Science and Religion in Competition?

Several atheistic blogs I read are guilty of “scientism.”  Scientism is not science but rather deductions and speculations arising out of scientific observations.  Truth is truth no matter the source.  Scientism, however, sees science and empirical observation as the only source of truth.  Consider this definition:

Scientism sees it necessary to do away with most, if not all, metaphysical, philosophical, and religious claims, as the truths they proclaim cannot be apprehended by the scientific method. In essence, scientism sees science as the absolute and only justifiable access to the truth.

Here’s an example from a blog called, Unreasonable Faith

Belief never invented a laser, or pressed a CD, or kept a ‘plane in the air, or restarted a heart – Science has done all of that and more, a whole bunch of times.” And, “Against this staggering work and monumental achievement (the proof that one of Einstein’s theories is correct – DW) on one single scientific project out of hundreds of thousands, there stand some old men in robes, telling us that God did it, because it says so in the nth translation in the chain of some bronze-aged myths written by some camel-herders.

For the moment let’s ignore the ridicule and the reality that many respected scientists believe that “God did it.”  More to the point: science and faith are two different things and, thus, not in competition. Faith is defined as, “…the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). On the other hand, science is totally based on what can be seen. When interpretation of scientific observations moves beyond the observable, it becomes speculation. Speculation is fine and useful for building hypotheses but it is still speculation.  And there’s nothing wrong with speculations as long as they are recognized as such.  Just don’t ask me to accept them as incontrovertible truth.

Many religious people have rightly been resistant to speculations contradicting the concept of a Creator. Others have stubbornly held to their own religious speculations that are in obvious contradiction to observable and undeniable facts. This is foolish in light of the reality that observable facts (sans speculations) do not contradict the concept of a Creator God.  In truth, some of those facts call loudly for a first cause and a designer.

Science and faith operate in two separate realms. Faith presupposes the existence of a supernatural realm (things not seen). Science can only operate in the natural realm. To place them in competition is ridiculous.


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29 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Atheism/Theism, Creation, Culture Wars, Discussion, Faith, Philosophy, Religion, Ridicule, Science, Scripture, Skepticism, Supernatural, Theism

29 responses to “Science and Religion in Competition?

  1. To place them in competition is ridiculous.

    Well, yes and no.

    You’re reiterating Stephen Jay Gould’s Non-Overlapping Magisteria. (see his book “Rocks of Ages”. ) He felt the same way you do, only he was on the non-believing side of the argument. Personally, I disagree with him, and you.

    As long as religion stays on its own side of the fence, I’d have to agree with you. The problem is that religion loves to make scientific claims, or at least scientifically testable claims, about reality. When it does that, then there is a conflict, and as far as I know, science wins every time.

    For instance, the creation of the earth. Genesis (and other holy books and traditions of the thousands of other religions) says one thing, science says another. Religion loses in a head to head match. OK, then some subset of religion falls back and says it’s just allegory. Fine, tell that to all the biblical
    literalists. The reality is that the earth came into existence about 4.5 billion years ago, and it took another billion years of so for life to appear. That’s fact. The mechanism for so-called creation of life is still in dispute, but as long as religion says it has a faith based explanation, it IS in conflict with science. So there IS competition.

    As long as religion sticks to, e.g., contemplating how many angels dance on the heads of pins, then they are not in conflict, because science doesn’t give a rat’s ass about angels. But when religion tries to tell us about reality, as far as I’m concerned, there is a very distinct conflict that religion is bound to lose, because it has lost every single conflict that has been resolved to date.

    Faith comes down to belief in something you can’t prove, and don’t care to prove. Proof is unimportant. You (the generic you, not you personally) believe it simply because you want to believe it, not because it’s been proven to be true. The scientific way of looking at reality is irrelevant to faith. It doesn’t matter that we can confirm the age of the earth with rock solid (excuse the pun), consistently testable and confirm-able methods. If you have faith in something for other reasons, then you have faith that those same reasons reassure you that the earth is only 6-10,000 years old, and proof be damned. So in that sense, there is no conflict. If you’re willing to throw the only reliable manner of obtaining truth right out the window, in favor of willful ignorance, science becomes irrelevant…

    …until you need laser surgery, your CD to play music, your plane to get you to Chicago, or a doctor to restart your heart.

  2. dwhitsett

    You disagree…surprise, surprise! And so quickly too!
    Religionists (mainly preachers and some theologians) may have made some claims that have been refuted scientifically, but those are also speculation. Genesis says nothing about the age of the earth and many of my colleagues do not buy the “young earth” speculation. We need a better example than that.
    What is this “angels on the head of a pin” business?
    Your “age of the earth” argument is a straw man. I will plead guilty to “willful ignorance” when you give me a “for instance” that holds water.
    I have loved science as long as I can remember and have never, ever, considered it irrelevant.

  3. You disagree…surprise, surprise! And so quickly too!

    I’m a subscriber. That’s a compliment. 😉

    Religionists (mainly preachers and some theologians) may have made some claims that have been refuted scientifically, but those are also speculation. Genesis says nothing about the age of the earth and many of my colleagues do not buy the “young earth” speculation. We need a better example than that.

    Ahh, but many of your colleagues DO buy the YEC speculation. There’s an entire Museum in Kentucky dedicated to it. And Genesis, interpreted in conjunction with the rest of the bible, does say a lot about the age of the earth, hence the YEC speculation. It wasn’t pulled out of thin air, now was it? So it is a good example, just maybe not relevant to your personal beliefs.

    What is this “angels on the head of a pin” business?

    You’re not familiar with that old theological quandary? Maybe it’s something I learned in my Roman Catholic upbringing. Those Jesuits used to love that stuff.

    I used that as a shorthand reference to say that as long as religion sticks with theology, as opposed to making claims about reality, there is no conflict. Theology is just philosophy that presupposes the existence of gods, and until that presupposition is validated by proof, theology will remain as pointless, meaningless speculation. In effect, it’s a purely abstract, academic discussion, having no bearing on reality, so as long as religion sticks to theology, there is no conflict, because science never transgresses into the realm of theology.

    Your “age of the earth” argument is a straw man. I will plead guilty to “willful ignorance” when you give me a “for instance” that holds water.

    See above. It’s not a straw man, it’s a constant source of contention between people of intelligence and a subset of Christianity. As I said, go read the Answers in Genesis website, or visit the Creation Museum in Lexington. Maybe you don’t believe it, but there are a very large number of people who otherwise share most of your beliefs who do. So, straw man it ain’t.

    I have loved science as long as I can remember and have never, ever, considered it irrelevant.

    Yet you believe in a book that relates facts that are disprovable by science? Talking animals, talking bushes that also burn, men who walk on water, demons, witches, food falling from the sky, humans turned to salt, so-called miracles that can’t occur in nature, not to mention the creation of the earth in a manner and timeline that did not, in fact, occur? Go figure. You’re a walking contradiction, by definition. You need to disclaim all the supposed reality based claims of the Bible before I can take that seriously.

    I’m sure you would agree that if you felt a large pressing weight on the middle of your chest, with pain in your left shoulder and a shortness of breath, you would not ask the ambulance you called to drive you to a church? Very few people would, yet you feel there is no conflict between science and religion? I find that highly incongruous.

  4. Kristin Brænne

    Be a ★ !

  5. Mr. Whitsett and Spanish Inquisitor,
    It’s been a while, but I’m glad to join another discussion. I have a few first thoughts.

    Inquisitor, there needs to be some clarity in regards to word definitions. You have been using the word “proof” repeatedly and out of place as far as I understand. “Proof” only occurs in mathematics. What we are discussing here is a matter of “evidence.” I’m not being a bother, because the distinction is critical. Science “proves” nothing, and neither does faith. If we adjust the discussion to evidence though, the whole picture gains immeasurable clarity.

    Now, that being said, I will pick this up where our last conversation ended. Correct me if I quote you incorrectly, but I remember that you told me before, quite emphatically, that the entire purpose of existence in your estimation boiled down to: human reproduction. If so, the first question I have in regards to all this is, “What do you care?” It’s just interesting to me, because I can’t grasp it. You emotionally and energetically argue that life has no purpose to it, other than what you prescribe purpose to be (as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else). I would think you had no interest in what people believed, thought, or did–as long as they made babies. Actually, now that I think about, you might realize that all those beliefs of yours (unless I remember them incorrectly) are some broad, brave views and statements about reality, and not a single one of them is verifiable by science. You might consider dropping them then, based on your current argument.

    Thirdly, you say that religion ought to stick to its “side of the fence”, and halt its “statements about reality” that are always “proven false” by science. Let’s be real here: again, that in itself is a statement about reality that cannot be helped or hindered by science. The whole argument is in a state of self-destruction. Science can account for a great deal, and I as a science enthusiast appreciate that wonderful quality of a magnificent area of study. But it too finds its beginnings in philosophy. For instance, to say that the scientific method is the only means of determining truth is a philosophical statement, not a scientific one.

