Science and the Sacred

Science and the Sacred


With God All Things Are Possible

posted by kgiberson

mily way.jpg

Every Monday, “Science and the Sacred” features an essay from
one of The BioLogos Foundation’s co-presidents: Karl Giberson and
Darrel Falk. Today’s entry was written by Karl Giberson.

“Christianity,” wrote someone who likes to comment under the cover of an alias on the Science and the Sacred blogs, “is extremely anti-science. Every single Christian belief, especially the disgusting childish belief in the Resurrection, is scientifically impossible.”

“The choice is Christianity or science,” wrote this poster who prefers his world black and white. “A normal person couldn’t possibly accept both.”

This reaction is standard “New Atheist” fare and we hear it from Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennet, Christopher Hitchens, PZ Myers and countless other self-appointed watchdogs of rationality.

I would be the first to say that science and Christianity are very different and, certainly, if one goes at Christianity with scientific tools, it certainly does not do as well as, say, magnetism, which holds up very nicely under scientific scrutiny. But Christianity is not like magnetism.

Accepting both science and Christianity is a bit like accepting that the earth is both round and in the Milky Way galaxy. For most of human history we did not know about galaxies; as they gradually came into view a century ago, we learned that there is much more to reality than we thought. So we brought some new ideas into our worldview.

The belief that the earth is both round and in the Milky Way is not contradictory because they are different sorts of claims. One is a claim about shape, the other about location.

To be a Christian is to accept that there is another layer of reality that lies beyond the purely scientific. The evidence for this other layer is, of course, not like the evidence for magnetism or the shape of the earth. But it is not an unfounded belief, even from a scientific point of view.

Consider belief in God. Almost everyone throughout history, from Plato to Darwin believed in God, although Darwin developed some famous doubts along the way. Most people today believe in God, including a great many intellectuals. There are legitimate arguments for God’s existence, some of which are present on the BioLogos website. One may not find the arguments convincing–Sam Harris certainly does not–but many smart people who, unlike Sam Harris, actually finished their graduate degrees, do find these arguments helpful.

If God exists, then all kinds of things become possible. The reality of God implies that the scientific picture is not all there is. Once we know that reality extends beyond science, new questions emerge: What is this reality that we call “God” like? Is God a super-intelligence? Can God communicate with beings like us? Is God powerful? Is God personal?

A reality that includes God is very different from one that does not. Consider the following analogy. Suppose you were the first human explorer on Mars. You examine terrain and weather and soil. But you are puzzled by what look like gardens and at night you hear what sounds vaguely like singing. Sometimes you find perfectly round granite marbles. These puzzling features of your experience make no sense.

But now suppose you come across the brow of a hill and discover a village, populated with creatures that are scurrying about in purposeful ways. Martian reality has just expanded dramatically. All manner of things have just become possible. Those gardens actually were gardens, those spheres were indeed artificially produced and that singing was singing.

The kinds of things that can happen in any world, from fictitious places like Hogwarts, Middle Earth, or Narnia, to real places like Mars or Earth, depends, in a detailed way, on what exists in those worlds. Narnia did not have airplanes so the children could not fly back and forth. Earth does not have time machines, and Mars probably does not have creatures that would cultivate gardens. But Narnia did have an Ice Queen, the earth does have jumbo jets, and Mars has a rover that NASA has sent there.

What is the nature of our reality if God exists? What kinds of new things are possible? What puzzling and unbelievable stories from the past become plausible if God exists? What claims made by people today have to be taken seriously if God is real?

The central idea of Christianity–that God raised Jesus from the dead–is, as our critic above has claimed “scientifically impossible.” In fact, I think our mystery critic may not be aware that this is hardly a controversial claim. I am unaware of anyone who does not think the resurrection of Jesus is scientifically impossible. In a world where science is the only reality, such an event would indeed be impossible. Likewise, on a planet with no creatures it would be impossible to encounter gardens, marbles and music.

But, if God exists, might there be events that science cannot explain? The answer is obvious. So, when we read in the Bible that some people in the first century saw a resurrected Jesus and concluded that God had worked a miracle, we must not dismiss this as “childish.” The biblical accounts certainly do not sound childish. First century Palestine is not Narnia.

This is not to say, of course, that God’s existence provides a license for unbridled speculation, or somehow validates all past and present claims of miracles. It does, however, open reality to possibilities that go beyond what science can explain.

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Knockgoats

posted November 21, 2009 at 11:31 am


Consider belief in God. Almost everyone throughout history, from Plato to Darwin believed in God, although Darwin developed some famous doubts along the way. Most people today believe in God, including a great many intellectuals.
Argumentum ad populum: a recognised logical fallacy.
There are legitimate arguments for God’s existence, some of which are present on the BioLogos website.
I haven’t found them, and I’ve searched the site fairly carefully. I’ve found a lot of vague religious waffle and unsubstantiated Christian claims, though.
One may not find the arguments convincing–Sam Harris certainly does not–but many smart people who, unlike Sam Harris, actually finished their graduate degrees, do find these arguments helpful.
Argument from authority – another recognised logical fallacy. Are you going for some sort of record? If we’re comparing authorities, though, take a look at the way belief in God declines as you ascend the educational pyramid – all the way up to the most eminent scientists. “Helpful” is an interesting choice of weasel word by the way – perhaps even you can’t bring yourself to claim they are sound?
Once we know that reality extends beyond science
How do you claim to know this?
So, when we read in the Bible that some people in the first century saw a resurrected Jesus and concluded that God had worked a miracle, we must not dismiss this as “childish.” The biblical accounts certainly do not sound childish.
No, they sound like the wonder stories of any other religion: implausible and inconsistent except to those who are blinkered by “faith”. These stories of the resurrection were written down at least decades after the events they purport to describe. We know both from their internal inconsistencies and historical impossibilities that the gospels are not reliable when describing ordinary events. We know from modern case studies what the shock of bereavement, wishful thinking, competition for authority and oral transmission can produce. To believe them when they describe physically impossible events is indeed childish.



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Knockgoats

posted November 21, 2009 at 12:11 pm


Whoops! I missed the ad hominem against Sam Harris (there is no reason to mention Harris’s failure to finish his graduate degree except to imply that his arguments can be dismissed). Three classic logical fallacies in one short post! Well done indeed!



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Tom

posted November 21, 2009 at 3:11 pm


What is the point of this article? It presents a bunch of ‘what if’ questions with nothing of substance delivered. It is devoid of facts; a confection of wishful thinking.
I especially love the paragraph that begins “If God exists, then…” and the next sentance which confidently begins with “The reality of God implies…”. Which is it? Does this God chap exist or not, and can you produce any shred of evidence to support your conclusion that would be permitted in a court of law?
I sometimes read these articles thinking I might learn something new. I’ve been disappointed as usual. Considering the massive numbers, power and wealth of the world’s organised religions, is this the best you can come up with?
Short summary of the article: It would be really really good if God existed, therefore he might do. Some clever people think he might exist too.
Puh-lease! Give me something to chew on.



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dopderbeck

posted November 21, 2009 at 3:50 pm


Good post, Karl. A key point is this: “To be a Christian is to accept that there is another layer of reality that lies beyond the purely scientific.” What baffles and frustrates me about the NA rhetoric is that it claims to reject any multi-layered metaphysic on scientific grounds. “The material is all there is,” they say. Yet, this claim is by definition not scientifically testable. It fails its own definition of rationality, and therefore is incoherent. The question of whether one chooses to believe God (or in some other non-materialist metaphysic), then, comes down to considerations other than what can be deemed scientific. If the NA folks could acknowledge this, we might have an interesting and fruitful conversation about why one might choose or not choose to believe in God.



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IanKoro

posted November 21, 2009 at 4:47 pm


“Accepting both science and Christianity is a bit like accepting that the earth is both round and in the Milky Way galaxy.”
No. Science is a process of testing and verifying information, Christianity is a specific set of completely unverifiable beliefs. They are not simply two comparable pieces of infomation about the universe.
“To be a Christian is to accept that there is another layer of reality that lies beyond the purely scientific. The evidence for this other layer is, of course, not like the evidence for magnetism or the shape of the earth. But it is not an unfounded belief, even from a scientific point of view.”
No, actually. To be a Christian is to believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God who died for your sins. Your definition applies to perhaps a deist or someone who believes in the supernatural, but certainly doesn’t sum up Christianity.
Also, if this belief is not unfounded, what evidence do you have? If it is nothing more than a general sense that it must be true.. well, I have the same feelings that suggest it isn’t.



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Kristian

posted November 21, 2009 at 5:04 pm


“The central idea of Christianity–that God raised Jesus from the dead–is, as our critic above has claimed “scientifically impossible.” In fact, I think our mystery critic may not be aware that this is hardly a controversial claim.”
This is the essence of faith that is not understood by atheists, or by many Christians, for that matter. It is foolish to believe that Christ was raised from the dead – our own scripture says so – but we believe because it is scandolous, not in spite of the fact. Tillich calls faith the state of being ultimately concerned with the ulitmate. Kirkegaard calls faith relating to the infinite. This goes beyond plain belief, which is the intellectual exercise of assenting to unverifiable claims. Blind belief in Jesus is as childish as blind belief in the Easter Bunny.
Faith, on the other hand, is the finite human’s relation to infinite reality, reality that is by definition beyond the realm of scientific inquiry. We try to relate to the infinite because we feel deep in our souls the need to be part of something bigger, something more permanent and transcendant. We all have faith, whether it be faith in authority or in a political system or in some sort of deity. This faith requires courage because it is uncertain. If the infinite were finite and describable, it would not require faith to relate to it. For the Christian, the infinite is best understood through the symbol of the finite person Christ. We know this is preposterous. The thinking Christian does not take this lightly. But those of us who feel drawn to the ultimate do not find a connection with the infinite in the finite methods of scientific empricism.
In the end, faith is a deeply personal matter. If you don’t feel drawn to the infinite in this way, I don’t expect to be able to make you. In the relation between the finite and the infinite, it is not the finite person that controls the relationship. However, please understand that those of us scientists and thinkers who also take on the name of Christian have very good reason for doing so. We may be foolish, but we are not childish.



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Knockgoats

posted November 21, 2009 at 5:18 pm


Good post, Karl. – dopderbeck
It’s an absolutely rotten post – I pointed out three logical fallacies, Tom the logical leap from “if God exists” to “the reality of God implies”, and IanKoro the inaccurate definition of “Christian”.
What baffles and frustrates me about the NA rhetoric is that it claims to reject any multi-layered metaphysic on scientific grounds. “The material is all there is,” they say. Yet, this claim is by definition not scientifically testable. It fails its own definition of rationality, and therefore is incoherent. – dopderbeck
False, of course: the claim is that there is no evidence of any gods, therefore the rational approach is to assume they do not exist – just as it is with leprechauns, werewolves, and the tooth fairy. Is that really too complicated to get your head round? Show me the evidence, and I’ll accept the existence of a god or gods – or of leprechauns, or werewolves, or the tooth fairy, depending on the evidence. The naturalist hypothesis could certainly be falsified by the results of specific experiments – for example, those on the power of prayer, many of those on the “paranormal”, some of those on homeopathy. It would also be very difficult to defend if fossil rabbits turned up in Precambrian strata, or if the “junk” DNA in our genomes turned out to contain the functional equivalent of “Copyright Jahweh & Son”, or if magic spells started working, or… well, I could go on indefinitely. So it is a defeasible assumption, completely rational and coherent. Of course, you can’t afford to accept this conclusion, because of the patent irrationality and reinforced dogmatism of your own beliefs – which is why you persistently misrepresent atheism.



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Knockgoats

posted November 21, 2009 at 5:25 pm


It is foolish to believe that Christ was raised from the dead – our own scripture says so – but we believe because it is scandolous, not in spite of the fact. – Kristian
That is indeed an extremely stupid reason to believe in something.
We try to relate to the infinite because we feel deep in our souls the need to be part of something bigger, something more permanent and transcendant. – Kristian
Translation: it’s wishful thinking.
We all have faith, whether it be faith in authority or in a political system or in some sort of deity. – Kristian
No, we don’t. Some of us make the moral and intellectual effort to grow up, and adjust our confidence in our beliefs to the state of the evidence.



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 8:17 am


I retract and apologise for my snide “memory hole” comment on another thread; I see the appearance and disappearance of this one earlier was simply a case of premature publication.
It’s still a rotten post, though.



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Brian

posted November 23, 2009 at 9:04 am


Hi Knockgoats,
I agree with you and others that the post is weak—and that the Biologos folks are disappointingly fluffy both in their scientific and their spiritual arguments.
I’m wondering what you would think if we took the following quote from the post and replaced “Christianity” with another entity that in spite of its non-material nature is accepted by most materialists. For example:
“I would be the first to say that science and [morality] are very different and, certainly, if one goes at [morality] with scientific tools, it certainly does not do as well as, say, magnetism, which holds up very nicely under scientific scrutiny. But [morality] is not like magnetism.”
Leaving aside where it came from for now, my view is that morality does exist, and that it is very real, in spite of the fact that it is not measurable by the tools of science. Would you agree?



