Saturday, March 31, 2012
Peter Beinart, former editor of The New Republic, had a bizarre op ed in the Wall Street Journal of March 29 titled "The Jewish Case for School Vouchers". His whole argument was based on religion, on using public funds to preserve the Jewish religious/cultural heritage. Below is the response I posted in the WSJ on line -----
"Beinart's argument is as full of holes as a Swiss cheese. Here are a few responses -- 1.Tax aid for Jewish schools would also mean tax aid for Muslim and fundamentalist Christian schools. 2. US voters in 26 statewide referenda have rejected vouchers or their variants by a two to one margin. The 2011 Gallup/PDK poll showed opposition to vouchers at 65% to 34%. The referenda show that Catholic and Protestant and Jewish majorities all oppose vouchers. 3. Vouchers or their variants violate at least 39 state constitutions [and, I should have added, the US First Amendment, in the opinion of most legal scholars]. 4. Vouchers would fragment our school population along religious, ideological, class, ethnic and other lines, and destroy democratic public education. 5. By isolating Jewish kids in separate, religiously homogeneous private schools, anti-Semitism would enjoy a comeback. 6. Several years ago I debated vouchers with an Orthodox Jewish lawyer before an audience if Jewish high school kids from a Jewish high school in Philadelphia. At the end of the debate 100% of the students agreed with me that vouchers were a bad idea. 7. All major Jewish organizations, except the Orthodox, are opposed to vouchers and support separation of religion and government, which protects the rights of Jews and all other religious minorities.
"Edd Doerr, President, Americans for Religious Liberty"
Friday, March 30, 2012
by Gary Berg-Cross
Earth Hour 2012 is March 31, at 8:30 pm local time. It promises to be a very secular and humanistic hour, but I notice that like Darwin Day some conservative forces feel left out . Or perhaps that they can't let this type of progressive statement go un-co-opted. So the Competitive Enterprise Institute has jumped into the hour with Let there be light: 'Human Achievement Hour'. It coincides with Earth Hour but is probably not the same set of beliefs about protecting and saving the planet, our only home, that you see in WWF plea: Dare the World to Save the Planet.
"I Will If You Will" is a simple promise and a challenge. Dare anyone (your Facebook friends, co-workers, celebrity crushes) to accept your challenge and help protect the Earth or accept the challenge of someone else.
― Thomas Jefferson
By Gary Berg-Cross
The Headline in March 2012 read, “Influential Poet Adrienne Rich Dies At 82. I hadn’t stumbled on Baltimorean Adrienne but my morning was brightened from knowing her work and life as a pioneering poet (National Book Award in 1973 for the collection "Diving into the Wreck") and social critic. I wish I had hear her speak.
From the stories I learnt that Rich was widely acclaimed for multiple volumes of poetry and prose, and hers was an important voice about the oppression of women and lesbians maintained by old myths ... that perpetuate the battle between the sexes. With books like Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution, she was a key figure in the women’s movement and a fierce critic of the powerful and establishment. In that book Rich wrote:
"we need to understand the power and powerlessness embodied in motherhood in patriarchal culture."
In 1997, she famously declined to accept the government’s National Medal of Arts as a protest against the Clinton administration, writing that art "means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of power which holds it hostage."Here thoughts, I think, includes Humanist values such as in On relationships
"A long-lived relationship is about so many things. It is such a dense and complex process — always a process — and it's not to be summed up. It's not to be turned into some kind of vignette. If we are serious, we also have to recognize that even the longest and richest and densest relationship must end, and we see it around us. We see it in that inevitability of time's power, if you will."
Her life and thought is part of a human fabric we need as part of our movement against myths that maintain an irrational culture. You can see her fusion of art and politics and hear her concern for our modern culture and its values confronting the natural world drowning out human conversation in the poem, "What Kind of Times Are These."
Thursday, March 29, 2012
the believers. This comes across as a bit more reasoned than Rally organizer David Silverman’s loud, naked call for "zero tolerance" for anyone who disagrees with or insults atheism. His simple message is, "Stand your ground!"
for the deeper feelings - most non-theist’s “anger” is less about religious belief than injustice. She argued, in paraphrase, that the public misunderstands the basis of our nuanced motivation:
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
In his New York Times opinion article, "Citing Chapter and Verse: Which Scripture Is the Right One?", Stanley Fish, professor of humanities and law at Florida International University, argues that all "original authorities" choices are equally parochial, equally tribal, equally partisan, equally ideological, and equally arbitrary. Stanley Fish has his own beliefs, and he views himself as one of many other equally parochial, tribal, partisan, ideological advocates. What is important, in his view, is that while we hold and advocate for our beliefs, we simultaneously recognize that all competing beliefs have equally valid foundations. He criticizes modern atheists for placing "the tenets of materialist scientific inquiry" above other equally valid authorities, such as "revelation and conversion".