  6. (I wish Dwight would set his dashboard so that comments read from top to bottom, so that the last comment is closest to the reply. Long comment threads require one to either constantly page up and down, or simply do what I’m doing – copy the entire comment into the next comment. Dwight?)

    Inquisitor, there needs to be some clarity in regards to word definitions. You have been using the word “proof” repeatedly and out of place as far as I understand. “Proof” only occurs in mathematics. What we are discussing here is a matter of “evidence.” I’m not being a bother, because the distinction is critical. Science “proves” nothing, and neither does faith. If we adjust the discussion to evidence though, the whole picture gains immeasurable clarity.

    The distinction is there, but it’s not critical. I’m a lawyer, and in the courtroom, we tend to use the terms “proof” and “evidence” interchangeably, because in a rhetorical setting, where you are trying to convince other minds of the logic of your argument, they mean the same thing. We’re not talking math here, were are having an argument using English as our base language, so I won’t disagree with you on your hairsplitting semantic distinction, but in the end, it’s simply that.

    That being said, if you ever bring up the claim “Evolution is only a theory”, we’ll have a side discussion on exactly what “theory” means.

    Now, that being said, I will pick this up where our last conversation ended. Correct me if I quote you incorrectly, but I remember that you told me before, quite emphatically, that the entire purpose of existence in your estimation boiled down to: human reproduction.

    It is possible I said that, and from a scientific (read “biological”) point of view, that is the purpose of biological life: To continue to exist. The reason evolution works as it does is because life wants to continue, so it constantly adapts to changing circumstance, and in the process ensure that it in fact continues. However, I think I see where you’re going with this.

    If so, the first question I have in regards to all this is, “What do you care?”

    What do I care about what? I care about a lot of things.

    It’s just interesting to me, because I can’t grasp it. You emotionally and energetically argue that life has no purpose to it, other than what you prescribe purpose to be (as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else).

    No. Sorry, you can’t do that. You can’t state above that I claim life has a purpose, then in the next sentence claim that I argue that life has no purpose. I can’t do both. Don’t put words in my mouth.

    (But as long as you are, let me take this opportunity to put some in yours. I’m constantly amazed when I hear theists claim that atheists, because they disbelieve in gods, believe that there is no purpose in life. That whole misstatement doesn’t logically follow, and assumes a) the existence of god, and b) that without god life has no purpose, which is such a bootstrapping, illogical argument, I can’t figure out why it’s ever seriously considered. It comes up, usually, in arguments about that ultimate question – do gods exist? You can’t assume the existence of gods in an argument attempting to resolve their existence or nonexistence. But I digress from Dwight’s argument.)

    I would think you had no interest in what people believed, thought, or did–as long as they made babies. Actually, now that I think about, you might realize that all those beliefs of yours (unless I remember them incorrectly) are some broad, brave views and statements about reality, and not a single one of them is verifiable by science. You might consider dropping them then, based on your current argument.

    No offense, but I haven’t go the foggiest idea what you’re trying to say here. What beliefs of mine? Nor do I understand how it fits into the “there’s no conflict between science and religion” claim that Dwight makes. You need to clarify this.

    Thirdly, you say that religion ought to stick to its “side of the fence”, and halt its “statements about reality” that are always “proven false” by science. Let’s be real here: again, that in itself is a statement about reality that cannot be helped or hindered by science.

    Again, maybe it’s me, but I don’t understand what you mean by ” that in itself is a statement about reality that cannot be helped or hindered by science”. It’s an observation based on historical fact. The history of science, specifically. In more ignorant times, before science was determined to be the best means of understanding the natural world (the material world, this world, this existence, whatever semantic application of English you use to describe reality) the mysteries of nature were ascribed to the gods. Thunder, lightning, death, drought, skin color, species variation, etc, etc. All gods handiwork. But, we know now that those simple things have nothing to do with gods, and are easily explained in a natural world. Not once has there been any evidence (or proof) that gods had anything to do with those things.

    Now we direct our gaze further afield, to the cosmos, and guess what? So far, those things we thought were god related? There is no evidence (or proof) that gods have anything to do with them. We haven’t nailed it down yet, due to limitations of time and space, but I tend to go with the odds. And those odds (100% so far) tell me that natural explanations will be forthcoming.

    But when someone claims that there is no reason to be concerned about a conflict between science and religion, and that same someone believes that some god snapped his fingers and created all that we see, experience and suffer through by simply willing it into existence, that person has contradicted himself. You can’t claim that god(s) created the universe, while science is in the process of studying and explaining the same thing. That’s an intrusion into the realm of science.

    The whole argument is in a state of self-destruction. Science can account for a great deal, and I as a science enthusiast appreciate that wonderful quality of a magnificent area of study.

    You pay lip service to science, while completely discounting it if it doesn’t conform to your preexisting religious beliefs. I call that hypocrsiy. Actually, science has the ability to account for more than “a great deal”. It can potentially account for everything.

    But it too finds its beginnings in philosophy. For instance, to say that the scientific method is the only means of determining truth is a philosophical statement, not a scientific one.

    No, again it’s an observation, based on experience. How does that make it a philosophical statement? And even if it was, who cares? What difference does it make what you call it? Is it true? That’s all that matters. So far, science has been the only means of determining truth that has been consistent, time after time. Name one thing that religion has proven (i.e. discovered irrefutable evidence).

    I’ll bet you don’t go all philosophical on us when you need a doctor. Or fly in a plane. Or start your car. Or get food out of your fridge and hope it hasn’t spoiled. You want to rely on faith to run your life? I’ll go along with you when you successfully cross a busy city street blindfolded, with earplugs, 100 times, after praying to god to get you safely across each time. I’ll bet you wouldn’t attempt it once.

  7. I wish Dwight would set his dashboard so that comments read from top to bottom…

    Well done! Thanks.

  8. The distinction is there but its not critical…I won’t disagree with you on your hairsplitting semantic distinction, but in the end, it’s simply that.

    Calling for a word to be used correctly isn’t hairsplitting. Yeah, I get that “proof” and “evidence” can be used synonymously, I hear ya. But don’t minimize what I’m saying just because you don’t like it. Words have meanings, and if people can’t operate with respect to those meanings and definitions, then there is an issue.

    No. Sorry, you can’t do that. You can’t state above that I claim life has a purpose, then in the next sentence claim that I argue that life has no purpose. I can’t do both. Don’t put words in my mouth.

    Whoa, slow down, friend. I said plain as day, “This is what I remember you saying…please correct me if I’m wrong…etc, etc.” So reactionary! No one is putting words in your mouth, and that’s certainly not my intention.

    No offense, but I haven’t go the foggiest idea what you’re trying to say here. What beliefs of mine? Nor do I understand how it fits into the “there’s no conflict between science and religion” claim that Dwight makes. You need to clarify this.

    Let me say it another way. You responded to Dwight’s original post by saying, in part, that religion should not make statements or claims about reality, since those claims are (according to you) not scientifically verifiable. What I’m pointing out is that you have made sweeping claims about reality that are not scientifically verifiable. For instance, your belief that the purpose of biological life is summed up by the continuance of its existence is not scientifically verifiable. It’s a belief you have, a statement about reality that does not meet your own quality test. Your argument doesn’t hold water–it’s illogical. You are making completely unscientific statements to build your argument against unscientific statements.

    Now we direct our gaze further afield, to the cosmos, and guess what? So far, those things we thought were god related? There is no evidence (or proof) that gods have anything to do with them. We haven’t nailed it down yet, due to limitations of time and space, but I tend to go with the odds. And those odds (100% so far) tell me that natural explanations will be forthcoming.

    There is significant evidence that God created those things, but I know you’re not open to that. I am ok with that fact that we are looking through different lenses. When I observe through science that no thing ever created itself from nothing, I see a completely ordered and specified world the bears the marks of something created. You act as though that’s an unreasonable position, because it seems you have a prior adherence to material causes. In other words, you throw out anything that does not conform to your preexisting beliefs (more on this below). I reason from the world around me to a creator. Not the other way around.

    But when someone claims that there is no reason to be concerned about a conflict between science and religion, and that same someone believes that some god snapped his fingers and created all that we see, experience and suffer through by simply willing it into existence, that person has contradicted himself. You can’t claim that god(s) created the universe, while science is in the process of studying and explaining the same thing. That’s an intrusion into the realm of science.

    Ok, it’s my turn to be confused. This doesn’t even make sense.

    You pay lip service to science, while completely discounting it if it doesn’t conform to your preexisting religious beliefs. I call that hypocrsiy. Actually, science has the ability to account for more than “a great deal”. It can potentially account for everything.

