Daniel Dennett on why faith should be investigated scientifically, and why he's coming out of the closet as a nonbeliever.
03/26/2006 06:30:14 PM
I, and other posters here, gave you full answers to your questions, signofthetimes. And I also identified that some of the other psychedelics' also replicated most of the NDE experience. I haven't "discounted" yours - or your friends and acquaintences - observations at all. I am just not in a position, unlike the controlled experiments that I am familiar with, to appraise them. And the controlled experients have in no way been performed by people "unskilled in determining psychic states." You simply make too many assumptions to be taken at all seriously.
03/26/2006 02:13:14 AM
I'm about to do the same, Tysson. You've been a breath of fresh air. Ciao
03/26/2006 01:38:36 AM
"When rational inquiry supports the creed it is championed; when it poses a threat, it is derided sometimes in the same sentence." LOL! True, but this seems more of a human trait than a religious one. I think it was only last week or so that this phenomenon was studied within the realm of politics. At any rate, it's been good talking to you. However, I'm heading off to bed. Take care. :-)
03/26/2006 01:12:52 AM
Actually, what I meant to say earlier is that, I don't think science will remain mute on spiritual questions (or ethical one's) much longer. In fact, even now we can see the first stirrings among psychologists and neuroscientists of what may one day be a genuinely rational approach to these matters.
03/26/2006 01:07:19 AM
"Remember, I'm not arguing that faith is either rational or necessary." I understand, Tysson. Just thinking out aloud.
03/26/2006 01:04:55 AM
The kind of faith that I have been talking about is the kind that has given us religion. Religious faith is the belief in historical and metaphysical propositions without sufficient evidence. When the evidence for a religious proposition is thin or nonexistent, or there is compelling evidence against it, people invoke faith. People of faith naturally recognize the primacy of reasons and resort to reasoning whenever they possibly can. Faith is simply the license they give themselves to keep believing when reasons fail. When rational inquiry supports the creed it is championed; when it poses a threat, it is derided sometimes in the same sentence.
03/26/2006 12:57:22 AM
"No doubt, but that is not to say that faith has anything to contribute there either." Perhaps not. That question is, obviously, a matter of faith. Remember, I'm not arguing that faith is either rational or necessary. ;-)
03/26/2006 12:54:52 AM
"It really has no choice but to remain mute on such questions". No doubt, but that is not to say that faith has anything to contribute there either.
03/26/2006 12:21:29 AM
"And I don't know that science will remain mute on such questions for long." It really has not choice but to remain mute on such questions. As for the rest, I would argue that the notion that beliefs can "float entirely free" of reason and evidence is a product of modernity. In traditional societies, religion was quite different than what it is today. Folk religions in particular were/are vast repositories of practical knowledge about the way the world works, constructed through countless generations of trial and error.
03/26/2006 12:01:22 AM
I wonder why it is that in this one area of our lives - the realm of the great "whys" of existence - we have convinced ourselves that our beliefs about the world can float entirely free of reason and evidence, partitioning our minds to accomodate the profligate truth claims of faith? In places where scholars can still be stoned to death for doubting the veracity of a supposedly holy book, the notion of a "loving concordat" between faith and reason would be perfectly delusional. And I don't know that science will remain mute on such questions for long.
03/25/2006 10:53:20 PM
This is what makes Augustine's remark that 'faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward for faith is to see what you believe', so sinister; for if one can believe anything, one can 'see' anything - and therefore feel entitled to do anything accordingly.
03/25/2006 10:52:20 PM
"Faith is belief even in the face of contrary evidence." If this is how you choose to define your terms, then your argument becomes circular. I believe a better way to frame the dichotomy between faith and reason is in terms of different ways of knowing. Science is self-limiting, restricting itself to that which is definable and falsifiable. As such, it has become tremendously powerful in describing all the great "hows" of existence. It is utterly silent on the questions of "why." As long as one keeps the "hows" and the "whys" separate, there need be no conflict between faith and reason.
03/25/2006 10:50:06 PM
In the branch of philosophy called epistemology, knowledge is defined as belief which is both true and justified. One main theory describes knowledge as a relationship between a state of mind and a fact. The content of the mental state is a judgement responsibly made, and the fact is (for example) some arrangement of the world which, when the judgement is true, is what makes it so. Belief differs from knowledge in that whereas the latter is controlled by facts, and depends upon the right kind of relationship between mind and world, the former is all and only in the mind, and does not rely on anything in the world. One can, in short, believe anything.
03/25/2006 10:46:04 PM
"While that was undoutedly true perhaps a century ago, Tysson, it is hardly the case today." Nonsense. I, too, have worked with scientists from all around the world. To say that their scientific approaches and interpretations are not influenced by their cultural backgrounds would be simply myopic.
03/25/2006 10:44:26 PM
And I'm in agreement with steppen when he says that "Where we have no reasons, we have lost both our connection to the world and to each other." Faith is a negation of reason. Reason is the faculty of proportioning judgement to evidence, ater first weighing the evidence. Faith is belief even in the face of contrary evidence. Soren Kierkegaard defined faith as a leap taken despite everything, despite the absurdity of what one is asked to believe. When people can doggedly choose to believe that black is white, and can, in their utter certainty, go so far as to shoot you because you do not agree, there is little room for debate. 'Faith, fanatic Faith, once wedded fast to some dear falsehood, hugs it to the last', says Thomas Moore's 'Veiled Prophet of Khorassan'.
03/25/2006 10:27:20 PM
"(S)cience is...a cultural and social construct that is not immune to the social fashions in which it finds itself." While that was undoutedly true perhaps a century ago, Tysson, it is hardly the case today. Science is now a global enterprise that transcends all the cultural constructs and social fashions. In my department alone, there are Chinese, Indians, Europeans, and Asians working, studying, analysing, as if our cultural backgrounds didn't exist at all.
03/25/2006 06:02:51 PM
"Where we have reasons for what we believe, we have no need of faith;" I certainly wouldn't argue against that. :-) "where we have no reasons, we have, I repeat, lost both our connection to the world and to one another." I guess I don't understand the context from which you make this assertion. I can think of many instances in which the scientific method is insufficient to guide our decisions. In those cases, faith may not be necessary, but it certainly does not represent a disconnect with the world or with those around us.
03/25/2006 05:59:06 PM
"It has the added advantage of revealing the universe to be a more complex, vast, and beautiful place then we ever imagined." This, too, depends on perspective. Neverthless, I cannot argue that science has not revealed the universe to be vast, complex and beautiful. Of course, this is hardly in conflict with my religious beliefs. ;-)
03/25/2006 05:55:44 PM
"It also makes us, rather than some deity or transcendent force, responsible for our own destiny." Yet this assertion is rooted firmly in only one of many theistic outlooks. Not all religions--by far--assert that a deity or transcendent force is responsible for our own destiny!
03/25/2006 05:51:46 PM
"Further, unlike faith, it emphasizes the connectedness of all people and all things." Unlike faith? That's rather a bold assertion painted with an overly broad brush. I would submit that modern science emphasizes a connectedness of all people and things more as a reflection of post-modernist impulses within society at large rather than anything intrinsic to the historical practice of science. It wasn't that long ago, after all, that science was rather preoccupied with the differences between people and things. Though admittedly more rigorous than other methods of building models of the objective universe and less prone to the preconceptions that religions often bring to the table, science is, nevertheless, a cultural construct that is not immune to the social fashions in which it finds itself.
03/25/2006 05:43:48 PM
"I believe 'context' in respect to the preponderance of scientific evidence..." So, for you, the only context that matters is the one that builds rational models of the objective universe. Having been a scientist myself for 17 years, I can certainly understand that. There are, however, other contexts in which this debate can be framed.
03/25/2006 05:22:57 PM
Heading to the park with the kids. See you all later.
03/25/2006 05:16:28 PM
"You seem to be offering a false dichotomy. faith and reason are not always at odds with one another." On this I would demur, Tysson. Where we have reasons for what we believe, we have no need of faith; where we have no reasons, we have, I repeat, lost both our connection to the world and to one another.
03/25/2006 05:10:35 PM
I believe 'context' in respect to the preponderance of scientific evidence, Tysson, transcends that of any supernaturalist/religious view one might be operating out of. Unlike religion, scientific fact, or, rather, the paradigm of meritocratic rational enquiry that scientific fact arises out of, is, as Chet Raymo has pointed out, universal, true for all people at all times. Further, unlike faith, it emphasizes the connectedness of all people and all things. It also makes us, rather than some deity or transcendent force, responsible for our own destiny. It has the added advantage of revealing the universe to be a more complex, vast, and beautiful place then we ever imagined. But it is good to hear a believer confess with genuine honesty that others "do not need my beliefs in order to lead happy, healthy and moral lives."
03/25/2006 05:01:27 PM
"the concept of the 'soul' is almost implicit in the supernaturalist, or theistic, emphasis on the near-death-experience." Granted. Again, though, we fall by default into the Christian paradigm. Not being Christian, I see no reason to be limited by that faith's definitions. ;-)
03/25/2006 04:58:47 PM
"when our choices are grounded in faith and not in the rational criteria of evidence, we lose contact with both the world and each other." You seem to be offering a false dichotomy. Faith and reason are not always at odds with one another.
03/25/2006 04:57:04 PM
I meant 'Christian concept of the soul' in both lines of my previous post.
03/25/2006 04:55:50 PM
"I think the vast preponderance of evidence most decidedly falls more favorably in the direction of the atheist or skeptic" And I would say that this depends entirely on the context in which you view science and/or religion operating. If science were somehow to disprove the divine (an admittedly impossible task), it would not affect my religious practice. Why? Because my life has improved in every way, qualitatively and quantitatively, over what it was before I came to my belief. Unlike most monotheistic univeralists, however, I fully recognize and accept that others do not need my beliefs in order to lead happy, healthy and moral lives.
03/25/2006 04:54:37 PM
Perhaps, Tysson, but the concept of the 'soul' is almost implicit in the supernaturalist, or theistic, emphasis on the near-death-experience. To its credit, the Christian concept of the soul is also the least murkiest of the different cultural and religious views of 'spirit'.
03/25/2006 04:49:09 PM
I must add, though, Tysson, that when our choices are grounded in faith and not in the rational criteria of evidence, we lose contact with both the world and each other.
03/25/2006 04:48:11 PM
"This is like believing that inside every wrecked car lurks a new car just waiting to get out." Of course, this presuposes the Christian mind/body/spirit construct as a starting point. Different cultures and religions view this quite differently with different consequences that cause this analogy to break down.
03/25/2006 04:46:03 PM
I agree with you, Tysson, although I think the vast preponderance of evidence most decidedly falls more favorably in the direction of the atheist or skeptic than in the way of the supernaturalist, whose little refuge of incredibility gets smaller and smaller by the day.
03/25/2006 04:41:48 PM
It seems from your fervor that NDEs have provided for you incontrovertible evidence of the divine. That's great. It just isn't persuasive for those who have not had NDEs or who, having experienced NDEs, have come to a different conclusion. There is no "right" answer here, only "the most likely scenario based on available evidence" vs. "faith." I choose faith, but I recognize that my choice is not based on rational criteria. There is nothing threatening about that. :-)
03/25/2006 04:41:35 PM
"What survival value is there in that?" I have no idea what you mean by this. Could you clarify? I have already put forward one possible evolutionary mechanism by which NDEs could come about. There are others as well, especially those that relate to other neurochemical responses to pain and injury. Again, though, none of it matters in this debate. The evidence is completely neutral. Those with an atheistic bent will see NDEs as just an artifact of neurochemistry. Those with a theistic bent will see NDEs as the biological mechanism by which we experience the divine. (continued)
03/25/2006 04:41:30 PM
Maybe your own "coversion event experience", signofthetimes, was extenuated by left-over chemicals from what sounds like a fairly intense involvement in psychedelics? The researches that have uncovered inherent traces of DMT in the human blood stream and brain tissue may be the trigger for the hallunations involved in the near-death-experience. The fact that these researches have found that the levels of DMT differ from one person to another might also explain why not everyone who comes close to death has the vaunted experience. Taking all the data and evidence into consideration, it leaves very little scope for the more incredulous possibility that the supernatural. kpax: Thanks for those posts of yours on the NDE and the 'soul'. Fascinating and thought provoking.
03/25/2006 03:41:08 PM
As kpax and Tysson have pointed out, NDE's cannot be invoked to support the notion of the supernatural, and signofthetimes seems to be completely unable to bring any other evidence to the discussion in support of his supernatural worldview. John Locke said that 'One unerring mark of the love of truth is not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance than the proofs it is built upon will warrant.' I would suggest that signofthe times is completely unable to proffer any sequence of logical propositions to corroborate his beliefs.
03/25/2006 03:23:17 PM
(continued) The implausibility of a soul whose powers are independent of the brain only increases once we recognize that even normal brains can be placed somewhere on a continuum of pathology. I could provide several examples.
03/25/2006 03:19:49 PM
(continue) They can see color and shape perfectly well. They can recognize almost everything in their environment, but they cannot distinguish between the faces of even their closest friends and family members. Are we to imagine in such cases that a person possesses an intact soul, somewhere behind the mind, that retains this ability to recognize his loved one? It would seem so. Indeed, unless the soul retains all of the normal cognitive and perceptual capacities of the healthy brain, heaven would be populated by beings suffering from all manner of neurological deficit. But then, what are we to think of the condition of the neurologically impaired while alive? Does a person suffering from aphasia have a soul that can speak, read, and think flawlessly? Does a person whose motor skills have been degraded by cerebellar ataxia have a soul with preserved hand-eye coordination? This is like believing that inside every wrecked car lurks a new car just waiting to get out.
03/25/2006 03:08:50 PM
While there still may be mysteries as to what happens after death, as is the relationship between consciousness and the physical world, there is no longer any doubt whether the character of our minds is dependent upon the functioning of the brain - and dependent in ways that are profoundly counter-intuitive. Consider one of the common features of the NDE: the nearly dying seem regularly to encounter their loved ones, some, but not all, who have gone before them into the next world. We know, however, that recognizing a person's face requires an intact fusiform cortex, promarily in the right hemisphere. Damage to this area of the brain definitely robs the mind of its powers of facial recognition (among other things), a condition called prosopagnosia. people with this condito have nothing wrong with their primary vision.
03/25/2006 03:00:26 PM
(continued) This oxygen deprivation will cause the shutting down by stages areas of its brain, nullifying in the process those parts where the instinct for self-preservation is located. At this point there is no survival value, just the generation of the most comfortable exit the dying brain can foster. Who knows that at this stage the wildebeast brain is not undergoing a neuronal explosion where the creature imagine's itself running free on the savannah with all its kin, and without a lion to be seen from horizon to horizon? The ketamine experiments, and a host of other similar ones, have clearly identified that the NDE can be replicated in almost all of its aspects. Again, I repeat, this does not disprove life after death. It only shows that the near-death-experience cannot be invoked as proof of life after death.
03/25/2006 02:52:17 PM
(continued) And you seem to maintain an almost cavalier attitude to the state of the person undergoing the NDE. Almost invariably they are on an ER table, or the victim of some terrible accident. Customarily suffering from a combination of shock, exhaustion and oxygen deprivation (anaesthetic), the brain is shutting down. Take Tyssons predator/prey scenario, say, the wildebeast taken by the lion. The wildebeast will put up a titanic struggle - the self-preservation instinct - but, as witnessed countless times, on failing to escape, a point will come when the beast will seem to have resigned itself to its fate. Of course, its exhausted from the mighty struggle, in shock, and, generally as a result of having his air-passages restricted by the mighty jaws of lion, suffering oxygen deprivation.
03/25/2006 02:42:52 PM
Great posts, Tysson. signofthetimes: Please don't raise that "I've been slandered" red-herring again to excuse your unwillingness, or inabiity, to respond to Namchuck's questions. You have not been slandered in any way, shape, or form. And it doesn't matter who asked the questions "originally". You asked for reasoned debate and then identified your unwillingess to respond in kind until your conditions were met. Most unfair, especially considering that Namchuck gave your questions full responses. For instance, he explained to you that NDE's may not have any survival value to the human species as the NDE normally represents the point at which life is about to cease.
03/25/2006 01:42:17 PM
The author is selling a religion of his own. In order for his belief system to be validated, he must convince the rest of us to see things his own way. He has no real concern for humanity (in that way he is identical to the religious types), but he does want to show the rest of the world with great pride that his way of thinking is the correct way.
03/25/2006 12:37:43 PM
On the more general topic of this article, I am always frustrated that these discussions inevitibly end up confined almost entirely within a monotheistic vs. atheistic framework. The world is filled with alternatives to these two views on the question of the divine. The logical challenges posed by atheists that arise from omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence are problems unique to the monotheistic world view. Biblical creationism ex nihilo by a god that stands outside space and time has very different implications than polytheistic creation myths in which gods are themselves products of natural processes and subject to natural laws. Yet these issues never come up in these discussions. In the end, all belief is irrational. However, that doesn't mean that there can't be rational reasons to believe.
03/25/2006 12:24:59 PM
In the end, however, NDEs do nothing to tip the scales one way or the other in the theistic/atheistic debate. If we are biological and spiritual beings, then it is not unreasonable to suppose that there would be biological mechanisms by which we experience the divine. If we are solely biological beings, then our spiritual experience is simply an artifact of biological stimuli. As the spiritual is not generally definable in any sort of falsifiable terms, this will forever be a matter outside the strict purview of science. Neither believers nor skeptics will find NDEs persuasive enough to change their views.
03/25/2006 12:18:52 PM
I can't believe I'm stepping into this, but actually there could be evolutionary explanations of NDEs related to group survival. I remember when NDEs were being hotly debated in the early 90s, some had posited that the calm euphoria that often accompanies impending death could have arisen from predator/prey relationships. Under this hypothesis, the selective advantage would be that becoming placid near death would allow other members of the same species time to flee from a pack of predators.
03/25/2006 10:00:04 AM
signofthetimes: I think Namchuck has done a good job of explaining is position. The question of "How did NDEs arise." is not one science can answer. Though the question is a natural one to ask. Asking such a quesion that cannot be answered through scientific inquiry leaves it open to subjective interpretation. Namchuck has presented his and you have presented yours, but you seem to keep questioning the validity of Namchucks? Why?