He points out that any defense of empiricism is circular because "the reasons undergirding that belief [in empiricism] are not independent of it." Such circularity is necessarily true of any possible method of belief justification (what Stanley Fish calls "original authorities") that is uniquely correct and successful. If there is only one method that reliably works then the only way to justify that method is to utilize that method to justify itself. But that doesn't mean all methods of justifying belief are equally valid. There is a way to compare the methods to each other. Consider the hypothetical: What would happen if we did not rely on this method?
Let's start with abandoning the methods of religious revelation and conversion, because those were the only two other methods Stanley Fish mentioned, and rely on empiricism (what Stanley Fish refers to as "education" or "materialist scientific inquiry"). What would happen? Well, generally speaking, people who convert from one religion to another other religion, or to or from no religion, and people who cite one religion based revelation as against another revelation, or no revelation, do equally well, more or less. So, for the sake of argument, lets just say that without relying on revelation and conversion people can, and do, proceed with living their lives as modern atheists (or, if you prefer, as "scientists") without major negative or positive impact.
Now let's try abandoning empiricism. Without empiricism we ignore our senses of smell, touch, hearing, and sight. We can stay perfectly still and within about one week we starve to death for lack of water sitting or lying in our urine and feces. Or maybe we move around, cut ourselves, break our bones smashing ourselves into things, burn ourselves, bleed to death, get run over by a car, walk over a cliff. The details don't matter, there are lots of possibilities, most of them leading to death within a few days.
Of course, outcomes are evidence, and we learn of these outcomes through the "original authority" that Stanley Fish refers to as "education", not from "revelation and conversion". So pointing to outcomes is an empirical way of defending empiricism. Stanley Fish thinks that makes the justification for empiricism circular, and he is right. But he is foolish, not just wrong, to claim that therefore empiricism is no better than any other authority for justifying beliefs. It is foolish because outcomes matter. The only method that reliably works is empiricism. Unlike all other ineffective methods, our lives literally depend on this one method, no one can survive as an independent person without many beliefs that are empirically justified. Everyone, even dependent young children, even dependent adults in adult care institutions, relies on empiricism to navigate our world.
There is no other method of belief justification that has any record of success whatsoever for distinguishing what is true from what is false. The reason that people who rely on revelation and conversion survive at all is that they are inconsistent. Religious people invariably rely on empiricism when they face important decisions that risk their health and welfare, such as whether to walk on water. These same religious people then arbitrarily rely on revelation and conversion when they make decisions that are relatively unimportant, such as whether to spend some time each weekend in a house of worship. Many religious people don't seem to recognize how inconsistent they are and fail to acknowledge the complete failure of revelation and conversion as methods for distinguishing what is true from what is false. Those religious people who really do follow revelation and conversion over education when making health decisions, also known as faith healing, such as Christian Scientists, sacrifice their, and their children's, health and welfare as a result.
At least one professor of humanities and law, maybe thinking he is being sophisticated by being non-judgmental, tragically appears to be unwilling to publicly acknowledge this substantial and important difference. Stanley Fish himself probably relies on medical doctors, not on faith healers, when it really matters to maintain his health, even though the medical knowledge database is obtained indirectly through second hand education that requires some trust in the sources of that information. He argues that because empirical evidence is often obtained second-hand, it is is no better than any other method. But almost all group activities require trust, such as the market economic system and democracy. It doesn't follow that a mixed market and command economic system and republican democracy are no better than North Korea's strictly command economic and political model. It is by inter-person and inter-generational sharing of empirically obtained knowledge that we continuously build up our knowledge base for better outcomes in the future than we had in the past. Yet according to Stanley Fish's relativistic argument, anyone with real and serious injuries who seeks assistance from faith healers instead of medical doctors has acted on equally valid evidence, and for equally good reason, as everyone who opts for medical doctors. The post-modern relativism that Stanley Fish is peddling is foolish nonsense on stilts.