    You presume so much, and it’s not helping your argument. I don’t pay lip service to science, I study it. But you wouldn’t know that because you don’t know me from the next guy. You won’t find me describing you like that. As long as we’re talking about preexisting beliefs, we are on level field. Are you saying that you don’t have preexisting beliefs? You have personally observed everything you know? As I study, my beliefs and understanding are constantly being modified as I learn. I assume you do the same thing, unless you know everything. And if you believe that science can potentially account for everything, that’s great. You have alot of faith in science.

    I’ll bet you don’t go all philosophical on us when you need a doctor. Or fly in a plane. Or start your car. Or get food out of your fridge and hope it hasn’t spoiled. You want to rely on faith to run your life? I’ll go along with you when you successfully cross a busy city street blindfolded, with earplugs, 100 times, after praying to god to get you safely across each time. I’ll bet you wouldn’t attempt it once.

    I enjoy philosophy. I “get philosophical” all the time. But wow, your reaction here is very revealing, and heavily emotion-laden. As for your constructing of silly, arbitrary situations and questions, I could do the same thing, with equally fruitless results. I don’t get you here. I can’t see a doctor and believe in God? You’re throwing up imaginary walls so fast it’s blurring. This would be like me saying, “Hey Inquisitor, do you think that painting is beautiful? You do?!? Aha! I’ve caught you! Scientifically explain the reason you think it’s beautiful right now, and if you can’t, then science is bunk.” Nonsense.

    Thanks for the response, as I do respect the discourse. I wish that society at large could and would engage this way.

  9. dwhitsett

    Mr. Inquisitor, I have taken your excellent suggestion and arranged the comments so the most recent is at the bottom. Thanks. And now to the matter at hand. You wrote:

    “And Genesis, interpreted in conjunction with the rest of the bible, does say a lot about the age of the earth, hence the YEC speculation. It wasn’t pulled out of thin air, now was it? So it is a good example, just maybe not relevant to your personal beliefs.”

    Unless you ask, how would you know if it is relevant to my beliefs or not? If it is not relevant, shouldn’t it be stricken from the record as immaterial? As a lawyer, you know that many things have been “pulled out of thin air.” Why don’t you show me how the age of the earth has been determined from the Bible? Then we can discuss specifics. As you probably know, attempts to do so have been soundly discredited by most scholars. It might make a good argument to someone who doesn’t know any better.

    “In effect, it’s a purely abstract, academic discussion, having no bearing on reality, so as long as religion sticks to theology, there is no conflict, because science never transgresses into the realm of theology.”

    Well, here I agree with you. Science never dabbles in theology, but scientism certainly does. Your whole response to my article seems to be a continuing effort to pit science against theology. You can’t have it both ways. If theology is barred from scientific pronouncements then science needs to respect the same boundaries. And, I have no worries about that because true science is not capable of theological pronouncements.

    “As I said, go read the Answers in Genesis website, or visit the Creation Museum in Lexington. Maybe you don’t believe it, but there are a very large number of people who otherwise share most of your beliefs who do. So, straw man it ain’t.”

    Your “age of the earth” point fits most definitions of the “straw man” fallacy because you didn’t bother to find out my actual position and thus (unwittingly, I’m sure) distorted and misrepresented it. Genesis, which presents creation in a non-scientific format (designed for Bronze Age camel-herders?), gives us no clues as to when creation took place. There are a lot of crazy atheists out there but I try to avoid lumping you together with them. Atheism, however, has no premium on crazies – religion is replete with them. But you must know that not all theists subscribe to all the opinions and speculations of other theists.

    “Yet you believe in a book that relates facts that are disprovable by science? Talking animals, talking bushes that also burn, men who walk on water, demons, witches, food falling from the sky, humans turned to salt, so-called miracles that can’t occur in nature, not to mention the creation of the earth in a manner and timeline that did not, in fact, occur? Go figure. You’re a walking contradiction, by definition. You need to disclaim all the supposed reality based claims of the Bible before I can take that seriously.

    This is yet another example of scientism’s “transgressions” into theology. A miracle, by definition, is a suspension of natural law and, aside from first-hand observation, un-provable. So, of course they cannot occur in nature. That’s the whole point. Science, which deals with natural law, cannot speak to phenomena outside of natural law, cannot prove or disprove something supernatural. This is what I’ve been trying to argue from the beginning.
    Why would I want to disclaim the realities presented in the Bible? If they are realities, I want to claim them. If one wants to disclaim realities in scripture, one will have to examine those facts which can be subjected to the same tests as any other factual person, event, place or thing. This I have endeavored to do.

  10. Spanish Inquisitor

    von Bunge

    OK. We got the semantic posturing out of the way, so on to the meat. Sorry for the delay.

    What I’m pointing out is that you have made sweeping claims about reality that are not scientifically verifiable. For instance, your belief that the purpose of biological life is summed up by the continuance of its existence is not scientifically verifiable.

    Maybe we do have to fine tune the language here. When I’m talking about “purpose of life” and you use the same term, I think we’re talking about different things. Everything in context.

    In biology, like in most science, the purpose of a scientific explanation is irrelevant. It’s something we laymen use to help us understand it, but it’s pointless. No science has purpose. It just is. Science is a means of viewing , understanding and explaining nature. Not defining its purpose.

    When we use the term “purpose” , the word begs for the implication that there is an intelligent agent behind the purpose. Which is why people like yourself and Dwight who view science from a theistic viewpoint tend to say that science is simply the method that god uses to manage life. We anthropomorphize science. Of course, I say that puts the cart before the horse, becuase it assumes god’s existence.

    So when I say the purpose of life is to continue, I don’t mean that some god set biology on a course to give life that purpose, I’m simply stating a conclusion from an observable fact – life continues. If you look at all forms of life, from the lowliest one-celled organism to humans, we all have one thing in common – we reproduce. So, contrary to your statement that the purpose of life I posit is not scientifically verifiable, it is. Science has confirmed that which humans knew long before science was an established mode of investigation of reality – that all life continues through reproduction. And without reproduction, life would cease. Period. That’s irrefutable, and needs no further verification.

    Science has simply helped us understand the means by which we reproduce. Religion used to tell us that there were little souls in semen that were introduced through sex. We know better now.

    So maybe it’s not semantically correct to claim that reproduction – the continuation of life – is it’s sole “purpose”. But as applied to life in general, that seems to be the common fact that science has verified. And you gotta admit, without it, you and I wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    Now, contrast that with a religious viewpoint on the “purpose of life”. Admittedly, there are probably as many viewpoints as there are Christians, but let’s pick one. You’ll probably disagree with my choice, but I’ll give it a go anyway.

    The purpose of life is to “give glory to god” who created it.

    There are a few assumptions implicit in that statement.
    1. God exists.
    2. The same god created life.
    3. That same god requires, indeed demands, that he be acknowledged by his creation through worship.

    There are probably a few others.

    All three of those statements are statements about reality. All three are scientifically unverifiable.

    If you believe that is the purpose of life, then your beliefs come into conflict with science, because:
    1. There is no evidence that gods exist.
    2. There is no evidence that life was created by any gods.
    3. There is no evidence that any gods require worship.

    These are beliefs, yes, but beliefs that cross over into the area of reality we all live in. Science studies and explains that reality. Religion has an alternate explanation, based solely on faith. The transgression is obvious.

    But you wouldn’t know that because you don’t know me from the next guy.

    Fair enough, and vice versa, but you’re taking my argument too personally. I really don’t care who you are in an academic discussion. “You” is a generalization for those similar to you who have certain beliefs that you all share to some extent. If my assumption are wrong, correct me. But most of my assumptions, while maybe not describing you personally, certainly describe a significant subset of theist, and those are the ones I have a problem with.

    Let me expand on that for a second, if I may. As an atheist, I don’t care what the next guy believes. As long as he keeps it to himself, doesn’t try to force me to believe it, and lives his life accordingly, he can believe that he’s in touch with little green men from the planet Xzortf, who tell him that he is living in a teeny tiny, glass enclosed, human farm, for all I care.

    My problem with religious beliefs is that a very large subset of theists think they are right about their beliefs in a mythical god (one of tens of thousands of mythical gods that have come and gone through history) and that the world would be a better place if we all believed like they do. And, again, if they kept those beliefs to themselves, I wouldn’t care. But they don’t.

    And I’m not talking about Dwight writing blogs based on his beliefs, because I’m just as guilty of that. I have no problem with people telling others what their beliefs are. Words are just that – words. They neither pick my pocket nor break my bones, as Jefferson said. But theists get elected to Congress, and then they try to legislate their beliefs, so that we all must conform to them. They intrude into other realms of reality, and it harms people. Stem cell research is a good example. If they don’t like the fact that stem cells are used in research that may save lives, then don’t avail yourself of the medical breakthroughs when your time comes around. You don’t like abortion? Don’t get one. You think dying as a martyr for your religion will allow you to have sex with 72 virgins, fly your plane into the ground, without passengers, not into huge skyscrapers. In short, keep your beliefs to yourself.

    Ok, rant off.