03/25/2006 07:42:36 AM
Furthermore, Namchuck has spoken of the means by which the experience can be, so to speak, artificially duplicated. Take, for example, the work of Dr. Karl Jansen. Dr Jansen has reproduced near-death-experiences with ketamine, a short-acting, hallucinogenic, dissociative anaesthetic. He has reproduced in his subjects the whole gamut, all the main aspects and features of the experience, from travelling through a dark tunnel into the light; communion with 'God', or other spiritual entities; out-of-body-experiences; and pretty much all the rest. Now, this certainly doesn't prove that there is no life after death, but what it does show is that the near-death-experience cannot be invoked as a proof of an after life. But, quite frankly, signofthetimes, I think it is time you got around to honoring the rules of debate and answer a few of Namchuck's questions, don't you think?
03/25/2006 07:31:25 AM
Oh, come on, signofthetimes, Namchuck has repeatedly given you reasons why the phenomenon of near-death-experiences exist. It is the way the brain chemically handles its own extinguishing. NDE's are not subject to evolutionary selective pressures simply because only a handful of the brains undergoing the experience are, obviously, pulled back from the brink of oblivion. Remember, we are only hearing from the survivors. And the 'patterns' you speak of can be explained by the cultural interpretive filters we all possess.
03/25/2006 06:47:32 AM
Make that "creatures".
03/25/2006 06:45:58 AM
I have never said at any time, signofthetimes, that there is "no spiritual aspect to (human existence) at all..." On the contrary, I wholly concur with kpax's beautiful statement that: "There is clearly a sacred dimension to our existence, and coming to terms with it could well be the highest purpose of human life." But he goes on to say, and I couldn't agree more, that "we will find that it requires no faith in untestable propositions. Human beings are subjective conscious cratures, and investigating the nature of consciousness directly, through sustained introspection, is simply another name for spiritual practice. It is also clear that nothing need be believd on insufficent evidence for us to look into this possibility with an open mind.
03/25/2006 06:28:01 AM
And of course I am curious about the whole business, signofthetimes. Curious enough, in fact - and that largely as a result of my own wife's experience - to have spent some time researching and studying the phenomenon. And my training in how to evaluate evidence put me in a good position to give it a fair and objective appraisal. Again, there is nothing in the phenomenon to suggest that anything akin to the supernatural is involved, and the onus falls squarely on the shoulders of those that claim that that it is. And I don't believe that there is any evidence to suggest that evolution has anything to do with NDE. It is a completely subjective thing and, consequently, not subject to any selective pressures.
03/25/2006 06:06:16 AM
Before anything else, signofthetimes, I have shown you the courtesy of taking pains to answer your questions - as anybody following this debate will, I'm sure, acknowledge - while you have responded to that courtesy by tenaciously avoiding answering mine. Nevertheless, in this instance, I will ignore your discourtesy, and the condescension of your "Letting (me) go without answering these questions I posed for you" statement, and attempt to further answer your questions, but I doubt to your satisfaction. I wouldn't call the NDE a "behavior", signofthetimes, but rather the response of the brain in utterly extraordinary circumstances, so extraordinary that it would override the normally functioning instincts for self-preservation. But accounts of the transcending of instincts are available also in other extraordinary circumstances in both human and other animals.
03/24/2006 08:32:52 PM
Namchuck: You points are well taken. "God, from the omnipotent being who is unrolling Christianity like a great oak tree" Aint that the truth. I take the Marcus Borg approach myself in reference to the Christian side of me.
03/24/2006 08:19:59 PM
(continued) And not everyone who comes close to thermodynamic equilibrium has the experience, and for some it is not a positive one at all (these negative experiences are never mentioned by the evidentially challenged when they invoke NDE's as a prop for their otherwise insupportable religious beliefs). And I still want to know from signofthetimes, (who seems to be back-tracking a little on his definition of God, from the omnipotent being who is unrolling Christianity like a great oak tree from a small acorn to something akin to the mysticism of American Indians) just which God we should opt for, considering Muslims, Hindu's and who knows how many other religions and sects perceive the experience as somehow uniquely verifiying their particular spiritual preference. It would be both prudent and wise to invoke Ockham's razor in respect to this experience of the brain in extremis.
03/24/2006 08:12:08 PM
Keep at the bold, jd70, it took me a while to master it. I have always acknowledged that I believe there is a deep mystery at the core of everything, but any attempt to encapsulate it within the confines of a religion is to certainly traduce it. And I have always had a sense of awe about this universe we live in, with its estimated one hundred and fifty billion galaxies and its vast space where even to travel at the speed of light to our closest neighbor galaxy, Andromeda, would take us two million years. And having researched the NDE, both academically and at closer range with the experience of my wife, I just don't see any compelling reasons to believe it is anything more than a brain effect, one that may have, as in the case of your father-in-law and my wife, lasting and positive effects.
03/24/2006 05:11:46 PM
One other thing. I have never been of fan of terms such as atheism and theism, because they are predicated on the idea that we know what "belief" or lack of in a deity is. At best it is a very subjective thing that really cannot be defined. Namchucks assertion that he is a freethinker I think is a better use of terms, one that I would agree with myself.
03/24/2006 04:58:05 PM
I think I am going to give up on the bold thing.
03/24/2006 04:55:20 PM
My father in law who is agnostic had an NDE. Afterwords it left him with a sense that there is something more behind our existance. He know lives life with a more profound appreciation of it. A sense of awe if you will. I think that might be what signofthetimes is getting at. I myself would say I have that same sense of awe for the mystery at the core of our existance. Imagination would be the assigning of attributes to that mystery such as omnipotence, anger, etc. But I do not think that attributes are always a bad thing. Jesus assigned the attribute of father, but that is more based on how he experianced the world and the mystery behind it as nurturing and life giving, a view that I would also share.
03/24/2006 04:46:00 PM
The commonality of the NDE, sighofthetimes, can be explained by recognizing that human brains have a lot in common. But the undeniable fact that not everyone on the cusp of death has such an experience as you lay so great an emphasis on, coupled with the fact that the experience is invariably culturally conditioned, and adding the reality - although you don't like it - that the very same experience can be induced in a number of ways, all indicate nothing more than a brain-originated phenomena. You have yet to come up with any compelling reasons why any sane and reasonable person should think they are otherwise and that "spiritual invasion" is just not another example of mental delusion produced by excited neurons in a brain that has lost its moorings from reality.
03/24/2006 04:37:34 PM
"Spiritual invasion"!? Oh, give me a break! Again, people testify to all kinds of ludicrous experiences based on "spiritual invasion", yet, like you, offer little but personal anecdote and the overwrought tendency to filter reality through their magic worldview ("synchronicity experiences"). Credit goes to Christopher Hitchens for distilling, in a single phrase, a principle of discourse that could well arrest out slide towards another Dark Age of superstition: "what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence." In regard to my wife's response to her own NDExperience: she just doesn't feel that there is any need to invoke a haunted-house concept of the universe to explain the experience. As she would say, the experience was enough in itself without greedily wanting to let an hysteric imagination grasp for more.
03/24/2006 04:27:47 PM
(continued) "The Great Mystery has come into my life and did such a show of power..." As I've repeatedly said, sighofthetimes, I do not question your subjective experiences, I just do not see them as pointing to anything outside of the mind or to any transcendental realm. Some people are simply predisposed to experience strong conviction and that the substance of the convictio is entirely incidental. A person's genuine and absolute conviction that they have had personal encounters with their God does not amount to any evidence for God's existence. They are evidence of, rather than for, a prior conviction. 'Gnosis' is simply the rationale for that which lacks solid sensory evidence and rational proof.
03/24/2006 04:17:35 PM
Do you let others define your religion for you, sighofthetimes? I suspect not, not do I let others define my atheism for me. But if push came to shove, I would probably classify myself as a freethinker rather than an atheist. But a-theist will do, i.e., someone with 'no god-belief'. And you have defined God in these discussions, although perhaps you have forgotten. You have used terms such as 'omnipotent' and 'omniscient'. I think you are perhaps retreating a little from your previous position.
03/24/2006 06:29:16 AM
let me conclude this long response to your posts, signofthetimes, by reiterating what I have said often on these message boards. I am not a stubborn unbeliever and would readily convert if given decisive proof of the of the existence of supernatural beings. I reject the existence of flying horses a la Pegasus not because I have proven that they do not exist, but because their anatomy flatly contradicts everything we know about vertebrate evolution (and a few aspects of aerodynamics as well). But I would revise my view about flying horses should one suddenly appear. By analogue, so it is with your supernatural God.
03/24/2006 06:21:28 AM
I could no more show you "proof" that God doesn't exist, sighofthetimes, than you could show me "proof" that there is not a block of cheese in orbit around the planet Neptune. But taking into account all that we have learned about the universe, the creation of the world, and the evolution of life on the planet, etc, the chances that there is an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent anthropomorphic God continues to become an increasingly remote possibility (an obsessive emphasis on the NDE won't make any difference to this trend either). Believers in this kind of deity invariably invoke faith, but faith is nothing but the transparent admission that the claims for this being cannot stand upon their own two feet.
03/24/2006 06:09:55 AM
No, signofthetimes, the onus of "proof" doesn't fall on the atheist as it does on the theist. It is the theist that is making all the incredible claims. All the atheist is doing is waiting for the theist to produce the incredible evidence to back up his claims. You have tenaciously avoided this responsibility, either because you are unwilling or unable. Even if, for arguments sake, the NDE proved to be (and it hasn't) more than a mere brain effect, which God would be the influence behind it? Hindu's, Muslims, and a host of other different, and even opposing, religious adherents have had the experience and believe it supports their belief position. So, which God should we opt for?
03/24/2006 05:59:51 AM
Again, the weight of evidence tends toward a natural explanation of the NDE, and in accord with Ockham's razor, which states that "It is vain to do with more what can be done with less." In other words, supernumery hypotheses (such as the influence of supernatural effects in the NDE) are to be avoided if we can explain the same facts with fewer assumptions. If there is more to the experience then, I reiterate, produce the evidence, and while you are at it, explain why it doesn't happen to everyone on the brink of death?
03/24/2006 05:53:34 AM
And it seems impossible to get this point through to you, signofthetimes, that instincts can be overridden in times of extremis, whether the extreme situation is a parent perceiving mortal danger to their child, or the brain sensing its own pending demise. The "coming home" that my wife experienced could easily be explained as the reduction of consciousness to that level or state enjoyed by the infant in the womb, and prior to the shocking experience of the disruption of its secure world (the amniotic sac) with the onset of labor, and its eventual journey through the uterine tunnel during the process of birth and out into the almost blinding light of the outside world (it is known that even in the womb a baby has some vision).
03/24/2006 05:44:01 AM
I don't have an "atheist mind-set", signofthetimes, because there is no such thing. Atheism is not a worldview. It's not even a philosophy. Rather, it represents a conclusion derived from certain philosophical positions, such as empiricism and naturalism. Contrary to popular understanding, an atheist is not someone who believes that there is no God, but rather one who lacks a belief in God (a-theism, without a God). And both my wife - but moreso her, as she had the experience - and I find it completely unnecessary to see her experience as anything more than an effect of the brain. If there is more to it, provide the evidence? The very fact that the experience can be culturally influenced is just one indication that the phenomenon is merely a brain effect.
03/24/2006 05:28:54 AM
We are all atheists, signofthetimes, in repsect to someone else's God. Do you believe in Zeus, Thor, Ahura Mazda? If not, you are an atheist in respect to those gods'. Einstein, you, and I, are all atheists. I have just added another God - yours - to the list, that is all. Now that is perfectly consistent and logical. Actually, Einstein believed in Spinoza's God, so his use of 'God' in such quotes as the famous one you cited was used as metaphor for the creative nature of the universe, a concept far far removed from your omnipotent, omniscient personal God, which Einstein utterly and vehemently rejected.
03/23/2006 07:58:30 PM
steppen0410e:I would have to agree with you. I do not support that concept of God either. I would say I am more of a deist
03/23/2006 07:51:24 PM
Actually, that goes for me, too, although I would extend it the entity who, if not "literally" running the universe, supposedly originated and designed it, at least by "picking" the right physical laws (this is sometimes pompously referred to as the "strong anthropic principle").
03/23/2006 07:46:18 PM
I know you understand, jd70, that I'm only speaking of 'God' in the classical sense, of an anthropomorphic, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent supernatural entity. Such an entity as this, because he supposedly created the universe in so many days, in a specific sequence of events, and not long ago, and literally runs the everyday affairs of the universe (otherwise, prayers would not work), is an entity whose existence can be questioned within the realm of scientific investigation. This is so because anyone of the above claims made for such a being are falsifiable (and false).
03/23/2006 07:11:54 PM
Hey, sorry about some of the grammar in some of these posts of mine! I'm presently babysitting a couple of infants and, not being used to the experience, find it not only enjoyable but somewhat distracting to the writting of grammar-conscious posts on B-Net.
03/23/2006 07:02:39 PM
Well, you might be right, jd70, but those two deep-seated psychological needs are real. We do ask questions from an early age, and I guess the children of our ancient forebears - at least, after language evolved to allow them to - did as well, but that wouldn't alter the possibility of those deep-seated needs inspiring the double invention of God and life after death. It seems to me that the questions of "Why are we here?" and "How did we get here?", are somewhat irrelevant in respect to the invention of the concepts of God and life after death. At least now those questions can now be answered in more confident ways.
03/23/2006 06:44:25 PM
Namchuck: "We have invented God to meet the first need, and life after death to meet the second." I have to disagree with that statement. From an early age we naturally ask the quesiions: "Why are we here?" "How did we get here?" As I asked such questions the only thing I could determine is that: 1- I did not choose to be here nor did I cuase my own existance. So how do we answer such questions. Science can answer that which can be abserved and tested, which does not apply to questions such as the above. Since science cannot answer such questions people look elswhere for the answers: reason, philosophy, religion, etc.. They then draw conclustions based on how they experiance the world and in that context atheists and theists have simply drawn different conclusions. Neither is right or wrong. It is simply a matter perspective. Religious dogma is simply a layer added on.
03/23/2006 04:40:53 PM
A final 'final', sighofthetimes. The NDE, which is not experienced by all on the brink of death, can be explained in naturalistic terms. If somebody wants to claim that the NDE requires a further supernaturalistic explanation, then the onus is on that somebody to provide the evidence. So far, signofthetiimes, you have been unwilling, or unable, to do this. I reiterate, there is at least two deep-seated psychological needs in humans, the need for security and self-preservation (both of which can be superceded in extremis, such as when a parent becomes indifferent to their own needs in order to preserve the life of a child - witnessed countless times in humans and other animals - and in the brain when it senses its own pending annihilation). We have invented God to meet the first need, and life after death to meet the second.
03/23/2006 04:07:59 PM
By the way, my wife does believe that the brain produces delusion in the moment of extremis, and she should know, she's been there. Another by the way: I don't expect for a minute that you will accept any explanation of NDE's other than what your a priori beliefs will permit you to. This is the essential difference between the scientific approach, which tries to falsify its theories, and the religious approach which avoids any contrary evidence that threatens its presuppositions. You exemplify this in adamantly refusing to respond to any of the questions that have been posed to you, like, why is your omnibenevolent God so particular and selective as to whom he gifts the NDE to? And why did he lace DMT in the blood streams and brain tissues of humans that could trigger and deliver such experiences? Actually, why did a loving omnipotent God create receptors for such drugs in the human brain at all?
03/22/2006 11:59:32 PM
Furthermore, hardly anybody is mystified any more these days with NDE's. Such a huge amount of research has been done on this phenomennon, and while there are as yet no absolute conclusions (there never is in science), the "weight of evidence", as steppen0410e suggests, comes down on the side of the experience being nothing more than an effect of the brain under completely unusual circumstances. I would like to see signofthetimes answer the question as to why not everybody who finds themselves on the cusp of death has the experience? Is the omnibenevolent God partial and selective after all?
03/22/2006 11:51:30 PM
Just popped in to see how things were going. I think one should simply ignore signofthetimes posts until he can come up with better evidence for his belief-claims other than the numbers fallacy (you know, 'So many other people believe this'), and other such empty defences. He doesn't seem to understand that incredible claims require incredible evidence, and it is he that is making the incredible claims on this message board.
03/22/2006 11:35:09 PM
Your statement, Namchuck, that, "There is is no survival benefit for a brain in extremis that believes it is about to be annihilated, only the tendency to want to make the experience as comforting as possible" sums it all up. This is exactly where the weight of evidence lies, and the fact the traces of DMT have been found both in the blood and in brain tissue might tend to confirm it.
03/22/2006 11:15:16 PM
Excellent points, steppen. I believe in signofthetimes we have an example of the fact that faith is capable of believing in contradiction to the evidence.
03/22/2006 11:11:43 PM
I entirely agree with you, Namchuck. signofthetimes wants everybody who challenges his unsubstantiated beliefs to provide undeniable evidence against them while he thinks it is completely sufficient for him only to pronounce his beliefs for them to be taken seriously. He doesn't offer an iota of evidence for his assertions. I would lay odds that he couldn't even identify the kind of evidence he would accept that proved that he is wrong.
03/22/2006 11:04:36 PM
No, signofthetimes, it doesn't defy the self-preservation instinct, it simply overrides it. Remember, it is the brain in extremis, and the brain in extremis would tend, as all the evidence suggests, to transcend all instinctual needs. There is no survival benefit for a brain that believes it is about to be annihilated, only the tendency to want to make the experience as comforting as possible. You are grasping at straws, and the scientific possibilities have been provided for you by both steppen and I. But you have your head buried deep in the sand of religious belief, and while unable to produce any evidence for your own claims, you demand it most strenuously from others.
03/22/2006 10:58:31 PM
What my wife knows, signofthetimes, is that the brain in extremis can produce something very comforting for the person who is dying. And you don't know that the "soul survives death", you only believe that it does (you are not dead, are you?), and a person who believes does not know. That you know that the centrifuge experiment can be duplicated by someone who "gets really drunk" reveals a lot to me. At least I know that you have had some experiences. I think steppens posts have covered the whole business adequately. And let us remember that "religious experience" proves nothing, otherwise we would have to accept a whole lot of contradictory testimony.
03/22/2006 10:41:42 PM
Yes, that's important and should be kept in mind. "Near-death experiences are not death experiences."
03/22/2006 10:30:22 PM
One could add to what I have written below the work of the scientist, Terence Mckenna, who has also done some astonishing experiments with the psychedelic drug, DMT. After many studies, he concludes that DMT may show us what the dying brain is like. It could be like some necreptogen or something like that. But he reminds us that dying is not death. Near-death experiences are not death experiences.
03/22/2006 09:58:55 PM
I think you could be waiting some time to see them goods, Namchuck.
03/22/2006 09:56:22 PM
Good stuff, steppen! I believe the onus is on those who think the NDE is anything more than an effect of the brain in extremis to come up with the evidential goods.
