptual differentiators for outside the universe."
But he finishes the point so it MUST be one, failing to take into account the 'may' in the previous statement.
You could say it like this…
If one is going to ASSUME a cause THEN you may assume only one.
However if you are "not going to assume a cause" or similarly "assume there is no cause" you may only choose zero.

The same argument applies to his immaterial point.

Also notice how often the word 'assume' has been used here. These are all philosophical positions which must be assumed before any further step can take place. And all on top of the false premise I mentioned above! (7mins 5 secs)

21 mins 12 secs
He takes a moment to disrespects Dr. Stephen Hawking.
All Dr. Hawking did, as all scientists do, was to uncover facts and display findings; there is no agenda in genuine investigation, but he speaks as if it’s Dr. Hawking’s findings are all his own idea, not scientific discovery.

22 mins 23 secs
His point 3 that the cause must be uncaused for me ends the argument.

He uses the Occam’s razor argument at point 1 and states “do not multiply entities beyond necessity”. I’ve always understood this to be akin to always assume the simplest system.

The simplest answer for point 1 is ‘no cause’.
If ‘no cause’ is assumed at point 1, then point 2 the difficult concept of an 'immaterial' being fades to irrelevancy and point 3 ‘uncaused’ (because of absurdity of an infinite regress of causes) is automatically achieved at point 1.

If you are using Occam’s razor as your template for thinking on this point, why move past point 1 and through 2 more stages to reach a position of ‘no cause’ when the option 'no cause’ exists at point1? Occam’s razor dictates ‘don’t multiply entities’, the three points are entities, by Occam’s razor this is invalid!
So why move past point 1? There can be only 1 answer: It is to find a way to crowbar a god into the picture!

23 mins 30 secs
His point 4 - The creator of the universe MUST have a will
"If it's eternal (uncaused) and it brought into existence a finite effect (universe)", he says "then it must have a will"

a. It is impossible for the lecturer to know if the universe is a finite effect. Even if the universe is discovered conclusively to be finite, there may be other effects (multiversally etc.) of which we are unaware.

b. I fail to see how an uncaused event infers the presence of ‘will’ in that event.
If a black hole were discovered to be eternal, would it then also be described as wilful?

24 mins
Here he uses the description "because material cause and effects usually exist in the same time scale." but his point is about the effects of an 'immaterial' being, so this point is irrelevant - it's like comparing conditions of matter to infer properties of antimatter!

31 mins
He quotes that miracles are an "Act of impossibility" or an "Event that lies outside the productive capacity of nature" then posits that the Qur’an is a miracle before droning on for almost 3 minutes about how many people are convinced that, as a literary work, the Qur'an could not be any more perfect. This is all anecdotal; we have to take his word for it. We have no reason to doubt his/there opinions about he syntax and form of the text in which they are experts. And, barring any comparison by experts of equal merit in Shakespeare finding otherwise, I'm happy to concede any poetry they claim for it.
However, if as they claim the book is, within human comprehension, as perfect as it is possible to achieve then that only proves that it is possible, not impossible!
The Qur’an exists so, no matter how beautifully written it is, it cannot be seen as impossible; only improbable. If it were an ‘act of impossibility’ it could not exist and so fails to be a suitable example under his criteria for "Linguistic miracle".
However, apart from all that, evidence of perfection is a massive assumption short of proof of divinity.

34 mins
He states that the Egyptian kings where called Malik (Arabic for king) but also known as Pharaoh (whose roots derive from Hebrew / Ancient Egyptian / Greek for King) and then asks *"How did he know both words?"
Err, stupid! He knew because he lived in the area and heard the other name! Pharaoh is an ancient name and Muhammad spent his youth travelling extensively, what we know call, the Middle East bordering Egypt and Israel with his guardian's caravan.
It's an out and out lie to say there was an absence of knowledge of the time! In fact, now I've written it down, I’ve realized the full impact of how stupid a statement it is, and how disrespectful of the proud civilizations of the time!
How did he know? Well, it’s way too ordinary to cry miracle, eh?
I think it MEGA-FAILS to be a suitable example of what he calls an "historic miracle"!!

