The law of conservation of magic – a follow-up to my previous post on the law of conservation of energy

A while ago I wrote about the contrived creationist argument that abuses the law of conservation of energy to reach for an excuse to imagine that science confirms life continues after death. It’s been on my mind again since the subject came up recently, this time raised by a supposed atheist. Looking back on that old post, I don’t think I gave enough context then, so it is worth revisiting.

Briefly, the law of conservation of energy states:

Energy can neither be created nor destroyed – only converted from one form of energy to another. This means that a system always has the same amount of energy, unless it’s added from the outside.

Makes sense… Imagine the universe as a closed system of finite energy. Over time, that energy changes form many times but is never destroyed. Unfortunately this opens a door for magical thinkers to misstate this law as “evidence” of their magic. This argument generally comes in one of two forms, only the second of which I mentioned last time.

  1. It is a convenient excuse to assume that the energy for the beginning of the universe must have come from outside, and this outside force is then presumed to have been god. (Here is an example.)
  2. It is used to assume that consciousness, assumed to be some kind of energy, lives on after death. Since energy can’t be destroyed, proponents of this argument insist the soul lives on.

Tackling the first type of argument is easy – it’s yet another “I don’t know; therefore god” argument. God is a synonym for magic here. Like many supposed arguments for a creator, it relies on the believer already assuming that their creator exists, in which case it is just an excuse to work backwards to what they already believe. In reality, the law simply makes an observation about the universe, and the law only applies to a snapshot of the universe right now. It doesn’t say anything about where the energy came from. The universe could contain a finite amount of energy that expands and then collapses over many billions of years in a cycle, which is roughly what I believe. Note that my belief contains many gaps. No need to fill those gaps with deities or other magic.

The second kind of argument is the one I’ve often encountered, and is the one I wrote about last time. This summarizes what I wrote then:

Law of Conservation of Energy lame argument for an afterlife Example of begging the question
Premise Assume the existence of a “mind” separate to the brain, that controls the brain. (Let’s call this a soul, shall we?) Assume A.
Inference Energy is never lost, blah blah blah, some verbose crap here that distracts you from the assumption made up front. Introduce B, C, & D.
Remove B, C, & D.
Conclusion Therefore a soul exists and lives on after the body dies. Therefore A.

And I stand by that… The insistence that our soul lives on after death presupposes the existence of the soul, so it is just begging the question. Those who make such an argument use the term energy very vaguely. They assume consciousness has some source outside of the brain. So in their argument, consciousness is the energy they would like to imagine survives death. But consciousness isn’t energy. We don’t fully understand what it is, but it is clear that when our brains stop working, after our hearts stop pumping oxygenated blood into it and our nerve synapses stop firing, our consciousness, in other words our awareness and perception, ends. Consciousness is a function of our brains, a side effect of us being alive.

When we die, our bodies die. Energy does indeed change form, through decomposition, or in the case of our bodies being cremated, combustion. No energy is destroyed and there is no excuse to imagine the existence of a soul to explain some magical energy that you made up in the first place. As in my HTML table that illustrates the point from last time, you start with the assumption of a soul, a body lives and then dies, and you use a vaguely defined “energy” referring to the soul you made up and conflating it with consciousness, and then assume it lives on after death. Again, energy is just another word for magic here.

Hence I sarcastically refer to this as the law of conservation of magic. Assume magic exists. Add life. Subtract life. And what remains is the magic you assumed to begin with. Well done. All magic has been conserved. Twat!

Note: I can’t actually refute the existence of a soul. It is unfalsifiable because a soul, like a god, is assumed to be incorporeal and something that exists outside of the material universe. But in a not so strange twist, it’s unfalsifiability and it being assumed to exist outside of the material universe is exactly what makes this abuse of the law of conservation of energy a self-defeating argument. Energy in science is clearly defined, unlike this wishful thinking. The creationist argument is a poor attempt to use a pretense of scientific logic as an excuse to indulge in magical thinking, but the pretense is easy enough to see under scrutiny.