03/22/2006 09:45:55 PM
(continued) But to Strassman's surprise, nearly half of his sixty subjects encountered bizarre, otherworldly beings. The weight of the evidence would seem to more than suggest that the NDE is, as Namchuck suggests, nothing more than a brain effect.
03/22/2006 09:42:41 PM
Further, the psychiatrist Rick Strassman of the University of New Mexico has injected the drug dimenthyltryptamine, or DMT, more than four hundred times onto sixty volunteers. It was the first officially sanctioned test of psychodelics' effects on humans in the United States since the early 1970's. What makes DMT unique among the psychedelics is that it was detected in human blood in 1965 and in human brain tissue in 1972. One of its effects on its subjects is to produce the sterotypical near death experience of feeling themselves leaving their bodies and moving through a tunnel toward a radiant light.
03/22/2006 09:33:01 PM
The scientist Susan Blackmore has done a lot of work studying the NDE and has concluded that they are an effect of the brain, as Namchuck suggests, in extremis. Blackmore derived a purely physiological explanation for tunnel visions. Such visions are precipitated by oxygen deprivation or exposure to certain toxins and drugs, factors known to trigger the random firing of neurons in the visual cortex. She and a colleague performed computer simulations showing how the propagation of these random neural discharges through the visual cortex could produce an image of a bright disk expanding against a dark background, which is perceived as a light at the end of a tunnel.
03/22/2006 09:10:55 PM
You want to hold a "rational discussion" while proffering irrational beliefs like those indexed in many of your posts, signofthetimes!? Rational discussions are grounded in sensory evidence and rational proof. Show me what beliefs you hold that can be supported by sensory evidence and rational proof and we will see if you are capable of a "rational discussion." You might want to see "some fuller scientific explanations for NDE's, signofthetimes, but I would like to see just one piece of empirical evidence for any one of your beliefs. The evocation of NDE's in order to justify a whole gamut of assumptions that constitutes Christianity is a bit of a stretch, don't you think? If NDE's were evidence for life after death would they prove that Yahweh or Allah was God? Maybe Krishna or Brahma?
03/22/2006 09:02:13 PM
But it does help to explain the NDExperiences, sighofthetimes, even though you will, predictably, refute it. The brain experiences extremis producing the sensation of passing through a tunnel at the end of which there is a bright light, and the astronaunt will even undergo an hallucination where he encounters people. Anyway, your determined emphasis on a phenomena that has produced no final conclusions is a palpable sign of how desperate you are to come up with something that looks like empirical evidence for your patently insupportable beliefs. There are people who have come close to dying that have no experience at all like those of NDE's. What, is God ignoring them?
03/22/2006 08:26:30 PM
I should add, jd70, that my wife's experience has left her completely unafraid of death. While I believe it, she's convinced that her experience removed any doubts that consciousness is really the most intrinsic part of being. She's convinced that death is not this big leap. It is more like a feeling of coming back, of coming back home.
03/22/2006 08:03:10 PM
A good friend of mine reported a NDE after a car crash which included, like Namchuck's wife, travelling through a dark tunnel towards a brilliant light where he saw the face of his wife. The thing is, his wife is still alive. Obviously, the brain produced, as my friend wavered between life and death, the most comforting image it could dredge up.
03/22/2006 07:52:58 PM
You're welcome, jd70.
03/22/2006 07:50:07 PM
Namchuck: She is quite the inspiration. Thanks for sharing.
03/22/2006 07:38:33 PM
She's fine, thanks, jd70. Her near death experience was brought on by an inflammation of the fluid around her brain. She dehydrated to virtual skin and bone in a matter of hours (highest temp. ever recorded at the hospital where she was attended to), was blind, and unable to walk for weeks. She recoverd her sight, began to walk again, and was eventually restored to normal health with the exception that, prior to her illness (encephalitis), she was a shy, retiring lady, and afterwards, a more assertive and extroverted, but still incredibly loving and lovable woman.
03/22/2006 07:33:11 PM
It hold's water, signofthetimes, it just doesn't suit your inclination to invoke NDE's to bolster your otherwise insupportable beliefs. The brain producing something along the lines of euphoria to comfort what it perceives as its own annihilation is perfectly understandable. And, as steppen pointed out, the universality of the experience to those undergoing what is called the near death experience would bespeak a brain mechanism. Actually, the experience can be reproduced deliberately. Astronauts in certrifugal machines where their brains are subject to extremis often black out and experience exactly the same phenomenon as those of NDExperiencer's. No, you'll have to do better than that to convince any reasonable person that we live in a demon, and God-haunted, universe.
03/22/2006 07:28:00 PM
signofthetimes: If Namchucks wife had a NDR, we should feel compassion for her. I am sure it is not something she will forget though. Hope she is OK.
03/22/2006 07:19:07 PM
Perhaps that is why, jd70, that the Buddha maintained a 'noble silence' when it came to questions about God. Well done! you've masterd both bold and italic. Now, I wonder what the key is for color?
03/22/2006 07:16:56 PM
This bold thing is driving me crazy. Lets try italics: A very Buddhist like statement that I would agree to. The deep mystery at the core of things is what I call God. I don't think giving it a name is a problem (that is a limitation of language). It is giving it traits that is the problem: omnipotent, omnisciant, etc..
03/22/2006 07:15:02 PM
Namchuck "Likewise, if my mind is covered with notions and ideas of God, then I will never see God." A very Buddhist like statement that I would agree to. The deep mystery at the core of things is what I call God. I don't think giving it a name is a problem (that is a limitation of language). It is giving it traits that is the problem: omnipotent, omnisciant, etc..
03/22/2006 06:21:45 PM
I think there is a deep mystery at the core of things, but to give it a name ('God', 'Intelligence', etc) and characteristics ('loving', 'merciful', 'just', etc) is to somehow reduce it. I think it was St John of the Cross who said something along lines that I can now only paraphrase: 'If I put my hands over my eyes, I cannot see the sun. Likewise, if my mind is covered with notions and ideas of God, then I will never see God.'
03/22/2006 05:54:23 PM
You've got it, jd70! Yes, the universe may well be eternal, and aside from it being the most economical view, it would do away with all that business of entities being outside of time, etc. In regards to life, well, since the discovery of extremophiles, we now know that life can be found in places that were long considered too inhospitable for it to survive in. I wouldn't be surprised if life and the cosmos do not go together like wetness and water. I think death is the end of the personality as we know it, but everything else is certainly recycled. I think it was in one of the Hindu veda that I came across this: "Oh, glorious, I eat, I eat, I eat. Oh, glorious, I am eaten I am eaten, I am eaten."
03/22/2006 05:25:15 PM
Namchuck/-: Thanks for the tip. You said earlier that the universe itself could be eternal, and that is definitely possible. I would say though that if it is eternal, then why not life as well, which is part of it? So is death really the end or just a change in state. The question then is not one of is there life after death, but rather if we are aware of such a new state, after the body "dies". At any rate I would say that I am content to leave that to God and experiance life now. Just my 2 cents.
03/22/2006 04:33:13 PM
Livindesert & Namchuck: I entirely agree. Even the "universal pattern" that sighofthetimes speaks of in his post relative to NDE's would seem to indicate that we are dealing with a brain phenomenon rather than some vague religious experience. Of course, that the religious would jump on, and jump to, conclusions about NDE's is something entirely predictable, and, as you say, Namchuck, illustrative that they cannot bring anything to the table that resembles real evidence for their beliefs.
03/22/2006 04:26:11 PM
Quite right, Livindesert. It has been said that there is no beyond the grave except in the mind's of those who cannot come to terms with their own annihilation.
03/22/2006 04:22:38 PM
Your so-called "built-in mechanism that counters self-preservation" is obviously only triggered when the brain/body is undergoing extremis, and a near death experience certainly represents that. There is absolutely no doubt that humans have a deep-seated psychological need for both security and self-preservation, but both these deep-seated needs can be completely disregarded when, say, a father sees his child in a life-threatening situation. he will totally disregard his own secutiy and self-preservation to save his child. There is no contradiction whatsoever that the brain in extremis should produce feelings of euphoria. It is obviously part of the self-preservation/security mechanism.
03/22/2006 04:13:52 PM
jd70: I've done a little experimentation with kpax's bold instructions myself. Look's like you have to ensure that the formula is used on one word only. signofthetimes: Again you attempt to brush off legitimate responses by calling them "casual". I will debate NDE's with you any time, but the very fact that you invoke them represents a grasping at straws on your part in order to bolster otherwise insupportable beliefs. My wife had a near death experience a few years ago, an experience with the traditional tunnel and brilliant light at the end of it. This whole business has been pretty much explained by brain researchers, so one doesn't need to invoke any kind of religious implications. My wife enjoyed the experience - a feeling of "great peace" - but she didn't detect anything religious in it.
03/22/2006 03:39:01 PM
I am not an atheist but " Why would the human brain have a mechanism within it that makes death painless and actually euphoric? " I would say becuase it is death : ) I don'yt care what happens after death we have to live today right now.
03/22/2006 07:40:52 AM
I am not sure why it bolded the whole post. Looks like a I need a little practice.
03/22/2006 07:39:34 AM
kpax101: Thanks for the tip, learn something new everyday. Feel free to e-mail me your theory through b-net. I am not sure how to start a new discussion board. If you can start one let me know.
03/22/2006 01:14:14 AM
Or better yet, people never have an expperience with the Jesus form of god unless they've been introduced to the idea of Jesus 'as savior' first. It leaves me suspicious of those who claim Jesus is real, and they have a relationship with him/it. This is compounded when they also insist the Jesus is to return as well.
03/21/2006 11:33:32 PM
Yes, Namchuck, I believe you are right in regard to that NDE issue. You never hear of Muslims who see Christ or Hindu's that experience the Virgin Mary, or the like. Those that experience such things always experience it in terms of the known and the recognizable.
03/21/2006 11:26:14 PM
I don't believe in life after death either, but I'm packing clean underwear just in case. Good debate. Lions 1; Christians: nil
03/21/2006 11:19:09 PM
Human beings have two deep psychological needs: the need for security and self-preservation. We have invented God to meet the first, and life after death to satisfy the second. I wonder why you didn't, signofthetimes, invoke Einstein on the issue of life after death? He had something really interesting to say about it.
03/21/2006 11:16:04 PM
It is most apparent, signofthetimes, that you are clutching at straws to prop up a belief system that is bereft of a scintilla of compelling evidence. I am not discrediting your personal experience. I have already acknowledged that I accept the reality of personal subjective experience. I just don't see any evidence that it points, I repeat, to anything outside of the mind. I feel no "sour grapes" at those whose ego's get massaged by deluding themselves into thinking that they have received the direct personal attention from a supposedly supreme supernatural entity.
03/21/2006 11:09:54 PM
One million people believe in life after death in a population of more than 6 billion, signofthetimes!? Fairly paltry number, wouldn't you agree? A thousand million Muslims believe that Muhammed ascended to heaven on a white horse; millions of people on the Indian subcontinent believe in reincarnation; countless billions of children believe in Santa Claus (with their parents blessings); and once, and not that long ago in historical terms, almost everybody believed the Earth was the center of the universe and that the sun orbited around it. So, what do your numbers prove, sighofthetimes? Actually, I'm an atheist and I have looked very closely at N.D.E's and have come away convinced that the mind, in extremis, will offer up the most comforting, and generally cultural conditioned, experience that it can.
03/21/2006 10:59:27 PM
Drop the first "utterly" in the second line, and add a "t" to the second use of the word. Thanks.
03/21/2006 10:58:17 PM
And Buber's "experience" is no more a guarantee of the truth than yours is, signofthetimes. I have heard in one day reports from people who testified to utterly experiences that were uterly opposed in their contents. I don't deny personal subjective experience, only that it doesn't point to any transcendental realm nor anything outside of the mind.
03/21/2006 10:43:55 PM
Einstein was an atheist, signofthetimes, just like you and me. But, again, you are simply resorting to the argument from the authority of "Great men", and that is a signal confession that one is utterly empty of anything substantial to say.
03/21/2006 10:41:33 PM
The resort to quoting from someone you must consider an authority figure, sighofthetimes, denotes only how bereft of evidence your claims really are. Do you know what lunacy that quote could be invoked to support?
03/21/2006 10:34:10 PM
I repeat, if you grant that it is logically possible for an entity to exist that was not itself created - your God - then that entity can just as well be the universe itself. On top of this, if an omnipotent God exists and it knew by virtue of its omniscience that it was creating a wrold of suffering when it could have created otherwise, thenone would have to conclude that it is malevolent.
03/21/2006 10:29:51 PM
Well, that is just one area of your understanding is faulty, signofthetimes. Atheists don't proclaim that there is no God, only that there is no compelling evidence that supports of theists that there is. And there are atheists as familiar with the operations of the universe as any theist, so that conclusion doesn't stack up either. Theistic claims are all based on assumptions, otherwise they wouldn't utilise the words 'faith' and 'belief' so often. And who was talking about a universe where "all were good"? Your assertion that the "spiritual path eventually leads out of the physical cycle altogether" is simply another protestation of belief and little different, due to its utter lack of evidence, than the belief in the tooth fairy.
03/21/2006 10:08:41 PM
People suffer. Animals suffer. If God, the creator, is omniscient, then he knew, at the time of creation, how the world would develop. he knew that he was creating a world with suffering. If God is omnipotent, he could have created things otherwise. Therefore, if God is omnipotent, and omniscient, he is also nasty. Hence, I think the conclusion that there are no omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent beings is a safe one.
03/21/2006 10:03:55 PM
My own "insatiable curiosity" experience lead me away from such absurdities as the Book of Revelations, and, finally, the whole edifice that embraces the elaborate but insupportable beliefs of Christianity. Actually, your post permeates with logical inconsistencies, but when has religion ever worried about that.
03/21/2006 10:00:01 PM
That's quite a list of unsubstantiated beliefs, signofthetimes. Now, while you are entitled to your views, the thrust of your argument rests on the notion that everything, but God, must come from something. Once you agree, though, that it is logically possible for an entity to exist that was not itself created - namely God - then that entity can just as well be the universe itself. Actually, this is the most economic possiblility, not requiring the additional hypothesis of a supernatural power outside the universe.
03/21/2006 08:23:45 PM
By the way, jd70, same format as with bold, but with capital "I's" for italics.
03/21/2006 08:21:31 PM
Things are getting a little heated around here among the godly, so I think I'll just move right along and wish all you guy's the best. ciao
03/21/2006 07:56:15 PM
I would be happy to share it with you sometime, jd70. The bold lettering: a "b" between at the beginning of the word you want to highlight, and then another "b" in the middle of after a forward stroke - , after the word you want to highlight. Give it a whirl.
03/21/2006 07:47:26 PM
kpax101: I would definately be interested in hearing your theory. Also how do you do that cool bold writing?
03/21/2006 07:38:35 PM
And, while I cannot speak for steppen, I have a scientific theory of "good" and "evil" that I suppose relates to the laws of the universe. Perhap's there may arise a forum on B-Net one day where we might be able to discuss such things.
03/21/2006 07:31:56 PM
Yes, LivingEz123, you seemed to have lost, temporarily one hope's, your customary composure. Like steppen, I liked jd70s post, especially his concept of some kind of eternal spirit ( a creative energy?) that "gives life", and his emphasis on the "opportunity" to be alive. In respect to the prevalence of suffering, or the problem of theodicy, it only exists for those positing the existence of an omnibenevolent and omnipotent God. For a secularist like myself, there is nothing to explain because the universe is impersonal. It is the believer who attributes meaning (outside of direct human intervention) to things, so they have the burden of proof.
03/21/2006 07:23:18 PM
I liked your posts, jd70, but found yours, LivingEZ123's somewhat overwrought. No, I don't find any comfort in atheism, as it is simply the default position when no compelling evidence exists for a belief in any supernatural entities. I actually find comfort and meaning in my family and friends, my work, and, like jd70, in the experience and awe of being alive. In respect to paul.bello's God, I simply said that the concept of a metaphysical God was unintelligible and unlikely to meet the psychological needs of people who seek comfort and meaning from the concept. Such a being may or may not exist, but, as kpax suggests, and I agree, such a entity is essentially irrelevant.
03/21/2006 06:52:31 PM
(cont)Oh and yes the world is not always fair, but it is through ones perspective that one can overcome their sense of unfairness. Where does this perspective come from? Believe me I have tried to be an athiest, but it always left more questions than answers for me. atheism and theism, maybe they are just genetic things. If there is a God gene I have it, but I can truely relate to those who have the atheist gene and God gave use both for a reason. What a boring world it would be if we all agreed. Maybe instead of argueing we can all learn a little something from the other side. A little understanding on both sides is in order.
03/21/2006 06:44:02 PM
Steop: Do you believe that good and evil have any independent existence outside human value systems? It is ridicules for you to dismiss paul.bello because you don’t like his God’s personality! He is wrong because his idea of God doesn’t give you psychological comfort? Does Atheism give you psychological comfort? Is that the measure of objective truth? Paul dosn't have a God idea you like, but do you have a scientific theory of good and evil and how they relate to the laws of the Universe either? You are unintelligible. Any of your theory’s that don’t acknowledge human values without humans as a fixed part of natural law are psychologically useless so give them up? Your main purpose as an Atheist is to believe in nothing so you can gain comfort about the lack of meaning in the world or is the lack of meaning? As you say, if it can't offer comfort it is useless. I have neve read anything so MUSH.
03/21/2006 06:43:53 PM
The how can a "good" God create folks that are capable of "evil" is simply a matter of perspective. A perspective that the world that we live in is inherently "evil". Though I would say that this is a view that we as humans all share in various degrees, a more healther view in my opinion is to view the world as "life giving". As human beings we have the free will to choose to perpetuate "evil" and that surely does happen, but because we have the ability to do something is irrelivent in ascribing a nature to ones conception of God. Our perception of "evil" often breeds compassion. The theodicy problem does not stem from the concepts of God, but rather the ascribing of traits to God such as omnipotent and omniscience. I would rather simply recognise God as eternal spirit that gives life and through humility I can experiance that spirit. I can stand in awe and be thankful for having the opportunity to be alive and experiance such. (cont)
03/21/2006 05:44:45 PM
Again, I agree with you, kpax. paul.bello simply evades the problem of the incompatibility of the existence of evil with a loving God by the simple expedient of invoking a metaphysical deity. His argument seems to be that "good" and "evil" are human concepts that do not apply to God. I think we can dismiss this kind of God on two grounds: first, it is unintelligible. What does it mean to have a God that does not reflect any human value? Second, it is psychologically useless. Let us not forget that the main reason people believe in God is to gain comfort about the meaning of the world. But a metaphysical God cannot offer comfort at all and therefore loses any function in a human society. That is why very few people today believe in a metaphysical God.