Monday, March 26, 2012
by Gary Berg-Cross
- Friendly atheist blogger Hemant Mehta urged people to run for office, any post from school board to Congress to dogcatcher.
- Greta Christina, author of Why Are You Atheists So Angry?, attacked every major faith, even the teachings of the Dalai Lama. In a long litany of what makes her angry, she got all the way back to Galileo (overlooking the modern Catholic Church's restoration of his reputation).
- Adam Savage, co-host of Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel, said there really is someone who loves and protects him and watches over his actions -- "It's me!"
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Sunday morning had a great media follow up to the Reason Rally. The Up With Chris Hayes show on MSNC had a fabulous panel of Susan Jacoby, Steven Pinker, (Cognitive Psychologist), Jamila Bey (Evangelical Atheist from WAPO), Progressive voice on Citizen RadioJamie Kilstein and Robert Wright (Evolution of God). "An unprecedented look at atheism in America."
They discussed the place of atheism in their life, the history of religious freedom in the US, war, the atheism and morals of Ayn Rand, the Political Right, Libertarianism and how political-religion coalitions and how they influence each other.
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Pope Benedict XVI arrived for a visit to Mexico on 3/23. He is visiting a country, the NY Times reported on 3/24, "wounded by years of drug-related violence and a church whose priests have been both complicit with and victimized by drug cartels. . . . Catholics and critics of the church are demanding that the pope address . . . a sexual scandal involving a powerful religious order favored by the Vatican for years. That scandal, centered in a group called the Legionaries of Christ and its founder, the Rev Marcial Maciel Degollado, has remained a open wound. The accusations that Father Maciel was a drug addict who abused teenage seminarians and fathered several children re-emerged this week with a new book by a former Legion priest, which cites internal Vatican documents supposedly showing the Holy See knew decades ago about the allegations against Father Macial, who died in 2008." Benedict removed Macial from duty in 2006, but "critics and former victims say that . . . he knew about Father Macial, from testimony of other priests, since at least 1998 . . ."
(BTW, there is an old Spanish saying that fits here: "A priest is a guy whom everyone calls 'Father", except his own children, who call him 'Uncle'." ["Un cura es un tipo que todos llaman 'padre', sino sus propios hijos, que le llaman 'tio'."])
The Times also mentioned the rough time the church in Mexico had in the 1920s, but neglected to note that the Mexican Revolution that began in 1910 was in part a revolt against the church, which at that time owned about a third of all the land in the country.
I remember getting a Mexican freethought tabloid many years ago called "La voz de Juarez" ("The Voice of Juarez"). Benito Juarez was the liberal Mexican president around the time of the US Civil War who separated church and state in that country.
Philip Kitcher, John Dewey professor of philosophy at Columbia University, in his recent New York Times article titled "Science is Unbelieving", identifies "scientism" as a major flaw in modern atheism. He defines scientism as "this conviction that science can resolve all questions known" including "questions about morality, purpose, and consciousness" and places this label, which he acknowledges is intended to be pejorative, on Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.
He then elaborates that scientism "rests on three principal ideas. The facts of microphysics determine everything under the sun (beyond it, too); Darwinian natural selection explains human behavior; and brilliant work in the still-young brain sciences shows us as we really are." However, none of these three assertions, neither individually nor in combination, imply that science can resolve all questions known. Everyone with any common sense, including modern atheists, recognizes that science is a human endeavor, that humans are limited to operating within the confines and limits of their location and time and abilities, and that humans never have, and never will, have access to all evidence about everything, everywhere, over all time, past and future. Accordingly, science does not, and will not, resolve all questions known. Indeed, all questions do not have answers because many questions have no relevance to what is true or false or are incoherent. The issue of what questions should be asked is itself an issue that can only be reliably resolved by following the available evidence.
And when we follow the evidence, as all rational people are obliged to do, the assertions that physics is “the whole truth about reality”, that we should achieve “a thoroughly Darwinian understanding of humans”, and that neuroscience makes the abandonment of illusions “inescapable", are not scientism, as Philip Kitcher asserts, they are simply the conclusions that arguably are most consistent with the available evidence. Those are short quotes that Philip Kitcher excerpted from a book by one particular atheist ("The Atheist's Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions" by Alex Rosenberg). He is using his critical review of that book as his launching pad for his more general attack against modern atheism. I have not read that book, but taking short phrases like that out of context is not conducive to fair criticism of the author's argument. I can imagine such short phrases appearing in paragraphs whose context gives them a more nuanced interpretation than Philip Kitcher appears to be trying to attribute to this author. Philip Kitcher clearly dislikes these sorts of conclusions, but his mislabeling these conclusions as scientism fails to demonstrated that they are "premature".