One of the worst arguments for an afterlife ever (The law of conservation of energy)

I’ve been down for three days with a muscle spasm in my lower back. So, since the pain is still significant even though I can walk now, here’s the shortened version of this post…

Although I don’t participate in atheist vs theist debates any longer, I am still a member of a couple of debate groups, and this dumb argument shows up from time to time, always presented by a man (we are the dumber gender, seriously) who is pretentious, smug, and arrogant… and keen to show how clever he is with overly verbose arguments.

Since I’m in pain and lazy, I’m going to illustrate how stupid the argument is by putting it in a table, side by side with a similarly lame argument.

Law of Conservation of Energy lame argument for an afterlife Example of begging the question
Premise Assume the existence of a “mind” separate to the brain, that controls the brain. (Let’s call this a soul, shall we?) Assume A.
Inference Energy is never lost, blah blah blah, some verbose crap here that distracts you from the assumption made up front. Introduce B, C, & D.
Remove B, C, & D.
Conclusion Therefore a soul exists and lives on after the body dies. Therefore A.

If you can’t see what’s wrong with that argument, you have “issues” with your logic. To be fair, the argument is normally sneaky about the assumption made up front, but it’s always there. The person making the argument puts a lot of effort into their argument inference… a lot. So much that it may be difficult to read, what with all the scientific jargon and elaborate sophisticated language. But none of that changes the fact that the energy lost in death can be perfectly explained by decomposition… or combustion in the case of cremation. Bullshit baffles brains but any argument that assumes its conclusion in the premise is wrong.

To clarify, this argument pretends to be scientific and logical because the argument inference tries to make out that some mysterious energy must be left over after a body dies, and that energy is the soul. Normally people respond only to the argument inference, as the writer intended, but the problem is that the argument always assumes this mystical energy existed separately from the body to begin with. Take away the entire argument inference, as lengthy and verbose as it is, and you will observe that the soul was already assumed to exist in the premise. It just wasn’t called a soul.

Edit… Here’s a real world example of a variation of the above argument, and as I explained in the post, it’s by a man who is as smug as he is stupid, but is keen to show how clever he thinks he is. From a debate group I was added to without asking a while back, so I tend to respond there but treat everything I see as fair game to share outside the group.


The ironic dishonestly of religious apologetics and theist debaters

Maybe I came on a little strong yesterday? I was thinking about this again this morning and came to something of a mini breakthrough…

Every believer who debates atheists believes in god. (Obviously.) But what does that mean? … It means that in every case, they believe that they know god exists. If you accept some claim as fact, then it is difficult not to be biased toward it, because you take it for granted that the claim is true. In every case, for every theist I have ever debated, and every argument for the existence of god I have ever read, it is crystal clear that they start with the assumption that god exists. Then they work backwards from there, coming up with strange pseudo-logic that only appears logical to fellow believers (who also think they know god exists) and non sequiturs. Thus every single argument produced is not about evidence for god, but about something else.

Consider this statement, which happens to be the most concise example of the argument, without the bullshit logical statements and other word salad:

Every creation needs a creator.

Now consider this equivalent statement that could be made by a flat earther:

The flat earth is flat.

If you are religious and can’t see the similarity between the two statements, you might have a problem.

In the case of “Every creation needs a creator”, the assumption is obvious. Existence is called creation. A creation needs a creator because it was created, because that’s what a creation is. But by assuming creation, you also assume a creator (implicitly). The second statement, “The flat earth is flat”, is also logically sound. If the earth was flat, it would indeed be flat. Both statements assume their conclusion, and while the first is one a creationist wrote in a debate, the second one was written by me to be funny and doesn’t disguise the circular reasoning by assuming the conclusion implicitly, but states it explicitly instead.

When we debate, we atheists ask for evidence of god, and none is ever produced. Actually I once had the misfortune of debating a group of people who asserted that evidence exists, and then declared victory. They became angry when I questioned what that evidence is and pointed out that asserting that evidence exists is not the same as producing evidence. (Seriously. It pissed them off. “You have not provided evidence. You just asserted that evidence exists, which is not the same thing.” That made them livid.) So we point out that their arguments are invalid. Because they are. Every argument makes as much sense as the single line example given above, just with more words. (And more words makes the assumption less obvious. It usually isn’t stated directly. And the words can be several points, paragraphs, or hundreds of words, or entire books, which seem logically valid, but still only work if one assumes god exists. And anyone else who shares those beliefs does not see through the poor logic.)