    You have alot of faith in science.

    No. I do not have faith in science, as the word faith is used by you. Faith is the belief in things without the necessity of evidence, often times in the face of contrary evidence (e.g. young earth creationism). No. I have “trust” in science, but only because science is evidence based, and only to the extent that the evidence is valid. There is nothing in my life I trust blindly. I trust my car will start every morning (but know that on occasion it won’t) because the evidence of a lifetime of turning ignition keys tells me that the odds are pretty good it will do so again, and becuase I know that a multitude of university-educated engineers and scientists have designed and built that car to do so. I don’t have “faith” that it will do so, because of a belief in a supernatural entity that is positively disposed towards my inherent goodness to ensure that I get to work without any trouble every morning.

    And neither do you. If you’re honest. And trust science like I do.

    I can’t see a doctor and believe in God?

    Sure. But you don’t see a doctor because of your belief in god. You do so because of his skill, his education in the sciences, and his reputation. In the end you could take god completely out of your life (as I have done) and nothing would change. Belief in god is superfluous to life.

    Scientifically explain the reason you think it’s beautiful right now, and if you can’t, then science is bunk.

    Actually, I think I could, but this response is getting too long, and I think I’ve made my points.

    I see Dwight has a response too, but we finally have a sunny weekend day, after a week of solid rain, and I’m going outside to give glory to science. 8)

  11. Spanish Inquisitor,
    I hope your sunny day was a refreshing break from the rain. I used to live in Seattle, and I took every sunny day to the max.

    I think I’m understanding more of where you are coming from, when you write:

    So when I say the purpose of life is to continue, I don’t mean that some god set biology on a course to give life that purpose, I’m simply stating a conclusion from an observable fact – life continues.

    One hand, I agree with that. It’s rather self-explanatory. If I stop breathing, I stop living. Right, those sort of things make sense, but it hardly encapsulates the reason for breathing. I don’t disagree with the science behind reproduction, or the consequences for stopping reproduction. I guess I’m coming from a different angle.

    I have a close friend who is a staunch atheist. We met in the military, and have stayed friends since. He and I have tons of discussions about this sort of thing, and we go back and forth. But he is well studied enough to know that many intelligent scientists and thinkers have looked at the same evidence as he and other atheists, and come to different conclusions about our world. He looks at the evidence at our disposal, and doesn’t see a reason to attribute a creator to any of it. And he’s not crazy to come to that conclusion, nor is he unreasonable. And neither are you. And neither am I. In my discussions with him we’ve both realized that we can sit here and punch holes in each other’s meager understanding of science, and go on forever doing so. The fact is that I can point to scientific evidence (this is why I hammered that term earlier) and make convincing arguments for design, and you can do the opposite. This is the reason why I find arguments from existential reasoning much more convincing. Let me explain. You said before:

    …you don’t see a doctor because of your belief in god.

    No, and I don’t love my wife because of scientific data, either. I remember while in the service seeing men do extraordinary things, putting their own lives at risk to save a friend. I can’t even go into detail. And when asked why they did these things, each of them proceeded to give a scientific explanation of data….no, that’s not right. None of them did that. Because science cannot “account for everything”, even potentially, as you say. So, while in the proverbial classroom we may try to reduce all things down to science, I am convinced that existential reality has called that bluff. I used to cast away any thoughts of a god or creator, until those beliefs of mine were severely tested. I have no idea what your background is, but I would venture to say given some experiences like that, you might reconsider. So, were there atheists in my foxhole? Yep. But they sure didn’t recite a science formula before running after their friend under fire. Did my experience “bring” me to god? Not per se. But it made me realize the bankruptcy of a system that says science is the end all, be all.

    Here’s another example. I work with orphaned children in Romania, and when I enter a hospital full of abandoned children, I see nurses who neglect them further. I’ve seen sick infants be neglected, for no reason other than disdain, by nurses who could have helped them if they wanted to. Now, reasoning from science, what convincing argument is there for that nurse to care for child? What formula motivates her? No, science stands empty-handed in the face of experience like that. I (or anyone else) could not give her any scientific data that would give any reason for caring for the children. Conversely, I can give about 900,000 perfectly good “religious” explanations that would serve as heartfelt motivation to move that nurse to render aid. But, more to the point, from a scientific point of view, how can you logically say that she should help? Anyone standing there would agree that she should, but not because of science. What does the world care for one baby? Let it die. The human race continues anyway, right? I have found science to be helpless up against situations like that. And you may find all kinds of holes in my reasoning, but my point is that your writings seem to neglect the entire existential realm. (and trying to bring this all back to Dwight’s point: I don’t experience a conflict of religion and science in situations like that. Medical science can help the child, but only after a motivated person decides to use it for religious reasons. No conflict)

    As an atheist, I don’t care what the next guy believes. As long as he keeps it to himself, doesn’t try to force me to believe it, and lives his life accordingly, he can believe that he’s in touch with little green men from the planet Xzortf, who tell him that he is living in a teeny tiny, glass enclosed, human farm, for all I care.

    I am in total agreement with you, by and large. I think you and I would have a good talk on a back porch somewhere. Good humor.

    My problem with religious beliefs is that a very large subset of theists think they are right about their beliefs in a mythical god (one of tens of thousands of mythical gods that have come and gone through history) and that the world would be a better place if we all believed like they do. And, again, if they kept those beliefs to themselves, I wouldn’t care. But they don’t.

    Let me shine some light here. My problem with atheistic beliefs is that a very large subset of atheists think they are right about their beliefs in a spontaneous universe (a theory which has hundreds of variants), and that the world would be a better place if we call believed like they do. And if they kept those beliefs to themselves, I wouldn’t care. But they don’t.

    Again, looking at history (scientifically verifiable) and existential facts, we have seen these ideas blossom into social theories and national trends. And the effects have been devastating. Stalin tried it, and well as others. I’ve mentioned this before. I would have less of a problem with your argument, if throughout history there were not examples of such beliefs being lived out to their destructive, logical conclusions. And I don’t say that unaware of the havoc wreaked by “religious” beliefs throughout history, either.

    Stem cell research is a good example. If they don’t like the fact that stem cells are used in research that may save lives, then don’t avail yourself of the medical breakthroughs when your time comes around. You don’t like abortion? Don’t get one… In short, keep your beliefs to yourself.

    I can agree with you here, to a degree. But play that out to it’s logical ends. Where do you stop? I refer back to the nurse in Romania. “Hey, you wanna watch babies die, go ahead. I will keep my beliefs to myself.” Let’s take this to a social level, as has been done in the past. “You don’t like speed limits, don’t obey them. You don’t like the rules in school, bring in a gun whenever you want. You think women ought to be respected? Nonsense! That’s just someone else’s belief, and after all, it’s your life! Do whatever you wish, and let others believe as they want.” In short, I don’t see that history agrees with your viewpoint here.

    Faith is the belief in things without the necessity of evidence, often times in the face of contrary evidence (e.g. young earth creationism).

    I think this may be the crease of the whole discussion. That’s not how I see faith as being defined. I have faith in things that carry sufficient evidence for me to believe them. That amount of evidence varies. For instance, I have faith that the teller at the bank is telling me the truth about all the little electronic numbers in my account. I also have faith (on reliable evidence) that koala bears exist. The level of evidence there is highly variable. Now, I’m with you Inquisitor; I am tired of crazies who have faith in things without a shred of evidence. And there’s alot of people like that. But I can’t generalize it all. For instance, my atheist friend believes that life arose out of a goo of cells (without an explanation as to how that goo got there), and that over time those cells mutated enough times to create new species. But he doesn’t believe that because he or anyone else has ever seen that happen, or put that process to the scientific method. He considers that there is sufficient evidence for believing that. I disagree with his conclusion, and he with mine, but not because either of us are without evidence.

    I think I’m beginning to ramble, so it’s off for me. It happens to be sunny outside.

  12. Spanish Inquisitor

    This is a nice, slow, leisurely conversation. The kind I like.

    Mr. Inquisitor,

    Call me John. It’s my name. I’ve been “out” for quite a long time.

    I have taken your excellent suggestion and arranged the comments so the most recent is at the bottom. Thanks.

    And I thank YOU.

    “And Genesis, interpreted in conjunction with the rest of the bible, does say a lot about the age of the earth, hence the YEC speculation. It wasn’t pulled out of thin air, now was it? So it is a good example, just maybe not relevant to your personal beliefs.”

    Unless you ask, how would you know if it is relevant to my beliefs or not?

    Maybe I was presumptive, but your whole post was dedicated to the proposition that there is no conflict between science and religion, yet the YEC people specifically believe that Genesis bears directly on the age of the Earth, a belief that epitomizes a conflict between science and religion, so I assumed that YEC beliefs were not shared by you. Are you saying they are?

    If it is not relevant, shouldn’t it be stricken from the record as immaterial?

    ummm…what record? And how do we strike it?