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 9:31 am


Hi Brian,
I’m not clear what you mean when you say “morality exists”. In some senses, clearly it does: people make moral judgements, agonise over moral dilemmas, promulgate systems of morality. Moral judgements and systems of morality can also be rationally criticised and defended – and this frequently does (or at least, should) involve scientific evidence. However, morality does not exist in the same way as tables, jellyfish, governments and atoms exist: it does not have an objective, independent existence. If someone says “I just don’t care about anyone else – I’m going to do as I like” (as psychopaths do, in effect), there is no argument I can bring to bear to oblige him to admit he ought to care, even if he is completely rational – and this is the case if we assume the existence of a god as much as if we don’t. Of course, I might persuade the psychopath that it’s in his own interest,/I> to act as if he cared about others – to avoid prison, or Hell – but that’s not morality. Nor will it do to simply assume that whatever God commands is right – this is simply power-worship, not morality.
Moral judgements are in some ways similar to esthetic ones – again, there is no absolute, independent standard that says Milton is a better poet than Patience Strong; but it is possible to make and criticise reasoned judgements about the matter.
To lay my cards on the table, I’m a humanitarian, rationalist, pluralist consequentialist: I judge actions and moral systems on their likely consequences (the consequentialist bit), but I don’t believe there is an algorithm that can tell us what to do in any circumstances (e.g. I’m not a utilitarian), and am ready to consider multiple “goods” and “bads” (the pluralist bit). The welfare and preferences of other people, and more broadly other sentient beings, is a very high priority in my moral judgments (the “humanitarian” bit), and I consider we have a moral duty to base our beliefs about matters of fact on evidence and argument, not wishful thinking (the “rationalist” bit). Of course, I don’t always do what I know is the right thing to do – I’m morally imperfect by my own standards.



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Mere_Christian

posted November 23, 2009 at 10:07 am


When you peel back the onion of guys like Harris, you see another spiritualism is replacing the Judean one preached by the Hebrew/Israelite Jesus. (Or a godlike egotism):
http://www.sacw.net/free/Trading%20Faith%20for%20Spirituality_%20The%20Mystifications%20of%20Sam%20Harris.html
Of course.
What’s it boil down to?
“Did God really say?”
New Atheism, just a rehashed, rehash of a rehash.
Good post BioLogos guys.



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 10:42 am


Sam Harris has come in for a lot of criticism from other atheists for his mushy burblings about “spirituality”, as well as for his statement that beliefs could in some cases justify bombing people. Rightly, in both cases – and the second is by far the more important. Neither atheism nor “new atheism” is a monolith. Atheists have just one thing in common: disbelief in gods.



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g

posted November 23, 2009 at 10:45 am


“I would be the first to say that science and Christianity are very different and, certainly, if one goes at Christianity with scientific tools, it certainly does not do as well as, say, magnetism, which holds up very nicely under scientific scrutiny.”
As one who is searching for faith and some transcendent hope in this life and in some life to come(if there is one and whatever that would mean), it is sadly disturbing to me that the NA’s have all the best and most rational arguments. This puts me in the quandary of dealing with over 50 years of religious/faith teaching that started as a child and shaped my worldview and now is so ingrained as to prevent me from finding peace and hope in either faith or science. Severe cognitive dissonance is now my constant companion.
From my confused perspective, what I tend to notice is that faith/religion seem to have been always the first to pick a fight with science and rational humanistic reasoning. As a result religion/faith has become the target of scientific/rational thought and scrutiny.
So now, the scientific community/rational/humanistic community seems hostile to religion/faith because they, in essence have said ‘Put up or shut up’.
At this time, unfortunately, for me, I never see an argument or debate between faith/science/rational humanistic thought that clearly posts religion and faith as the winner. At every turn, it is those opposing religion/ faith that clearly posit the best answers and criticisms.
The very fact that even the concept of God has evolved because of scientific discovery suggests that we ‘faith/religionists need to reconsider our dogmatic positions. For instance, the concept of the ‘size’ of God has evolved from a small geo-centric cosmos into a VAST God of a universe unimagined.
This is an evolution /revelation of God based not on scriptures or revelation in prayer but because of scientific enquiry. Therefore, by the definition that scripture is ‘revelation’ then Science is scripture because it has ‘revealed’ God to be bigger than previously imagined.
It’s probably too late for me to shake this cognitive dissonance as I tend to deeply need ‘faith’ in my life but am smart enough to recognize better logic or as I say about myself ‘I am just smart enough to realize how ‘not smart’ I am. And not smart enough to find a way to change”.
At this point in my view it seems more probable that science will not only provide the ‘how’ of the cosmos, but that the eventual explanation of the ‘how’ will reveal the ‘why’, thereby taking all responsibility for any explanation of life and existence completely away from religion.
For some reason I do believe that there is ‘God’ as a point of origin and sustaining of this cosmos but not in a way that I would take up arms against science because it has threatened my beliefs as many seem to have done. I will just try to live like I believe Jesus taught, humility, forgiveness, mercy etc (though science/psychology may show that those traits are not even rational), it’s all I know to do.
I guess, if I ran a church, it would be the church of Cognitive Dissonance, preaching Christ and his atonement, and taking up collections to fund pure scientific enquiry.
Well, I have to run and take my Prozac.
Peace to all here



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Larry

posted November 23, 2009 at 11:35 am


it is sadly disturbing to me that the NA’s have all the best and most rational arguments.
But they don’t, in fact the arguments of the “NA’s” (Dawkins, Harris, Dennet, etc.) are generally terrible, and a reveal a stunning lack of knowledge of the subject they are supposedly critiquing. Just as an example, at one point Dawkins mistakes Aquinas’ conclusions about God as assumptions. Even a lot of their fellow atheists wish they would just shut up and quit making atheism look bad.
From my confused perspective, what I tend to notice is that faith/religion seem to have been always the first to pick a fight with science and rational humanistic reasoning.
Hardly, science and “humanistic” thought have not had a better friend than the church, even if you include the Galileo episode (which was brought on in large part by Galileo’s own arrogance and stubbornness). The church founded, and funded many universities, indeed, was the creator of the very idea of a university. Humanistic thinkers have long found a home and support in the church.
I never see an argument or debate between faith/science/rational humanistic thought that clearly posts religion and faith as the winner. At every turn, it is those opposing religion/ faith that clearly posit the best answers and criticisms.
I don’t know who you have been listening to, but the good answers are out there. For starters you might try Is God a Delusion? by Eric Reitan, and Atheist’ Delusions by David Bentley Hart. Reitan is a liberal Protestant layman and a philosopher, Hart is an Eastern Orthodox Christian so they might have a different approach than you are used to seeing. Neither spend a lot of time bashing Dawkins, but are more intent on presenting a positive case for belief.
The very fact that even the concept of God has evolved because of scientific discovery suggests that we ‘faith/religionists need to reconsider our dogmatic positions.
Not at all. Christians have never held that scripture, or “special revelation” is the sum total of God’s revelation. Christianity has always recognized both special revelation (primarily the Bible), and general revelation (nature) as being revelatory.
At this point in my view it seems more probable that science will not only provide the ‘how’ of the cosmos, but that the eventual explanation of the ‘how’ will reveal the ‘why’, thereby taking all responsibility for any explanation of life and existence completely away from religion.
‘Fraid not, science is completely incapable of answering “why” type questions. You can no more move from “how” to “why”, than you can move from “is” to “ought”. Teleology is not the business of science.
but not in a way that I would take up arms against science because it has threatened my beliefs as many seem to have done
some have, but it is not essential to Christianity, or religion in general, to be at war with science. Indeed, to despise truth, however derived, is the very antithesis of true religion and Christianity.



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 11:59 am


Larry,
But they don’t, in fact the arguments of the “NA’s” (Dawkins, Harris, Dennet, etc.) are generally terrible, and a reveal a stunning lack of knowledge of the subject they are supposedly critiquing.
Ah, the Courtier’s Reply.
Just as an example, at one point Dawkins mistakes Aquinas’ conclusions about God as assumptions.
[citation needed]
Even if you can justify this claim, however, it doesn’t make Aquinas’s arguments any better.
Hardly, science and “humanistic” thought have not had a better friend than the church, even if you include the Galileo episode (which was brought on in large part by Galileo’s own arrogance and stubbornness).
Yup. He arrogantly and stubbornly refused to shut up when told to. Wicked, wicked man. What’s that I smell? Oh, it’s Giordano Bruno! Oh, and the Library at Alexandria! What’s that screaming? Oh, just Hypatia having the flesh stripped from her bones with sharpened oyster shells by a Christian mob.
The church founded, and funded many universities, indeed, was the creator of the very idea of a university.
Founded, funded, and controlled, to prevent dangerous thoughts. It did not, as it happens, create the idea of a university. The roots of European universities were in collectives of students who banded together to hire professors: the Church muscled in later. The University of Bologna, usually regarded as the oldest, received its charter in 1158 from Frederick Barbarossa; it was a wholly civil organisation. Theology was not taught until 1364.
I don’t know who you have been listening to, but the good answers are out there.
Oh yeah? So what are they? You can surely summarise. Why do we never see any of them here?



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Glen Davidson

posted November 23, 2009 at 12:07 pm


I don’t know, is religion really not childish, or foolishness?
I’m not targeting anybody by pointing out that Jesus said “become as little children” and that Paul said “We are fools for Christ’s sake.”
I believe that Christianity has really been portrayed by many of its followers–and leaders–as being much as many critics have charged, if in a generally less flattering manner with the latter.
Faith, Kierkegaardian leaps, trust in a God, are these really parts of rationality, or is religion truly portrayed as being a lot more different from science than Karl admits in this post?
Even Nietzsche had a kind word or two for Christianity, when he reflected on its tendency to distrust logic–something that he thought was valuable in rather smaller doses than do most rationalists.
Like I say, I’m not in this to fight, but I do think that religion has to be embraced in its “absurdity” if is to be embraced at all. I’m not saying that this notion doesn’t enter the post at all, since it does. Yet much of the rest of the post seems to be making out rather unbelievable claims to be believable in the rationalists’ sense, to not be “childish” when in a real sense it is, as apparently admitted by Jesus.
Of course the absurd has been accepted by people who used rationality wherever that seemed to work best, so I’m not at all claiming that religion must interfere with doing science. I just couldn’t say that it’s “compatible” with it, or any such thing, either. It is, seemingly, quite another way in which the brain works, and surely not something that we should, in any event, deny in our brains.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 12:13 pm


g,
I sympathise with your predicament, although it’s not one I share – the realisation, at age 12, that religion is a load of hooey, was not in the least painful for me. I’d advise that you read some of the “deconversion” stories at http://www.positiveatheism.org/mail/eml9663.htm. Really, life can be sweet without the ball and chain of irrational belief holding you back, whatever age you are.
At this point in my view it seems more probable that science will not only provide the ‘how’ of the cosmos, but that the eventual explanation of the ‘how’ will reveal the ‘why’, thereby taking all responsibility for any explanation of life and existence completely away from religion.
The distinction between “how” and “why” questions is not as black-and-white as this implies. Science does answer “why” questions, e.g. “Why is the gene that causes sickle-cell anemia common in west Africa?” Answer: because although two copies causes illness, one copy gives better resistance to malaria. Of course, you could rephrase this into a question beginning: “How did it come about that…”. If you consider a question like “Why is there suffering in the world”, an naturalistic perspective does give a much more satisfactory answer than one that assumes a benevolent God: the world was not designed for us, and in some circumstances, organisms capable of suffering survive and reproduce better than ones that are not.
I will just try to live like I believe Jesus taught, humility, forgiveness, mercy etc (though science/psychology may show that those traits are not even rational), it’s all I know to do.
Science cannot show that these traits are irrational – because rationality is either about adapting your beliefs to the evidence, or about adapting the means you adopt to your goals. Your choice of intrinsic goals (ones not adopted in the service of higher-level goals) is your own, and it is not irrational to choose the good of others as a goal.