* "How did he know?" - This seems to be a favoured phrase amongst the Muslim charlatan's. Dr Zakir Naik uses similar mentalist techniques to instil a sense of wonder into his audiences' minds.
The inference is given in the lack of answer, it hangs some "ooh that's spooky" bait for the listener make a conclusion upon the unspoken subtext.
"Yeah that's magic/miraculous/divine! How could he have known if it wasn't?"
And they are willing to conclude this because they want to believe in magic, magic is the only way the poor can equalise the playing field with the rich man.

But I digress.

36.52 mins
He calls ‘all’ previous science "Nice guesswork or speculation based on theory but no specifics; there was no accuracy"

Look at this a minute - he's talking about 600 AD.
He's claiming that the greatest, wisest, most technologically, medically and scientifically advanced races the world has ever know - the Chinese, Byzantine, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan and people of the Indus valley had all NO KNOWLEDGE! The arrogance of Islam is truly astonishing!!

37.09 mins
He claims Muhammad "knew mountains acted as pegs to stabilise the earth" (along with the inescapable *"How could he have known this?") Then adds that scientists call this Isostasis but a more precise description of how the Earth's crust is self stabilising through isostasis would be Archimedes principle - NOT PEGS!
You call it a "Scientific Phenomena" if you want my son, I'm going to have to blow wind on your theory with my arse!

39.56 mins
He recaps on his conjectural 'evidences' and concludes this circumstantial section with (this is a paraphrase.) "there are no naturalistic explanations therefore we are seeking for super-naturalistic explanations"

Sorry son, NOT PROVED - try harder.

Prophet’s claim to prophet hood

40 mins
He was an ordinary bloke then had a revelation a "Paradigm shift... Everything changed because of the profound concept that there is no god but Allah"

Err, hello...
Akhenaton was the first Pharaoh ( circa 1350 BCE ) to conceive of the 'single, one-true-god of gods, unification belt'! And we know, because the lecture boasted, that Muhammad knew about Pharoahs. Then there are the beloved friends of the religion of ‘peace’ the Jews. They were there with their version of the utmost supremo superhero way before Muhammad cottoned on to the control system so...
Err, hello, earth to Islam, check history not the Qur'an, the Qur'an is full of misdirection and lies.

41 mins
He asks "1. Was Muhammad a liar?" And answers "It causes too many philosophical problems to label him such" then goes on to deliver 6 mins of anecdotal circumstance reverie about why one shouldn’t think he’s a liar then concludes in an emotive logical fallacy by saying very argumentatively "if you call Muhammad a liar you call your mother a liar because she never gave birth to you" then crosses out the liar point as if he's proved it!
Sorry dude – NOT PROVED

He asks "2. Was Muhammad a deluded madman?" And answers with a question "Could a man have come up with Islamic economics if he was deluded?" and a political rant about how Islamic economics is so much better than Capitalist economics.
I question this claim, maybe naively (I’m no economist), If Islamic economics was as good as capitalist, wouldn’t Saudi Arabia or Iran be as powerful as the UK? For me the claim is nonsense, for me, it’s the quantity of brilliant minds which forms a strong economy. But that’s a whole other subject.