    As a lawyer, you know that many things have been “pulled out of thin air.” Why don’t you show me how the age of the earth has been determined from the Bible? Then we can discuss specifics.

    I’m not going to do the analysis for you. It’s out there. You probably have better access to it than I do. Basically, as I understand it, it’s derived from the counting of generations in the Bible, and an assumption of the length of a generation. It presumes a literal reading of the word of the Bible. “Years” means years, “days” means days, “life” means life, etc. “Years” doesn’t mean a thousand years. So Genesis occurred about 6,000 to 10,000 years ago, depending on the specifics of the assumptions, according to that reading.

    OK, I did a quick search on Answers in Genesis. Check it out. (Hysterical laughter may ensue.)

    As you probably know, attempts to do so have been soundly discredited by most scholars. It might make a good argument to someone who doesn’t know any better.

    You know that, and I know that, but literally millions of people in the US alone DON’T seem to know that. And, coincidentally, they are all bible reading, God fearing Christians. Here’s a poll that shows that it’s over 40%. In a population of 311 million, that’s about 125 million young earth creationists. You still think that’s a straw man?

    “In effect, it’s a purely abstract, academic discussion, having no bearing on reality, so as long as religion sticks to theology, there is no conflict, because science never transgresses into the realm of theology.”

    Well, here I agree with you. Science never dabbles in theology, but scientism certainly does.

    Hmmm. Scientism. Interesting “ism”. What exactly is that? According to the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy it’s a “Pejorative term for the belief that the methods of natural science, or the categories and things recognized in natural science, form the only proper elements in any philosophical or other enquiry.” A pejorative. Used by people who disagree that the use of science to understand reality is valid, usually {bada bing} theists, who prefer a more revelatory model of inquiry, e.g. Theology. Prayer. Religion. Biblical Interpretation.

    Scientism doesn’t dabble in anything, much less theology. It’s just a one word argument for “Science don’t know everything”. Sorry, but at this stage of civilization, while science doesn’t know everything, it does know everything that is presently capable of being known. Religion, on the other hand, merely speculates, postulates and hypothesizes, but never proves (or provides evidence, von Bunge). In short, religion doesn’t know anything. It makes things up.

    Your whole response to my article seems to be a continuing effort to pit science against theology. You can’t have it both ways. If theology is barred from scientific pronouncements then science needs to respect the same boundaries. And, I have no worries about that because true science is not capable of theological pronouncements.

    Well, of course. But then, science tests reality, and provides explanations; testable, repeatable explanations for all aspects of nature (reality) while theology merely speculates about the same things, with no evidence, no testing, no falsifications, nothing solid other than wishful, hopeful thinking. As I said, theology is just philosophy that assumes a god. Take the god out of theology and you have a literal vacuum, with no substance, nothing.

    I don’t “pit science against theology”, because that would assume two equal modes of inquiry, something that theists continually like to assume, without any foundation whatsoever. But they are not equal. Science has explained literally billions of things about reality that we previously never knew. Theology has never once explained anything. Nothing. Nada. Zip. There is no “pitting of one against the other” by me. There is simply a complete dismissal of theology, in favor of science, as the only rational means to acquire truth about reality, about nature.

    “As I said, go read the Answers in Genesis website, or visit the Creation Museum in Lexington. Maybe you don’t believe it, but there are a very large number of people who otherwise share most of your beliefs who do. So, straw man it ain’t.”

    Your “age of the earth” point fits most definitions of the “straw man” fallacy because you didn’t bother to find out my actual position and thus (unwittingly, I’m sure) distorted and misrepresented it.

    See above. Perhaps, but as I explained to von Bunge, I really don’t care about your personal beliefs, as long as they don’t affect me, or transgress into my life in even the smallest way. I care about the ones that affect me, and yours probably do in an indirect way. For instance, if you are like most Christians, you believe that Genesis may be a viable explanation for the creation of the earth (i,e, god did it), and hence it should be taught in science classes in public schools (i.e Intelligent Design Creationism) as an alternative to evolution. Let the students decide! Academic freedom! Bullshit.

    Maybe you’ll say you don’t believe that, but if you vote Republican, then you have probably voted for people who DO believe that, and want to teach that unscientific psuedo-science to MY children. So, in an indirect way, I do take your beliefs seriously, because they effect me.

    Now, prove me wrong and tell me that a) you didn’t vote for George Bush, b) you vote a straight Democratic ticket in every election you’ve ever voted in Texas, especially for those idiots on the Texas Board of Education that have so much power over what goes into Science and History books here in MY state because Texas buys such a large proportion of school books, that what they dictate ends up in all 50 states. If you can swear to those two things, then I’ll concede your straw man argument. Otherwise, your beliefs, whatever they are, effect me personally.

    Genesis, which presents creation in a non-scientific format (designed for Bronze Age camel-herders?), gives us no clues as to when creation took place.

    Ahh, but it DOES tell you HOW, doesn’t it? Both “how” and “when” are the province of science.

    There are a lot of crazy atheists out there but I try to avoid lumping you together with them. Atheism, however, has no premium on crazies – religion is replete with them. But you must know that not all theists subscribe to all the opinions and speculations of other theists.

    That’s one of the nice things about America, ain’t it? We get to be individual free thinkers.

    “Yet you believe in a book that relates facts that are disprovable by science? Talking animals, talking bushes that also burn, men who walk on water, demons, witches, food falling from the sky, humans turned to salt, so-called miracles that can’t occur in nature, not to mention the creation of the earth in a manner and timeline that did not, in fact, occur? Go figure. You’re a walking contradiction, by definition. You need to disclaim all the supposed reality based claims of the Bible before I can take that seriously.

    This is yet another example of scientism’s “transgressions” into theology

    .

    Scientism is a bogeyman, nothing more. It’s a made up word used to deflect attacks on religion. You want to believe in talking snakes, have at it. Just don’t tell me you admire science, and that there is no conflict with religion. A talking snake is an inherent contradiction.

    A miracle, by definition, is a suspension of natural law and, aside from first-hand observation, un-provable. So, of course they cannot occur in nature. That’s the whole point. Science, which deals with natural law, cannot speak to phenomena outside of natural law, cannot prove or disprove something supernatural. This is what I’ve been trying to argue from the beginning.

    This is where you get stuck in the quagmire. You don’t want science to transgress on your belief in a supernatural world, yet you have no problem with the supernatural world “Suspending the laws of nature” . There is no such thing as super-nature. (if there is, where’s the evidence?) There is either nature, or nothing, and since we are here (I think therefore I am) there is only nature.

    By definition, super-nature is not nature. It is “beyond nature”. As soon as the supernatural world interacts with the natural, it becomes part of the natural by definition, or it can’t interact. Which means that even god, if he exists, is part of nature.

    The supernatural is nothing more than an ideological construct of a limited human mind that could not understand the realm of nature, so it created a place-marker (god) and inserted it into reality, until something better came along to actually explain the mysteries of nature. Science, so far, has done just that. I know I must be sounding like a broken record by now, but lightning and thunder and drought and species and evolution were all concepts thought to be so mysterious to the primitive human mind, that they searched for explanations yet didn’t have the sophisticated ability to find them. So god was created by man to fill that void.

    The big problem is that even though god’s usefulness has long expired, he likes it here, and won’t leave. Or should I say that certain segments of our society still find him to be beneficial, so they cling to him. For example, could you imagine for a moment the Vatican saying that god’s time was past, and it was time to let go? How about Mecca? Or Rick Warren or Pat Robertson? The money would dry up. The hegemony of men over women would dissipate. Society has too much invested in religion, so it struggles to keep it viable.

    Why would I want to disclaim the realities presented in the Bible? If they are realities, I want to claim them.

    Big “IF” there Dwight. Don’t you want to know they are reality, before you claim them? Wouldn’t you want evidence first, before hitching your cart to that horse? I would. But that’s the difference between (blind) faith and science.

    If one wants to disclaim realities in scripture, one will have to examine those facts which can be subjected to the same tests as any other factual person, event, place or thing. This I have endeavored to do.

    That’s a little vague, you need to expound on that.

    I see von Bunge has a new responsive. I’ll be back, to quote my favorite Terminator. Or is it Sperminator? (Oh, who cares.)

  13. Von Bunge

    Now onto your response.

    Right, those sort of things make sense, but it hardly encapsulates the reason for breathing.

    That sentence encapsulates your a priori assumptions. Step back one step. Why does there have to be a reason for breathing, other than the obvious? We breath because our particular organism evolved the process of breathing as the mechanism for getting oxygen into our lungs. We need oxygen in our lungs because the cells in our body needs it, and we don’t get oxygen by osmosis. Etc, etc. You seem to think that because we breath, there was some conscious entity that decided that was the way to handle things, so you’re assuming the existence of that conscious entity, before you even start.

    Bad logic.

    I guess I’m coming from a different angle.