03/21/2006 05:31:54 PM
Livindesert: It is also interesting to know that what we're motivated by string theory to believe is that the Big Bang is not what we've always thought - a beginning of space and time, where temperature and energy diverge. Rather it is a transition between the current expanding phase and a preexisting contraction phase. The Big Bang was possibly the outcome of something rather that the cause of everything. It is interesting to note that Marcus Aurelius was schooled in ekpyrotic cosmology, a universe caught in a never ending cycle of fiery birth, cooling, and fiery rebirth. Maybe the Hindu's and their veda's were right all along?
03/21/2006 05:23:11 PM
(continued) And you repeatedly, paul.bello make patently silly assertions like inferring that the scientific quest is an attempt to "abolish God". As signofthetimes is fond of pointing out, the scientific quest initially involved theistically inclined scientists who believed that they were studying and exposing God's handiwork. Of course, it soon became apparent that the God-hypothesis was unnecessary, and increasingly (there's that trend again) remains so to this day. The quest of science was not to abolish God. The irrelevance of the God-hypothesis came as a kind of by-product of the realisation that God played no viable role in any theory of how the world works or is.
03/21/2006 05:03:15 PM
While I am still wraping my brain around it M-theory seems interesting.
03/21/2006 05:01:25 PM
paul.bello: My "invocation" of the scientific trend could hardly be called "constant". I think I may have mentioned it two or three times. And it is a trend that cannot be denied There are some constancies in your own posts, you know. And you haven't really responded at all to the "evidential problem of evil", merely brushed it off as theists tend to do. Whether there exists some kind of supreme intelligence operating outside or inside the universe is something that we will probably never know, but that the notion will remain irrelevant other than for the mysterions probably goes without saying.
03/21/2006 05:00:40 PM
Paul how do define multiverse and why limit yourself to two theories?
03/21/2006 04:49:05 PM
Livindesert: I agree that the "new physics" does not directly entail God. What it actually entails is the hopelessness of the scientific quest to abolish God. As it stands today, we can abduce from the data that the universe had a finite past, and is continuously expanding. Some here would claim that the data is not conclusive, but some here also claim that there is no evidence for the mechanism of natural selection. At least from the standpoint of cosmology, design is apparent, or we are living in one of many multiverses. If the latter is true, multiverse-theorists must provide reasons as to why our universes physical laws should be held constant in these other universes, while physical constants are allowed to vary (uniformly). And even if they came up with a good set of explanations of this, they'd have to explain from whence the pre-big-bang "quantum foam" came. All in all, a daunting (and perhaps insurmountable) task. No mysticism required. Just science. -P
03/21/2006 03:06:38 PM
(2) The Church borrowed heavily from Jewish philosophers and mystics at the same time they were persecuting Judaism. Gentiles had no access to original sources other than through Jews. Jews also had a very high literacy rate at a time most gentiles could not read or write. Jewish scholars maintained competency in Hebrew and Aramaic as well as contemporary languages. Jewish scholars also had access to the stimulation of Muslim culture, religion and science at a time the Christian world was in a dark age. The various Jewish communities were linked by trade, culture, law and religion through out the known world. Jewish law was able to sustain international trade and commerce. Jewish institutions had been exposed to every major empire and culture over a period of 4,000 years. It should not surprise you that it is highly developed and was well advanced of illiterate Christian culture in the dark ages.
03/21/2006 03:04:47 PM
sign: (1) If you are gentile I suggest you get a non-biased grip on history. You may or may not be aware of the fact that Christian’s refer to western culture as Judo-Christian. It would more accurately be called Judo-Greek although traditional Christians claim to be the New Israel. The fact that you are totally unaware of the continuing role Judaism played in the social evolution of Christianity is indicative of gentile prejudice. You are aware that Judaism is the only surviving non-orthodox Christian religion to have survived European Christian persecution? You are aware that religious persecution led to extreme hate and genocide in the 20th century? Does it surprise you that “Christians” don’t acknowledge their reliance on Jews?
03/21/2006 02:41:00 PM
(2) Jewish lawyers and judges have played an important role in American legal development. I keep alive religious ritual for personal reasons. Law is my religion. Judaism has a highly developed civil legal system based on values you might find familiar. The linking of Ethics (as expressed through normative behavior) and God is ethical monotheism. Judaism being the original model. Jewish concepts of due process, equal protection, evidentiary hearings, reason and precedent existed thousands of years prior to their appearance in America or Europe within the gentile population. Christianity does claim a relationship to Judaism – I won’t comment on that. These are social and normative values, not scientific discoveries. One can develop sophisticated legal and social norms even if you believe the earth is flat. The development of law, is very easy to trace when it comes from a living system with contemporary experts and preserved authority.
03/21/2006 02:31:45 PM
(1)“…Living, how are the trends of ancient culture that created its own forms of social contract relevant to today?” …To ask the question indicates a profound ignorance of the historic development of Law in general and Jewish Law and the development of Christianity and Islam in particular as well a western culture. I am a Juris Doctor and have an academic background in Jewish civil and criminal law based in contemporary legal scholarship. I don’t expect a non-professional to grasp the topic. I’ll leave it on professional authority. I know little of the physical sciences past a BS degree. We all can’t be expert in everything. Although Christianity “abolished” Jewish Law, eventually the value system and many of Judaism’s social norms reappeared in Europe and America. Judaism itself was introduced into the “New World” with the original settlers, many of them Jewish escaping the inquisition. Judaism established itself in New Amsterdam (now New York) in the 1600’s. The colony was owned by Dutch Jews.
03/21/2006 01:37:20 PM
contd from below .. 3) Physicalists describe these problems away, claiming that experience is the culmination of some "global process" in the brain. Those claims hold at least as much evidential water as the existence of a substantial soul which causally interacts with the brain/body to interpret and unify sensory experiences, and reflect upon that process in general. Whether or not the soul hypothesis is true, or that human persons are somehow more than thier bodies, the fact is that the psychological sciences haven't given any substantial reason to reject property or substance dualism. 4) All of this is especially suspect in light of quantum theories of consciousness which require the existence of some "ideal observer" in order for quantum potentialities to be actualized as brain states. Sounds a heck of a lot like a "soul" or a "self" to me. Cheers, Paul
03/21/2006 01:20:15 PM
kpax: Your constant invocation of "the scientific trend" as being evidentially suggesting atheism is (so-far) self-refuting, wholely empirical (and therefore subject to revision), and not sufficient. I've explained this in umpteen other posts, and haven't received much back but an invocation of the evidential problem of evil, for which I provided some first-cut responses. F1fan: a number of things: 1) We cannot invoke empiricism in logical proof. As you know there are no necessary empirical claims. 2) If you take an "objective reality" to be the case, and since you agree that people can produce (mental) delusions which have no correlates in "objective reality," you must then admit the existence of some sort of "interpreter" or central executive in the brain which organizes and unifies perception into experience. Current neuroscience doesn't have an answer for the simple version of this problem (e.g. it hasn't found a "central theatre" in the brain where experience is organized). contd..
03/21/2006 12:28:20 PM
Living, how are the trends of ancient culture that created its own forms of social contract relevant to today? How do you propose them relevant to non-adherents to that tradition? Are you simply advocating for keeping alive the traditions, for your own personal reasons? If so, how does this translate and generalize? The bottom line is that Judaism had its own form of social contract that used gods as a means to maintain stability. Today we don’t need them, at least not in more advanced parts of the world. Human being get along fine with social networks that are god-free (secular), and this includes saviors. It’s one less dividing point between people, and is for the better. Religious fervor and practice is fine for personal endeavor, it just hasn't worked on a large scale.
03/21/2006 07:36:42 AM
kpak101: (2) A different and separate laws applied with in gentile feudalism, according to social class, occupation etc. Jewish legal autonomy found its nitch to continue its own development within such an arbitrary and unequal system, even when subject to persecution. Its legal norms like due process, equal protection, the right against self incrimination in criminal matters eventually became part of the American constitution. Judaism’s social norms, “we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal, became part of the founding documents of American democracy. The Jewish God was a god of earthly liberation from tyranny. The American revolution was the shot heard round the world.
03/21/2006 07:35:27 AM
kpak101: (1) Your thoughts to some extent fit into my “paradigm” however, what you fail to acknowledge is the value of “ethical monotheism”. The Jewish system of ethical monotheism places high priority on human life and dignity as well as equality before the law, due process, social and economic justice. It developed a system of both lay and professional courts. The power of the sovereign (king) was transferred to elected assemblies. It actually benefited from the gentile legal system of absolute monarchy and feudalism because the community could purchase a charter of self rule from a Christian monarch. Christianity had known concept of equal protection or due process within their legal system. Trial by ordeal was the norm. Within Judaism the Kingdom of God is on Earth. It did not sanction oppression while waiting to die and go to heaven.
03/21/2006 05:47:07 AM
(continued) But I also believe that there is a spiritual dimension to life, and a truly rational approach to this spiritual dimension of our lives would allow us to explore the heights of subjectivity with an open mind, while shedding the provincialism and dogmatism of our religions (and there more fashionable, but vague, modern offspring) in favor of free and rigorous enquiry.
03/21/2006 05:41:08 AM
Cutting through all the verbiage, there is no empirical evidence for the existence of God, or gods'; personal protestations from personal experience are no quarantees of truth; the scientific trend would suggest that the existence of God is highly unlikely; and the notion of God is irrelevant to any theory of how the world works or is.
03/21/2006 02:24:19 AM
paul.bellow: I agree with you. See my post to JD70.
03/21/2006 02:21:41 AM
JD70: (2) (Divine speech is a metaphor, God spoke and the world came into existence)…Divine speech is the substance of creation and is continually renewed. All of creation harbors within it the Divine life force (metaphor) that brought it into being. All creation would revert to nothingness if the letters of the divine utterance departed. ..” This has a touch of pantheism except that Divine speech is not God, however, it is very close to God in cause and effect. The “personal” aspects of God are part of a metaphorical paradigm. We speak not of God in the universe, but of Godliness, a verb. We bring Godliness into the world through our actions. We experience or conceive of “godliness” as a personal God, however, they are not identical. I actually thought you were Jewish from your post.
03/21/2006 02:19:55 AM
JD70: (1) A deist/panentheist is very similar to Jewish mystical concepts, however, in order to remain within orthodoxy, there has to be a break between God and creation. God can not have “existence” because “existence” is created. God is the first cause and was not created. The mystery of creation is that anything can exist. God created the world from nothing (first cause) and infuses life force (metaphor). The life force itself is concealed from creation(paradigm) otherwise creation would be consumed within God. Adin Stinsaltz put it succinctly. “…The nullification of reality or of existence relates to the way one sees themselves…what one sees as world is a product of incorrect seeing, were one able to perceive it differently…an entirely different world would be grasped…. a world of divine speech.
03/20/2006 10:09:54 PM
Are they underprivelaged as events and entities in your own personal ontology? –Paul ----------- Those theories are the best we have at explaining how things are. They are subject to change, as you surely know. Worse, you haven't described "objective reality" to me in the first place. You assume intersubjectivity between agents by claiming "all minds might share some reality equally." You can't have metaphysical cake and eat it too. –Paul ---------- Is there something confusing about ‘objective reality’? Put simply, that which can be verified objectively, meaning with the five senses. And I didn’t say it was metaphysical. I was referring to the natural world, which we all do inhabit. If you claim our experience of the world is an illusion, you open up to the logical possibility that nothing is real. ------------ It’s a good thing I didn’t claim this. But some do create experiences believed to be supernatural, and I’m quite skeptical.
03/20/2006 10:02:22 PM
My argument is impervious to your dilemma, of believing in personal hopes and dreams. According to my basic definition above, either minds exist or they do not. If you accept that they do, then you must explain to me how they got here, which requires you to go alllll the way back to cosmology. –Paul ------------- The problem with this statement is that we do think, our minds are processing, for better or worse. Science is a means to use our capacity to use our basic faculties to investigate phenomenon to objective results. We know this is in flux. But if I have a dilemma of having to explain how the mind got here, I’m curious what it is insisting this is required of me, yet hasn’t explained it first.
03/20/2006 10:01:30 PM
F1fan: There is no dark matter to see, there is no big bang to see, nor is there observable macroevolution, but presumably, all of these things exist or happened in some form, because we'd be hard pressed to explain the world without them. Are they underprivelaged as events and entities in your own personal ontology? Worse, you haven't described "objective reality" to me in the first place. You assume intersubjectivity between agents by claiming "all minds might share some reality equally." You can't have metaphysical cake and eat it too. If you claim our experience of the world is an illusion, you open up to the logical possibility that nothing is real. If nothing is real we cannot have agents with which to have intersubjective agreement, and science as we know it is a non-starter. Cheers, Paul
03/20/2006 09:43:03 PM
In any case, ontology and religion are two different things. If you say there are a variety of gods postulated, etc, of course, I agree. That's like saying there are 1,000,000 judges in the US who interpret the constitution differently. At the end of the day, the constitution exists, and sits behind glass somewhere in Washington DC. –Paul -------------- Yet the Constitution that all read and interpret exists in a form that does not require a judgment that it exists, it’s there for all to see. The difference in religion and various thousands of gods is there are no gods to see, only judge exist and then move from there to ponder how to interpret the mental image among those who might hold the same, or similar mental image.
03/20/2006 09:39:11 PM
Existence is a question of ontology. Either x exists or it does not exist. Religion is the business of describing the properties of that which is assumed to exist, and to elaborate a set of norms by which human beings should behave in respect to this postulate. –Paul ----------------- Whether assumed to exist or deliberately fabricated, it doesn’t actually clarify objective reality, does it? At best it describes what one prefers is real, and that says more about the human mind that the reality that all minds share equally.
03/20/2006 09:26:37 PM
F1fan: Existence is a question of ontology. Either x exists or it does not exist. Religion is the business of describing the properties of that which is assumed to exist, and to elaborate a set of norms by which human beings should behave in respect to this postulate. In any case, ontology and religion are two different things. If you say there are a variety of gods postulated, etc, of course, I agree. That's like saying there are 1,000,000 judges in the US who interpret the constitution differently. At the end of the day, the constitution exists, and sits behind glass somewhere in Washington DC. My argument is impervious to your dilemma, of believing in personal hopes and dreams. According to my basic definition above, either minds exist or they do not. If you accept that they do, then you must explain to me how they got here, which requires you to go alllll the way back to cosmology. Cheers, Paul
03/20/2006 09:16:31 PM
I don't mean to be intrusive, but the claims you've offered to "signofthetimes" as evidence for subjective experience being a fiction of the mind are patently false, and rejected by almost every serious cognitive scientist. –Paul --------- Frankly, there is no evidence of gods or god in any experience claimed by theists, abd this is the crux of what I said to “sign”. The dilemma of all, including scientists, is being wary of seeing what we want to see. If someone wants to defend a belief that a god might exist, somewhere hidden form view, they will defend that dark area yet examined. Regardless of possibilities, whether the gods that exist as part of the illusions of mind is still quite doubtful, and not very plausible given the wide variety of gods and experiences. Maybe something will be uncovered in future work, I’m open to that. Where we stand today is that nothing confirms religious experience to the degree it is believed real.
03/20/2006 09:12:56 PM
Some good points, Sign. But what of a mind like mine that is sometimes theistic and sometimes atheistic? Sometimes I can sense God so richly I feel I can touch God yet other times this sensation/memory fades and I find myself anchored in the material world where the notion of God seems utterly absurd. And while I can sometimes work my way out of the 'material' place if I work hard enough, I usually just put my time in knowing I'll encounter that connection again where God is at my side, effortlessly and genuinely. I see it as being bi-lingual.
03/20/2006 09:05:22 PM
steppen0410e: "the numbers, the so-called 'probabilities', on which the Argument from Design relies, are not merely spurious, they are meaningless." You can no more prove that life arose by chance, than you can prove that life arose through an intelligent process. It is of the relm of subjective experiance of reality and has nothing to do with scientific inquiry. And yes probability is what it is, that is why I don't play the lottery.
03/20/2006 08:11:28 PM
No jd70, probability is not "simply what it is." Intuitions about probability, as any person teaching probability will know, do not reveal the facts about probability. The point for the person considering the Argument from Design is that any argument that relies on intuitions about probability is inherently suspect. In reality, the numbers, the so-called 'probabilities', on which the Argument from Design relies, are not merely spurious, they are meaningless.
03/20/2006 07:36:33 PM
steppen0410e, "The argument relies upon sound inferences based on probabilities (and probabilities are remarkably tricky things)" What do you mean by tricky things? It simmply is what it is. If I throw a new deck of cards in the air it is of low probability that they will all come down in the same order that they started in. It can be calculated through mathematics. As to events happening in the natural world we can add the laws of physics so to predict say a cracked egg reverting back into it's shell. Though not out of the relm of possibility, exteremely unlikely. In my view probability is inherent in how we perceive the world.
03/20/2006 07:23:03 PM
Faustus: Science builds models. Empirical data hones them. God is not a variable in a set of differental equations describing the universe, He's the forcing function. I don't need to invoke a shred of cosmological data to sustain a first cause argument. Look, I totally agree that a mechanistic, model-building investigation of the universe should be the way science is pursued. I live my life as a scientist by methodological naturalism. On the other hand, turning this into philosophical naturalism is a whole different issue. In terms of consciousness studies, I'd love to hear about some of your background and opinions. You should be able to find my email address on the web. If you are having trouble, just let me know, but I'd rather not publicly post it. Cheers, Paul
03/20/2006 06:27:47 PM
Thanks Livindesert. Cool screen name by the way.
03/20/2006 06:26:44 PM
Paul.bello wrote, “Unfortunately for atheists, teleology is winning these days. If you have problems conceiving of a personal creator God, that's a perogative, not an evidentially warranted claim.” The burden of proof is entirely upon the theist or supernaturalist to demonstrate the superiority of such models over materialistic, mechanical models of the universe. In this task they have only failures, embarrassments, and not one success in the sciences, while the godless models continue to thrive and succeed. This is the best and only reason to be an atheist or agnostic in my opinion.