It is true that "very little physics and chemistry can actually be done with its fundamental concepts and methods, and using it to explain life, human behavior or human society is a greater challenge still. Many informed scholars doubt the possibility, even in principle, of understanding, say, economic transactions as complex interactions of subatomic particles.". But again, science is a human activity, and humans are limited in many ways. So none of these limitations in science as a human activity counter the conclusion that physics underlies the whole truth about reality. Quantum indeterminacy, the necessary incompleteness in the description of a physical system, is one of the characteristics of the universe as understood by modern physics. So even if some predictions are impossible "in principle", it still doesn't follow that it is mistaken to conclude that physics underlies the whole truth about reality. What Philip Kitcher derides as "imperial physics" makes complete access to the future forever inaccessible to us. Furthermore, nothing in basic physics requires that the properties of complex systems be identical to the collection of the properties of that system's constituent parts. It is well established in physics that entirely new properties sometimes appear in complex systems. Nothing about this emergent properties phenomena supports the conclusion that god exists. Philip Kitcher may not like that physics rules over us and the universe, but that doesn't make the evidence that it does any less convincing.
Philip Kitcher then disparages the generalizing from evidence to conclusions "unfettered by methodological cautions that students of human evolution have learned". Indeed, atheism is a generalization, not a conclusion of science. Generalizing from the evidence is something we all do. It is a basis for sound philosophy, so it seems kind of odd to hear a philosopher criticize such activity in such general terms. We need to make decisions on the basis of the available evidence, and since the available evidence often falls short of being complete in the context of answering the questions relevant to making our decisions, we generalize on the evidence. Shame on atheists for being like everyone else in this regard!?
Philip Kitcher then points out that "others hold the equally staunch position that some questions are so profound that they must forever lie beyond the scope of natural science. Faith in God, or a conviction that free will exists, or that life has meaning are not subject to revision in the light of empirical evidence." The first two questions are existence questions and the only reliable basis for answering such questions is by matching the answer against the available evidence, not on faith or conviction. The evidence disfavors both, and the people who argue that empirical evidence can have no relevance when trying to answer those questions are no less mistaken for being adamant. The last question is an attitude question. But even human attitudes, to be properly sustained, need to be anchored in facts and therefore should be built on a foundation of evidence, not on counter-evidenced possibilities such as God and free will. And what in the world does the measure of profundity have to do with a question being beyond the scope of natural science? Profundity is irrelevant here. Questions are either inside or outside the scope of natural science primarily in relation to the availability of evidence.
Not surprisingly, Philip Kitcher tries to divorce his attack against "scientism" from disrespect for natural science. He notes that "The natural sciences command admiration through the striking successes ....". But "... the natural sciences have no monopoly on inferential rigor. Linguists and religious scholars make connections among languages and among sacred texts, employing the same methods of inference evolutionary biologists use to reconstruct life’s history. Attending to achievements like these offers many alternatives to scientism." With that last sentence, Philip Kitcher appears to be implying that modern atheism (a.k.a "scientism") is inconsistent with "employing the same methods of inference evolutionary biologists use to reconstruct life’s history" in contexts beyond the natural sciences. This is nonsense. Modern atheists very much support and favor "employing the same methods of inference" on the empirical evidence beyond the confines of the natural sciences. Inferring from the evidence is what we are doing when we observe that the available evidences favor the conclusion that gods are human created fictions.
Philip Kitcher then asserts "Instead of forcing the present-day natural sciences to supply All the Answers, you might value other forms of investigation — at least until physics, biology and neuroscience have advanced." But that is what atheists are doing. Atheists look to psychology, to anthropology, to sociology, to history, to evidence grounded philosophy, etc., and the evidences available from all sources that relates to this particular question is consistent in its direction wherever we look. That is why we are atheists. This has nothing to do with natural sciences supplying "All the Answers", it is about the best fit with the overall evidence answer to a particular question. There are human tendencies that explain the common bias against accepting the evidences that our universe is all space-time and matter-energy, such as the tendency to internalize the beliefs of the people around us during childhood. Maybe in the future we will have evidence that our universe consists of something more than space-time and matter-energy, or maybe not, but it is a mistake to insist that there is also a god without the evidence.