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dopderbeck

posted November 23, 2009 at 12:36 pm


Knockgoats said: The naturalist hypothesis could certainly be falsified by the results of specific experiments – for example, those on the power of prayer, many of those on the “paranormal”, some of those on homeopathy. It would also be very difficult to defend if fossil rabbits turned up in Precambrian strata, or if the “junk” DNA in our genomes turned out to contain the functional equivalent of “Copyright Jahweh & Son”, or if magic spells started working, or… well, I could go on indefinitely.
I respond: I don’t think any of these things would “falsify” naturalism as a metanarrative. You could fit any of the above into a naturalistic framework. In fact, you already do that in many respects.
For example, you reject that the resurrection of Jesus was a miracle because miracles aren’t allowed as evidence within the epistemic framework you assume is true. Nearly everyone agrees that something extraordinary happened in the early Christian community. Scholars of early Christianity who are persuaded by “scientific exegesis” reject the resurrection and explain it on the basis of phenomoenology, psychology, and so on. They uniformly acknowledge that something dramatic happened within the community, but there is absolutely no way that the category of “miracle” can be allowed as evidence in that system because miracles are assumed in advance not to be possible or not to carry any epistemic force.
The same sort of thing is true with respect to stories of miracles or supernatural occurrences in eastern religions. If an Indian Yogi does something that appears “miraculous,” such as a feat of incredible physical endurance, the assumption is that there is a naturalistic explanation even if that explanation isn’t immediately evident — some unique physical training, a genetic predisposition, a sleight of hand, and so on.
I would add to the witness of Jesus’ resurrection a variety of things that support my belief in God — the evidence of morality, the experience of the numinous, the common human experience of millennia, the beauty of nature and the very category of “beauty,” ultimate questions of causation, and so on. None of these are proof, and apparently none of them count as “evidence” at all in your system, but that is because your system is so weak.
The bottom line is that your overarching framework is assumed, not proven. You cannot prove that the sort of evidence you are allowing — empirical and falsifiable — is the only valid kind of evidence. Either your own system rests on some presuppositions that cannot be proven, or you are left with Descartes’ Demon. The value of “falsifiability” is itself unprovable and unfalsifiable. Therefore, your positivistic system is fundamentally incoherent.
I mean, really — just about everyone doing analytic philosophy today admits this, except for the irrationally dogmatic tribe of the NAs. There is no neutral starting ground for any belief system, including empiricism. Even foundationalists doing analytic philosophy today acknowledge that theirs is a “soft” foundationalism. They simply have to assume away Descartes’ Demon and the like, which may be a good and pragmatic thing to do, but it does not rise to the level of falsifiable proof. The NA position would be so much more credible, and so much more difficult for theists to counter, if you dropped the ludicrous evidentiary pretenses that underlie the system.
In fact, some of your basic beliefs should raise red flags for you about your own system. The human perceptual and analytic apparatus, after all, didn’t evolve in order for human beings to exhaustively know everything in the universe. These faculties evolved for survival. As such, we ought to expect them to be very efficient, which means we ought not to expect them to do more than necessary. In short, we should expect that empiricism will inevitably give us a distorted picture of the universe as it exists apart from human perception — in fact, that the universe as it exists apart from human perception will be unknowable by humans. This is another fundamental incoherence in the NA system. Human beings are not evolved to be capable of making the sorts of sweeping empirical pronouncements about the nature of ultimate reality that the NAs presume to make. Human beings qua human beings can only say how things “appear” to them; they cannot say how things actually “are.”
In fact, it seems to me that a truly consistent naturalist ought to be a determinist who eschews any claim to “knowledge.” According to nuerobiology, our “minds” are merely ghosts in the machine. We don’t really “know” or “will” or “think” anything — we’re governed by precognitive impulses that our brains fool us into believing are volitional because that kind of self-deception has been useful to the survivability of our genes. Notwithstanding Ruse’s efforts to resuscitate compatibilist free will, most self-consistent thinkers in neurobiology admit that determinism is the true implication of neurobiology.
Now, you might take all the above and say “the most reasonable thing for me to do in light of it all is to reject belief in God.” Perhaps. But if so, you would have fallen far from the perch of evidentiary superiority you tried initially to construct. You would also fallen once again into incoherence, because the very category of “resonable” is meaningless if determinism is true.
At the very least I wish you could drop the pretense so that an interesting conversation could follow. This has nothing to do with the “Courtier’s Reply” — it isn’t just the rudeness, it’s the lack of any self-reflection about the weaknesses of your own position that makes belies any degree of intellectual seriousness. I mean, really, again — do you think dropping a link like that is some kind of meaningful response to Larry’s reference to DB Hart? Please.
At least most theists will acknowledge that belief in God is not a matter of “proof,” even if they think their faith is well warranted.



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Gordon J. Glover

posted November 23, 2009 at 12:53 pm


Knockgoats,
I’m curious to know what, if anything, would constitute evidence for the existence (or the mere possibility of existence) of “deity” in your mind.
I can certainly sympathize with arguments against being able to truly know, comprehend, or have a personal relationship with a particular diety (something I’ve always struggled with), but given our finite understanding of the cosmos, I don’t see how one can say categorically that deity — as a level of reality different from (but not separate) from the material world — does not or can not exist.
Certainly we all recognize that different layers of reality can emerge via the complex organization of ordinary matter. The layer of reality known as “chemistry” is an emergent property of physics at the lowest levels. Physics is a necessary explanation of chemistry but not a sufficient one. One could not infer the laws of chemistry armed only with the laws of physics. Yet, chemistry is not less real than is physics.
The same is true for the layer of reality known as “biology” — which emerges from the lower levels of chemistry and physics. But again, armed with perfect knowledge of chemistry and physics and sufficient computing power to model the biosphere, one could not predict the evolution of rabbits, lizards or butterflies. Life itself is an emergent reality forged via the complex interaction between necesity and contingency. Small entities following only local rules apart from any plan or goal can give rise to agents who, in turn, exercise top-down causality over the same reality that they emerged from.
Now consider the emergence of mind from matter. While physics, chemistry, biology and neuroscience are necessary to account for the phenomena of sentience, perfect knowledge of these lower levels of reality would not enable one to predict that Mozart would write Requiem Mass in D minor, or that da Vinci would paint the Mona Lisa, or that I would choose eggs over cereal this morning. Creativity, self-awareness, free-will, etc. are all properties that emerge from the complex organization of ordinary matter following local rules. When a neuron fires, it is not aware of what it is doing. But when enough of the them are firing in a specific way, we have something that is greater than the sum of its parts. And all of this without adding any non-physical ingredients (ie: soul, spirit, etc.) to the mix. So our personalities are real even though a strict reductionism can not account for them.
Taking it one step further, the complex social relationships (ie: information exchange) between individual humans gives rise to an entirely different layer of reality known as “soceity” (or the economy). This phenomena is somewhat of an organism in its own right. And yet, it quickly emerges when individuals of a population pursue the simple ends of survival and self-interest.
In every case, simple rules followed at the local level give rise to an entirely different layer of reality. And this new layer of reality has the ability to exercise a top-down causation over lower levels. But in a purely reductionist universe, the only TRUE reality would be physics — that’s it. The 4 fundamental forces and the 16 elementary particles would be the extent of what is real. Physics would be both the necessary and sufficient explanation for everything else we observe. Our conversation here would ONLY be the result of a particular dance of 4 forces acting on 16 types of particles. Certainly our conversation is that, BUT IT IS NOT ONLY THAT!. It stands on its own as something real! For a struct reductionism to be true, you would have to believe that armed with perfect knowledge of the cosmic state of 4 forces and all of the 16 fundamental particles only minutes after the Big Bang, one could basically predict that Obama would be America’s 44th president, or that Microsoft would replace Vista with Windows 7. But none of this reduces to physics! So if you recognize that this wouldn’t have been possible, then it seems to me that you also have to recognize that each layer of reality that emergens from the lower layers has some limited causal properties. Certainly this is true for humans, both through voluntary and phycho-somatic feedback/responses with our physical being and the sphere of phsycial reality that we can directly influence.
In a nutshell: if so many different layers of reality can sucessively emerge through the complex interaction of ordinary matter at lower levels, and we can observe and accept thes phenomena without adding any non-material ingredients, how can we be absolutely certain, given our limited knowledge of the physical cosmos, that there is no layer of reality above our own conciousness? Certainly the cosmos is no less complex than a single 3-lb human brain? Now obviously an emergent cosmic intelligence would resemble a pantheistic deity more than the traditional Judeo-Christian God. But even so, how can anyone be so dogmatic about the the absolute non-existence of some level of deity?



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Your Name

posted November 23, 2009 at 1:20 pm


Knockgoats,
Thanks for the reply. Although based on what I’ve read I suspect we have vastly different world views, we still have at least a couple things in common:
1. When you say “clearly it does… however morality does not exist in the same way as tables…,” I think we broadly agree, and this is exactly the point — namely, that there are things in the world that are very real, in spite of the fact that they are not directly measurable by the tools of hard science.
2. “I don’t always do what I know is the right thing to do – I’m morally imperfect by my own standards.” Me too — although I’d go even further and say that I consistently fail by almost any standard.
Having established at least a little common ground, I’d like to understand your views a little better. In your post you seem to be broadly concerned with “the welfare and preferences of other people.” Why? How does a darwinist/naturalist world view inform or support that particular set of moral priorities?



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Brian

posted November 23, 2009 at 1:22 pm


Sorry, previous post written by Brian…



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dopderbeck

posted November 23, 2009 at 1:26 pm


Gordon, interesting comment. Two things:
You said: For a struct reductionism to be true, you would have to believe that armed with perfect knowledge of the cosmic state of 4 forces and all of the 16 fundamental particles only minutes after the Big Bang, one could basically predict that Obama would be America’s 44th president. . . .
I respond: I’ve read a bunch of neurobiology literature recently that makes exactly this claim. Any “gap” in our understanding of this chain of causation, for them, is simply a limitation of knowledge.
You said: Now obviously an emergent cosmic intelligence would resemble a pantheistic deity more than the traditional Judeo-Christian God.
I respond: Panenthesitic actually. The notion of emergence is fascinating, but I get worried when we try to reason from the phenomenon of emergence to God.
To me, the basic issue is much simpler: by definition, you simply can’t evaluate empirically whether there are some things you can’t evaluate empirically. Unless you claim to be God, you have to admit that absolute certainty about basic questions is unobtainable. Once the pretense of certainty is dropped, the debate about the existence of God becomes much more productive and interesting.



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Ray Ingles

posted November 23, 2009 at 1:26 pm


dopderbeck – Boy, there’s a lot of ground to cover in your latest reply to KG. I can’t tackle all of it right now, but I’d like to point out one thing – your claim that “the universe as it exists apart from human perception will be unknowable by humans”.
There’s two issues with that. The first is that it’s actually true in a limited way. Dawkins actually talks about it – he uses the example that humans see only a tiny fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum, and calls it “The Mother of All Burqas”. (Easily googleable.) But, of course… we can see the effects of radiation we can’t see by its effects on what we do see.
(Of course, is there were something that was real but had no effect on anything we could ever detect, then we couldn’t pick up on that – by definition. On the other hand, why should we care about something that can’t possibly make any difference to us? Seems like exactly the kind of chin Occam’s Razor was meant for.)
Secondly, I genuinely loathe the word “unknowable”. It may be that there are things out there that are ‘unknowable’ by humans. Perhaps they’re ‘too big for us’, too complex for us to comprehend. Or perhaps they are too alien, and simply won’t fit within the mental categories, the ‘toolbox’ humans have available. It’s certainly possible, and can’t be ruled out a priori. But this point is, at best, of only philosophical interest. It doesn’t have a practical bearing.
How can we, in practice, distinguish between something ‘currently unknown but comprehensible’ and something ‘forever unknowable’? From a practical perspective, the only way to tell which category something falls into is to try to understand it; if you succeed, then it was knowable. The problem is, if you fail, you can’t conclude that it’s unknowable. It might be… but it also might be the case that you just didn’t happen to figure out something knowable, and you or someone else might have better luck on a subsequent attempt.
If you decide that something is fundamentally incomprehensible, you will stop trying to understand it. I’ve linked before to Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s essay, “The Perimeter of Ignorance”, where he details many cases where people did just that… but later scientists didn’t, and advanced human knowledge.
So far as I’ve ever seen, “the supernatural” is functionally equivalent to “the forever incomprehensible to humans”. So far as I’ve ever seen, that’s what people really mean when they say something is “supernatural”. So many things have been confidently declared to be “supernatural” – and then, someone’s had an insight, and suddenly it’s “natural”. (Note that, so far as I’ve ever seen, nothing in human history has ever moved the other way.)
That’s why I stick with ‘naturalism’. Because so far as I can see, going with ‘supernaturalism’ is giving up, when our whole history shows that not giving up, that continuing to investigate and think actually works. As Isaac Asimov pithily put it, “To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today.”



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 1:35 pm


In your post you seem to be broadly concerned with “the welfare and preferences of other people.” Why? How does a darwinist/naturalist world view inform or support that particular set of moral priorities? – Brian
It can show why most people do actually care about others: there is extensive work on the evolution of altruism. That is, it can answer causal questions. It does not tell us what we should do: we have to decide that for ourselves. I do, as a matter of psychological fact, care about others – that is, I take their welfare and preferences into account when deciding how to act, as does any normal person, to a greater or lesser extent. If someone needs a justification for doing this at all, they’re a psychopath.



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Mere_Christian

posted November 23, 2009 at 1:36 pm


Knockgoats
November 21, 2009 11:31 AM
“Argumentum ad populum: a recognised logical fallacy.”
///
How fascinating a concept Mr. K. Seeing how so many of our universities have so many atheistic naturalists using their powerful positions to advance their ideology. Isn’t there a well known poll going that the “majority” of scientists reject belief in God?
Knockgoats:
November 22, 2009 9:23 AM
college is well-stocked with liberal/humanist “teachers.” Our current state of religion on campus bearing witness of their personal influences. – Mere_Christian
Knocky G:
“That’s just because as people learn how to think critically, and learn more about the world, PARTICULARLY SCIENCE, they are less likely to believe in ridiculous fairy tales.”
///
I see to you “argumentum ad populum” as OK, when used in the large circle of authoritarians in education and working in scientific occupations, pushing naturalism on their young captives.
Wheat and chaff. Perhaps very sensible. Jesus was indeed witty.



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 1:37 pm


dopderbeck,
I lost my response to you to this blasted commenting system. I’ll reconstruct it later.



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Ray Ingles

posted November 23, 2009 at 1:38 pm


Brian/Your Name:
I’ve tried to answer your question about morality here.



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Ray Ingles

posted November 23, 2009 at 1:45 pm


Mere Christian: KG isn’t arguing that ‘liberalism’ and/or ‘humanism’ is true because there are plenty of “liberal/humanist “teachers.”” That would be argumentum ad populum.
No, he simply accounted for the large number of them by a proposed mechanism – “people learn how to think critically”. Now, you may disagree with that mechanism. You could, for example, present evidence that the group under discussion doesn’t think critically about such issues. But if there’s a fallacy there, it’s not the one you listed.



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 1:50 pm


Mere_Christian,
I have never used the fact that a majority of eminent scientists are atheists as an argument for atheism, only as an argument against the facile claim oft-repeated here that studying science does not tend to lead to atheism. I challenge you to produce an example of me doing the first.
“That’s just because as people learn how to think critically, and learn more about the world, PARTICULARLY SCIENCE, they are less likely to believe in ridiculous fairy tales.”
That’s not argumentum ad populum, halfwit.