    That’s obvious. You’re anthropomorphizing nature. You are assuming a conscious agent, like you, that created nature, while in the process of investigating whether there is a conscious agent that created nature. It’s circular, and will always lead you to god(s) if you don’t start with a blank slate. The blank slate never starts with a question that presumes the existence of that which it is trying to prove. You don’t ask “what is the purpose for…”.

    The fact is that I can point to scientific evidence (this is why I hammered that term earlier) and make convincing arguments for design, and you can do the opposite.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I sense that your understanding of science is different than mine. I think you see it as a monolithic, pre-existing body of laws and facts, that we are slowly discovering. In one sense it is, but the way I understand science in the context of these discussions s that science is not tangible. It is a process which we use to discover truth. We start with a question, and hypothesize, from what we know and the facts surrounding the question, a possible answer. We then test that answer to see if it holds up under all circumstances. If it doesn’t, we discard that hypothesis and move onto another one. If it does hold up (as , e.g. evolution has for over 150 years) we provisionally accept it as the best answer to the question, always being willing to discard it in a heartbeat if it doesn’t hold up under all circumstances.

    No, and I don’t love my wife because of scientific data, either.

    Ahh, but you probably do love your wife as the result of scientifically testable reasons. Brain synapses, experience, chemistry, are all scientifically confirmable areas that affect the emotion of love. We hate to think that we could boil something as apparently amorphous as emotion down to a scientific process, but we probably can. I say “probably” because we are not yet sufficiently advanced in the area of neuroscience to give definitive conclusions, but the process of science is definitely pointing in that direction. It’s OK to say we don’t know, in the meantime.

    Because science cannot “account for everything”, even potentially, as you say.

    That seems to be a fairly definitive statement. Can you prove it? It sounds like a belief, not a fact. Do you have faith in it?

    My whole point is that so far the process of science has been able to satisfactorily “account for everything” it has been asked to explain. If it can’t, it’s because of human limitations, not the process itself. Since both you and I live our life on percentages, (meaning as long as the odds are good, we don’t need 100% guarantees in all aspects of life), then I’ll go with the proven track record of science. The odds are way in favor of science explaining the realities of nature, the cosmos, and the universe. So far, religion has a 0% track record. Religion has explained nothing. and it never will, because religion amounts to no more than wishful thinking in the evidence pool.

    But they sure didn’t recite a science formula before running after their friend under fire.

    And they sure didn’t do it because some god gave them a push. They may attribute their love for their comrade-in-arms to god(s), but it is more easily explainable as a human emotion, and that human emotion is natural, and explainable. Emotions are not supernatural, your beliefs to the contrary. Science has, and will, satisfactorily tell us why they would do that. Again, I’ll go with the percentages.

    But it made me realize the bankruptcy of a system that says science is the end all, be all.

    See? Another reason why I don’t think you understand science. It’s NOT a “be all and end all” proposition. It’s not the ends, it’s the means. We humans are the be all and end all. Life is the ends. Nature is the ends. Science is just a process we use to help us understand reality of our nature.

    Conversely, I can give about 900,000 perfectly good “religious” explanations that would serve as heartfelt motivation to move that nurse to render aid.

    I know you are exaggerating for effect, so just give me 10. I’ll bet every one of them can be stripped of their religious patina and seen for the purely human explanations they are.

    Your example about non-empathetic nurses in Romania seems a bit of a stretch for support of the argument that religion and science are not in conflict, but I’ll be happy to discuss it further. It seems to me that those nurses are affected by the lethargy of a depressed, formerly communist, country with inadequate resources or motivation to take care of their orphaned children. Go to Sudan, and look at another way people in a very religious country treat their populace, and tell me how good their religion is.

    Frankly, it’s a completely different topic, and is irrelevant to the discussion we are having. If you disagree, then tell me why.

    My problem with atheistic beliefs is that a very large subset of atheists think they are right about their beliefs in a spontaneous universe (a theory which has hundreds of variants), and that the world would be a better place if we call believed like they do. And if they kept those beliefs to themselves, I wouldn’t care. But they don’t.

    Really? Assuming that’s true (and I have at least two problems with that statement, but I won’t digress to them now) how do those so-called beliefs adversely affect you? Or anyone else? I haven’t seen any legislation that tried that force the belief that the universe started with the Big Bang on anyone, similar to legislation concerning the religious beliefs against stem cell research, abortion and gay marriage. Can you give me some examples?

    Sorry, but that argument sounds like the playground chant “so am I but what about you?” 😉

    I would have less of a problem with your argument, if throughout history there were not examples of such beliefs being lived out to their destructive, logical conclusions. And I don’t say that unaware of the havoc wreaked by “religious” beliefs throughout history, either.

    Well, I think I know what you are saying, but again, you’re extrapolating the misguided use of science to science itself. For instance, after evolution was postulated, many social scientists devised multiple theories of so-called Social Darwinism, which really turned out to be racism with a scientific name. Social Darwinism is not science, and has been since soundly rejected as an explanation for anything. If you want to say that humans are imperfect because they don’t fully understand, and sometimes abuse, that which they discover, I’ll agree with you. But to reject the process of science because it’s been misused is just stupid. If we gave up on science after destroying Hiroshima in 1945 with nuclear energy, we would have no computers, no space flight, (no Tang), no genetics research, no MRIs or CAT scans, no cancer breakthroughs, no jet travel, no solar power, etc, etc. You’re not a Luddite are you?

    And please don’t throw Stalin into the argument. That’s a non-starter. You might as well mention Hitler, and then Godwin’s Law will have to be invoked.(And if you don’t know what Godwin’s Law is, Google it.) 😉

    But play that out to it’s logical ends. Where do you stop? I refer back to the nurse in Romania. “Hey, you wanna watch babies die, go ahead. I will keep my beliefs to myself.” Let’s take this to a social level, as has been done in the past. “You don’t like speed limits, don’t obey them. You don’t like the rules in school, bring in a gun whenever you want. You think women ought to be respected? Nonsense! That’s just someone else’s belief, and after all, it’s your life! Do whatever you wish, and let others believe as they want.” In short, I don’t see that history agrees with your viewpoint here.

    Actually, it does. You’re confusing the non-legislating of morality, with the affirmative legislation of basic health and safety laws. As a society, we need the latter. We don’t need the former. Without the latter, we degenerate into a lawless state. But we won’t if, say, abortion is allowed, or stem cell research is allowed. With the former, the only ones being affected are those with strongly held religious beliefs, and even then not directly, just in principle.

    Your comparison is illogical.

    I think this may be the crease of the whole discussion. That’s not how I see faith as being defined. I have faith in things that carry sufficient evidence for me to believe them. That amount of evidence varies. For instance, I have faith that the teller at the bank is telling me the truth about all the little electronic numbers in my account. I also have faith (on reliable evidence) that koala bears exist.

    No. you have trust in those things because there is more than ample evidence to justify your trust. If some guy on the street came to you offered to give you $10,000 tomorrow from his bank account if you simply gave him $10 today, based on faith, you’d do it. And you would probably be out $10, because you have no evidence whatsoever concerning his $10K.

    To the contrary, you trust your bank teller because he works for an institution that is regulated by state and federal banking laws, has been in business for many years, and has always been right about how much is in your account. And when it isn’t right, the bank fixes it. It doesn’t steal your money from your account, and never has. All of that amounts to evidence, evidence that you rely on to trust your bank teller.

    You trust that koala bears exist because you’ve seen them in pictures, on TV and at zoos. You know that entire zoological sciences have confirmed their existence. You highly doubt that the entire world has conspired to convince you, and you alone, that they exist when they don’t. All of that is evidence you trust.

    Ask any theologian. Faith is the belief in things unseen and unknown.

    Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1).

    You believe because you’ve been told to believe, you’ve had that belief reinforced through anecdotal stories from other people, along with regular trips to church, and you read about reasons to believe in a big thick book with very flimsy paper written thousands of years ago. But if you actually look for solid, confirmable evidence for that faith, you won’t find it. And, to boot, your religion acknowledges that you won’t find it, because faith is a virtue, an end unto itself, and evidence is irrelevant to the strength of your faith.

    For instance, my atheist friend believes that life arose out of a goo of cells (without an explanation as to how that goo got there), and that over time those cells mutated enough times to create new species.

    Was that his “scientific explanation”? 8)

    The scientific process has not specifically determined the mechanism of how we arrived at the form we are now in. But it has confirmed that all life on this planet is related, all the way back to single cell organisms. Humans have the same DNA in us that a sponge has. (For a good book on this, read The Ancestors Tale by Richard Dawkins). How that first single cell organism arose is still uncertain, but again, I’ll go with the percentages and expect that science will figure it out. In the mean time, I will not insert the god place-marker.

    So your friend is probably right, albeit in a layman’s sort of way.

  14. Inquisitor,

    That sentence encapsulates your a priori assumptions. Step back one step. Why does there have to be a reason for breathing, other than the obvious?