Friday, March 23, 2012
Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment, by Janet Heimlich. Prometheus Books, 2011, 397 pp, $20.
Journalist Janet Heimlich's book is one of the most powerful and important to appear in the last year. Maltreatment or abuse of children is usually thought of in four separate, but related, categories: physical, psychological/emotional, sexual, and medical neglect (as in dependance on faith-healing). And while these forms of abuse can occur in any social setting, Heimlich shows that they tend to be concentrated in religious authoritarian or fundamentalist culture, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Fundamentalist LDS, or other. I might note that while Heimlich discusses the problem of sexual abuse by priests, she does not adequately portray the worldwide extent of the scandal or the top-down cover-ups at the highest levels.
Among Heimlich's prescriptions for reducing the abuse are these: repealing faith-healing-related legal religious exemptions, requiring clergy to report child abuse and neglect, extending or eliminating sexual abuse statutes of limitations, and having secular agencies reach out to religious communities.
Breaking Their Will and Katherine Stewart's The Good News Club (which I mentioned on this blog recently and which I review at length in the April/May Free Inquiry) should set off all the alarm bells at the increasing penetration of hard core religious fundamentalism into our public schools and politics.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
By Gary Berg-Cross
The Reason Rally, slated to be the largest non-theist/secular event in world history, arrives in Washington, D.C. on Saturday March 24. It promises to be a memorable gathering as secular activists come together in the national capital to celebrate and express secular identity. The rally is sponsored by many of the US’s top secular organizations & will feature music, comedy, and addresses by leaders of the secular movement. Scheduled to appear are author Dr. Richard Dawkins, actor and comedian Eddie Izzard, writer and comedian Bill Maher, comedian Tim Minchin, the Bad Religion band and many more. The event is intended to give the secular community an opportunity to unite under the Enlightenment banner of reason. It's worth coming out for.
It’s generated some discussion and we’ll probably see some media coverage that will be interesting. The Young Turks has been proud to announce they have sent reps to cover it.
Of course there have already been some grumblings on why we need a rally for reason. David Silverman provided a nice response in Why we need a Reason Rally noting, among other things, that while it is “a non-partisan event with attendees from all along the political spectrum, it is a statement to Washington, to our elected leaders, and to the rest of the nation that nonbelievers are a legitimate political segment of the American population.”
And of course it is important because:
America is one of the most religious countries in the world. And if you are non-religious, it can seem that without religion you cannot be elected to public office, cannot be considered a moral or ethical person, or be considered a patriot. It does not appear to matter what religious beliefs you cling to so long as you can tell anyone who asks, “Yes, sir or ma’am, I believe in God.”
Apparently, some fundamentalist Christians are planning on coming to the rally too. They are currently offering a special online seminar to their members on how to evangelize to atheists at the Reason Rally. Expect some proselytizing to compete with the reason in the air. The Christian group that calls themselves “True Reason” plans some type of party crash, but they say they will bring peace and love. With that they have announced that they will be giving out their book and flyers advertising their e-book at the Rally. I hope they take some of our flyers too. What do you think?
Got questions ? Try the Rally's FAQ.
'Polls show little support for school vouchers'
"Republican Daniel Bongino has little chance of beating Democrat Ben Cardin in Maryland's US Senate race, especially with his support for the diversion of public funds to sectarian private schools through a voucher scheme.
"Last year's Gallup poll on education showed opposition to vouchers at 65% to 34%, almost exactly the average percentage by which vouchers or their variants have been voted down in 26 statewide referenda from coast to coast, including two here in Maryland.
"Edd Doerr, Silver Spring (president, Americans for Religious Liberty)"
As a writer and editor (books, articles, poetry, fiction, 40+ years of columns in Humanist journals) for 60+ years, I have also published several thousand letters to the editor in newspapers and magazines across the US, plus in recent years several thousand blog comments. The point I wish to make is that especially in this crucial election year, all Humanists need to get into the game. It is not rocket science. All it takes is will and effort. Try it. You'll like it. Start out with newspaper blogs and then try your hand at letters to the editor. I would be happy to provide examples. (Edd Doerr, Box 6656, Silver Spring, Md 20916)
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
by Gary Berg-Cross
March has snuck up on me. I didn’t know that it was World Water Day March 22nd until it was upon me. Lots of events in DC around the same week. The DC Water For People group helps people in developing countries improve quality of life by supporting the development of locally sustainable drinking water resources, sanitation facilities, and hygiene education programs organized. They have a new video here and an info page too!