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Larry

posted November 23, 2009 at 1:52 pm


Ah, the Courtier’s Reply.
I do not expect them to have read obscure works of theology, but if they are going to critique Christianity or religion they should have some knowledge of what they are critiquing and show some evidence of understanding the basics of the beliefs they criticize. Surely Dawkins expects as much of those that criticize evolution, and rightly so. Dawkins and company (P.Z. Meyers even more so) fail this test spectacularly. Not only do they not show much familiarity with the basic material, but what little they do know they twist to their own agenda.
Oh, it’s Giordano Bruno!
Who was not executed for any of his “scientific” thinking or writing, such as it was, but simply because he was a heretic, and a traitor to the church. He was given many opportunities to repent, but refused them all. His thinking was not humanist, but occultish, in his theology he repeatedly denied many basic tenets of Roman Catholic thought. Now, you may not think that execution is a valid way of dealing with this, and I would agree, but Bruno was not a champion of science and reason. That you, and all the other so-called “new” atheists have to seize on such a figure as a champion for your crusade against the church says much.
Oh, and the Library at Alexandria!
The Great Library was likely destroyed by Julius when he captured Alexandra. Whether he did or not, there are writings that predate Cyril (the supposed destroyer) that speak of the Library in the past tense.
Oh, just Hypatia having the flesh stripped from her bones with sharpened oyster shells by a Christian mob.
Because she got caught in the middle of Alexandrian politics between two Christians, Orestes the magistrate and Cyril the bishop. Alexandrian politics had always been mob centered and Christianity wasn’t able to change that, at least not in the relatively short time between Christianity coming to Alexandria and Cyril. It bears noting that many other Christians deplored the violence, that Hypatia counted at least one other bishop among her close friends and admirers, and that the only way we know of Hypatia and her fate was through the writing of another Christian, Socrates Scholasticus (who also condemned the violence against her).
Founded, funded, and controlled, to prevent dangerous thoughts. It did not, as it happens, create the idea of a university. The roots of European universities were in collectives of students who banded together to hire professors: the Church muscled in later.
The earliest universities were outgrowths of the Cathedral schools founded to train administrators and clergy. They all had considerable autonomy from both secular and sectarian influence thanks to Gregory IX. The University of Bologna had been in operation for nearly 80 years when Barbarossa granted his charter. The idea that “the church muscled in later”, is simply made up history, the universities where Christian from their very beginning.
Oh yeah? So what are they? You can surely summarise. Why do we never see any of them here?
Some do show up here, on occasion, you are simply too close minded to hear them. One only needs to look at your reading of history, which ranges from the made up (“Christians destroyed the Library of Alexandria”) to the merely uncharitable (in the case of Galileo) to see this. But this is also typical of the “new” atheists, one only look to Christopher Hitchens’ trashing of Mother Teresa to verify.
One other thing, your practice of reciting a litany of abuses by the church over the centuries is getting a little old. Nobody is denying that there have been some real bastards in the history of the church, not least of which is Cyril of Alexandria, but there have been far more true saints. Secularism and atheism have far more blood on their hands than the church, which is all the more remarkable considering the relatively short time that they have had available to gather that blood.



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 1:53 pm


Ray Ingles,
The context has mislead you, and perhaps Mere_Halfwit: my comment referred to the students rather than the teachers. I was proposing an alternative to his (completely unfounded) claim that liberal teachers were indoctrinating their students.



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dopderbeck

posted November 23, 2009 at 2:00 pm


Ray: I partly agree with what you’ve said here, at least concerning that which might be truly unknowable. But Christian theists assert that it is possible to have knowledge of God through the category of “revelation,” as well as at least some knowledge of God through ordinary reason. If God exists and has revealed Himself to us, that it seems to me of infinite practical value to seek this knowledge. Yet, if we limit ourselves to knowledge that can be obtained only through empirical means, we will miss most of the knowledge of God that could otherwise be gained. Therefore, I don’t agree that empiricism and pragmatism uniformly “work.” I think, in fact, that empiricism and pragmatism fail to produce knowledge of the most important thing: God.
Asmiov’s pithy quote is catchy, but it simply misrepresents what Christian theology does. Nowhere does the Christian tradition suggest that “God” starts where “knowledge” stops. This is the sort of thing that produces what Knockgoats dismisses as the “Courtier’s Reply,” because what Asimov does here simply is ignorant of 2,000 years of Christian thought (as well as thousands of additional years of Hebrew thought).
“Fides quaerens intellectum” — faith seeks understanding. The Christian tradition has always seen faith and empirical investigation as complementary — though there are long and ongoing debates about what can and cannot properly be claimed by empirical methods. It’s true that God is not directly knowable by humans, and there is an important “apophatic” tradition of being able to speak of God only in terms of what God is not like. But the only way to describe Asimov’s statement as it relates to the Christian intellectual tradition is “ignorant.” It’s akin to arguing that gaps in the fossil record disprove evolution. No informed person should take that kind of argument seriously.
I certainly could understand the push-back that the category of “revelation” is epistemically unreliable. That could be a very long and interesting debate. I think there are robust and defensible ways of thinking about “revelation.” However, there are no knock-down arguments, and obviously the discussion could lead into all the peculiarities and difficulties with the scriptures that Christians and Jews claim are revelatory.
But my overriding point is that empiricism can’t disprove the notions of “God” and “revelation” based on its own methods. If we’re going to discuss foundational questions, we will necessarily have to get past the kinds of specious claims that Dawkins et al. make concerning what counts as “proof.” Ultimately, I think we’ll have to admit that neither “side” can “prove” its case, and learn to live productively with each other.



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Mark

posted November 23, 2009 at 2:05 pm


Anyone wanna bet the most cerebral Reverend KnockGoats is Chris Hitchens? Wait, I suppose I could make an allowance for the possibility that he is a Hitchens disciple.. or… [dramatic tympani roll] the Son of Hitchens!! :O Hitchens and Son Inc. as it were. Now there would be a secular dictatorship a human colony could endure for MAYBE a week before spontaneously erupting into a cloud of martini vapor and ibuprofen dust (if I might playfully digress for a moment to ease the pain of this Monday morning). Note: Please don’t misconstrue this attempt at humor as a repudiation Chris Hitchens. I love the man. In the past two years no one man has strengthened my Christian faith and taught me more about it than Chris. To him I am greatly indebted.
While I won’t leverage a Hitchenesque adjective like “rotten” to sum my opinion of Karl Gibberson’s post, I am comfortable in describing it as too simplistic and void of any compelling testimony that would urge one to consider a celestial alternative to the “God Delusion”–IF its goal was indeed that. On the other hand, I do not believe that was its goal. I think the goal of the article–if any–was to refute the comment about the resurrection being “scientifically impossible,” and as a means to that end I think it was adequate.
Christians never said the resurrection was scientifically impossible. That’s the whole point of faith. BELIEF. That’s why I, a Christian, say “I BELIEVE in GOD” rather than “I KNOW GOD.” Science is something that is KNOWN. DIVINITY is something that is BELIEVED. Some people believe in ghosts. Others don’t. But we don’t go shouting “ghosts are scientifically impossible!!” at the believers of ghosts, do we–ESPECIALLY IF THEY CLAIM TO HAVE *WITNESSED* ONE. I have personally witnessed several miracles so I haven’t any delusions about God.
But see when I defend the faith I don’t defend intelligent design as the author of this blog did, I defend the God of LOVE working in the hearts of those in my life and in my own heart. I discuss the miracles of the heart he has performed in my midst, and the miraculous transformations of human spirit that have followed. Hence I believe apologetics–which is essentially what this article attempts to be (a defense of the faith)–should remain focused on the essence of the religion, which are the FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT (Galatians 5:22) for which, as Jesus stated, “there are no laws.”
On a closing note, I found the Sam Harris zinger inappropriate at best. Lest we forget many of the most celebrated and influential people in history didn’t even possess a bachelor’s degree. The day we start measuring the merit of one’s argument by the number of certifications one has received, we are in DEEP TROUBLE. To the Christian who lives and dies by diplomas and certification, I humbly serve to you a small helping of Chesterton: “No man who worships education has got the best out of education; no man who sacrifices everything to education is even educated.”
PS: You needn’t bother visiting my blog in the hopes of finding something interesting about intelligent design. My blog is simply a testimony about the miracles I have witnessed in the past several years, all of which are admittedly “scientifically impossible”… which is why they are miracles. ;)



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Mark

posted November 23, 2009 at 2:08 pm


Oops: “Christians never said the resurrection was scientifically impossible” SHOULD HAVE READ “Christians never said the resurrection was scientifically POSSIBLE”
Mondays!Grrr ;)



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 2:43 pm


dopderbeck,
I respond: I don’t think any of these things would “falsify” naturalism as a metanarrative. You could fit any of the above into a naturalistic framework. In fact, you already do that in many respects.
False. I notice you make no attempt to explain how this could be done.
For example, you reject that the resurrection of Jesus was a miracle because miracles aren’t allowed as evidence within the epistemic framework you assume is true.
No I don’t; I reject it because there is no good evidence it happened – just a few mutually inconsistent accounts, from documents with other known falsehoods in them, and written decades after the supposed events. I admit I start from a position of scepticism, as I would with any supposed event of a kind never observed, and apparently contrary to what we know of the world – but show me good enough evidence, and I’ll accept it.
Nearly everyone agrees that something extraordinary happened in the early Christian community.
No they don’t. We have enough examples of religions, and similar mass movements, forming, growing, and believing in ridiculous things, to know that there is nothing extraordinary about it. Consider mormonism, theosophy, cargo cults, even the cult of Elvis or the millions of apparently sane people who believe they have been kidnapped and experimented on by aliens.
I would add to the witness of Jesus’ resurrection a variety of things that support my belief in God — the evidence of morality, the experience of the numinous, the common human experience of millennia, the beauty of nature and the very category of “beauty,” ultimate questions of causation, and so on. None of these are proof, and apparently none of them count as “evidence” at all in your system, but that is because your system is so weak.
Pick any one of these and explain how it is evidence for God.
The bottom line is that your overarching framework is assumed, not proven.
*sigh* As I said myself, it’s a defeasible assumption. Would you mind replying to what I say, not to your caricature of what I believe?
Either your own system rests on some presuppositions that cannot be proven, or you are left with Descartes’ Demon.
Quite; we could all be being deceived all the time – something you cannot escape any more than me. That’s why I place nothing beyond the possibility of revision, even the principle of placing nothing beyond the possibility of revision. Which, before you bleat your favourite word, is not “incoherent”, because it’s a decision about how to proceed, not a statement of fact, or a pronouncement that this decision will always lead to the best results, or is immutable.
The value of “falsifiability” is itself unprovable and unfalsifiable. Therefore, your positivistic system is fundamentally incoherent..
No it isn’t. As a matter of fact, I don’t adopt falsifiability as the be-all and end-all of what is scientific or rational. However, the principle of refusing to waste time on claims about the real world (i.e. excluding mathematics and logic) but which have no logical consequences to which evidence could be relevant, is again, a decision about how to proceed. Its justification is pragmatic: so far, it has worked well, knowledge has never come out of violating it, and there is no reason to expect it to do so.
I mean, really — just about everyone doing analytic philosophy today admits this, except for the irrationally dogmatic tribe of the NAs.
Now, is this an argument form authority or an argumentum ad populum? A bit of both, I think!
There is no neutral starting ground for any belief system, including empiricism. Even foundationalists doing analytic philosophy today acknowledge that theirs is a “soft” foundationalism. They simply have to assume away Descartes’ Demon and the like, which may be a good and pragmatic thing to do, but it does not rise to the level of falsifiable proof. The NA position would be so much more credible, and so much more difficult for theists to counter, if you dropped the ludicrous evidentiary pretenses that underlie the system.
I’m an anti-foundationalist, a radical fallibilist. All my assumptions are defeasible. By the way, what is a “falsifiable proof”?
The human perceptual and analytic apparatus, after all, didn’t evolve in order for human beings to exhaustively know everything in the universe. These faculties evolved for survival. As such, we ought to expect them to be very efficient, which means we ought not to expect them to do more than necessary. In short, we should expect that empiricism will inevitably give us a distorted picture of the universe as it exists apart from human perception — in fact, that the universe as it exists apart from human perception will be unknowable by humans.
Of course our cognitive apparatus can deceive or limit us: we know that. However, we are able to discover and overcome such limitations, and we do. That’s why we have cognitive prostheses: information-gathering and –manipulating technology, and institutions such as formal logics and scientific methods. Of course we can never be certain we have found all the sources of error. So what? The point is, we have systematic ways of detecting and correcting them – unlike theology.
In fact, it seems to me that a truly consistent naturalist ought to be a determinist who eschews any claim to “knowledge.” According to nuerobiology, our “minds” are merely ghosts in the machine. We don’t really “know” or “will” or “think” anything
Of course we do. Do you know nothing of the literature on multi-level description, and emergent properties? You don’t need to consider things as complex as a brain: a gas or liquid has bulk physical properties which none of its constituent atoms do – yet according to your way of thinking these are mere illusions. Tell me that when you’re drowning.
Notwithstanding Ruse’s efforts to resuscitate compatibilist free will, most self-consistent thinkers in neurobiology admit that determinism is the true implication of neurobiology.
I haven’t read Ruse, but Dennett’s Freedom Evolves makes a cast-iron case for compatibilism, as far as I can see. I explained it briefly to Daniel Mann on another thread. Incidentally, naturalism does not imply determinism, and according to most interpretations of quantum mechanics, the natural universe is not deterministic. But that’s by-the-by.
You would also fallen once again into incoherence, because the very category of “resonable” is meaningless if determinism is true.
No, it isn’t. If you were right we could not say that a chess-playing computer has made a strong move, or a poor one, because it follows a deterministic algorithm. You really ought to educate yourself with regard to levels of description.
it isn’t just the rudeness, it’s the lack of any self-reflection about the weaknesses of your own position that makes belies any degree of intellectual seriousness.
If you can show a weakness, I’ll reflect on it. So far, you haven’t raised anything whatever that I haven’t already considered. As for rudeness, the smug condescension you have shown from your first response to me – and others – is pretty rude. I’m just more honest about it: I’m not going to pretend respect for an intellectually fraudulent enterprise like theology.
At least most theists will acknowledge that belief in God is not a matter of “proof,” even if they think their faith is well warranted.
Well your IDiot chum Plantinga claims a proof. It’s nonsense of course. I don’t claim to prove there is no god, and nor do any “New Atheists” as far as I know. Although doctrinally orthodox Christianity is indeed necessarily false, theism in general is not. So far as that is concerned, I’m an atheist in exactly the same sense that I’m an aleprechaunist. No reason to believe such things exist, so I assume they don’t. Between these two cases, there is immensely strong evidence against an omnipotent and omnibenevolent creator – or for that matter an omnipotent and omnimalevolent one – such that it is completely irrational to believe in either; but I don’t claim a logically watertight proof.