And can you guess what we get in return?

In return, we are told what atheism is. We are told what we believe. Then the debate goes off on a tangent about what the definition of atheism is.

And here’s why they do that: On some level, theist debaters must realize that they start with the assumption that god exists. Of course they do, but admitting it would be to admit dishonesty. It would mean admitting that the “logic” isn’t really logical but is working towards a conclusion that was assumed up front. Rather than do that, they frame atheism as a polar opposite belief, the belief that god doesn’t exist. Because if it were true, if we atheists started out with the assumption that god doesn’t exist and worked backwards towards it, we’d be “equal” to them somehow in the debate. And yes, that would make our arguments equally wrong. It’s a tu quoque fallacy of course to accuse your accusers of doing exactly what you’re doing, but let’s not go further down there. I’m mostly trying not to name the fallacies in this post, but I’ll tag them.

Of course that’s not what atheism is about. Many of us start out believing in religion and doubting it. The claim that a god exists is just that, a claim. We simply question that claim, and when no evidence is produced to support it, we reject it. We don’t claim anything at all. We simply reject your claim that a specific god exists. Then we move on… Looking at other religious claims, we see the similarities and the lack of evidence in all such claims. When someone says we “hate god”, we ask, “Which one?”. But theists ignore that, because they assume a specific god exists and ignore all others, ironically believing that those other gods don’t exist. I don’t do that. I don’t hold up your Christian god, for example, and give any more credence to it’s claim than say, Zeus, or Odin.

So at the end of the day, theists claim that atheists are making a claim just like them, because it would be easier if we were. It would be easier if my argument was “there is no god” rather than the more nuanced, “I reject your claim that god exists because I have seen no evidence to support it. Please produce something to show me it is real”.

And that’s why I see no reason to debate them any more. When all I get is someone who assumes their god exists and pretends to be logical about it, dishonestly not admitting the assumption, and who tells me what I believe no matter how many times I correct them, there is nothing to debate. We have no common ground and I am bored of telling them that their straw man of atheism is nothing to do with actual atheism, and even more bored of pointing out how pathetic their arguments are. Reading their nonsense over and over again also makes me angry; it leads to an emotional response. And I am tired of it.

Edit: My apologies for so often adding points in after publishing, but this post was written in a hurry… Also worthy of mention is their argument against atheism is often also phrased something like “It takes just as much faith to be an atheist”. No, it doesn’t. Faith is belief despite no supporting evidence. Atheism is precisely about rejecting such faith because of the lack of evidence, thus it can’t be about having faith. To insist it is, you are again claiming that atheism is the belief that your god does not exist, just phrased differently.

Imagine for a moment that their straw man of atheism were correct. It would result in a debate where you assume one thing, I assume the opposite, and neither of us is willing to change our mind. In reality, since many of us started out as believers, we have already changed our minds. That’s why we’re atheists. It’s the theists who set out to “win” a debate and are unwilling to change their minds. I’m not interested in winning a debate. I’m interested only in the truth. Thus I am not interested in how good your vocabulary is, or how well your prose flows, or how logical your pseudo-logic appears, or how confusing your word salad is, or how much philosophy or scientific jargon you throw into your arguments. If it doesn’t cite evidence for the existence of a god, it’s just words. Words are easy.

Another example of begging the question

In case any regular readers are wondering, I haven’t gone anywhere. I’m still here, but don’t have much time to write at the moment. My car, which was in an accident I wrote about recently, is still at the auto repair shop, so I get a lift to work. My lift arrives about an hour later than I normally get there… just before 8AM. I normally get to work at around 6:45AM, so if I am in the mood for writing (and I only write when in the mood), I have around 30 minutes to write, publish, and correct or improve a post after it goes online, and then still start working 15 to 30 minutes before office hours start. Until I have my car back, I won’t be writing much.