Which brings me to DC's annual 20th Environmental Film Festival (EFF). It is just one of several film festivals we have that make the area a real film going pleasure. The 26th Annual Filmfest DC is April 12 – 22 and Silverdocs is June 18-24. Many of them offer secular and humanistic gems that advance public understanding of things like the environment through the power of film. And they often are shown in culturally interesting venues such as the National Geographic Society, the Carnegie Institution for Science, National Building Museum, various universities and embassies. There’s something for everyone with topics on water, sustainability, architecture, nature. I’d love to see Happy, IN ORGANIC WE TRUST or BIOPHILIC DESIGN: THE ARCHITECTURE OF LIFE shown as part of the multi-day, multi-venue Health and the Environment Film Series. The summary for BIOPHILIC is catching:
Embark on a journey from our evolutionary past and the origins of architecture to the world’s most celebrated buildings in a search for the architecture of life. The film showcases buildings that connect people and nature...
LIFE: CHALLENGES OF LIFE is another one:
Capturing the extraordinary things animals and plants must do to survive and reproduce, this film documents the actions of an array of creatures. Witness amazing behavior, captured at 1,000 frames per second...
And its being shown with BROKEN TAIL: A TIGER'S LAST JOURNEY, ELSA: THE LIONESS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD, HELGOLAND: ISLAND IN THE STORM and MY LIFE AS A TURKEY
Too many good things to catch them all. That’s one reason I was excited to see that SnagFilms is presenting select documentary films from the festival online. Bravo.
Monday, March 19, 2012
"Invasion of the Soul Snatchers" was the title I used three decades ago for articles in The Humanist and the Americans for Religious Liberty journal Voice of Reason. My subject was the incursion into our public schools of evangelical religious operations bent on proselytizing students. The next issue of Free Inquiry (April/May) will have my review, with the same title, of Katherine Stewart's book The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Chilldren (Prometheus Books, Public Affairs Press, 2012, 291 pp, $25.99).
Stewart's book may well be one of the most important published this year. Since my articles were published nearly 30 years ago the problem has metastisized, largely under the radar, into something truly frightening.
Stewart's book is must reading not only for Humanists but for the overwhelming majority of Americans who are not evangelical fundamentalists. Read my review in the upcoming Free Inquiry.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Sean Carrol of the California Institute of Technology, in his article "Does the Universe Need God?", says this: "Most modern cosmologists are convinced that conventional scientific progress will ultimately result in a self- contained understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe, without the need to invoke God or any other supernatural involvement." Furthermore, citing Hawking, he notes that "nothing in the fact that there is a first moment of time ... necessitates that an external something is required to bring the universe about at that moment." Indeed, "the issue of whether or not there actually is a beginning to time remains open." Instead, the Big Bang may be a "transitional stage in an eternal universe." He also explains that "the multi-verse is not a theory, it is a prediction of a theory", based on combining string theory with inflation. Furthermore, contrary to what theistic critics sometimes assert, a multi-verse complies with the preference for simple explanations because "the simplicity of a theory is a statement about how compactly we can describe the formal structure ..., not how many elements it contains."
Sean Carrol points out that a compelling argument for God "would consist of a demonstration that God provides a better explanation (for whatever reason) than a purely materialistic picture, not an a priori insistence that a purely materialistic picture is unsatisfying." Furthermore, "to refer to this or that event as having some particular cause .... Is just shorthand for what's really going on, namely: things are obeying the laws of physics." Accordingly, "there is no reason ... to think of the existence and persistence and regularity of the universe as things that require external explanation." Furthermore, with theism "we're not simply adding a new element to an existing ontology (like a new field or particle), or even replacing one ontology with a more effective one at a similar level of complexity .... We're adding an entirely new metaphysical category, whose relation to the observable world is unclear." Sean Carrol then notes the discrepancies between the universe we should expect if traditional theisms were true and the universe as it is. God "isn't needed to keep things moving, or to develop the complexity of living creatures, or to account for the existence of the universe." At 14 pages, his article is worth the time investment required to read.