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Mere_Christian

posted November 23, 2009 at 3:08 pm


K Goats,
I love you man.
(Because I have to.)
Otherwise a bully like you would be treated as such. Though I am enjoying the BioLogos guys taking you and your kind to task.
The bigger the head, the easier hitting the target. The David/Goliath lesson. Bible history. Facts all snipers, Israelite warriors and Olympians know all too well.
Hey, oh, “I” studied science. Had an atheist biologist too (redundant in the 80% range I know huh?) and I became a Christian when I was all grown up. The Christian apologists were just far more effective in reason and reality than the “why are babies born blind” elites.
And my value as a citizen . . . is exactly the same as yours.
Love. Love.
Mt5.43.48



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Mere_Christian

posted November 23, 2009 at 3:09 pm


Mr. Giberson,
Why not bring Peter Kreeft on board at BioLogos?



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Ray Ingles

posted November 23, 2009 at 3:17 pm


dopderbeck – As far as ‘revelation’ goes, well, bully for them. I haven’t gotten any, and until and unless I do, I’m afraid that the ‘hallucination’ hypothesis seems to account for all the available facts I have. If revelation is necessary… well, I’m not asking for anything more than Saul of Tarsus got. :->
I actually have looked into the “Christian intellectual tradition”, but I haven’t been terribly impressed. To take one example: the notion that something could be omniscient and omnipotent (or even just ‘scient and potent enough to make a universe’), and yet ‘absolutely simple’ or ‘incomposite’, strikes me as patently absurd. No one I’ve seen has offered anything like a coherent case for this; at most, all I’ve seen are definitional games.
I even agree with you that “empiricism can’t disprove the notions of “God” and “revelation” based on its own methods”. But as a pragmatic matter, I don’t see how disproof is necessary. We pretty much have to go with Occam’s Razor in life, and what I’ve not seen is any good case for such things. We also have pretty good reasons (argument from evil) to suspect that, whatever the ‘ultimate cause(s)’ might be, they don’t look much like what humans have suspected ere now.



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 4:33 pm


Mere_Halfwit,
Did you have a point to make? If so, you forgot to make it.



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 4:58 pm


I’m curious to know what, if anything, would constitute evidence for the existence (or the mere possibility of existence) of “deity” in your mind. – Gordon J. Glover
Well, the sudden disappearance of the likes of Mere_Halfwit, dopderbeck and a few million others in the “Rapture” would be conclusive. I’m not saying I would worship the celestial psychopathic sadist, but I’d sure believe in him. Similarly, if the stars were to rearrange themselves into the opening verses of Genesis (or the Quran, or whatever other theist holy book you care to mention), or a genuine, fully-attested resurrection of someone dead enough to stink, or a really detailed, specific and completely unexpected prophecy derived from the Bible and publicly announced and recorded before the event predicted, or… really, I could go on indefinitely. Dopderbeck is of course desperate to pretend that there is no such evidence, but he has absolutely no case.
I don’t see how one can say categorically that deity — as a level of reality different from (but not separate) from the material world — does not or can not exist.
Um, that’s why I don’t say that Gordon. I simply say there is absolutely no reason to believe it does exist – just like werewolves and leprechauns. If sufficient evidence is produced, I’ll believe it. Incidentally, you’d risk being burned as a heretic if a lot of people here had their way.
Certainly we all recognize that different layers of reality can emerge via the complex organization of ordinary matter.
Dopderbeck doesn’t – could you have a word with him?
And this new layer of reality has the ability to exercise a top-down causation over lower levels.
That depends what you mean. As far as we know, all the “lower-level” processes remain exactly the same, whatever their “higher-level” context (contrary to what some “emergentist” thinkers of the 19th and early 20th century thought). But there are processes, such as natural selection, that follow regularities that are somewhat independent of how they are “instantiated” at lower levels – that’s why Darwin was able to conceptualise natural selection while being completely wrong about genetics, and Haldane and co. were able to do a lot of genetics without knowing about DNA. As far as I can tell, we are in agreement here. Do try to explain it to dopderbeck – poor fellow obviously can’t grasp it.
But even so, how can anyone be so dogmatic about the the absolute non-existence of some level of deity?
I’m not – see above. There is one point though. All the previous layers have come into existence out of interactions between components at a previous level, interactions of a kind that generate enormous numbers of combinations in a completely non-directed fashion. So if your “cosmic intelligence” already exists, where are these interactions?



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Mere_Christian

posted November 23, 2009 at 5:03 pm


Knockgoats
November 23, 2009 4:33 PM
Mere_Halfwit,
Did you have a point to make? If so, you forgot to make it.
///
In regards to a person like you, my point was made about that long ago.



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 5:04 pm


BTW, Gordon, have you read Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First Men and Starmaker? Right up your street, I would think.



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 5:06 pm


But, Mere_Halfwit,
You said you loved me! And now this! You shameless tease!



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dopderbeck

posted November 23, 2009 at 5:31 pm


Knockgoats said: False. I notice you make no attempt to explain how this could be done.
I respond: I did, but you ignored it. The Indian Yogi thing?
Knockgoats said: Do you know nothing of the literature on multi-level description, and emergent properties?
I respond: I do. And I know that it is written off by many in the nuerobiology field as pseudoscientific wish fulfillment, a ghost-in-the-machine gap argument with which we like to deceive ourselves into thinking we have some semblance of freedom — just like what you say about religion! This includes Dennett’s defense of compatibilist free will, which I understand many consider simplistic and besides the point (thank you — I had Ruse on my mind but I meant Dennett’s life world experiments).
Ray: if you’re willing to grant that “revelation” is a potential source of warrant, then our conversation is an entirely different one than the usual arguments with folks like Dawkins, Hitchens and Knockgoats. I respect your feeling that you haven’t received anything you consider revelation, and I respect your objections based on the problem of evil. You misunderstand the category of “revelation” when you assume it has to be direct (Christ, the scriptures, and nature are sources of revelation that aren’t direct), but regardless, our difference as I understand it is about whether these things comprise a source of revelation, not whether revelation is in principle possible. That’s a fair disagreement.
On the “simplicity” of God — I think what you define as “definitional games” are not games but rather are respecting what terms mean in a given field of inquiry. Every field has specialized lingo; in the law, we use lots of terms in ways that seem counterintiutive to non-lawyers. But in any event, yes, it’s probably true that no one has ever adequately explained God’s nature and attributes, and yes, scholastic theology can get impossibly dense. If you choose to believe in only that which you can fully explain, I respect that choice, though I think it’s ultimately not possible to live that way. I choose to believe in God, grounded in what I think are some good reasons, but recognizing that at some point God cannot be explained. Can we respect the integrity of each others’ reasons?



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 5:58 pm


Larry,
Surely Dawkins expects as much of those that criticize evolution, and rightly so. Dawkins and company (P.Z. Meyers even more so) fail this test spectacularly. Not only do they not show much familiarity with the basic material, but what little they do know they twist to their own agenda.
You have asserted this, but you have not shown it. (By the way, who is this P.Z. Meyers? P.Z. Myers I know, but this Meyers chap is forever the target of vitriolic Christian attacks, yet I’ve never come across anything he’s written.) You failed to respond to my request for a citation showing that Dawkins mistakes Aquinas’ conclusions for his assumptions. comparing The God Delusion pp.77-79 with online versions of the 5 ways, he appears to represent them fairly.
Who was not executed for any of his “scientific” thinking or writing, such as it was, but simply because he was a heretic, and a traitor to the church. He was given many opportunities to repent, but refused them all. His thinking was not humanist, but occultish, in his theology he repeatedly denied many basic tenets of Roman Catholic thought.
Oh what wickedness! Burning was too good for him! Of course when a Catholic like that vile torturer and murderer “Saint” Thomas More refuses to renounce his beliefs, that’s heroism.
As, with your deep historical knowledge, you are undoubtedly aware, there was no distinction between science and the occult at that time, or indeed considerably later (consider Newton). The point is, the Roman Catholic Church has always been the enemy of free enquiry, right up to and past the Syllabus Errorum of Pius IX.
The Great Library was likely destroyed by Julius when he captured Alexandra. Whether he did or not, there are writings that predate Cyril (the supposed destroyer) that speak of the Library in the past tense.
It’s most unlikely Caesar destroyed the Library – his political enemies were many, and many trenchant attacks on him have survived, but none of them mentions this. Parts of the Library may have been destroyed before Theodosius and Cyril, but the Temple of Serapis, destroyed by the former, was recorded as storing many of the scrolls. These thugs almost certainly destroyed many important works when they razed the pagan temples.
Because she got caught in the middle of Alexandrian politics between two Christians, Orestes the magistrate and Cyril the bishop
Yes, I knew early Christians were much given to torturing and murdering each other as well as everyone else, but I fail to see how that makes it any better.
The earliest universities were outgrowths of the Cathedral schools founded to train administrators and clergy. They all had considerable autonomy from both secular and sectarian influence thanks to Gregory IX.
What a man! While Pope in the 13th century, he was able to found the University of Bologna in the 11th! I’m aware Bologna claims a foundation date of 1088, and the founders were secular scholars. That theology was not taught there until 1364 is conclusive evidence the Church had nothing to do with it.
Some do show up here, on occasion, you are simply too close minded to hear them.
So, why not identify one? Just one, Larry. Whichever you consider strongest? Hmm?
one only look to Christopher Hitchens’ trashing of Mother Teresa to verify.
You’re still defending that corrupt, sadistic bootlicker of tyrants?
Secularism and atheism have far more blood on their hands than the church
Tosh. Hitler was a baptised Catholic, with whom the Pope signed a concordat, and most of those who carried out his orders were believing Christians. What’s more, he drew on a history of nearly 2,000 years of antisemitism. Most of the fascist parties of Europe were closely associated with their country’s dominant Christian sect. Then there are the tens or hundreds of millions murdered in the subjection of the Americas, the African slave trade, and European colonialism, all justified in the name of Christianity. While Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were certainly mass murderers on a huge scale, very few atheists proudly proclaim their allegiance to these tyrants, as Catholics do to their blood-soaked Church – which once more lived up to its heritage in the Rwanda genocide. What’s more, the RCC is still killing in huge numbers through its lies about condoms and its refusal to allow contraception.



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 6:13 pm


dopderbeck
I respond: I did, but you ignored it. The Indian Yogi thing?
You did not respond to the specific examples I gave. With regard to yogis, you are no doubt aware that the James Randi Foundation has a prize of $1,000,000 for any yogi, psychic, homeopath or whatever who can demonstrate paranormal powers under properly controlled conditions. If any ever win the prize, my naturalist assumption would certainly be in very serious question. If they were able to resurrect those dead enough to stink, I’d abandon it.
And I know that it is written off by many in the nuerobiology field as pseudoscientific wish fulfillment
They are wrong. If they were right, psychology could never have discovered anything without a full explication of neurophysiology, which is plainly not the case. The example I gave of mass properties of gases and liquids is enough to show that emergent properties exist, as are Dennett’s “Life World” examples, as is my example of the chess-playing computer. Your have not come anywhere near demonstrating your claim that knowledge and reason are incompatible with determinism. You haven’t even tried, you’ve just asserted it and made an appeal to authority, as is your wont. I’m sure that works just fine in theology.
I choose to believe in God, grounded in what I think are some good reasons
Which you have not condescended to explain to us. I wonder why.



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 6:30 pm


Anyone wanna bet the most cerebral Reverend KnockGoats is Chris Hitchens? Wait, I suppose I could make an allowance for the possibility that he is a Hitchens disciple – Mark
I take the bet. You lose. Hitchens is an imperialist stooge, a misogynist, and a drunken oaf. I agree with his trenchant atheism, but very little else. Now, what size bet did you have in mind, Mark? If you’re an honest man, you’ll send that amount to Women Against Fundamentalism.
If anyone really wants to know my RL identity, it’s not that deeply hidden. A few days’ research would crack it.



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 6:34 pm


On the “simplicity” of God — I think what you define as “definitional games” are not games but rather are respecting what terms mean in a given field of inquiry. – dopderbeck
Translation: “We say God’s simple, so he’s simple. He is! He is too! Shut up! Can’t hear you! Can’t heaaaarrr you!”