    I think you’re misunderstanding what I’m saying, or perhaps I have miscommunicated it. Life is more than being not dead. If our only reason for breathing was for oxygen transfer, then you certainly do describe a meaningless life. So there doesn’t have to be a reason, as if I’m assuming one. I observe that people live for more than being not dead at the moment, don’t you think?

    You are assuming a conscious agent, like you, that created nature, while in the process of investigating whether there is a conscious agent that created nature. It’s circular, and will always lead you to god(s) if you don’t start with a blank slate. The blank slate never starts with a question that presumes the existence of that which it is trying to prove. You don’t ask “what is the purpose for…”.

    I guess we can go ’round and ’round about this, but I’ve already explained that I haven’t assumed a conscious agent. You can convince yourself that I have. I wish that the “blank slate” was a two-way street, because there are few things less assumed than a materialistic universe with purely natural causes. When I say, “What is the purpose for…”, I don’t mean that how you’re taking it. It’s an investigative question, not one that is presumptuous. I don’t feel that this needs more defending.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I sense that your understanding of science is different than mine…

    I found this to be ironically surprising. Actually, we share the same view of science. I was under the impression that you considered it to be more than a process through which we learn about the world. As per your description, I totally agree with how you define it. You start with a question (although, that question dare not be “What is the purpose for?”, right? Any question other than that for goodness sakes!), bring a hypothesis to a possible answer, subject to testing. Right, the scientific method. I share that view. But that’s not how such things are often described. Steven Hawking says things like:
    1. “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist.”
    2.” The universe is governed by science. But science tells us that we can’t solve the equations, directly in the abstract. We need to use the effective theory of Darwinian natural selection of those societies most likely to survive. We assign them higher value.” (http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_thelookout/20110516/us_yblog_thelookout/stephen-hawking-says-afterlife-is-a-fairy-story,http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/may/15/stephen-hawking-interview-there-is-no-heaven)

    Spontaneous creation? We are now in the fairy-tale realm, once more. Unless we have ever witnessed anything being spontaneously created, not to mention being created by laws such as gravity. So gravity existed before the universe? Talk about circular reasoning. These kinds of things are totally outside the realm of the scientific method you explained. They are beliefs, which is fine. But these beliefs do not “hold up under all circumstances”, as you proposed. You are well within your rights to take this explanation as the best answer for the universe’s existence, but you are on a level playing field.

    Ahh, but you probably do love your wife as the result of scientifically testable reasons.

    Being able to detect the biological response to amorphous feelings does not reveal the reason for them. And I mean more then warm fuzzies here. I’m saying that one does not commit to an enduring marriage, sustaining hardship, never leaving, not cheating behind the other’s back, etc…all these things which we know are “good”: they don’t happen because of science. I agree that we can study these things to a certain level, sure. “Love” can be seen in testable ways. But there’s a completely metaphysical side to it as well.

    And they sure didn’t do it because some god gave them a push. They may attribute their love for their comrade-in-arms to god(s), but it is more easily explainable as a human emotion, and that human emotion is natural, and explainable. Emotions are not supernatural, your beliefs to the contrary. Science has, and will, satisfactorily tell us why they would do that. Again, I’ll go with the percentages.

    I don’t believe that emotions are supernatural. Again, we are missing each other. I don’t believe that science has explained sacrifice and bravery in combat. And neither has emotion. Have you ever experienced that kind of situation? I wouldn’t be willing to chalk it up completely to emotion, or science.

    I know you are exaggerating for effect, so just give me 10. I’ll bet every one of them can be stripped of their religious patina and seen for the purely human explanations they are.

    My first 10 reasons are:
    1. Love others as you have been loved
    2. Mercy
    3. Kindness
    4. Value in individual life
    5. Moral Goodness
    6. Moral Leadership
    7. Impacting change where there is none
    8. Hope for the future
    9. Sacrifice
    10. The belief in forgiveness

    Now I know your guns are all ready to fire, but I would tell you to hold off your attacks. You can probably find a way to “strip” my answers. What does that prove about your position? Don’t you realize that I can destroy your arguments too? It would be much better, and more constructive, for you to provide your 10 scientific answers to the query. So far, you’ve brought nothing to the table but brain synapses. What are atheism’s answers for such situations in life?

    I see this as one of atheism’s largest blind-spots. I have observed that the atheistic position is more about saying what’s wrong with “religion” than what’s “right” with atheism. Atheism provides no answers for how to deal with a cold-hearted nurse, much less the reason to be there in the first place; sacrificing time, money, and self for children who cannot help themselves. I’ve been in Romania for some time, and have yet to see atheists lending a hand. In fact, it was the atheist political thrust of communism that created the problem. So, don’t waste your time going against my explanation. Why don’t you offer your alternative?

    I can see why you see this as irrelevant. I suppose it is related in a distant way. My point is that Christianity is making the difference for thousands of Romanian children, using medical science as a main tool. They aren’t in conflict. More like concentric circles.

    Sorry, but that argument sounds like the playground chant “so am I but what about you?”

    Not at all. It’s another way of saying, “There’s another side to that coin.”

    Well, I think I know what you are saying, but again, you’re extrapolating the misguided use of science to science itself. For instance, after evolution was postulated, many social scientists devised multiple theories of so-called Social Darwinism, which really turned out to be racism with a scientific name. Social Darwinism is not science, and has been since soundly rejected as an explanation for anything. If you want to say that humans are imperfect because they don’t fully understand, and sometimes abuse, that which they discover, I’ll agree with you. But to reject the process of science because it’s been misused is just stupid.

    And Steven Hawking has rebranded Social Darwinism again, in the quote from him I posted above. But who can argue, from an atheistic viewpoint, against that sort of reasoning? Let’s just assign all the kids in Romania and Sudan a lower value (racism). This is a view consistent with atheism, evidently, and leads directly back to Stalin, whether that is attractive or not. I actually think Dawkins is being honest with his worldview when he proposes those things, but I don’t think he knows where it leads.
    I totally agree that the abuses of science cannot be used to judge the whole sha-bang altogether. I agree emphatically. Let that go both ways though. You seem to judge religion, and Christianity in particular, for those who have abused it.

    And please don’t throw Stalin into the argument. That’s a non-starter. You might as well mention Hitler, and then Godwin’s Law will have to be invoked.

    1. You have used history to bolster to your arguments many times. Stalin was not an anomaly, nor was Mao, or any other of the failed social experiments born out of atheism. Moreover, those developments were a logical outgrowth of the denial of morality and its religious implications. So it’s not a red herring we are talking about with Stalin, but rather a historical pattern.

    And before a conclusion is drawn that I’m not making: can an atheist live what we all recognize to be a “good” life? Sure. I’ve got tons of friends like that. But can they logically reason why that life should be lived as opposed to one like Stalin? No, they cannot.

    You believe because you’ve been told to believe, you’ve had that belief reinforced through anecdotal stories from other people, along with regular trips to church, and you read about reasons to believe in a big thick book with very flimsy paper written thousands of years ago. But if you actually look for solid, confirmable evidence for that faith, you won’t find it. And, to boot, your religion acknowledges that you won’t find it, because faith is a virtue, an end unto itself, and evidence is irrelevant to the strength of your faith.

    You certainly haven’t made any attempt to mask your disdain, which is interesting.The more you lose cordiality, the more reason is obscured.

    I would say you take the cake for a priori assumptions. These are conclusions you’ve reached based solely and completely on assumption. If you’ve met someone who regards evidence as irrelevant, take that up with them, don’t foist it on me with generalities. Your duplicity must be pointed out in that you say science must not be judged by those who misuse it, and then you turn around and lump me in with some assumption you have about someone who doesn’t think evidence is important. You contradict yourself entirely.

    I know you won’t believe this, because of your massive prior assumptions, but I have studied and searched for evidence, and found it, both in the historical and scientific areas. Faith is not an end unto itself.

    I hope that helps, for what it’s worth.

  15. Spanish Inquisitor

    I observe that people live for more than being not dead at the moment, don’t you think?

    I certainly do. But I don’t believe anyone has infused in me a purpose, prior to my existence. I make my own purpose. So do you. So does Dwight. So does every other person on this planet. My purpose in life is probably a lot different than yours, but only because I’ve decided it to be that way. The one thing I completely disagree with is that my life is meaningless if there’s no god. My life is full of meaning.

    When I believed in god, my life was meaningless, because it wasn’t mine – it was his. My future was preordained. That depressed me. Really. Think about it. Eternity. Doing what? Playing Parcheesi? The only thing I could affect was the temperature of my surroundings.

    You think you’re going to heaven. Seriously. You do. You are actively trying to make sure that’s where you end up. Tell me. What are you going to do there for all eternity? Do you have even the foggiest idea? If you do, lay it all out for me.

    Spontaneous creation? We are now in the fairy-tale realm, once more.