So, Muhammad was not deluded? Conceded but with reservations.
1. As evidence of Muhammad’s connection to the divine he sites Muhammad’s economic policy. “There are enough resources for 36 billion people's basic living needs” but that is, essentially, Bronze Age man's needs. If I remember correctly that didn’t include the internet and the infrastructure of civilisation which makes it possible. As I said, I’m not in any way an economist but… Does Muhammad’s Islamic economic policy only work for 36 billion people if everyone’s in mud huts and burqas?
2. As far as I’m aware Muhammad spent most of his formative years around the dramatic wheeler dealing of medieval Arabic transactions with his guardian’s Bedouin caravan lifestyle. (“five for that you must be mad” ring any bells anyone?) So yeah, fair enough, not deluded at the time he 'penned’ Islamic economics but given his history and obvious intelligence, his conception of his own economic policy is ‘a big bagful of not surprising’ short of miraculous.
Also, this concession doesn't include any delusional episodes which may have bee brought on by Hypoxia from the cave.
However, as the lecturer’s ‘not a liar’ point was NOT proved, the question of Muhamad’s delusion is irrelevant; he can be a liar so delusion is not required as a reason for his manifesto’s claims.
There’s a further possibility here also, if the Hypoxia caused the delusion of visitations from spirits and Muhammad actually believed they were real, he would not aware of it being a lie when telling the tale of any visitation.

The Meaning of Life
50 mins
He asks – “What does it mean to be a human being?” then states "Atheism says; we are only here to propagate our DNA. What value does that have?" and "Atheism offers cold death because of thermodynamics." And “That means philanthropy comes to nothing.
After generally inferring and suggesting the atheism position means all existence is futile he makes a plea to the audience’s empathy...
“If we believe that killing a 5 year old child is objectively morally wrong then the atheist paradigm cannot justify this.”
Without exception all of his closing arguments are emotive; painting a bleak picture with dark cold words of a meaningless existence.

But atheism only looks like that to people who have been previously led to believe ‘god is light and life.’ Their perception has been ordered by the book to perceive the world that way.
It’s like with drug addicts. Happy and high on the drug but when they come off it, until they reacclimatise to the more normal body chemistry, every day is bleak and hopeless but the days are the same as when they were on the drug. It’s merely the perception which changes.
Don’t believe me? Stop drinking coffee for a week. (or whatever vice you have)
Take note: if you suddenly felt panic at the thought of that (no matter how slight) that’s exactly the same feeling the religious person gets when they start to sway towards agnostic. It’s not surprising so many stay with the drug/religion. It’s mighty hard to step away that from which your psyche derives comfort.

On his thermodynamics point, I’ve said it before The laws of thermodynamics are not the holy grail for the religious.
You’d have to read that post to understand why but NOT (conclusively) PROVED.

To the “killing a child” point, we know this is morally wrong because the child is the next evolution of ourselves (humanity)

Finally concluding, he makes it seem important that human existence should have some ‘added’ meaning but why should there be meaning?
Sorry again, NOT PROVED.

For me, this lecture is no more than tiptoeing of the troubled faithful in and out the scientific bluebells with the intention of casting enough doubt on the science for the audience to stay in love with their mythical sky daddy.
However, does the lecturer’s mockery of Dawkins and Hawking clearly display that Islam perceives these scientists as the major threat to their vice grip? Is it perhaps displaying that Christianity is no longer the largest perceived threat to Islam? Does the existence of this lecture signify that critical thinking and the scientific method, which bring forth atheism as a biproduct, are now recognised by Islam as public enemy number 1?

Makes you wonder, eh? If Islam is robust and thriving on its own merit why is this lecture needed? Or even allowed to exist?
Do you think the fact that it does exist and is considered so necessary it’s on an "international public speaking" circuit, is a signal that reason is making a bit of headway?
Is it's presence evidence that some Muslim youth and young adults, at least, must be asking difficult questions.
From the lack of dissenting voices in his audience it seems that his 'reasoning' is currently sufficient to comfort the disquiet in the hearts of the young faithful but how long do you think it will be before they are as unhappy with his (and other preachers) metaphysical machinations as I am?

For a further insight, here's a blog post by a representative of the Aston Humanist Society who was at the lecture; If you watch the lecture's Q and A videos (starting around 10:45), he's the one being mocked and belittled!!

Finally, did anyone else smell a hint of this style of desperation?

Kirk Cameron And Bananas - http://youtu.be/2z-OLG0KyR4

This is one of the Too Many Questions

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