I wrote this one mostly to share that first paragraph above, but while I’m here… I saw this strange OP shared in a debate group:

if anything can bring this universe into existence, that must be God

In other words, if anything can bring this universe into existence, that must be the magical explanation for the unknown that ancient man made up thousands of years ago. This is an example of begging the question. Yes, the explanation for the unknown is indeed an explanation for the unknown, but that doesn’t make it true. I’ve mentioned it before, but no matter how many times you assert what you believe, the assertion doesn’t become true. (Someone please tell Donald Trump.)

The person who posted it is probably thinking of an argument from first cause, which I wrote about a while ago, but I find that refuting it is unnecessary in this case. The poster in this case was unaware of the circular reasoning in the statement shared, and probably won’t even understand my rebuttal in the post where I discuss the argument from first cause, and won’t bother to read it anyway. That’s not my best post… I wrote it before I knew what special pleading is, and although I mentioned it, I didn’t call it special pleading.

Lately I partake in the atheist versus theist debate groups mostly for amusement. The status mentioned today was a little different, but it was still just another assertion. Most of the posts are written by people who don’t know or care what atheism is, and I am sick and tired of explaining it to them. It doesn’t help if you are in a debate group, and all you get to do is define what atheism actually is, over and over again, to people who refuse to understand, only to log into the group the following day to find another person making a similar statement.

Here’s another fine example of stupidity:

Are you alive or dead in the afterlife?

What would you answer to that? I simply replied with, “Loaded question is loaded.” What is the point in writing in detail a breakdown of all the claims and assumptions made by such a stupid question, when you know the person who wrote it is not going to comprehend the answer? It’s not like they’re even interested in an answer that addresses their assumptions. When anyone phrases a question that way, they expect an answer from someone who makes the same assumptions. So this person expects to debate an atheist who addresses the question of “alive or dead” in “the afterlife” without addressing the loading of the question… Someone who answers after they have already been “defeated” by “admitting” that an afterlife is real, which it isn’t. They do not know that they made assumptions.

Anybody who says there are no stupid questions has clearly not debated creationists.

Is atheism as dogmatic as religion?

Yesterday someone asked the members of a debate group how we would respond to the suggestion that atheism is dogmatic, just like religion. My answer was simple: Tell the person to look up the meaning of “dogma” or “dogmatic”…


That’s the short answer. It should be perfectly clear that atheism cannot possibly be dogmatic. Of course, this assumes that the person asking the question actually knows what atheism is. They never do. So here’s a longer answer…

Before we can define what atheism is, in its simplest form, we have to agree on what theism is. I don’t think anybody will disagree with me when I write that theism makes at least the first two of, and possibly the last, of the following three claims:

  1. Creation happened.
  2. The god that you believe in (the particular one of your indoctrination) was responsible for that creation.
  3. If you accept this and worship that god (for example take Jesus as your personal saviour), you will be rewarded in some way, after death.

Here’s what atheism is:

  1. I don’t believe the above claims, because there is no evidence for any of them.

That’s it. No dogma, no creed that I follow. I simply reject your claims. I do not propose an alternative, and my views on science are irrelevant. There is no case of your dogma, whatever dogma it may be, being some sort of argument of equal merit to atheism. Atheism does not assert anything. It is merely a position of rejecting religious belief, as well as the dogma of religion.

In fact, I don’t even think past the first of those claims. I reject creation itself, without even considering anything further. And don’t tell me the evidence of creation is all around us. Besides it being irrelevant to my subject today, for you to take the things that you believe to have been created, as evidence of creation, the premise of your argument assumes the conclusion to be true. In other words, it’s circular reasoning.

An assertion is still not evidence of whatever it asserts

Sigh. I thought it was only theist trolls who did this… who spammed atheist groups with links to articles, the titles of which claim “indisputable proof of god” or “NASA confirms everything in the Bible is true”, when the articles themselves simply assert the claim by a third party. But they’re not the only ones…

Before I get to the one I’m referring to, let’s get one thing straight: An assertion, by definition, is a forceful statement of your belief (or fact). In other words, it is a claim made forcefully. The claim is not evidence of itself. Regardless of who makes the claim, how emphatically they assert it, and how tempted you may be to believe them because they are a figure of authority or someone you respect… a claim repeated is still only a claim.