03/20/2006 06:25:54 PM
Paul.bello wrote, “No NCC's for so-called "phenomenal consciousness" or subjective experience as you've both been using, are known to exist.” In my opinion, as a major in consciousness studies, this statement is flatly false—and I’ve read and rejected the arguments by all of the scholars you cite, most of whom aren’t scientists. It can only be sustained by erecting an artificial and scientifically unwarranted distinction between consciousness and subjective experience. Dennett’s work, of course, goes on to show exactly why this is a bogus distinction. As an amateur scholar of his position, I’d be happy to discuss the subject in great detail in an appropriate section of Beliefnet. I have more than adequate scientific and philosophical resources at my fingertips.
03/20/2006 06:23:13 PM
Signofthetimes wrote, “And you trot out statistics about the fact that most modern scientists are atheistic. While important in itself, this argument doesn't address the inquiry I pose.” It not only addresses your point, it buries it. Scientific progress is ticking along just fine, even accelerating—as non-believers in the elite halls of the scientific community occupy an enormous majority. If your point had merit, this should be a handicap. The only reason you can cite the fact that great scientists of the past were theists is because there were simply more theists before the one-two punch of Darwin and modern cosmology, which made non-belief more intellectually respectable.
03/20/2006 06:23:13 PM
kpax101: "Or maybe God is only intermittently benevolent and fitfully forgetful. If that were the case, it might be best to keep on his good side." Or maybe God is the life giving spirit that shares in the "harsh" realities of the universe with us and gives us our sense of reason, rational, and passion to overcome it.
03/20/2006 06:18:55 PM
I like jd70's way of expressing his philosophy while not stating it as scientific fact. Good post.
03/20/2006 06:13:26 PM
LivingEZ123: In response to your last post. I do a agree that theism has connotations with belief in a "personal" God, but it's literal meaning is belief in God. How God is conceptualized is subjective. I myself hold a more deist/panentheist view. Just like in Judiaism I hold that God is unknowable. Though through the process of developing a sense of humility I believe that God can be experianced and reflected through actions. As a Christian I see Jesus experiancing God in this way. Does Judiaism have a similar view? You said: "If I can conceive it, it is not God." That is a good point and I agree. In Taoism it is said that "the tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao"
03/20/2006 05:28:52 PM
The God model most are using is “Christian”. Within Jewish mysticism, the ultimate nature of God is unknowable. The “first cause” is outside of existence, time or space. We have an imperfect paradigm of how the universe works. That paradigm may be anthropomorphic, the “first cause” is not. Our thought and experience is organic. Thought and the speech and action with which we express them are organic. They are not the “essence” of life. Like the first cause, the essence is beyond comprehension. To the extent that humans exist, human culture and law exist. To the extent humans were created in some fashion, so was history, culture, law, morals, values as well as the physical universe. These are not outside the natural. These are certainly subject to objective study. Our sense of purpose is real even if it too is an organic part of being human. I can not know what God is, I can know what God isn’t. If I can conceive it, it is not God.
03/20/2006 05:15:39 PM
" Since most theists conception of God requires Him to act as first cause, He must be treated as any other scientific entity, observable or unobservable (such as the Higg's boson). " I would like to note that there is a difference between saying. There is a energy source as the first cause and The flying spaghetti monster is a scientific entity.
03/20/2006 04:39:49 PM
I agree, kpax. Simply because the design argument has come back into flavor with some recently hardly justifies the claim that it is "winning". The Argument from Design glosses over complex issues on which the opinions of experts are divided. The argument relies upon sound inferences based on probabilities (and probabilities are remarkably tricky things). But the probabilities it considers simply do not make sense and often defy analogy. The caveat is: Beware of theists bearing probabilities.
03/20/2006 04:21:37 PM
(continued) However, atheism does not follow from this. There is also space for belief in a lesser God: one that is supremely powerful but not omnipotent. This world may be the best that a supremely powerful deity can manage, for all we know. Or maybe God is only intermittently benevolent and fitfully forgetful. If that were the case, it might be best to keep on his good side.
03/20/2006 04:18:08 PM
"Teleology is winning these days", paul.bello? I don't think so, but I'm willing to listen to your argument in support of this bald assertion. And, yes, I do have trouble "conceiving of a personal creator God", but only because of the complete paucity of evidence. One thing for sure, though, if such a creator God exists, then he has an unbounded capacity for designing and building animals with seemingly inexhaustible variations on themes built around the abiity to torture, maim, and kill one another. Among those dripping fangs lies, of course, the Creator's free-willed image, man.
03/20/2006 03:56:44 PM
kpax: Wrong again. The 4.6% is the atomic, material part of our universe. The rest is dark matter, etc. I never said we should go seeking fire-breathing dragons in the other 95.4%, nor did I claim that God lived there. It's not a gaps-based explanation, merely an interesting aside -- we are so fixated on what our puny senses of perception allow for in the material world, yet by the sheer power of our intellects we contrive theories which accurately predict the behavior of most of the unseen universe. Perhaps strict empiricism isn't all it's cracked up to be. It's fine to maintain a healthy skepticism..lord knows I do. It's just when the atheist presents the argument against God from science that I get amused. Unfortunately for atheists, teleology is winning these days. If you have problems conceiving of a personal creator God, that's a perogative, not an evidentially warranted claim. -P
03/20/2006 03:45:49 PM
Make that "freedom".
03/20/2006 03:45:01 PM
(continued) There is no freesom without the possibility of error. This only serves to heighten the significance of a life well lived.
03/20/2006 03:42:49 PM
Having gone into the whole thing for a number of years, and rejecting all theisms that purport to tell us the meaning of life, am I know committed to saying that life is inherently meaningless? Yes. But that is no bad thing. After all, inherently speaking, the answer just given is also meaningless. There is no inherent meaning to the word 'yes'. It is our interaction with it that imbues it with meaning. And as with 'yes', so with life. It is individuals' interaction with life, their attitudes, decisions and actions, that will ultimately make their lives meaningful. This thought may engender in some a slight fear of freedom or angst at error, a vertigo at the possibility of philosophical freefall. Yet, this is no new problem.
03/20/2006 03:33:07 PM
There have been many interesting posts here (and only one or two fundamentalist flops), and some rather good points have been made. I'm one of those who thinks that the entity called "God" is a fiction, or, at best, something that has little relevance to our understanding of how the world works or is. The fact that, as paul.bello correctly points out, that we can "only possibly observe 4.6% of our own universe is no more an argument for the possibility of God than it is for any other invention of the human imagination. Maybe the greater and unknown portion of our universe is where the fire-breathing dragons, unicorns, and all the gods' hang out? But it is the 4.6% that we have to go on, and so far it has delivered us some fairly reliable, if tentative, understandings, none of which, I repeat, require or demand the invocation of the supernatural.
03/20/2006 03:00:05 PM
And further: If it's logically possible that belief in an external entity called "God" is a fiction of the mind, it's logically possible that any belief (which is the result of any process of sensation, interpretation, and mental representation) is also a fiction of the mind. This leads us to the unfortunate position of having to question everything, leading to transcendental idealism. A naive realism is required to perform any science whatever, since the natural world must be equipped with physical things and causal relations between them. Since most theists conception of God requires Him to act as first cause, He must be treated as any other scientific entity, observable or unobservable (such as the Higg's boson). Strikes me as funny how people routinely mark anything for which there is no physical evidence as nonsense propositions and figments of the imagination, when we can only possibly observe 4.6% of our own universe. -P
03/20/2006 02:51:23 PM
F1fan: I don't mean to be intrusive, but the claims you've offered to "signofthetimes" as evidence for subjective experience being a fiction of the mind are patently false, and rejected by almost every serious cognitive scientist. Even the most hard-core reductionists like Francis Crick and Christof Koch have only investigated the neural CORRELATES of consciousness (NCC) and only for aspects of sensory perception. No NCC's for so-called "phenomenal consciousness" or subjective experience as you've both been using, are known to exist. I'd direct you either to John Searle's "Rediscovery of the Mind," Hilary Putnam's argument from multiple realizability, most of David Chalmer's excellent work, or even work by Crick and Koch themselves for further verification of this position. -Paul
03/20/2006 02:42:32 PM
Why do people have to call someone that is not thinking your way stupid. One) it is not polite and 2) everyone has intellect of some kind. If we did not then there would have been no problem from the beggining of time. We would be at peace and not fighting over whoms religion is right or wrong.
03/20/2006 01:43:20 PM
The issue here is as I see it is like the analogy says, how can atheists make any objective judgments about God and theism when they've never experiences the phenomena? –sign ------------ because the so-called “experience” can be examined as a natural function of the mind. As soon as the mental process that conceives a god is recognized to continue to believe that idea of god is separate from the mind is irrational. Many theists deny what cognitive psychology has uncovered about religious experience, yet this denial only serves the illusions of the believer. Your appeals won’t work as a basis for discussion. Unless you have other data which falsifies the current data, you’re left with beliefs based on deception. If you want to advocate for metaphoric examples, and concede that religious belief is insufficient as knowledge, then I couldn’t disagree with you.
03/20/2006 01:32:16 PM
cont. At certain times in my life, faith, the faith that I count for something, that in some sense, I am loved, has been the only thing that has enabled me to go on, to get up in the morning. I'm not suggesting that atheists can't get up in the morning unless they have faith. By the way, I guess the opposite of "Bright" would be "Dim"? (I'm certainly rather dim at times.)
03/20/2006 01:27:39 PM
cont. When the Communist Mayor asks Quixote about his belief, Quixote answers, "I want to believe, and I want others to believe." He goes on to explain that, of course, like everyone, he often doubts the existence of God, but he also has faith in that existence. I think it is important to make that distinction between belief and faith. To me, belief is not something I will -- it's more of a state of intellectual or emotional assent, and it is much more changeable than faith. Faith is more of a decision. Some might consider faith a cop-out that tries to short-circuit the process of thinking. However, I never stop thinking about my beliefs, and yet, at the same time, faith is what keeps me going when belief is inadequate.
03/20/2006 01:22:04 PM
This discussion looks like it has been going on for a long time, so, I apologize if what I have to add has already been covered. I just finished watching the movie version of Graham Greene's novel, "Monsignor Quixote." (The movie stars Sir Alec Guinness and Leo McKern "Rumpole of the Bailey" to those who remember him.) In this modern retelling of Don Quixote, Father Quixote (promoted, by a strange accident, to Monsignor) is a very unworldly, saintly priest, and "Sancho" is a just defeated Communist mayor of a Spanish village. The two men drive around Spain, get drunk, and talk about belief, faith and doubt.
03/20/2006 12:25:47 PM
shanti99, Your points are well taken but a but simplistic. We atheists have an inner subjective life too. My guess is that we interprete our inner lives differently than theists. Speaking for myself, my skepticism is not based on some intellectual rationalism. It's based on the way I experience the world. I don't experience the supernatural. Holy books telling me it's all "God's plan" is not true in my experience. Intellectual discussions about a "causeless cause" has as much relevence to my life as the old Medieval discussions about the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin. It's as though theistic holy books say the sky is red and I experience the sky as blue. As a Buddhist meditator, when I am able to clear my mind the most of my human needs and intellectualism, the less I see any gods.
03/20/2006 10:29:20 AM
(2) Law is a very “human” institution necessary to the development of culture and social organization. What ever is the “cause” of humanity is the “cause” of law and culture also. I identify with my particular culture which for a Jew is expressed through Torah. Judaism values the intellect as primary means of experiencing the “first cause”. Torah contains a legal system and expresses values. Torah is very broadly defined as encompassing “all truth” and therefore embraces “science”. I encourage the scientific study of history, culture, law, natural phenomenon, etc. My emotional affinity to “Torah” was a cultural “inheritance”. I don’t expect everyone to share my cultural inheritance although they are welcome. I can distinguish between myth and scientific or historic fact. I wish everyone could. It doesn’t require one give up their “culture”.
03/20/2006 10:25:03 AM
JD70 (1) I agree with your thought. Supernatural can have the meaning of “first cause” and does not necessarily mean “miracle” or imply a “divine intervention” outside the normal laws of nature into known reality. Your use of the term theist is incorrect. Theism is belief in a “personal” God or gods as apposed to Deism or Pantheism. I agree with the author that “the organizational genius of religion” can be positive. I am Jewish. The central focus of Judaism is on the value of human life, peace, social and economic justice as accomplished through law and what today we call culture.
03/20/2006 09:00:07 AM
Shanti I can't agree with that, nor do I believe the evidence can be made to support it. If transcendance were truly only in the realm of the subjective, how then to explain how religion is primarily the realm of faith communities, and not faith individuals?
03/20/2006 08:30:08 AM
I think this debate needs to be divided into 2 catagories - the objective, and the subjective. The atheist (and often the western scientific thinker) functions from the objective. It requires seeing evidence outside oneself to create any sense of belief. The subjective thinker requires in inner experience, and that is sifficient to itself. The problem with the subjective person is that they are the only one with that particular experience and it cannot be talked about or shared. It is like trying to tell a blind man what the color green looks like. It cannot be done.
03/20/2006 06:54:28 AM
kpax & namchuck: Insofar as evopsych has a strong relationship with ancient and (cross-species) mechanisms like fear response, where there are lots of data to be sifted through, I agree that it's somewhat useful. But be mindful that the most defining features of the human condition (the ability to generate and manipulate abstract mental representations) are probably out of it's explanatory grasp. It's not harsh to dismiss a methodology which relies on data we will never be able to maintain. Isn't that why judges consistently rule against the teaching of ID as a scientific alternative to Darwinian evolution? In terms of human consciousness, I was including that under the moniker of "intellect" through I didn't want to bring up the C-word for fear of opening a philosophical can of worms. Chrs, P
03/20/2006 06:24:35 AM
Namchuck my friend: "And yes, people believe in the supernatural largely out of ignorance, mixed with a considerable dollop of wishful thinking." I saw your post and could not help but respond. Since there are many concepts of the supernatural, lets simply define it at the root level of the absolute and uncaused. With that said. We know that we do not cause our own existance. The scientific method can tell us how things that exist work, but can never answer the question of what caused them to come into existance in the first place and that is where beliefs in a supernatural arise. The assigning of attributes to the supernatural may be based on ignorance or wishfull thinking, but the belief in such is far from it. Since we did not cuase our own existance the question of ultimate cuase will remain a mystery. A theist simply believes that the natural world did not arise by chance , that is neither ignorant or wishfull thinking, but rather a reasonable and logical conclusion. peace..
03/20/2006 05:54:23 AM
signofthetimes assertion that "great intellectual achievement" requires a "holistic consciousness" and "whole brain functioning" is simply insupportable nonsense. Many of the great intellectual achievements of our species have been brought about by individuals suffering from the most intense inner conflict and dissonance. Some of them hardly capable of negotiating normal human relational interactions. The whole "theistic scientific achievers vs atheistic ones" argument borders on the egregious. Again, God has not proved himself a viable cog, nut, or bolt in how the world works or is. The concept of God is epistemologically unnecessary.
03/20/2006 05:37:43 AM
The deepest mystery in the world is not how intellect arose, but that of human consciousness. Science has given us satisfying, if still incomplete, answers to many of the mysteries over which we humans have puzzled - the nature of the stars and planets, the origins of mountains and oceans, the relationship among species, biological reproduction - but science has hardly touched consciousness. In spite of recent discussion of the problem, I have not yet found a satisfying explanation for how an organic brain can yield the consciousness of our daily experience. But I would suggest that, when the answer comes - if it ever does - it will be similar to all the other mysteries that science has explained, an explanation that will not require the invoking of any outside agency.
03/20/2006 02:12:42 AM
Paul, it’s true that cognitive psychology deals with measurable aspects, but it seems harsh to dismiss evolutionary psychology as bunk. It’s a fairly new division, and has made some contributions in establishing some principles in explaining the nature of certain patterns of behavior, specifically those tied to processes in the more primitive parts of the brain. There has been data from cognitive psychology that has actually backed up some of the hypothesis, namely in the mapping of neural paths during certain mental processes like fear response. As for how intellect arose, surely it was like any other natural attribute that offered an advantage for survival.
03/20/2006 12:41:18 AM
F1fan: Evolutionary psychology is widely considered to be bunk among the vast majority of cognitive scientists due to it's inability to be falsified. Being one, I am definately in that category. Most (if not all) of its claims are evidentially baseless due to the lack of data, and constitute "best guesses" about how some of our cognitive capacities *might* have arisen. But my question to you wasn't about how human intellect arose via evolution (which is in and of itself an interesting subject area), but rather how any intellect in any species arose at all. A question of ontology rather than development. Good comments though. Cheers, Paul
03/19/2006 11:12:35 PM
And sign, please address the biological aspect of religious experience, specifically imbalances between the temporal lobes that result in temporal lobe epilepsy, and gives people the feeling of having experiences with god. Thanks.
03/19/2006 11:09:27 PM
But I'm not here to defend traditional organized religions, I'm here to say God can be found, even by atheists, if they will only let God in the doors of perception, i.e., look for God instead of forming a pre-conceived notion God doesn't exist. –sign ------------------- Which god is it you suggest exists objectively that a person would notice? Brahma? Isis? Ra? There are thousands in man’s history. So why would one assume a god exists with so many concepts, and no objective evidence? Now, by what method would a rational and objective investigator ‘open the doors of perception’ that would result in an unbiased and unemotional conclusion? Here is your chance to demonstrate it.
03/19/2006 10:58:22 PM
I still await response to the fact, and it is still a fact, that the great majority of scientific break-throughs in our past have come from theistic scientists, and the same for great art, great music, great accomplishments in most every field of human endeavor. –sign ------------------- Let’s say this is true (I’m not suggesting it is) at best it would be a correlational relationship, not cause and effect. Are you aware of this? You would have to show, via the scientific method, that theism affects results with a clear advantage. I suspect that religious beliefs are quite irrelevant to results in the work by competent scientists. I have a devout Muslim friend who works in chemistry, and his beliefs play no role in his work.
03/19/2006 09:23:30 PM
But the same logic could be used to argue "because people disbelieve in supernatural causes for familiar things, that proves that they don't really understand how these 'familiar' things work." It's the same error either way. –aquari --------- In my experience, many who are critical of science, like the theory of evolution, do not demonstrate a competent knowledge of the science they are criticizing. In contrast, those who do realize the problems inherent in supernatural claims (lack of actual evidence) tend to have learned this on the way to learning how the scientific method works. Psychologists are the largest group of scientists classified as atheist. There is surely a strong correlation to the knowledge of the mind relative to ‘believing’ that dispels any tendency to believe in gods. Studies suggest that many people believe because it is a part of their conditioned environment. If all your brothers and sisters are Catholic, chances are you will conform to the norm.