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Greg Greene

posted November 23, 2009 at 6:39 pm


Well put, Dr. Giberson. Thanks for a great post!



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 7:06 pm


But we don’t go shouting “ghosts are scientifically impossible!!” at the believers of ghosts, do we–ESPECIALLY IF THEY CLAIM TO HAVE *WITNESSED* ONE. – Mark
Well, I wouldn’t shout it. But I might well say it, and I certainly wouldn’t conclude that ghosts exist simply because someone says they have seen one, or even if I saw one myself. Just how extensive is your credulity, Mark? If someone told you they had seen Queen Elizabeth II transform herself into a giant reptile and swallow one of her corgis, you’d believe them, would you? You know, I half believe you would.



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Larry

posted November 23, 2009 at 7:53 pm


You failed to respond to my request for a citation showing that Dawkins mistakes Aquinas’ conclusions for his assumptions.
Just one of his many, many mistakes in dealing with Aquinas, Dawkins states “All three of these arguments (the first three of the Five Ways) rely upon the idea of a regress and invoke God to terminate. They make the entirely unwarranted assumption that God himself [sic] is immune to the regress”, but Aquinas makes no such assumption, he concludes, based on his Five Ways, that God must be immune from the regression. A truly sophomoric mistake. In addition he seems not to realize that by “motion” Aquinas meant changing from a potential to an actual. He also claims that the Five Ways do not support the idea of an omnipotent, omniscient God. No kidding, Aquinas never says that they do. The Five Ways are in the second of forty-three sections of Summa Theologica, Aquinas develops the idea of omniscience and omnipotence in later sections, which, evidently, Dawkins either never read or didn’t understand. Then there is Dawkins’ truly stupid idea, that he seems inordinately proud of, that God must be more complex than the sum of creation. He seems to not be aware that he is assuming that God has a brain with this argument, just because we all of the intelligence in nature that we are aware of is based on complex brains doesn’t mean that God’s is, no Christian theologian would affirm that God has a brain. He also seems to completely unaware of the doctrine of God’s simplicity, but this is really rather basic theology.
Oh what wickedness! Burning was too good for him! Of course when a Catholic like that vile torturer and murderer “Saint” Thomas More refuses to renounce his beliefs, that’s heroism.
It does make a difference what you believe. You don’t seem to have a problem with ID’ers being frozen out of University positions. I don’t agree with what the church did to Bruno, but to try and champion him as some sort of poster boy for reason and science is just silly.
Yes, I knew early Christians were much given to torturing and murdering each other as well as everyone else, but I fail to see how that makes it any better.
So was everybody else in that period. That it took hundreds, or thousands of years for this to change, in large part because of Christian influence, should not be surprising, given the intransigence of human nature. The influence of Christianity is seen not in the Alexandrian mob, but that such things are seldom seen anymore, and when they are they are roundly condemned.
That theology was not taught there until 1364 is conclusive evidence the Church had nothing to do with it.
The church has many interests beyond theology, that you believe such a howling non sequitor as this proves that the church had nothing to do with the birth of universities just demonstrates your total inability to fairly evaluate the evidence. By your logic, since the University of Bologna specialized in the teaching of canon law, it must have been a church institution. The university generally agreed on to be the second, the University of Paris, did teach theology from its founding. The universities were still an outgrowth of the Cathedral schools, an individual cathedral didn’t have the resources to provide a full course university study.
You’re still defending that corrupt, sadistic bootlicker of tyrants?
On this earth, you can’t always deal with angels. If tyrants could help the poor, Teresa would appeal to them. This is exactly the kind of slander that Hitchens engages in. He also makes a big deal that the Sisters of Charity’s hospice in Calcutta didn’t have potent analgesics, true, they didn’t, because it would have been illegal and the authorities would have shut the hospice down. A completely unfair characterization of Teresa.
Tosh. Hitler was a baptised Catholic, with whom the Pope signed a concordat, and most of those who carried out his orders were believing Christians.
Hitler was baptized so he was a Christian. Of all the stupid arguments, Stalin had a Jesuit education, are you going to claim that he, too, was a Christian, despite his repeated avowals of atheism? There is more evidence that Hitler was an atheist than that he was even a nominal Christian. To start with try Googling ‘Reich church” and try to tell me with a straight face that it was a Christian behind it. The believing Christians in the Third Reich were part of the Confessing Church, not the National Church, and were in the camps with the Jews and other “undesirables”. Where where the German atheists during this period?
with whom the Pope signed a concordat
The Pope did what he could to protect his flock, as above with Teresa, you can’t always deal with angels in this world. If he had refused to deal with Hitler or Mussolini you would be accusing him of letting his principles get in the way protecting people. The Pope also wrote Mit brennender Sorge (in German so nobody would miss its intended target) and is credited with saving 800,000+ Jews from the Holocaust.
Then there are the tens or hundreds of millions murdered in the subjection of the Americas, the African slave trade, and European colonialism, all justified in the name of Christianity
Thinking that it was the church behind this is just silly. Columbus sailed under the flag of Spain, not the Vatican. It was the church that ended the slave trade, with the help of the British navy, and it was the church behind all the abolition societies that ended slavery. The Christian tradition of alter calls comes from the Second Great Awakening, where, after their message, Finney and the other evangelists would sign up people for the societies. To say that the slave trade was justified by the church or Christianity is simply slanderous, it was justified on economic grounds and nothing else.
What’s more, the RCC is still killing in huge numbers through its lies about condoms and its refusal to allow contraception.
Nonsense, the church teaches against fornication, it does not say “don’t use condoms when you fornicate”, it says “don’t fornicate”. To think that people will obey the church about the use of condoms but ignore what it says about fornication takes some truly twisted logic.



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Larry

posted November 23, 2009 at 7:55 pm


If someone told you they had seen Queen Elizabeth II transform herself into a giant reptile and swallow one of her corgis, you’d believe them, would you? You know, I half believe you would.
And if you were a stone-age tropical tribesman and strange people came to you and told you about something called “ice”, would you believe them?



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Larry

posted November 23, 2009 at 8:28 pm


as Catholics do to their blood-soaked Church – which once more lived up to its heritage in the Rwanda genocide
Just how do you manage to blame the genocide in Rwanda on the Catholic church. The genocide was ethnically motivated and both ethnicities involved are predominately Roman Catholic. The church had little to do with, and certainly didn’t encourage it. In fact the the main victims of the genocide, the Tutsis, were more Catholic than Rwanda as a whole. If the church orchestrated the slaughter, it orchestrated it against its own people.



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 8:40 pm


Larry,
Here’s the entirety of an online version of Aquinas’ “First Way”:
“It is certain, and evident to our sense, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is moved is moved by another, for nothing can be moved except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is moved; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be moved from a state of potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality… it is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is moved must be moved by another. If that by which it is moved must itself be moved, then this also needs to be moved by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and consequently, no other mover, seeing as subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are moved by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is moved by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at the first mover, moved by no other; and this everyone understands to be God. (Aquinas)”
How has Dawkins misrepresented this? (In the passage in TGD, pp.77-79, he doesn’t say how he is interpreting “motion”, nor does it appear to matter.)
He also seems to completely unaware of the doctrine of God’s simplicity, but this is really rather basic theology.
It’s also a load of garbage, like all theology. Dawkins is aware of it, he simply points out how absurd it is (p.149).
The church has many interests beyond theology, that you believe such a howling non sequitor as this proves that the church had nothing to do with the birth of universities just demonstrates your total inability to fairly evaluate the evidence.
Where is your evidence that the Church had anything to do with the foundation of the University of Bologna? Surely the simplest thing would be to produce it.
If tyrants could help the poor, Teresa would appeal to them. This is exactly the kind of slander that Hitchens engages in. He also makes a big deal that the Sisters of Charity’s hospice in Calcutta didn’t have potent analgesics, true, they didn’t, because it would have been illegal and the authorities would have shut the hospice down.
I fail to see how sucking up to Jean-Claude Duvalier helped the poor. As for your extraordinary claim about strong analagesics being illegal, what is your evidence for this? If true, the “hospice” of course had absolutely no business treating people in severe pain. The money donated to it could have gone to purchasing such drugs and paying doctors to supply them at free clinics. Hitchens quotes many people who worked with “Mother Teresa”; he names them, and to my knowledge they have not complained of being misrepresented.
The believing Christians in the Third Reich
The vast majority of Germans were believing Christians, including those who ran the camps. Even if Hitler was pretending to be a Christian (the best evidence is that he was a theist, but not a doctrinally orthodox Christian), clearly he would only have done so because he thought it was politically advantageous. I notice also you don’t deal with the Vatican concordat. or the extensive ties between the Churches and fascism.
Thinking that it was the church behind this is just silly. Columbus sailed under the flag of Spain, not the Vatican.
The division of the world between Spain and Portugal (Treaty of Tordesillas, 1494) followed a series of Papal Bulls assigning large parts of the world to Castile and Portugal, and was ratified by Julius II in 1506. The Church explicitly allowed the enslavement of Native Americans, and was drenched in their blood up to the Pope’s eyebrows. Slavery was indeed justified as Christian: the enslavement of the victims’ bodies was justified in terms of the salvation of their souls.
Nonsense, the church teaches against fornication, it does not say “don’t use condoms when you fornicate”, it says “don’t fornicate”.
It also lies about condoms, claiming HIV passes through them. It also forbids married women whose husbands are HIV+ to use any means of contraception, including condoms, Dutch caps, and spermicides, all of which provide a greater or lesser measure of protection. The Pope is a mass murderer.
And if you were a stone-age tropical tribesman and strange people came to you and told you about something called “ice”, would you believe them?
So you’re as daft as Mark, or dafter – you really would believe that QEII is a reptilian corgi-guzzler.
Just how do you manage to blame the genocide in Rwanda on the Catholic church. The genocide was ethnically motivated and both ethnicities involved are predominately Roman Catholic.
Numerous priests and nuns took part, and many have since been protected by the Church, just as it protects child abusers. The fact that the murderers were predominantly Catholics is not exactly a great advertisement for the Church either, is it?



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Knockgoats

posted November 23, 2009 at 8:46 pm


Incidentally, your point about Stalin’s seminary education is interesting. Maybe that’s where he learned his brutality, intolerance, heresy-hunting and antisemitism?



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Knockgoats

posted November 24, 2009 at 4:50 am


The Pope did what he could to protect his flock – Larry
More apologist garbage. He could, and should, have excommunicated Hitler and Mussolini and their chief Catholic henchmen, and called on all Catholics to refuse their orders.
On condoms, incidentally, the RCC also tries to prevent governments including condoms in their prevention programmes, even though these are, of course, not aimed solely at Catholics. The Pope is a mass murderer, as well as a protector of child abusers.



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Knockgoats

posted November 24, 2009 at 6:41 am


Larry,
Apologies – you did respond to my point about the concordat. I only noticed this (and responded) this morning.



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Mere_Me

posted November 24, 2009 at 6:54 am


A reply for the Knockgoats show. Though rather, I feel like I’m intruding on a session with his therapist. Allow me if you will:
From Comrade Knockgoats
November 23, 2009 10:42 AM
Sam Harris has come in for a lot of criticism from other atheists for his mushy burblings about “spirituality”, as well as for his statement that beliefs could in some cases justify bombing people.”
And slaughtering them before birth for convenience sake. And of course there is the sex slave trade that follows implemented social atheism wherever it goes.
“Rightly, in both cases – and the second is by far the more important.”
By the monolithic and homogenized atheist band of brothers. And of course their one voice “congregations.”
“Neither atheism nor “new atheism” is a monolith.”
All speak with the same voice ad infinitum. Literally. 0 x 0 = ad infinitum per EVERY atheism. Mathematically. All atheists speak as one on so many issues, the evidence suggests no independent thought allowed for “freethinkers.” As Sam Harris is finding out.
“Atheists have just one thing in common: disbelief in gods.”
And gay marriage, abortion and socialism. They ALL seem to parrot humanists in totality.
Atheism looks more like a political position for implementing a power structure of governemt (exactly as claimed by ALL of the atheists in the western world) than one based on reason for leading a worthy life.
Let’s ask the Chinese how the homogenization of atheism is doing for their individual freedoms?
“Freethinkers?” “Brights?”
Bobblehead Lemmings look more the definition of atheist. The monolithic atheist world and worldview.
But I still love you Knockgoats. Calm down. We know you came to this belief at age twelve. Where most enlightenment thinking is easy to grasp for the latency human.
It’ll be alright.
As long as you can encourage your fellow atheists to act like Christians and to copy the morality of Christian family life, and freedom to follow your choices. (Are there atheist denominations?) Then maybe, just maybe, you can escape the violence and vice and communistic authoritarianism (of taking away individual freedoms) that always accompanies implementing political and social atheism.
I notice that the Christian “ish” secularized scandanavian socities are up and running. We’ll see for how long. It looks like they’ll run out of offspring to continue the experiment in the blink of evolutionary time though. Get out your digital camera.
Or bone up on your arabic. Muslims have lots of children.
Love you man.
0 x 0 = the atheistic universe.
Even at twelve I knew that was wrong. Something can’t come fron nothing causing it to happen. Even Santa had helpers making my toys.
And I didn’t become a Christian until I learned about science and math. And of course the whole Jesus as Messiah and Lord deal.
Knocky, atheism doesn’t add up. Not even when we’re twelve. Look for your role models in the deist category. At least.