With that in mind, look at this meme that was posted to the snopes Facebook group recently:


What do you see? I see some text with a few images. The text makes a claim, not even a very good claim… The Republican FBI? Russian diplomat confirms???

90% of dentists prefer Sensodyne toothpaste…

I know this is true because it was stated on television by a man wearing a white coat!!!

I commented to that effect, and obviously sensible people agreed (because the group is made up primarily of skeptics) but not everybody did. I was accused of having an agenda, where no amount of evidence will convince me… An agenda, in Africa? (Sorry but I can’t help but think of a sketch from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life… “A tiger, in Africa?”)

The person had posted a video before that, so I reminded him that I was commenting purely on the meme and left it at that. Anyway, it doesn’t matter… A video from a source that’s a proponent of your conspiracy theory, where a statement is made by a man who is some sort of authority (to you) and repeats what you want to believe, is just a repetition of the claim. It’s an argument from dubious authority and also is just another example of the claim being asserted. That’s not evidence. For fuck’s sake, don’t people know this?

I don’t know if the Russian connection with Trump is true or not, although I have not seen any evidence that suggests it to be so. But asserting the claim doesn’t make the claim true.

“Every creation has a creator; therefore God exists.” Way to beg the question, dude!

I really ought to stop debating these people. The other day I mentioned the one person in particular who posts nothing but memes that “debunk” evolution, or at least a straw man thereof. Even though I explained the issues with this argument multiple times, and posted my counterargument, this person continues posting the same thing, phrased differently, over and over. Debating isn’t only about putting forward your argument. It’s also about considering the opposing argument, something that person is unable to do.

Then I saw a comment presenting someone else’s argument, which started like this:

Every creation has a creator.

It then went on, via a lengthy and convoluted argument which I didn’t read, to conclude that god exists. I have also pointed out the problem with circular reasoning and begging the question to these people multiple times, but they just don’t get it…

Yes, it is true to say that every creation has a creator, because that’s what a creation is. However, that’s just a rearrangement of what is being claimed. By assuming creation to be true, you also assume a creator. One does not start an argument with the assumption that one’s conclusion is correct.

Consider this statement:

I am always right. I know this to be true because it was stated by me. I thus conclude that I am never wrong.

That’s exactly the same kind of logic. You can see it’s clearly wrong. My premise was that I am always right. My conclusion was that I am never wrong. But always right means never wrong. Likewise a creation has a creator, so assuming the universe is a creation is the same as assuming it has a creator.

In case anyone fond of Tu Quoque claims that as an atheist, I am also making an assumption (of no creation?) let me make this clear: I make no claim. A theist professes belief in god, and a religious apologist argues that the claim is true. That is, the belief that god exists, and that the universe is a creation of god, is the claim. If you assume creation, you assume the claim to be true. Proving that the universe is a creation is part of the problem that needs proving. The other part is to prove the existence of the creator. The source of the claim is usually some religious text, such as the Bible. As the source of the claim, that can’t be used as the proof either. It would also be circular reasoning to claim that you know the Bible is true because the Bible says so.

Aside: There’s more to the claim that I’ve omitted because it isn’t relevant to pointing out the begging the question fallacy. But to be clear, there is more to the claim. Most religions (and I use Christianity as the example because I was brought up as such and it is the only religion I know well) claim that after we die, we live on in some other form. So they claim that we have a soul or spirit. That’s a testable claim, but nobody has ever been able to prove it. They then insist that if we don’t follow Christ, we will burn in Hell, as opposed to living eternally in Heaven. So often, people simply post memes saying that we will go to Hell, without understanding just how many claims they make in the process, claims that have no evidence.

So instead of this nonsense of begging the question and disproving science, if you want to debate atheists, here is what is expected (at least from me):

  1. Prove that the universe is a creation, not by referring to anything in in that you assume your god created, but by proving the existence of your god.
  2. Prove that a soul exists, by proving that the brain is not the source of our consciousness.
  3. Prove that life continues after physical death.
  4. Prove that Heaven and Hell are real places rather than mythological ones.
  5. Lastly, prove that every other claim (of god) is false, and that your specific one is true. Any theist who knows only about their own religion (because they have accepted their indoctrination) but doesn’t know any others, can be assumed to be brainwashed and unable to proceed with debate, right off the bat.