03/19/2006 09:14:48 PM
Z-E-I, I agree. There can be an automatic dilemma in pondering god, which all depends upon defining what god is. The paradox that I see is how mere mortals can define a god IF that god is supposed to be mysterious and beyond human reason. The whole approach of defining what is not sensible suggests it is invented. Perhaps it isn’t, perhaps a few have some insight into something deeper than the five-sense reality. But nothing has backed this up, and as such isn’t believable. Occam’s Razor applies: what is the most likely answer. It’s seldom the supernatural one, if the reasoning process is completely objective.
03/19/2006 08:21:40 PM
I'm sorry, Aquari, but you are mistaken. What the trend does illustrate is that science has objective and consistently better explanations for what was once attributed to supernatural causes, and such a remarkably consistent trend, I repeat, might give a scientist pause to declare God very likely non-existent. I agree with you that beleiefs prove nothing, but science, unlike religion, does not deal in beliefs but in evidence and data, plus it is the only human activity with a built-in system of self-correction when tested against the vagaries of the real world. And yes, people believe in the supernatural largely out of ignorance, mixed with a considerable dollop of wishful thinking.
03/19/2006 08:04:03 PM
I see your point, Namchuck, but there's a flaw in your argument. What people believe about something, proves nothing about what it actually is. Your argument seems to be "because people only believe in supernatural causes for unfamiliar things, that proves that supernatural beliefs are caused by ignorance." But the same logic could be used to argue "because people disbelieve in supernatural causes for familiar things, that proves that they don't really understand how these 'familiar' things work." It's the same error either way. What this trend does prove is that people are not very objective or consistent in their thinking, whether or not the supernatural exists.
03/19/2006 05:42:56 PM
You are quite right, Zero-Equals-Infinity. In Fact, there is a clear inverse relationship between the amount of human knowledge and the credit, or blame, we are willing to give God for the intervention in the universe: the more we know, the less we sttribute to supernatural causes. Any scientist faced with such a remarkably consistent trend would not hesitate much to extrapolate just a bit and declare God very likely non-existent.
03/19/2006 05:26:32 PM
F1fan, while I certainly appreciate your position, would it not follow that an unbounded "God" would not fit neatly within anyone's definition? The difficulty I have with the theistic position is that it posits a specific view or frame that it compels Divinity to fit within. In that regard theism is reductionist and idolatrous. Hence, an agnostic position, (i.e. It cannot be known), is the least compromised position. It neither asserta a specific frame which God must fit within, nor does it assert that God either is or is not. Of course this position is not one that many people easily occupy since it requires that the black box be left empty of projection. It requires the avoidance of creating illusionary forms to pin the ego's hopes and assuage the ego's fears. That is asking a lot.
03/19/2006 05:02:37 PM
As for atheism, I don’t classify it as much more than a default. I grew up in a fairly religious family, torn three ways between Christian sects. Instead of the old ‘ignoring the elephant in the room’ it was an issue of everyone saying there was an elephant in the room that no one could see objectively. Yet claimants couldn’t agree on where it was, what it looked like, nor what it could do. I was left (as a natural observer) watching the believers disagree about the nature of something that could not be verified. I have no inclination or motive to believe I myth or religion. In the end, I hear people offer their version of what they think god is, and sometimes why they believe. My standards being what they are, very high, I am left unconvinced. So atheism is an issue of not being convinced by the reasons mere mortals give. If atheism is a problem for some of you, blame your lack of compelling evidence.
03/19/2006 05:01:02 PM
Signofthetimes wrote, “I continue to point out that atheists keep saying their same things and ignoring this glaring fact that it is the theists, not the atheists, who are contributing the most to humankind's intellectual development.” You are out of touch with reality. It is a fact that as education increases, belief in the supernatural decreases. A 1998 report in the journal Nature found that disbelief among the top ranked natural scientists was almost total, with only 5.5 percent of biologists proclaiming a belief in a God. It also found that disbelief in the scientific community is actually increasing.
03/19/2006 04:49:48 PM
Arguments like that require us to treat the universe anthropomorphically, as a moral being, which you are asserting that it is not (by virtue of the fact that you at least seem to be an atheist). – paul.bello ------------ The odd thing is I don’t classify myself as atheist. I only fit that classification via theists’ positions and assumptions This is a non-starter. Moreover, if all of these things are mental processes, we are still left with the dilemma of where they arose from, and by what means. ----------- Evolutionary psychology has numerous theories about this, most of which point to the transition of human beings from being part of the landscape to shapers of the landscape. It’s easy to maintain ancient religious mental constructs so long as they are assumed to have arisen from something related to the construct. Believers tend to be less willing to acknowledge that the human imagination is quite vivid.
03/19/2006 04:43:21 PM
The only reason anyone is "moderate" in matters of faith these days is that he has assimilated some of the fruits of the last two thousand years of human thought (democratic politics, scientific advancement on every front, concern for human rights, and end to cultural and geographic isolation, etc). The doors leading out of scriptural literalism do not open from the inside. The moderation we see among nonfundamentalists (like some of the posters here) is not some sign that faith itself has evolved; it is, rather, the product of the many hammer blows of modernity that have exposed certain tenets of faith to doubt. Not the least among these developments has been the emergence of our tendency to value evidence and to be convinced by a proposition to the degree that there is evidence for it.
03/19/2006 04:36:48 PM
There is no more evidence to justify a belief in God as there is to believe in the literal existence of Yahweh and Satan than there was to keep Zeus perched upon his mountain throne or Poseidon churning the seas. Moderates in every faith are obliged to loosely interpret (or ignore) much of their canons in the interests of living in the modern world. The first thing to notice about a moderate's retreat from scriptural literalism is that it draws its inspiration not from scripture but from cultural developments that have rendered many of God's utterances difficult to accept as written. Thisis the problem for "moderation" in religion: it has nothing underwritiing it other than the unacknowledged neglect of the letter of the divine law.
03/19/2006 04:25:35 PM
paul.bello: The oscillating universe is not consistent with 'some' cosmological data, but all the data is not in yet, and while I am not necessarily an advocate of the expanding/contracting theory of the universe, it still exists as a viable possibilty. So categorizing it with the flat-earth theory is presumptuous. I would suggest to you that atheism is rooted in the paradigm of rational enquiry, the paradigm in which we conduct our philosophy, mathematics and natural science, and, ever increasingly, our social and cognitive science, our ethics and aesthetics. Theism, whether in its classical expression or its younger offshoots, but also the fashionably vague notion of some 'power' or 'energy' or 'force' at the heart of today's modern, brand-less spiritualism, are all equivalent in their lack of evidential support.
03/19/2006 04:15:34 PM
signofthetimes: You manifest an apparent intolerance to atheism and atheists that is reminiscent of the intolerance one has seen in the past towards heretics of dogmatic religion. Atheism consists largely of an intellectual rejection of the traditional arguments and evidences for deities, on the grounds that they are insufficient in light of modern knowledge and thinking. It is a fact about God that he has never proved himself a viable cog, nut, or bolt in any theory of how the world works or is. And Einstein, incidently, took pains to point out that he - despite popular, but uninformed opinion - had no belief in any personal God, and actually identified Buddhism as the most likely candidate for any future cosmic and dogma/theology-free religion. Like you and me, signofthetimes, Einstein was an atheist in respect to some of the gods'.
03/19/2006 04:02:19 PM
kpax: The who caused God argument is essentially equivalent to the classical skeptics argument in epistemology that Hume posed. I'm fairly sure that most empistemologists don't take it seriously either. The oscillating universe theory isn't consistent with cosmological data. You may believe it's a possibility if you like, but I think it's probably a very slim one, if one at all. And you must really stop applying your own personal conception of morality to the mind of an arbitrary supreme being. There are plenty of ways to conceive of a creator/sustainer that aren't in terms of our short-sighted understanding of omni-____ adjectives. -Paul
03/19/2006 04:00:42 PM
signofthetimes: I believe your views of and about atheists and atheism are way off. You fail to understand how much being an atheist was a liability in the past, especially in cultures dominated by religious notions where you could end up on the stake for what was even faintly perceived as a dissonant view. It pays to keep in mind that this intolerant ambience has only, in historical terms, been lifted only recently. I would expect to see, as there have been already, major scientific contributions from scientists who are atheists but who are 'inspired' by the wonders and mysteries around them. And contrary to what you say, there were, at least in ancient Greece, people who rejected the gods' and made considerable contributions both to philosophy and to a nascent science. Who knows where science and technology today might have been today had not the crippling effects of dogmatic religion not crushed the spirit of enquiry that was temporarily ignited there.
03/19/2006 03:43:21 PM
paul.bello: Your assertion that the "who caused God" argument is a "rehash" is nothing more than an attempt to evade the question and its consequences, and your apologetic identifies only that you have missed the whole point. And you can rubbish the oscillating universe as much as you like if it seems to undermine your 'God-acting-out-of-time' preference, but the theory can in no way be likened to the flat earth theory and stands as good a chance of being a possibility as any other. If posters here mean by 'God' the creative vitality of nature, rather than a supreme inteligent and benevolent being, then, yes, I can go along with that. But when I look at a picture of conjoined infants or read about such things as cloacal exstrophy I find the idea of an All Good Omnipotent Being absurd.
03/19/2006 02:55:27 PM
Faustus: As a fellow human being, I totally agree. I don't think atheists should be discriminated against, or feel marginalized. It's unfortunate that politicans manipulate or impinge upon people's religious sensibilities, or thier right to worship. Lines have been crossed on both sides of the political isle..certainly on the far right, but also on the extreme left (frivolous lawsuits by the ACLU come to mind). Chrs, P
03/19/2006 02:50:30 PM
F1fan: I dunno, plenty of Buddhists and Taoists get along just fine without any traditional notion of "God." Arguments from fear of death or personal significance seem to become less plausible in light of the number of adherants these spiritual systems have. Further, I'm not entirely sure how we can make claims about how human beings are "worth" anything on a cosmic scale. Arguments like that require us to treat the universe anthropomorphically, as a moral being, which you are asserting that it is not (by virtue of the fact that you at least seem to be an atheist). This is a non-starter. Moreover, if all of these things are mental processes, we are still left with the dilemma of where they arose from, and by what means. Naive idealism still needs to boil down to a first cause. Even Descartes recognized this. Chrs, P
03/19/2006 01:09:38 PM
If any sort of energy exists that can be classified as a god, it is indifferent to suffering and any sort of hierarchy to life. Humans beings are worth no more than a worm to the universe. If some humans choose to impose their own sensibilities onto this energy, or adopt or create some mental image of god, it is still reducible to mental processes. I’ve long suspected that ‘gods’ are man’s attempt to create a significance for himself where none exists. Yet it is not to these gods that we find a solution, it is examining why people believe at all. When otherwise rational and intelligent people believe a god (as defined somehow, not observed) exists, I’m curious why they choose to judge in favor. Is the judgment objective, or just a result of a fear of the alternative: maybe there’s nothing as we imagine it?
03/19/2006 12:36:30 PM
Funkymonk wrote, “That being said, the statement "There is no God" is a metaphysical statement.” Is the statement “It is unlikely there is a god” metaphysical? Is the statement, “It is unlikely there is a silver teacup orbiting Jupiter” metaphysical? Most people are unbelievers regarding almost every religion. Atheists just add one more to their list. And yes, there is something intentionally snide about “bright”. I think it comes from the annoyance atheists feel that we are the only remaining group against which it is largely seen as okay to discriminate.
03/19/2006 12:13:09 PM
Livindesert: Just to clarify: I'm not a nature worshipper (God IS nature), rather, I believe that God is IN nature, and continuously creates/destroys/renews. I think that there is a "personal" force behind the operation of nature, I just refuse to adopt simplistic moral standards constraining the behavior of such an agent. So, I guess I feel it's pretentious to claim that I can know anything about this thing, other than it exists and is at work. Best, Paul
03/19/2006 12:06:28 PM
Livindesert: I can't say I'm quite sure how to classify myself. The empiricist in me is panentheistic, and the philosophical side is Roman Catholic. Most days it's a struggle to try and figure out where I am on those terms. I personally embrace Christ's message and teachings as they've been passed down through the church, but I see other spiritual teachers saying the same kinds of things. I guess I'm kinda ecumenical. I'm not convinced that anyone has a monopoly on salvation or eternal truth. So honestly, I guess I don't know. Best, Paul
03/19/2006 12:01:28 PM
kpax: The "who caused God" argument is a rehash, and depends on whether or not you see God as acting in time, since our normal conception of causality necessarily requires temporality. On the other hand, if you see God as somehow existing outside of time, we don't run into this problem, do we? In terms of the oscillating universe hypothesis, it's got about as much credibility as young Earth interpretations of the age of the universe, and the time-span of creation. Read a cosmology journal. Cheers, Paul
03/19/2006 11:42:13 AM
I completely agree that there is a conflict between science and religion in the sense that it is impossible for a metaphysical statement to be made scientifically. That being said, the statement "There is no God" is a metaphysical statement. The question that comes to my mind is what does Dennett mean by unbelief? Are we talking about intellectual dissent? A person can give intellectual assent and still not "believe" or "have faith." Also, the somewhat insulting problematic use of the word "Bright" for those of a particular ideology ought to be obvious. If a person isn't "Bright," what are they? The word that comes automatically to mind for most people probably isn't "Super." The antonym for "Bright" is "Dull."
03/19/2006 09:45:34 AM
O.k. I get it now ; ) It seems that people like paul.bello and jd70 are Deist/ Pantheistic. As a Agnostic/Deist myself I can see where you are comming from through your latest posts. I use to fight with people that claimed that God did not exsist when I became Deist. I then realized that I was hung up on the word/idea of God. I was using the word to explain my feelings for the Universe, the Force so to speak. What I did not realize was that others saw whatever their own version of God when I used the word. I then stopped using the word God becomming less attached to the word and focusing on my attachment to the Universe. Unfortunately God is too loaded a word to be used without getting caught up in culture. From what I got of paul.bello and jd70 differnet posts your ideas once brought out are not something we should be fighing over because a lot of freethinkers have those ideas. I think the problem is using the loaded word God.
03/19/2006 06:44:36 AM
"Eistein" should be Einstein.
03/19/2006 06:34:51 AM
Namchuck: "suffering is inconsistent with the notion of an all-powerful, omniscient, and omninice god." In reference to the biblical conception of god that sits in the clouds and "occassionaly" intervenes, I will have to agree, but in reference to a higher intelligent force that brings everthing into existance and exists as an intricite part of reality, then the above statement is one of how we interprete reality rather than being a conflict. I will say that I difinately side with paul.bello on this issue, but I will also say that belief is not what brings spiritual fullfillment, but rather humility and compassion. I think Eistein sums up my position in the following quote: "My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God."
03/19/2006 05:05:38 AM
I believe in God, but I don't depend on Him to get me up in the morning, get me to work. I do not need God in order to write my poems or do any of the other things in life that I love/need to do any more than I need a shoe manufacturer to get me to stand on my feet and walk. I feel no need to sing Him songs or pray to Him (but damn straight I LOVE Gospel Music) God is in the things I cannot control. He may not (or He may) be the driving force of my willpower but He is very definitely in the acetylcholine in my brain and the electrons in the lights of stars and bombs. I believe that, but those are things beyond my control, so I do not concern myself with them. They will simply do what they must. Meantime, cup of coffee's still 1.25 at the local gas station and the newspaper machine's still stuck. So what. "Death smiles at us all. All we can do is smile back" -- "Gladiator"
03/19/2006 04:01:49 AM
Atheism tends not to be an assertive position, one created as a response to the claims of theists. No one denies god, they deny the claims by mere mortals that their judgment of god is true and accurate. When arguments about existence are given, they are either based on an assumption that god exists, or create a circumstance that requires their version of god exist (an assumption too), or the old redoubt, on faith. On a discussion on the Psychology of Religion board, one Christian poster admitted to having beliefs, but could not explain why she believed them. She simply complied with what was expected of her as a believer. There is a certain social pressure to accept bundled belief wholesale, and few ask questions. To my mind this is a betrayal of spirit, that concepts are accepted as true with no test in reality.
03/19/2006 03:51:36 AM
We do know what happened when God was booted out of the Soviet Union. Dunno, can't see a case made for the atheistic position as a given if one takes away religious culture. –signotimes ------------ When I hear comments that suggest one’s god was kicked out of schools, or “booted out of the Soviet Union” my first impression is a not very impressive god, and likely not competent that it can do nothing to prevent mere mortals from tossing it out by the scruff of the neck. But let’s be honest, we’re not talking about any actual god, you’re referring to religion. Religion is by all accounts a product of the human mind. That some believers claim it a means to relate to god (as unverifiable as any of the thousands happen to be) is nothing verifiable, or rational. The appeal to religion is emotional, and by recent research a fear response from the more primitive part of the brain, the limbic system.
03/19/2006 02:06:27 AM
Further, it is unclear how your supposed God could have caused the Big bang since time is supposed to have been created in the Big Bang. God could not have caused the universe in any sense one can understand since a cause is normally temporally prior to its effect. In particular, causation in terms of intentions and desires are temporally prior to their effects. God's desires and intentions therefore cannot be the cause of the Big Bang. Of course, the universe could have come into existence as the result of a "mindless" natural process, like we see when water freezes into a complex ice crystal.
03/19/2006 01:58:41 AM
(continued) Your argument that the probability of "ANYTHING existing, much less creatures like ourselves is staggering" is based on what research and what comparisons? "Staggering" compared to what? How do you know that life forms more or less as complex as ourselves are not common throughout the universe? Your emphasis on the Big Bang - a theory that, while not established beyond doubt, looks fairly secure - is constantly reiterated in your posts as fuel, one supposes, for the evoking of the causal argument. But the causal argument begins by asserting that any effect must have a cause" and ends up by claiming that "God is the uncaused cause of the universe." Now, that is, as you would say, paul.bello, is absurd, and for the very reason that premise of the argument is contradicted by the conclusion.
03/19/2006 01:33:38 AM
Just FYI, paul.bello, the oscillating universe theory is alive and well, even though you may not like it. And I did not say that any "allusion to God being a bad designer, or that somehow natural evil/suffering/ill-fortune rules out the theistic hypothesis", only that it is inconsistent with the concept of an omniscient, omnipotent, and as Namchuck calls it, an "omninice" God. It seems like you would probably find anything "absurd" that might challenge your desire for there to be a God, and if it is "faith" that allows me to see "no evidence for a creator and a natural order" (actually, I do see evidence for a natural order), then it is a rational faith. But of course, there is no faith involved at all. I believe there is a substantial balance of proof against theism.