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Knockgoats

posted November 24, 2009 at 7:46 am


Mere_Halfwit,
And slaughtering them before birth for convenience sake.
Tell me, if an 11-year old is raped and impregnated by her father, should she be allowed an abortion?
And of course there is the sex slave trade that follows implemented social atheism wherever it goes.
It is Christianity (and other religions) that have regarded women as commodities to be traded, not atheism. The decline of religion has coincided with the emancipation of women. As I noted, Norway and Sweden, among the least religious societies, have made buying sex illegal. Your feeble claim that they are copying Christian morality won’t wash: when they were more Christian, women were subordinated to men, as in all strongly religious societies. I’m sure that’s exactly what you want.
It looks like they’ll run out of offspring to continue the experiment in the blink of evolutionary time though.
Actually their birth rates are among the highest in Europe – far higher than Spain or Italy, for example. Why don’t you try checking your facts before you post occasionally, Mere_Halfwit? You know, just for variety.
And gay marriage, abortion and socialism. They ALL seem to parrot humanists in totality.
Would that it were so (where for “abortion”, of course, read “women’s control over their own bodies”). There are plenty of “libertarian” atheists, and we have the clear example of Hitchens’ support for neocon imperialism discussed on this very thread. He is far from alone.
And I didn’t become a Christian until I learned about science and math.
Someone who thinks “0x0=atheistic universe” means something quite clearly knows nothing whatever about science or maths.
But I still love you Knockgoats.
Liar. Your hate is abundantly evident, and encompasses most of your fellow-Christians here as well as me.
Or bone up on your arabic. Muslims have lots of children.
I am completely unsurprised that you are a racist.



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Brian

posted November 24, 2009 at 8:42 am


Hi Knockgoats,
Yes, I guess I was asking for a justification. I guess that makes me a psychopath as well as an idiot. Before this exchange with you, I had no idea I was so title-worthy. Thanks.
I asked, because I also have read a fair amount on the evolution of altruism. One of my particular favorites is here:
“As evolutionists, we see that no [ethical] justification of the traditional kind is possible. Morality, or more strictly our belief in morality, is merely an adaptation put in place to further our reproductive ends. Hence the basis of ethics does not lie in God’s will…. In an important sense, ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate. It is without external grounding.
– E. O. Wilson and Michael Ruse, “The Evolution of Ethics”
Of the folks that I’ve read, Ruse, Shermer, EO & David Sloan Wilson, and of course Dawkins all basically argue that ethics ultimately derive from the same blind-watchmaker processes that have given us our physical characteristics. Yes, there might be some variation in the actual mechanism (natural selection, group selection, selfish genes…), but given naturalism’s assumptions, Wilson and Ruse are likely right. In an arbitrary universe governed by some combination of chance and natural law, everything is just an adaptation. Kudos to them for telling it like it is and—at least on an intellectual, academic level—proposing a model for ethics that is consistent.
The problem for the Wilson camp is that practically speaking, no one can live that way—and that in fact, no one does. If someone were to break into Dr Wilson’s office, trash his lab, steal his computers, and set his research back years, would he blandly argue that morals are “merely an adaptation?” If a grad student was found out to have earned his PhD through plagiarism, would he go to the university administration and argue that ethics “is an illusion fobbed off on us?” If a loved member of his family were robbed, mugged, beaten or even killed during the commission of a crime, would he respond by saying that ethics is “without external grounding?”
Probably not. And so, we’re left with the Wilson camp, which consistent with Darwinian presuppositions (at least on an ivory-tower, intellectual level) but unlivable; and most of the others, which treat ethics and morals as something real, but who have no real basis in their worldview for doing so.
I too, am a big fan of the work that’s been done on the evolution of altruism; it provides significant support for my world view.



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Knockgoats

posted November 24, 2009 at 9:25 am


Brian,
Yes, I guess I was asking for a justification. I guess that makes me a psychopath as well as an idiot.
Well you evidently have problems with reading comprehension, at least. What I said was that if you need a justification for caring about others, you are a psychopath – that is, you lack the empathy and compassion which all non-psychopathic human beings, to varying degrees, develop, meaning they can’t help caring about others.
You are failing to distinguish between the causal story behind the development of morality, and the justification for actions and moral standards, even though I made this distinction clearly – although, to be fair, many of the authors you cite also fail to do this. If you ask “Why is stealing wrong?”, you are asking a question about justification. What answer you will get depends on the moral system of the person you ask. It might be: “Because we have a natural right to our property”, or “Because it causes suffering to the person you steal from”, of “Because if everyone did it, life would be impossible”, or “Because it’s unfair and selfish”, or… If you ask “How did it come about that all societies have some concept of stealing, and regard it as wrong?”, then you are asking a causal question. Until you have this distinction clear in your mind, you will not understand morality.
Evolutionary theory can, at least in principle, answer some of the causal questions. It has absolutely nothing whatever to say about justificatory ones, because that is simply not what a scientific theory is for. I told you what my main justification for the standards I adopt is – the welfare and preferences of other people, and more broadly, sentient beings – but I suspect from your last comment that you weren’t really interested, you just thought you could score a point. However, I’ll have one more go. Now, you can ask “Why do you take into account the welfare and preferences of others?” This is ambiguous: if it is a justificatory question, I will reply “Because other people will be happier if I do.” Clearly, this does not give you much more information, because there is no higher-level justification in my moral system: you’ve reached the top of my stack of moral goals. If it’s a causal question, the answer would have to be in my innate propensities (including the fact that I’m not a psychopath), the environment I was brought up in, and the decisions I have taken. If you follow this causal story far enough back, the work on the evolution of altruism will be part of it.



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Mere_Me

posted November 24, 2009 at 9:44 am


Dear Knockgoats,
yawn ;o
There are enough Christians in scandanavia to keep things morally sound for awhile.



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Ray Ingles

posted November 24, 2009 at 10:50 am


dopderbeck – if you’re willing to grant that “revelation” is a potential source of warrant, then our conversation is an entirely different one than the usual arguments
I don’t absolutely rule out different kinds of inputs than the ones we know about (our senses) but I’ve seen no evidence for ‘em, so color me dubious. The other ‘revelations’ you mention (“Christ, the scriptures, and nature”) we only know about because of our senses and thus have to be evaluated the way all our other sensory input is.
I think what you define as “definitional games” are not games but rather are respecting what terms mean in a given field of inquiry.
No, no, it’s a game – because it has a specialized meaning. “Simple” in theology is a term with a very different meaning than in normal English usage, in just the same way that a physicist uses words like “charm” or “flavor” to talk about quarks. A physicist might make a statement perfectly sensible in physical terms about the “flavor” that’s meaningless in colloquial English. The same applies to the specialized terms used by lawyers (did you know it’s easier for advertisers to claim to be “the best” than it is to claim to be “better”?), and any other profession, really.
In the same way, the property of ‘simple’ as used by theologians bears no real resemblance to the term as used in standard English. And arguments that claim that God is the ‘simplest’ explanation depend specifically on that equivocation.
I mean, something that can design an entire universe, and allegedly fine-tune universal constants to dozens of decimal places, while simultaneously listening to (at least) hundreds of millions of prayers simply cannot be ‘simple’ as the term is used in standard English. (And if ‘spiritual stuff’ is supposed to be so different that it can do all that and still be ‘simple’ in the standard English sense… then none of our normal expectations about it can be trusted, either. For example, if it’s so counterintuitive that it doesn’t need to be complicated to do all that… then why does it need to be intelligent, either?)



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Knockgoats

posted November 24, 2009 at 11:45 am


There are enough Christians in scandanavia to keep things morally sound for awhile. – Mere_Halfwit,
When the evidence is against you, as it quite clearly is with regard to Scandinavia, you just pretend it doesn’t mean what it obviously does, with some transparent dodge like the above. I remind you that it was you who who claimed that depravity follows on the heels of secularisation. Once I proved that this is not the case, you just shifted the goalposts. Surely even you can see how dishonest this is?
By the way, I see you are too cowardly to answer the question I asked you, so I’ll ask it again: if an 11-year old is raped and impregnated by her father, should she be allowed an abortion? Remember, it was you who brought the subject of abortion up, so surely you must have thought about this sort of case.



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Mere_Christian

posted November 24, 2009 at 12:52 pm


Choasian wrote:
“By the way, I see you are too cowardly to answer the question I asked you, so I’ll ask it again: if an 11-year old is raped and impregnated by her father, should she be allowed an abortion?”
Ask that question to the child born from this incestuous act after “it” graduates college.
If “it” sees fit to find its life not the equal of yours or others, than do as you and “it” sees fit.
Good luck with the local police.



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Mere_Christian

posted November 24, 2009 at 1:04 pm


Knockgoats The Angry
November 24, 2009 11:45 AM
There are enough Christians in scandanavia to keep things morally sound for awhile. – Mere_Halfwit the humble Christian.
Chaos to Order wrote: When the evidence is against you, as it quite clearly is with regard to Scandinavia, you just pretend it doesn’t mean what it obviously does, with some transparent dodge like the above.”
Dodge? I used evidence based logic. The good Christians of scandanavia are still influencing morality in that secular haven. That is in keeping with the history of Christianity in that region as well.
0 x 0 = The Universe wrote: “I remind you that it was you who who claimed that depravity follows on the heels of secularisation.”
Again the evidence for that is quite well documented. Inner cities within the western world attest to the veracity of my assertion.
A rock can somehow become a man wrote: “Once I proved that this is not the case, you just shifted the goalposts. Surely even you can see how dishonest this is?”
I proved that my ability to see dishonesty is based on evidence for it. Secularization to a violent and promiscuous society is quite easy to see, even, for the secularist. For the honest secularist. Follow the world in which the humanists have influenced. Now, even marriage is being corrupted er, I mean “redefined” to include same-gender sexual behavior proponents. Absurd as that is, it is a reality. Yes, a husband becomes a wife and a wife becomes a husband and around and around we go on the perversion merry-go-round of secular morality.
Evidence based that is.
Love Mere_Me



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Knockgoats

posted November 24, 2009 at 2:50 pm


Mere_Halfwit,
Dodge? I used evidence based logic. The good Christians of scandanavia are still influencing morality in that secular haven.
Liar: you provided no evidence of that whatever. If Christians could have such an influence there, clearly they should have it in far more Christian and less secularized societies, such as the USA.
Again the evidence for that is quite well documented. Inner cities within the western world attest to the veracity of my assertion.
Liar: you have given no evidence that inner cities are more secularized than anywhere else, nor that they have become more depraved over time. I suggest you look at the historical records of nineteenth century cities, when secularization was much less advanced.
Secularization to a violent and promiscuous society is quite easy to see, even, for the secularist.
Liar: the most secular societies are the least violent.
Now, even marriage is being corrupted er, I mean “redefined” to include same-gender sexual behavior proponents. Absurd as that is, it is a reality. Yes, a husband becomes a wife and a wife becomes a husband and around and around we go on the perversion merry-go-round of secular morality.
Bigot: unable to recognise that most of those with a different sexual orientation from your own are far more capable of love than you are.
Love
Liar.



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Knockgoats

posted November 24, 2009 at 2:53 pm


“By the way, I see you are too cowardly to answer the question I asked you, so I’ll ask it again: if an 11-year old is raped and impregnated by her father, should she be allowed an abortion?”
Ask that question to the child born from this incestuous act after “it” graduates college.
I’m asking it of you, coward. You raised this topic, so give a straight answer.



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Simon

posted November 24, 2009 at 4:43 pm


I dont understand the idea that God’s existence should need to be proven. Belief in God is based on faith not proof. If someone proved that God exists, it would take away the power of faith. I dont “believe” in the second law of thermodynamics, or evolution by natural selection: I know that they are scientifically valid ideas, backed up by tons of evidence. There is plenty of “proof” for these ideas, which is required for any scientific theory to become accepted. God on the other hand should never be subject to this kind of rational test, since by definition, the belief in God is outside the domain of rationality, and is purely a matter of faith.
I also dont understand why I (who happen to be both a scientist and a Christian) cant enjoy both truths. If I play the tuba, does this mean I cant love geometry? If I savor good wine, does this exclude me from playing chess? Why should we think about limiting our humanity in this way?



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Knockgoats

posted November 24, 2009 at 5:01 pm


I dont understand the idea that leprachauns’ existence should need to be proven. Belief in leprachauns is based on faith not proof. If someone proved that leprachauns exist, it would take away the power of faith.
Why does that make any less sense than your version, Simon? Also, how do you know which god to believe in? There are, literally, millions to choose from.



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Scott Jorgenson

posted November 24, 2009 at 5:39 pm


Knockgoats, nothing about your version makes less sense, if leprechauns are defined as God is defined. Be they leprechauns or unicorns or fairies, if they are defined as the Judaeo-Christian God is — supernatural (hence not subject to natural law), almighty (hence not able to be pinned down and investigated by our critical faculties), and so forth — then there’s nothing wrong logically with Simon’s argument when you apply it to them as well. But leprechauns, unicorns, and fairies are not defined that way — they are not postulated as almighty supernatural beings but rather as unusual and magical but controllable — and that’s why your leprechaun version does not stand-up logically as well as the God-version.
Now, if your leprechaun version is modified to reference some other god instead of the Judaeo-Christian one, then it is closer to the mark. But I still think we can favor something like the Judaeo-Christian God-story over the rest through warranted faith, by which I mean faith supported by the reasons you’ve heard mentioned here before to believe in something like that God — the universal senses of morality and the numinous, the logical grounding which God-belief offers to morality and hope, the cosmological argument, the experience of the early church, the ‘unreasonable effective of mathematics’ and our minds to understand it, and others. None of these are proof capable of standing on their own, but all interestingly converge in the same direction, which to me says something. I know you dismiss these, but it seems to me that you do so because you demand too much of them — you require that they be like scientific evidence mustered in support of a scientific theory. But God and theology are more like philosophy and ethics and aesthetics than that — endlessly arguable based on our inclinations and suppositions, rather than empirical. So while we bring these reasons to the table, we bring them not as argument-clinchers but as mere warrants for our view, ‘reasons for the hope that is within us’. Everyone’s mileage may vary.
Don’t have time to discuss this much, but I wanted to throw that out there.