If all those things can be proved without making any assumptions and without using bad arguments that are riddled with logical fallacies, I will gladly accept your religion.

Note that as an atheist, I don’t have to define what proof of your god is. I make no claim… all I’m doing in effect is saying that your claim is untrue. You claim that a god exists, and thus you must provide the evidence. If god truly is the creator of the universe, this proof must surely exist.

As an atheist, I also don’t have to provide some other explanation for the origin of the universe. Again, I don’t make a claim. I simply reject your magical one.

No, the “works of god” are not proof of god.

Just a quick one today.

I saw this argument several times in the last few days, and I have also seen it many more times presented in debate groups by simple minded and ignorant believers over the last couple of years, so maybe it’s time to write about it? To be honest, this is the easiest “argument” to refute of them all.

When you say that you see the wondrous “works of god” all around you, and they surely prove “His existence”, what you are really proving is not what you think:

  1. You start with the (implicit) assumption that god, your particular religion’s god, created all things.
  2. You then take the things that you assume god created, and declare that they prove god created them.

I’m sorry, but if you can’t see the problem with this logic, you are a prize idiot.

This is simply an example of begging the question, a type of circular reasoning. The premises of your argument assumes the conclusion. In this case, by implicitly and indirectly (it’s often not stated) starting with the assumption that god created all things, and then holding up those things as proof of god, all that you actually prove is that you made the assumption.

The “works of god” you see rising before you do not prove the existence of god

I’ll try not to make a habit of posting these kinds of screenshots, but I see this kind of poor logic so often, and this example is so fucking funny, I can’t help sharing it.


It is a claim made in this case by a Muslim, that God exists, because something he observed proves it.

This kind of observation can be broken down as follows:

  1. You start with the assumption that god exists.
  2. You take an example of something that you believe this god caused. (Usually it is the observed “works of god” – something that you assume this god created. In this odd case, the man assumes that god causes his erection.)
  3. You then assert that god exists, because he caused this thing or created this thing, that you assume he created.

The statement is a long winded non sequitur, because the conclusion does not follow at all from the premise given. It is also a fine example of circular reasoning.

This one is a silly example, albeit amusing. I have read the same kind of logic made my people less stupid than the person in this example… that is, I have read statements just as ridiculous, made by intelligent people.

Come on… your assumed “works of god” do not prove that god exists. They only prove that you assume god was responsible for those works. I struggle to understand why so many make these kinds of logical errors… Such statements do not prove what you think they prove… The prove only that the person stating them made an assumption… not that the assumption is true.

Very cool: Biological wheels and motors imaged for the first time, and the old chestnut, the argument from complexity

No time to write today, so a quick share instead… This is fascinating. “Wheels and motors” of bacteria have been imaged for the fist time. (Image is taken from the article without permission. Sorry.)


And of course, there are creationists who cite the existence of such natural wonders as evidence of God. Read the first link… The second one is too long, what with their irrational need to rationalize it as being evidence of a creator.

Of course it is not evidence of god. It’s the same old story… Ooh, something is complicated, therefore it must have been created by God. But God is just a name for magic. If you don’t understand something, fabricating a magical explanation for its existence does not make that magic true, even if the magical explanation was accepted by primitive people thousands of years ago and then handed down through the generations by brainwashing children before they were old enough to think critically.

The argument from irreducible complexity has been used for a long time for many different things, and it still doesn’t make sense. It boils down to saying, “This is so complex, it must have been designed.” The concept only works if you already assume that god exists, and that there is no need to question how this being came about (without recognizing that your assumption solves nothing and that your god is just another name for magic). The fact is, the same line of reasoning can be applied to the creator too, in that surely a being capable of creating such complex things couldn’t just exist. Only through special pleading can you expect this not to be questioned. Of course this fallacious argument is once again an example of begging the question, albeit a subtle one because the existence of god is implicitly assumed, and you might not notice the implication. But it’s still there, and the entire argument is formulated around this starting point. (Thus you have a circle.) So no, still no creator required, thank you very much.