03/19/2006 12:07:47 AM
namchuck: The oscillating universe hypothesis died a long while ago. Just FYI. The big bang basically is as much a fact as biological evolution is. -P
03/19/2006 12:04:47 AM
Livindesert: Is the deist God any less a God than the traditional God of Christianity? I find this proposition to be somewhat absurd. Kpax: What seems to be rejectable seems to be a purely chance-based universe. You've provided no evidence to challenge these claims, mostly because you can't. Your (and my) intellectual betters can't either. Any allusion to God being a bad designer, or that somehow natural evil/suffering/ill-fortune rules out the theistic hypothesis is absurd. While it may be a force for revisionist theology on the part of biblical literalists, the sheer improbability of ANYTHING existing, much less creatures like ourselves is staggering. If you see no evidence for a creator and a natural order, that seems to be a personal decision...a faith-based one. -P
03/19/2006 12:02:28 AM
Brilliantly expressed, kpax! Hello jd70! Haven't seen you around in a while. I must say that, while it may be beyond your conception that the universe has existed eternally, that doesn't mean that its not so. Who knows that the Big Bang is simply not the result of a previous Big Crunch and that the universe is eternally oscillating? And while I would agree with you that suffering is "a product of lifes condition", suffering is inconsistent with the notion of an all-powerful, omniscient, and omninice god. I'm with kpax in all this. There is simply no evidence for such entities, and, as Christopher Hitchens has said, "What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence."
03/18/2006 11:48:27 PM
Yes, Livindesert. No form of supernaturalism has been vindicated by science but naturalism has been consistently vindicated countless times in every field of enquiry. I believe that argues for naturalism. A God may exist who planned providentially for evolution, but I see no compelling evidence for it. Although we can never prove or disprove the existence of God, science can tell us where he isn't. God isn't to be found in the creation of the Earth nor in the evolution of life.
03/18/2006 11:30:19 PM
Kpax ,it should also be noted that of the scientist that beleive in a God 99% accept evolution.
03/18/2006 11:20:23 PM
(continued) The perverse wonder of evolution is this: the very mechanisms that create the incredible beauty and diversity of the living world guarantee monstrosity and death. The child born without limbs, the sightless fly, the vanished species - these are nothing less than Mother Nature caught in the act of throwing her clay. No perfect God could maintain such incongruities. It is worth remembering that if God created the world and all things in it, he created smallpox, plague, and filariasis. Any person who intentionally loosed such horrors upon the earth would be ground to dust for his crimes.
03/18/2006 11:14:56 PM
paul.bello & signofthetimes: I've said it before, I am not a stubborn unbeliever and would readily convert to if given decisive proof of the existence of supernatural entities. But considering the utter vacuum of evidence for the vague God hypothesis, I think it can be provisionally rejected as silly and unnecessary even though technically we cannot prove God's non-existence. But there is one thing for sure, biological truths are not commensurate with a designer God, or even a good one.
03/18/2006 10:57:09 PM
(continued) Simply think of Giordano Bruno, Copernicus publishing only after his death, and the house-arrest of Galileo as examples of why scientists may have been inclined to keep atheistic views to themselves. So, your question remains irrelevant, and the scientific quest and the discoveries that arise from it transcend any beliefs about invisible supernatural agents.
03/18/2006 10:49:08 PM
signofthetimes: Again I say, it is irrelevant whether the scientist held theistic views or not. I would suggest, no matter who the scientist was, that he or she was motivated to become a scientist by possession of an insatiable curiosity and a soaring passion to know and understand how the world works rather than by any conviction about untestable propositions. Anyway, many of the great scientists of the past were religious only in a cultural sense and during times when it was an educational liability to be an atheist. I believe you are tattempting to convey the notion that great discoveries were made by scientists being lead by the nose by their respective gods. I would suggest that the scientific revolution and many of the great discoveries would have come a lot sooner had scientists and thinkers not been hamstrung by thoughts of the clear threat and reality of Church inquisitions and the dire punishments that could follow.
03/18/2006 10:02:00 PM
(provided nothing existed before the beginning) As you know it is quite possible that time dose not exist and is quite complex. Beginning might not even be applicable.
03/18/2006 09:59:33 PM
Of course I have more of a Taoist view currently. No God just a Force be it mathematics or energy.
03/18/2006 09:55:54 PM
By all means let me know by looking around you without any religous texts involved. What is God? What is the T.O.E.? Which religion is the correct one? Just by looking at a tree. The most one can come up with is the God of the Deist or Pantheist.
03/18/2006 09:06:26 PM
Livindesert: Our best scientific characterization of the world seems to indicate that a theory of everything might be eternally out of our grasp. Explain complexification, or the beginning of everything (provided nothing existed before the beginning), without an appeal to a Creator. Why does subjective experience need to be the only vehicle for experiencing for the divine. Much like Francis Bacon, I only have to look around me to be convinced. Chrs, P
03/18/2006 07:28:29 PM
I pose the question why believe in God? No one is going to hell. So you are not in any danger of eternal torture. Why not sit back wait for the theory of everything to happen and then make a decision?
03/18/2006 07:21:44 PM
As far as signofthetimes . From what I have seen people who make discoveries and great works of art are passionate. Passion drives creativity. They also tend to be liberal ; ) Really sceptical people are less passionate but are able to sit back and see something for what it is and keep science in check. That is how I see it anyways : ) Of course being that culture has brought about more religous people than non it would make sense that a majority of scientist have some sort of this culture still.
03/18/2006 07:21:38 PM
I just do not see evidence for God other that subjective experience. If anyone has scientific evidence for proof of God then by all means let CNN know. Let me clear up something ; ) Note Atheist,Agnostics etc...do not see all relgious people as stupid that is a stereotype. On the contrary they see smart and passionate people and see no reason why they need to help from a opressive religous culture. Again not all religion is bad but you have your Pat Roberson and your Mother Teresa if you know what I mean.
03/18/2006 06:56:22 PM
I'm really annoyed that so many atheists are unaware that so many religious people are extremely rational, reasonable, intelligent, etc. Seeing religion as a trance or a "spell" is as ignorant as the childish view of G*d that atheists generally reject. If atheists are so committed to reason and rational thinking, why are (many) atheists utterly ignorant about the existence of intelligent religious people, and seriously naive about the nature of religious experience?
03/18/2006 05:37:40 PM
namchuck said: "There is simply no evidence whatsoever that such entities exist," Such entities are not a matter of scientific inquiry. Their existance or non existance for that matter cannot be tested. What would constitute evidence for such? I am not an athiest myself, but from my experiance it seems that athiests tend to reject the religous conception of God rather than God. (Athiests feel free to respond) For me God is the absolute cause that brings everything into being. It is simply beyond my conception that the univererse exists as a product of chance, or that it exists eternally. Suffering is a product of lifes condition and attributing such as being in conflict with the existance of God is a matter of personal perception.
03/18/2006 03:39:52 PM
namchuck: In regards to the existence of natural evil, there are two glaring things you've overlooked: Pain serves a purpose -- ever heard of people born without nociceptors (i.e. pain signal transmitters)? they end up breaking bones and stretching limbs far past thier physical limits. Perhaps the classic "omni-_____" attributions assigned to God are a wee bit overdescriptive. I don't see where this serves as a counterexample to the notion of a Creator of some sort or another. -P
03/18/2006 03:34:32 PM
kpax and namchuck: 1) how can constants "evolve?" Constants are intrinsic features of physical law. Even the most avowed atheists see the Weak and Strong anthropic principles as extraordinarily disturbing (i.e. Steven Weinberg, Len Susskind). Beside this obvious line of reasoning, one still has to explain how the universe got here to begin with. The big bang has almost attained the status of fact. 2) re: evolutionary science. I'm not suggesting that the inferences made my evolutionary biologists aren't valid. But validity exists independent of the reasonability of premises. This of course, is how philosophy proceeds...the reasoning is flawless, yet some of the premises are found to be absurd. When I suggest "faith on the part of scientists" I suggest it in these terms. If the whole darned thing was figured out, the origins of life researchers wouldn't be looking to meteors to help them establish reasonable grounds for thier faith. Best, Paul
03/18/2006 02:13:42 PM
paul.bello suggests that evolutionary scientists use faith in their research. If they do, then it is of a rational nature - of the kind we demonstrate every day when we switch on a light - as opposed to the irrational kind invoked by believers in supernatural entities. There is simply no evidence whatsoever that such entities exist, and the very intensity of suffering in the world stands as a supreme testimony that no benign loving God watches or ohs and ahs over us.
03/18/2006 01:46:23 PM
(continued) But the physicist Vic Stenger knows more about such things than I do, so I would suggest you check out his website. And evolutionary scientists do not have to resort to 'faith' in respect to their extrapolations, based, as they are, on screeds of evidence and data.
03/18/2006 01:42:03 PM
paul.bello: I believe you over-state your case by asserting that atheists resort to the concept of the multiverse to avoid the conclusion of the the existence of some sort of deity. I'm an atheist, and I have never felt the necessity to evoke the notion. The universal constants you speak of may simply have evolved as emergent properties of an increasingly complex universe. Actually, as we look around the universe we see that chaos largely dominates with little pockets of order here and there, completely consistent with naturally emergent properties.
03/18/2006 01:07:25 PM
I am not denying the reality of personal experience, only that it points to nothing outside of the mind.
03/18/2006 01:05:09 PM
In addition, signofthe times, very little should be made of personal protestations. People are constantly subject to the most extreme personal convictions, which they can in no wise rationalise. Strength of conviction from 'personal experience' never guarantees truth. When one person experiences the deepest personal conviction of one notion, another can experience with conviction just as deep an entirely incompatible notion. A more reasonable light in which to regard such occurrences is to suppose that there are some people who are disposed to experience extreme conviction and that the substance of the conviction is entirely incidental.
03/18/2006 12:55:47 PM
I appreciate your opinion signofthetimes but untill it can be proven it is up to the realm of imagination.
03/18/2006 12:52:56 PM
You are spouting nonsense, signofthe times, I wasn't "defending" any position, I merely stated the fact that one's belief or disbelief in a hypothetical God was irrelevant to the scientific method, and it is the scientific method that leads to establishment of scientific "facts" anf "theories".
03/18/2006 11:49:23 AM
Hi paul.bello : ) Personally I claim not ignorance but suspend judgement until more facts along the lines of theory of everything rolls in. Why do people have to pick sides?
03/18/2006 10:57:42 AM
Rbethell wrote, “Why do we need to tell Sidartha Gautama that he can't reach Nirvana until he proclaims that he's a soup of complex sugars?” No one is saying anything like that, least of all Dennett (and I’ve read his new book). He’s merely trying to understand the evolutionary mechanisms—both biological and cultural—that lead to the creation of religion. Unfortunately, this Beliefnet interview focuses on atheism and conflicts between science and religion rather than the actual substance of his work. Typical.
03/18/2006 10:06:54 AM
kpax: No, I don't choose the multiverse hypothesis because it's somehow fantastical. I choose it because it is the atheists only recourse to explaining things as they are without invoking a deity of some sort or removing themselves from the debate because they have to claim ignorance. As far as robust evidence for macroevolution that doesn't involve a whole lot of intermediate inference, I'm still skeptical. Of course, I'm not claiming that macroevolution didn't happen, I'm just claiming that in order to arrive at that hypothesis, there are a number of assumptions that need to be taken on "faith." Basically, there are lots of ways that we could have evolved. We're not sure which one is the right one. On the other hand, there aren't too many stories for explaining the creation and evolution of the universe..only two as far as we know...and one of the two is definately "winning" at this point, and it ain't the multiverse hypothesis. -P
03/18/2006 09:42:17 AM
Hurrah for Dennett. He joins Richard Dawkins in calling on people to reject mindlessly accepting things without any supporting evidence. If this is a threat to religious beliefs then the problem is blind faith, not rigourous investigation of what is true!
03/18/2006 08:17:41 AM
O.k , I will do that : )
03/18/2006 08:15:00 AM
Hi, Livindesert! You asked: I think this disscusion will take a while would you like to move it to one of the disscusion areas? I'd love to talk more, but I really would like to get an hour or two of sleep tonight. Also, I'm not sure which board would be appropriate -- but you can always click on my user name and send me email, and I'll reply tomorrow. I hope that works for you? Nighty night, and love, joy, and peace to all! Claudia
03/18/2006 08:05:38 AM
FantasiaSmith , Hey : ) Nice to see you on the board. I think this disscusion will take a while would you like to move it to one of the disscusion areas?
03/18/2006 07:56:39 AM
Hello again, dear friends! Livindesert, would you please re-read what you just wrote? The rest of us deserve that type of proof. As for the rainstorm that has happend to me at work too. I personally believe it to be just they way the rain fell. To each his/her own : ) So, do you realize that you just said you WANT proof, but when you got your miracle you denied that it was proof enough???? Clarify, if you will? Love, peace, and joy to everyone! Claudia
03/18/2006 07:49:44 AM
Hello, dear friends! And hello, Livindesert! As I wrote, you are free to believe (or disbelieve) whatever you like. But if you'll click on my username, you'll see many other threads to which I've contributed specific details of a few of the many miracles I've experienced. Sure, it was "just the way the rain fell" -- it fell everywhere, except in a completely dry circle around me. I never even heard the sound of rain! My point was simply that MY faith isn't irrational -- as an engineer, my faith is a purely logical conclusion based on the many, many experiences I've had that defy non-spiritual logic. I was once only questioning... but my questions were answered with abundant and irrefutable proof. Love, peace, and joy to all! Claudia
03/18/2006 07:40:52 AM
FantasiaSmith , I like your post and appreciate your thoughts. I do not believe in a circular argument. Thomas got to have Jesus walk right up to him after he was killed. The rest of us deserve that type of proof. As for the rainstorm that has happend to me at work too. I personally believe it to be just they way the rain fell. To each his/her own : )
03/18/2006 07:36:54 AM
kpax101 writes: Do you choose it simply because the hypothesis of the multiverse is a largely speculative aspect of cosmology reminiscent of theological speculation? Of course, cosmologists at least have something to work with, the universe exists, while theology can only enjoy its non-empirical and insupportable abstractions. This is quite weak. And got weaker this last week. The existence of the universe - via the Weak and Strong Anthropic principle - indicates either a multiverse exists, or at miniumum the deity imagined by deists. Since both are unfalsifiable, what cosmologists have to work with is not relevent. In fact the recent anaylsis of the KOBE findings that show the universe did expand knocked one of the popular multi-verse models (colliding branes) onto the scrap heap.
03/18/2006 06:17:56 AM
Atheists so often assume that faith is irrational or a sign of stupidity. Daniel Dennett is making this same assumption. But I'm an intelligent, rational person with a degree in Electrical Engineering, and I believe in God and miracles because I've experienced them repeatedly throughout my life. I don't just mean "the Virgin Mary appeared on my toast" miracles, either -- I mean bona-fide miracles like staying dry in a rainstorm (while working in the Cathedral garden). There's a circular argument to consider here: atheists might think that if they experience a true miracle, then they'll believe; but I strongly suspect that one must first be open to faith to enable miracles to happen. So atheists, you're safe to maintain your disbelief as long as you like; I won't try to dissuade you. But please don't insult those of us who are intelligent, rational, and faithful. Love, peace, and joy to all! Claudia
03/18/2006 04:46:08 AM
Perhaps, signofthetimes, a more relevant question might be to ask, what contributions has science made for the welfare of humanity compared to that offered us by theology and religious belief? Having looked into it myself, I can tell you that the contrast is most revealing. Further, modern science explains life and our world competently without referring to superstition, magic or mysticism. Most certainly there are some gaps in our knowledge, but lack of knowledge is not licence to invent fantasy, albeit comforting and consoling ones. Again I will say that, there is clearly a sacred dimension to our lives, but coming to terms with it does not require faith in untestable propositions. Our credulity must scale with the evidence, but the doctrine of faith denies this.
03/18/2006 04:29:10 AM
Scientific discoveries are made independent of either theistic or atheistic views, signofthetimes, so the ratio would be irrelevant. paul.bello: While there is plenty of robust evidence for macroevolution, it seems somewhat disingenuous to select out 'alternate universes' from among the multitudes of well-established hypotheses and theories of science. Do you choose it simply because the hypothesis of the multiverse is a largely speculative aspect of cosmology reminiscent of theological speculation? Of course, cosmologists at least have something to work with, the universe exists, while theology can only enjoy its non-empirical and insupportable abstractions.
03/17/2006 10:54:50 PM
Then again here's a site that argues convincingly that the universe was designed by a very large committee.
03/17/2006 10:48:42 PM
I should have said, of course, we share those virus-founded genes with other primates.
03/17/2006 10:46:35 PM
Ok, evolution is a little tangential here, but not entirely. Let me point you to an article I just came across. It's a little long but interesting. In brief, viruses can invade us (as we know) and a few get incorporated into our genes. It turns out we share a LOT of these virus-founded genes with primates. Just what you'd expect if they are our distant cousins and what you would not expect if we all started independently of each other. Hence, yet another strong case that we are cousins of primates.
03/17/2006 08:44:59 PM
kpax: I think you somewhat mistook my last post. What's "testable" about alternate universes, or macroevolution? They are inferences made to accomodate theories. I certainly am not implying that either hypothesis is false...but neither are testable. I see a designed universe..physical constants suggest this might be so. In these things, I see the hand of an intellect. They are evidences much in the same way that fossil remains are evidences (but not conclusive via observation) of evolutionary development. I didn't see macroevolution occur, nor did witness the evolution of the universe. Neither set of events are repeatable. I believe in both because I directly experience the outcomes of those processes. Why is one any better than the other? Is it because there are scientific journals concerning evolutionary biology are surer paths to knowing something than a philosophy journal or a theoretical physics journal? I will never understand why 18th century worldviews won't go away... -P
03/17/2006 07:23:04 PM
And I strongly disagree with your assertion that "even atheism...operate(s) on a set of assumptions..." Atheism is not a worldview, it is simply the default position that states that there are no compelling reasons to belief that a God, or gods, exist.
03/17/2006 07:19:23 PM
I liked your post, seekermike, for its honesty and openmindedness. To meet our urge to explain by adopting a worldview, it is necessary that we make some assumptions, but such assumptions must be kept to a minimum and must never be held immune from criticism, revision, or rejection. The theistic paradigm starts out with the most complex and elaborate assumptions where the nature of explanation must always remain subservient to the assumptions of the worldview. I simply cannot go along with that.
03/17/2006 07:12:54 PM
I entirely agree with you, paul.bello, about scientific propositions which, unlike theistic one's, are at least grounded in some observations (like the background radiation and galactic expansion in respect to the Big Bang, etc.) It is the epistemological black holes that constitute theistic propositions that are nonsense and which threaten to drain the world of any light.