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Knockgoats

posted November 24, 2009 at 6:00 pm


Scott Jorgenson,
Hi, welcome back.
You have a point in that leprechauns are not defined as almighty, but my point was that it simply doesn’t make sense to say “Isn’t it great we can’t prove God exists!” Leprechauns, after all, are deceptive beings who avoid being seen, play tricks on people, hide their treasure “at the end of the rainbow” and will diddle you out of getting it (which you are supposed to do if you catch one) if they possibly can – but why would the creator of the universe behave in that fashion?
the universal senses of morality and the numinous, the logical grounding which God-belief offers to morality and hope, the cosmological argument, the experience of the early church, the ‘unreasonable effective of mathematics’ and our minds to understand it, and others.
Lots of bad arguments do not make a good one.
I know you dismiss these, but it seems to me that you do so because you demand too much of them — you require that they be like scientific evidence mustered in support of a scientific theory. But God and theology are more like philosophy and ethics and aesthetics than that
Not so: the existence of God is supposed to be objective fact – unless you’re one of those atheists who likes to dress up and pretend to be a Christian, like Dom Cupitt. So evidence for and against its existence should be considered on the same basis as any other factual claim.
‘reasons for the hope that is within us’
i.e. wishful thinking.



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Uncle Albert

posted November 24, 2009 at 11:16 pm


Dopderbeck:
“Fides quaerens intellectum” — faith seeks understanding. The Christian tradition has always seen faith and empirical investigation as complementary — though there are long and ongoing debates about what can and cannot properly be claimed by empirical methods. It’s true that God is not directly knowable by humans, and there is an important “apophatic” tradition of being able to speak of God only in terms of what God is not like.
An apophatic approach is the most direct and intimate way. It allows the seeker to experience inspiration and proxima without reduction to form. By laying aside any idea of God, there is no conflict over interpretation, only the experience of essential unity. Some Quakers and Sufis seem to understand this very well. A vessel must be empty first, then filled. I think this is the only way that faith and the scientific method can actually be reconciled. In this case faith is not in a definable image of God, because God cannot be quantified or reduced, and to attempt to do so results in the creation of idols. A person of faith is therefore led to set aside all idols, and to walk without fear. From such a state, science is not a threat, as there are no sacred cows to be dispelled. The lack of an image of God and attachments to it is liberating. There is no inherent conflict with science, for there are no a priori assumptions, merely experiential awareness of that which is felt as potent, present, and irreducible. It is not necessary to create a projected image, and it becomes increasingly important to dispel attachment to inhibiting idols.



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Uncle Albert

posted November 24, 2009 at 11:19 pm


Knockgoats, always block and CNTL-C your message before refreshing to save your message due to a timeout. You can then CNTL-V it back in. (Yeah, we all forget sometimes; and then the wailing commences.)



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Knockgoats

posted November 25, 2009 at 4:30 am


Uncle Albert,
Thanks, I did that – but this site sometimes reinstates a previous comment, and I cut that and lost the one I wanted. I should do as the site advises and compose the comment elsewhere, at least if it is likely to be of any length.



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Albert the Abstainer

posted November 25, 2009 at 5:54 am


Knockgoats,
I have had that happen occasionally, and even worse saved the restored old comment, (which was so inappropriate to the conversation as to make me look more loopy than usual.) See loopy photo of me at the url for details



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Knockgoats

posted November 25, 2009 at 6:13 am


Help! I’m surrounded by apophatic Alberts!



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Your Name

posted November 25, 2009 at 3:50 pm


Leprechauns are a great example. Do they exist? Well, they certainly do in many people’s minds. Films have been made about them, and Knockgoats has repeated many of the “facts” that we know (or think or pretend) we know about Leprechauns. But of course, none of this is real, it’s all just stories and legends. (as a footnote, most legends have some basis in reality, and the recent discovery of a new species of very short hominids might be of some interest to the origin of the Leprechaun legend).
So what is real? I might have chosen to believe in the reality of Leprechauns if I were a young Irish child living a few centuries ago. The fact that I myself don’t believe in them now, is really a matter of choice, not proof. I also happen, (unlike a good many atheists I know) not to believe in the existence of aliens. Despite thousands of web pages full of “proof” of the existence of aliens. I am an alien atheist. This is my choice, based partly on my rational view of the so called evidence, and partly on my philosophical and general views regarding the universe. But I do believe in God, based on exactly the same criteria. I would never imagine trying to convince anyone that God exists. Nor can anyone convince me that He doesn’t.
Leprechauns, God, aliens, vampires (which are becoming more real with every new teenage movie), angels, miracles, these are all things in the Magesterium of Faith, that we can choose to believe in or not. We cannot choose to believe in the general theory of relativity, or phlogiston or the genetic code, or the cause of AIDS. These things are provable or disprovable, they are in the Magesterium of Science. The real trick, once we have understood Gould’s point about the non overlapping Magesteria, is to know what things belong in which, and this is really where all of our arguments lie.



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Simon

posted November 25, 2009 at 3:52 pm


The above comment was mine. Sorry, I am a bit rusty here



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Knockgoats

posted November 25, 2009 at 4:20 pm


Simon,
So what is real?
Things that actually exist.
The fact that I myself don’t believe in them now, is really a matter of choice, not proof.
In fact, of course, we would doubt the sanity of any modern-day adult who really does believe in leprechauns. We should take exactly the same attitude to those who believe in God.
The real trick, once we have understood Gould’s point about the non overlapping Magesteria
Gould’s argument is nonsense, for any religion that makes any factual claims whatsoever.



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Monty

posted November 25, 2009 at 4:36 pm


I am new to this site, and only just beginning to examine my beliefs, so please bear with me but all this talk of leprechauns, or for that matter spaghetti monsters or teapots in the sky, need to be put in perspective. The belief is that God created the world, not a mythical Irish pygmy with a penchant for gold, and that the evidence is there to say the universe was created by, well, a creator.
There seems to be a common argument jumped upon by all atheists that you can reduce God to the same reasoning as proving there are fairies at the bottom of my garden. Well, If I look out of my window I can see my garden, and although there is not a fairy to be seen prancing around outside, there is plenty of evidence to suggest a creator. You know, that little thing called the world and all the life that exists (and evolved!) upon it despite being practically impossible. But that’s ok, if I really want to believe in something that’s not empirically testable, there’s always the multiverse theory to put my faith in and I’m sure there’s leprechauns in at least one of those alternate universes.



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Knockgoats

posted November 25, 2009 at 4:52 pm


Monty,
I think you forgot to include your argument that the world suggests a creator, and that life is “practically impossible”. Like to try? Of course, if there is a creator, there is abundant evidence that he is not at all a nice fellow. If you wish to dispute this, please drink a cup of water full of guinea-worm larvae first.



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Monty

posted November 25, 2009 at 5:34 pm


Knockgoats,
Having just googled guinea worm disease, I fear I must decline the kind offer, but onto to your valid point of not including an argument. I did so as I have no wish to come across as someone just waiting for the slightest opportunity to get on my high horse and force my beliefs down other peoples throats, no, I just leave that to the atheists.
In short, and very simplified without going into any sources, my reasoning is this: The world exists, life exists against almost insurmountable odds, humanity exists, humanity is profoundly different to all other life, the laws of physics exist, these laws show all the signs of having been made to allow life to exist, if the laws were one tiny bit different life could not exist, evolution alone cannot satisfactory explain the “hard” problem of consciousness, and so a creator probably exists.
Please note, I do not say whether I believe in a Christian God or not, but I do believe there is a creator.
Which sort of brings me to your throw away comment about drinking a cup of water with guinea-worm larvae in it, and I only bring it up as it highlights the atheist superiority complex that makes them think their old, old, arguments are beyond being turned around on them. The old “if there is a God he is not nice because…” reminds me of a child crying in anger because he doesn’t like something and expects someone to sort it out for himself. Well tough, the world is as it is, and whining about it will not change it. Maybe taking responsibility for once, instead of blaming religion, or politics, or capitalism or any of the many facets of humanity that has been warped by greedy / immoral men since time immemorial, and using this amazing gift of a life that has been given to us by a creator, to help others, will change the world. Maybe donate to a charity to help poor African villages get clean drinking water and avoid guinea worm disease. Or maybe you’ll just visit internet forums and blame religion for the world being rubbish instead of humanity as a whole. I don’t know.
Looking forward to your reply, it’s people like you who forced me to begin to think.



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Knockgoats

posted November 25, 2009 at 6:18 pm


Monty,
The world exists
Agreed. But this does not indicate that it was created.
life exists against almost insurmountable odds
The odds are evidently not insurmountable, since it exists.
humanity exists, humanity is profoundly different to all other life,
Agreed. But this does not indicate that humanity was created.
the laws of physics exist, these laws show all the signs of having been made to allow life to exist, if the laws were one tiny bit different life could not exist,
Simply false I’m afraid: Is the universe fine-tuned for us?.
evolution alone cannot satisfactory explain the “hard” problem of consciousness
You’ve forgotten to include your argument again.
and so a creator probably exists.
Even if all your points were true, this still would not follow.
Maybe donate to a charity to help poor African villages get clean drinking water and avoid guinea worm disease.
I give monthly donations to World Development Movement, Medicin Sans Frontiers, and Sight Savers. Together with other charitable and campaigning donations, they make up about 5% of my net income over a year. Not great, I admit, but I have a family, and I retire in 5 years and do need to save. In my day job, I coordinate an international research project aimed at finding ways to encourage reduced energy demand, in EU countries, and hence reduce the chances of dangerous climate change. I spend time in political meetings and campaigns I don’t generally enjoy – I’d much rather read, write and think. I am going to Copenhagen next month, by train, at my own expense and in my own time, to press for an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I wouldn’t normally bring up such things in such a forum, but you rather forced my hand.
I regard the irrationality of which religion is a prime example as perhaps the greatest enemy of humanity.
Now, may I cordially invite you to take your religious superiority complex, and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine?



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Monty

posted November 26, 2009 at 2:17 am


Knockgoats,
I’m afraid I must offer two apologies.
One is for the late reply, the second is for making the mistake that I was engaging a rational non-believer with valid arguments, rather than yet another atheist fundamentalist.
And I do not forget to include answers, I refer you to my second reply regarding high horses, and since you will refuse to even consider anything I say what is the point in talking to you?
I, however, am not that blinkered, and will do you the courtesy of reading the web link you so graciously provided. Despite the fact it says nothing I have not read before.
One wonders where you get the idea I have religious superiority complex? Was it where I stated that humanity should take responsibility for its actions and help others? Interesting that an avowed atheist should think that, or does that hint at what an introverted, intellectually moribund world view atheism really is?
Now, I must say goodbye. Well done on destroying yet another discussion.
p.s. Regarding the “hard” problem of consciousness, did I really need to explain my argument regarding that? Disappointing.



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Albert the Abstainer

posted November 26, 2009 at 6:01 am


Knockgoats:
Help! I’m surrounded by apophatic Alberts!
Yipes, time to hide. Check this then, as I only have eyes for you!



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Albert the Abstainer

posted November 26, 2009 at 11:12 pm


It is actually a bit of an in-joke, as some kings and emperors, (e.g. Charles the Bald was not bald at all), were reputed to have epithets which were ironic.



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Charlie

posted December 3, 2009 at 1:22 pm


Giberson states “The central idea of Christianity–that God raised Jesus from the dead–is, as our critic above has claimed “scientifically impossible.”” It seems Giberson’s attitude toward science is that there are things that are correct and things that are incorrect as he agrees with the critic. A key category is being left out that science humbly accepts: the unexplained. Is all of the unexplained unscientific? Of course not. That’s why we still advance our knowledge of the world around us. Is it scientifically possible for Jesus to rise from the dead? With our current understanding of the universe, this is almost 100% improbable. Truth is really about what we as humans accept based on evidence and our current understanding of the universe. Believing something that contradicts evidence (and therefore has a very high probably that it is incorrect) is a belief that must be based on faith alone and not on science. I agree that science and religion are very different, but only one can lead to truth.



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A Stellar Advent Calendar
Looking for a unique way to mark the days of the Advent season? The Web site Boston.com offers an Advent calendar composed of images from the Hubble Telescope, both old and new. Each day, from now until the celebration of the Nativity of Christ, the calendar will offer a beautiful image from the hea

posted 8:00:00am Dec. 09, 2009 | read full post »

Belief, Guidance, and Evolution
Recently BioLogos' Karl Giberson was interviewed by Marcio Campos for the Brazilian newspaper Gazeta do Povo's Tubo De Ensaio (i.e. "Test tube") section. What follows is a translated transcript of that interview, which we will be posting in three installments. Here is the first. Campos: Starting o

posted 8:00:00am Dec. 08, 2009 | read full post »

Let's Come at this From a Different Angle
Every Friday, "Science and the Sacred" features an essay from a guest voice in the science and religion dialogue. This week's guest entry was written by Peter Enns. Enns is an evangelical Christian scholar and author of several books and commentaries, including the popular Inspiration and Incarnatio

posted 8:00:00am Dec. 04, 2009 | read full post »




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