03/17/2006 06:26:50 PM
For many years now, I have seen my personal religion as a quest, a work in progress. To accomplish this, I must be willing to admit that I do not have all the answers, and that I, like everyone else, make some assumptions when forming my worldview. If I learn something that challenges or even disproves my current belief, then I must admit I was mistaken, and go on, continuing to read, study, talk to people of varying beliefs, and think. I dislike the term "Bright" since it implies that people with strong religious views are not "bright." That is patently false. Religious people just tend to make different assumptions than nonbelievers. Even atheism and agnosticism operate on a set of assumptions, or leaps of faith.
03/17/2006 05:59:02 PM
"If God came and told you to give up the thing you enjoy the most, do you obey God or try to rationalize it away?" First I ask for an ID. I'd want to be darn sure it's "god" and not some high tech alien or something (which I’d consider more likely on the face of it). Then, if it passed that test I'd pick myself up off the floor and ask It "Why?". If It gave a really good reason I suppose I'd give my favorite thing (whatever that is) up.
03/17/2006 05:32:26 PM
I think the question of "are you more loyal to the religion or god?" is the wrong question to ask. Religion, or studying numerous religions in some cases, that's how we get to know who and what God is (or the gods). I want to know if people are more interested in keeping their current "lifestyle" than in honestly searching for who and what God is. They have things that they like, and seem to run away or break off if they think that God is going to impinge on that. The question I'd ask is: If God came and told you to give up the thing you enjoy the most, do you obey God or try to rationalize it away?
03/17/2006 05:13:54 PM
Dawkins is more fun.
03/17/2006 04:10:20 PM
kpax: while I generally agree w/ you, it should be clear that scientists routinely reason about stuff they can't observe: big bangs, macroevolutionary developments, etc. They aren't nonsense propositions. The whole point of theoretical science is to develop models which have some predictive capability (i.e. should anticipate future scientific developments, infer hidden variables, etc.) Chrs, P
03/17/2006 03:43:03 PM
I have said it before that there is clearly a sacred dimension to our existence, and coming to terms with it could well be the highest purpose of human life. But we will find that requires no faith in untestable propositions. Rival belief systems are all equally uncontaminated by evidence, and are largely exercises of the imagination without any correspondence in reality. All that is good in religion can be had elsewhere - if, for instance, ethical and spiritual experience can be cultivated and talked about without our claiming to know things we manifestly do not know - then all the rest of our religious activity represents, at best, a huge waste of time and energy. Nothing need be believed on insufficient evidence for us to look into things and possibilities with an open mind.
03/17/2006 03:28:42 PM
I agree, nnmns, the evidence against the classic conception of God is immense, and all the best arguments for theism have been thoroughly debunked. Many have observed that religion, by lending meaning to human life, permits communities (at least those united by a single faith) to cohere. Historically this is true, and on this count religion is to be credited as much for wars of conquest as for feast days and brotherly love. But in its effect upon the modern world - a world already united, at least potentially, by economic, environmental, political, and epidemiological necessity - religious ideology is dangerously retrograde.
03/17/2006 03:24:14 PM
on the basis of this interview, dennet sounds pretty reasonable and nonjudgmental. of course, 'reason' is supposed to be the point of atheism, but i am in line with believers like tony campolo who wrote the book 'a reasonable faith' i think anyone who comes down squarely pro or con as regards religion will almost always have a bit of a chip on their shoulder, but dennet wears his chip lightly it seems. hes no frothing-at-the-mouth richard dawkins. thanx beliefnet for the article, and for continuuing to look at religious belief from every available angle.
03/17/2006 03:13:45 PM
I like to think of myself as a abstract entity. I am just withholding my judgement till the theory of everything comes out : )
03/17/2006 02:44:08 PM
nnmns: the abstract entities in question are the infinitude of multiverses required to debunk the teleological argument for God's existence. And it's not clear that such a strategy would work because it makes a further assumption that the physical constants governing the operation of the physics of each of these universes are uniformly distributed. As for evidence against an all-powerful, all-knowing.... well, I don't particularly see it that way. I think the matter is really up to the opinion of the observer. I think it's miraculous that I'm made of stardust left over from the big bang, and yet I have the cognitive capacity to think all the way to the edges of our universe and beyond. The fact that the universe is intelligable at all is miraculous. Cheers, Paul
03/17/2006 02:22:45 PM
"First-cause type reasoning either tells us that some force outside of space-time created the universe, or our whole mathematical conception of the physical world is based on flawed theory." Paul, we know our mathematical conception of the physical world (mcpw) is, at best, incomplete. And since being "outside of space-time” is also not in our mcpw, there’s that problem in either case. continued below
03/17/2006 02:21:50 PM
continued from above “Since the multiverse hypothesis requires postulating the existance of abstract entities which we have no evidence for, I see it as being at least on par (or maybe worse, given the number of entities involved) with the implausibility of theistic belief.” Which are those abstract entities? But I suppose ultimately, given the unlikelihood we’ll get evidence for or against a multiverse, it does depend on faith. Of course the evidence against an all-knowing (Does being outside time mean you can look at the future and see how it turns out? That would be pretty close to being all-knowing.), all-powerful creator is immense
03/17/2006 02:11:03 PM
neonatheart, I had the same reaction to Santa Dennett as well. Never knew Santa was an atheist. At any rate, while I am not a big proponent of organized religion, I'm not sure what the merits are of a study like this one. Is it about letting people "come out of the athesist closet" or is it about pulling them out kicking and screaming? Not so sure what the results will be...
03/17/2006 02:01:22 PM
For me, life is more meaningful without God, without religion. I no longer have to aganoize over how I want to be married with children and my love of books and other possessions, knowing all the while that Jesus said one should be a eunuch for heaven, that one should sell everything, etc. This is just one example, and an extreme one, I know, as many religious people do not agaonize over things like this. But there was a time in which I did. Atheism allowed me to heal, to see the material world, sex, love, etc. as beautiful, in a way that religions never seem to want to acknowledge.
03/17/2006 01:40:29 PM
The word meaninglessness in the prior post indicates reality before ones birth and reality after ones own death. Good synonyms for this are mysterious and darkness. All those in the human condition must cultivate the wisdom to penetrate the veil of mystery that lies beyond a single lifetime of activity. This is the essence of Dharma practice.
03/17/2006 01:35:44 PM
The truth is, from the standpoint of BUddhist wisdom, this person Daniel Dennet is self alienated. In the end he will have no power to move the world in either direction whether good or evil. This is because he lives off of the fumes of everyone else's spiritual animation. Consciousness itself derives from an animated spirituality that seeks to transcend the boundaries of meaninglessness.
03/17/2006 01:15:50 PM
I find it the label "irrational" for theistic belief to be somewhat lacking in justification. First-cause type reasoning either tells us that some force outside of space-time created the universe, or our whole mathematical conception of the physical world is based on flawed theory. I'm not guessing it's the latter, given its predictive accuracy, and the amount of reduction that's been accomplished (i.e. quark-level analysis). Moreover, anthropic reasoning seems to suggest that the universe was either designed such that life inevitably will arise under massively improbable circumstances, or that our universe is one of an infinite number of alternate universes, obviating the design inference. Since the multiverse hypothesis requires postulating the existance of abstract entities which we have no evidence for, I see it as being at least on par (or maybe worse, given the number of entities involved) with the implausibility of theistic belief. -P
03/17/2006 12:50:48 PM
I've never understood the need to divinize Platonic argument. It is not the only meaningful way to look at the world. In fact, our species got along without it for a hundred thousand years! Science is useful - as science. But it is not the only possible framework through which to try and comprehend the meaning of life. Why do we need to tell Sidartha Gautama that he can't reach Nirvana until he proclaims that he's a soup of complex sugars?
03/17/2006 12:22:47 PM
I like your post Merlock : ) Atheist,agnostic,Deist,and Monotheists can discuss faith and God in positive ways.
03/17/2006 11:17:24 AM
I like Mr. Bennett's point about believing in faith. When someone tenaciously clings to a doctrine without question, I percieve that they are trying to control God, and by extension, their world. If I believe thatI completely understand something, it gives me control. - Get a grip on God, get a grip on the world, so to speak...
03/17/2006 11:12:34 AM
One of my spiritual-humor I.Q. statements is "Some of the best Christians that I've ever met were Atheists". Either the person I'm talking to gets it or they don't. I either get a knowing chuckle, or a stern, confused response. I tend to congregate to the ones that underatand where I'm coming from. Love is what we do, not what we feel. Jesus, I presume, did not "feel" like going to the cross. He did what had to be done. Hence, the command to love your enemies becomes easier to understand.
03/17/2006 10:56:52 AM
i agree w/someone earlier - i've experienced more joy, compassion & acceptance from non-believers and more criticism & judgment by believers - and that saddens me. it saddens me that non-believers are subjected to such ridicule. it saddens me that some believers live and exemplify such hypocrisy and quite possibly miss out on alot of authenticity. i don't very much care if there is a real place like heaven or hell. why should i spend time, energy, & effort wishing to get to a place - especially since it appears that i live there already?
03/17/2006 10:49:31 AM
BTW, has anyone else mentions how dennett looks like santa claus? :) AND he's wearing red.... :}
03/17/2006 10:41:21 AM
i follow a set of beliefs that i have set for myself, based on my own readings, studies, and emotions. i have yet to find an organized religion that fit me. i dont think my faith is the pear-shape to fit in the pear-shaped slot. if you understand what i mean. my mother thinks i am a pagan or atheist, simply b/c i dont follow her baptist life-style anymore. if i bring up faith... well she used to get really mad, but now that she got her whole church in on it (praying for me and giving her "sound advice") she just sighs, and looks sad. i think i am a devoted follower of Christ, i try to follow His precepts of love and understanding, she thinks that since i dont do the baptist thing, i'm going to hell (baptist thing= pot lucks, committees, mission trips to the bahamas, etc). to her, i'm the village atheist.
03/17/2006 10:27:07 AM
There is alot negative to say about organized religion. There are alot of atheists and very spiritual people out there who hold negative opinions of those of us who belong to the various religions (I intentionally do not say "faith" because I believe the word has been twisted terribly). What we "religion members" should be asking ourselves is "Why do these people have such an image of us?" and "How would I answer their questions in a thoughtful and respectful manner". We should welcome these questions and try to figure out answers that do not include things like "well it's just a matter of faith" when what we are really describing is belief in certain stories. We should be able to separate our articles of faith from the supportive stories.
03/17/2006 10:10:35 AM
Contrary to popular belief, psychologists have noted that "rationality" requires more than just logical thought; it also requires emotional, intuitive reasoning, which can include faith. I like Mr. Dennett's approach; some atheists are so bombastic in their beliefs (my brother is the Pat Robinson of atheism), I like someone who can keep an opened mind. I also want to thank him---he's given me a lot of think about. I'll try to contemplate if I really have faith in God or my own faith. Personally, I want to believe in a God; I would lose all hope if 'I' was the only think in charge of my destiny :-) To me, it seems like there must be some kind of spirituality out there---humans, to me, seem to be more than just really intelligent robots, and I think we need to recognize that, and try to figure out what exactly we are, and why. God bless!
03/17/2006 10:07:35 AM
Steppen - the Chet Raymo theory you've put forward is certainly very interesting and compelling, but I'm not sure it fills the same human needs that religion can. I think a lot of people feel a need to discover meaning in a seemingly random universe, a need that science doesn't necessarily fill. For instance, it's been my experience that a person who discovers (s)he has some sort of disease or genetic problem often spends a great deal of time asking, "Why?" Sure, you could explain all the science and biology and genetics behind it to them, but that isn't what they mean. They want to understand why this is happening to them specifically, and what impact it has on their opinions about the purpose and meaning of their life, the reasons why they're here. I know not everybody feels this way, but I would find the universe somewhat empty and meaningless if the things that happen to me have no purpose beyond the random workings of genetics.
03/17/2006 10:07:23 AM
Windbender - About the poll, here's how I interpreted it. If your religion asked you to do something that you believed would offend God (as you understand him/her), would you do it? If you would, you're more loyal to your religion. If you'd go against your religion, you're more loyal to God.
03/17/2006 09:20:15 AM
It's more important who you are than what you say you are. Some of the nicest, most decent people I know are not religious and yet some of those who call themselves good religiously, moral people are not.
03/17/2006 08:51:23 AM
Thank GOD that Beliefnet gives forum to the 'controversial'! God knows we hear enough from the conservatives and fundamentalists EVERYWHERE ELSE. Beliefnet just does what it can to effect the ballance. I'd love to see the rise of an "Amoral Majority" or a "Moral Minority" that is dedicated to the dissemination of controversial material? KEEP THE CONTROVERSIAL COMMING !!!
03/17/2006 07:07:08 AM
I think it is nice that Beliefnet posts artices for everyone, some are better writen then others mind you. I think allot of Atheists would probably disagree with this mans thinking. I know a few Athiests who are modernate, they are nicer to talk to then the ones who consider believers to be nuts or crazy. I also sometimes think Beliefnet tends to interview those with more and I hate this word "contraversal" beliefs. At any rate, rationality, science, faith, I believe they are all perspectives. What I see as totally rational is certainly differant then this man. Who is more right? I don't think I am more right then anyone else. We are all searching for answers to lifes questions. It's all just a matter of perspectiove, experience and what speaks to you more as an individual. Rightness and rationality is something we all long for religious or not.
03/17/2006 04:30:32 AM
Your "many paths to God", spitfire2378, merely illustrates essentially what Dennett is saying: why believe there's a God in the first place? There is certainly no compelling evidence to suggest that such a being as God, or gods, exist. In regards to science, Chet Raymo has offered five compelling reasons for embracing the "New Story" of science rather than the old story - or stories - of religion as a basis for spirituality. (1) Science works; (2) It is universal, true for all people at all times; (3) It emphasizes the connectedness of all people and all things; (4) It makes us, rather than some deity or transcendent force, responsible for our destiny; (5) It reveals the universe to be more complex, vast, and beautiful than we ever imagined.
03/17/2006 02:15:42 AM
I have to admit that Mr. Dennet makes some statements that are worth exploring. That being said, it all comes down to the interpretation of the person reading the information. Run all the information that you've been given through your own personal sifter (God-center, conscience, heart, intellect, whatever you wish) and pick what feels true to you. I believe that there are many paths to God and that religion is merely one of them. If science is your path to enlightenment, good for you and I hope that you find what your looking for. Don't forget to share your findings with the rest of us though...some of us are honestly interested in your results. ^_^
03/16/2006 10:55:21 PM
"But it can just as easily be seen that the atheist may have an emotional need that is at the core of their so-called "rationality." Does it need to be repeated that the existence of God can neither be rationally proved or disproved?" Hmm, an emotional need to not believe something without proof versus an emotional need to believe something without proof. I know which is more rational. If, as you say, the believer believes because of an emotional need to do so, and you may well be right, wouldn’t it make more sense to try to cure that need to believe without proof rather than to go through life believing in some one of the many religions that are almost surely all wrong, probably paying a lot of money for the opportunity.
03/16/2006 09:46:48 PM
Dr. Dennett shows a bit of irrationality by noting that the "brights" are plentiful in Maasechusetts. But, in a rather paranoid fashion, he infers that some "fundis" in that same state may be holding up and corrupting the Benson study at Harvard? We're not talking about Bob Jones U. here, but Harvard.
03/16/2006 09:40:30 PM
Dennett calls people who are religious irrational. Atheism has no corner on the rationality market. Underlying every belief is an emotional state that creates the need for that belief. This emotion/belief connection is the basis for depth psychology. It could be said that the believer has an emotional need to believe, and therefore holds a belief. But it can just as easily be seen that the atheist may have an emotional need that is at the core of their so-called "rationality." Does it need to be repeated that the existence of God can neither be rationally proved or disproved?
03/16/2006 09:17:15 PM
"What A shame that Mr.Dennett looks at religion in the light that he does. Without God at the helm of ones life it must be be A empty unfulfilled life. A life lived apart without God is A life that is truly lived in VAIN!" hotdoggie, you should try it! Really. Just convince yourself no god exists for a little while. (Not hard, when you consider the lack of evidence there is one!) Then go about your business, enjoy the day, help someone out. Make the world a little better for your having been there. That's not in vain.
03/16/2006 09:09:32 PM
hotdoggie - Not so - and rather the point this fellow makes. If you are pinned in a burning car and I come along and get you, your wife and your kids out alive, I can be an atheist and my life not be in vain. As a matter of fact, I can have a perfectly meaningful life.
03/16/2006 08:59:36 PM
What A shame that Mr.Dennett looks at religion in the light that he does. Without God at the helm of ones life it must be be A empty unfulfilled life. A life lived apart without God is A life that is truly lived in VAIN!
03/16/2006 08:42:07 PM
"Religious teams have done a lot of excellent moral work. On the other hand, religious teams have done a lot of harm." Religion like anything else is not good or evil but can be used for both. Lets all try to be positive o.k. : )
03/16/2006 08:30:58 PM
Bravo88 3/16/2006 7:37:55 PM "...GOD created the world and the principles that make up the sciences...." Obviously you are a religious person that takes intelligent design seriously, but what if I.D. "scientists" ask- who designed the designer? what if there becomes evidence that aliens designed us? One question is a matter of faith and the other is just too ridiculous... which is why the natural science of evolution has to be explored and considered. Unlike the static, non-science of intelligent design which has no debate. And before you say that evolution wants no debate, just remember many evolutionists are debating their different theories with evolution. Just because you dont keep up with science doesnt mean evolution says there is no 'god'.
03/16/2006 07:37:54 PM
I get the impression that this fellow is one who might be considered a mocker... His statement saying that there are wonderful things about religion, art and smoking is the most absurd statement of all. Smoking may be pleasurable to some people but of the things he mentioned smoking is the only one that in of itself is deadly to people. Science, true science that is, isn't incompatable with faith. GOD created the world and the principles that make up the sciences. It is only absurdities such as evolution that are incompatable with faith and religious belief.
03/16/2006 07:35:28 PM
RE: the poll. Isn't asking if you're more loyal to your faith than to G-d a little like asking if you're more loyal to your marriage than to your wife?
03/16/2006 07:33:40 PM
"If you go in with the best of intentions to solve...the problem of injustice, and you trample over people's religious practices in the process, you're just going to make matters worse." Somebody should have told Bush about this - AND the levees, of course.
- 7 Reasons We Should Teach More Religion in Public Schools
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- 6 Practical Life Lessons Jesus Taught the Disciples