    Why? Because you don’t understand it? That just another argument from ignorance. “Because my puny little mind can’t comprehend it, it can’t be.” But incredibly intelligent people don’t have a problem with it. If you don’t understand it, are you even capable of dismissing it as a fairy tale? I’m not, and neither are you. I’m happy to say “I don’t know, I will probably die without ever knowing, but that’s OK.” You’re closing your mind to all possibilities, because you can’t comprehend them. And you say you understand science. You are doing the exact opposite of what science presupposes.

    This is where you say “But you close your mind to the possibility of god”. And I say, “no I don’t. Just show me evidence, just a speck, and I’ll re-assess my disbelief.” If gods exist, then there is evidence for them. If there is no evidence, then I am warranted to disbelieve, until it shows up. But I’m open to anything for which there is evidence.

    BTW, there is evidence for spontaneous creation, as you call it. Much of it is still pretty speculative, but the math is what leads the way. The math says things must have happened a certain way, and when we then look for confirmation of that math, we find it.

    …all these things which we know are “good”: they don’t happen because of science.

    I thought we already agreed that science was a process of ascertaining truth. Nothing happens because of science. However, we use science to understand how they happen. So we can explain your deep love and commitment to your wife in scientific terms. It may get a bit complex, because there are multiple factors, many co-dependant on the others, with wild swings in cause and effect, but it can be explained and understood scientifically. But if you want to believe that you love your wife because god commanded it, you’ve rejected science, and opted to believe something that science can explain.

    And you’ve proven my objection to Dwight’s hypotheses. Remember? “There’s no conflict between science and religion.”

    I don’t believe that science has explained sacrifice and bravery in combat.

    Sure it can. Those are basic evolutionary characteristics that have ensured the survival of our species. Science has a lot to say about it. Whether it’s been fully explained to your satisfaction, or even mine, is another question. Empathy for our fellow humans is one of the, if not the primary, basis for morality. Sacrifice and bravery are just extreme forms of empathy.

    My first 10 reasons are:
    1. Love others as you have been loved
    2. Mercy
    3. Kindness
    4. Value in individual life
    5. Moral Goodness
    6. Moral Leadership
    7. Impacting change where there is none
    8. Hope for the future
    9. Sacrifice
    10. The belief in forgiveness

    There is not a single religious thought there. All of those are strictly human. They deal with how humans interact with each other, how they treat each other, and how they expect to be treated. All explained by the Golden Rule, which needs no god to be effective.

    You had 900,000 “religious” motivations. So far you’re batting zero.

    Now you may personally believe those are religious, because it was your religious training that brought you up to believe those thing. It may have been Sunday school where you learned it. But that doesn’t make them any more “religious” that a wimple on a nun makes her religious. And when I say religious, I’m talking about the supernatural religions, the ones who claim that morality comes from a supernatural being. You do know that there are a billion Buddhists in the world, technically atheists because they don’t believe in gods, who would find it personally insulting for you to suggest that they don’t exhibit some or all of those motivations.

    So far, you’ve brought nothing to the table but brain synapses. What are atheism’s answers for such situations in life?

    You only need one, and I mentioned it above. Pure human empathy. The idea that I am human, and if I was in that situation, I’d want another to treat me the same way.

    BTW, that’s not technically “atheism’s answer”. Atheism is not a belief system or religion, it’s a lack of belief, and nothing more. There’s a joke, that’s funny because it’s true, that atheism is a religion, like off is a TV channel, or bald is a hair color, or not collecting stamps is a hobby.

    What actually is atheism’s answer is really humanism, which IS a belief system. I can’t do justice in a comment as to exactly what humanism is, and there are more than sufficient resources on the web if you’re interested. Here’s one:
    http://www.americanhumanist.org/Who_We_Are/About_Humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_I

    I see this as one of atheism’s largest blind-spots. I have observed that the atheistic position is more about saying what’s wrong with “religion” than what’s “right” with atheism.

    Could be. Since atheism is a negative position (disbelief, not belief) , often times an atheist is stuck simply ridiculing theism. Ridicule, however, is a valid form of criticism. Stupidity, you would agree, demands ridicule. Atheists think theism is stupid. And I mean really, really stupid. Ipso facto…

    There is nothing “right” with atheism, since all atheism says is that there is no reason for belief in the supernatural. If you agree with that proposition, as I do, then atheism is “right”. It’s that simple.

    Atheism provides no answers for how to deal with a cold-hearted nurse, much less the reason to be there in the first place;

    Nor should it. See above.

    I’ve been in Romania for some time, and have yet to see atheists lending a hand.

    I’d doubt that. I’ll bet you have, and didn’t realize it. I’ll bet there were lots of atheists helping out. What you didn’t see were atheists taking credit because they were atheists. And you wouldn’t. Very few atheists run around giving glory to no-gods for their actions. People don’t treat their fellow humans kindly because they are atheist. They do it because they too are human.

    The other reason you won’t see it is because in our society, atheism is treated like a loathsome disease. So people are not that vocal about it. They may even pay lip service to some god, because they’re in the company of other god-botherers, but they are not theists. So they won’t stand up and say “Hey. I’m an atheist, and I’m going to stop the suffering of this child!”

    This is a view consistent with atheism, evidently, and leads directly back to Stalin…

    Naw. Not going there. It’s a dumb argument, and is pointless. It’s too easy to say “Stalin” or “Pol Pot” or Hitler” and walk away thinking you’ve won the argument. I think you argue better than that.

    You seem to judge religion, and Christianity in particular, for those who have abused it.

    Not really. I judge religion for its truth value. It has none, as far as I can see. People, on the other hand, when whipped into fervor by religion, may do horrible things thinking they are doing it for good reasons, and I judge them, but not their religion, for what they do. (And I’m sure there are bad atheists – Stalin for example – though really, his atheism had nothing do do with his status as a historical monster – but I still judge him, not atheism for what he did. It’s the humanistic way.) If religion was one of their reasons, then religion gets caught in the indictment.

    Another good quote: “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. ” Stephen Weinberg.

    I know you heard that one before, but it was apt.

    But can they logically reason why that life should be lived as opposed to one like Stalin? No, they cannot.

    Really? So all your good atheist friends are illogical? Is that what you really mean? So they are one illogical step from raping and pillaging and murdering?

    Somehow, I doubt that.

    You certainly haven’t made any attempt to mask your disdain, which is interesting.The more you lose cordiality, the more reason is obscured.

    Disdain? I’ve never masked my disdain for superstitious, magical thinking. You’re confusing the substance of my argument with my fervor. It seems the closer I get to the nub of the issue, the more strident I must appear. It comes with the territory, I guess. I’m used to it. Richard Dawkins spouts fangs when he gets worked up, if you believe his opponents. Feel free to criticize what I say, but when you criticize how I say it, I lose interest, because I sense the end of the argument.

    …and then you turn around and lump me in…

    See? You’re taking it personally. That’s a good sign, because it means I’ve hit a nerve. 😉

    I don’t lump you in with anything. I may lump your argument in with those of others I’ve heard, if they are similar. If not tell me where I’m wrong.

    In all seriousness, I assume you were raised as most Christians, from birth, with church a regular and traditional family occasion. If I’m wrong, and you were brought up atheist, I apologize. But if I’m right, then even you would have to admit that much of your thinking about religion was inherited through the process I just outlined.

    Take that a little further, and tell me, if you had been born in Saudi Arabia to Saudi parents, what religion would you be espousing right now? Think about it. When you come to the conclusion I think you will, then tell me how much your religious upbringing affects your current outlook on religion?

    Another good quote, this from an unknown Jesuit: “Give me the child until age 7, and I’ll give you the man.”

  16. I certainly do. But I don’t believe anyone has infused in me a purpose, prior to my existence. I make my own purpose. So do you. So does Dwight. So does every other person on this planet. My purpose in life is probably a lot different than yours, but only because I’ve decided it to be that way. The one thing I completely disagree with is that my life is meaningless if there’s no god. My life is full of meaning.

    In one sense I agree with you, in that we are all able to make our own choices, and that we are responsible for those choices. But life does have what you call “infused purpose.” If purpose is nothing more than what we make it for ourselves, then you have no room to argue with or about someone else’s choices, logically speaking. And (I know this is a hot-button), history has proven often takes place when this is lived out: it becomes unlivable. But I’ve never said your life has no purpose. If you felt that was implied, I’m sorry.

    When I believed in god, my life was meaningless, because it wasn’t mine – it was his. My future was preordained. That depressed me. Really. Think about it. Eternity. Doing what? Playing Parcheesi? The only thing I could affect was the temperature of my surroundings.

    You life was more meaningful than you know, evidently. But I have no illusions of convincing you of that. As for preordination, is your future any less preordained now? Not really. I don’t fully understand what you mean by that in the first place.

    You think you’re going to heaven. Seriously. You do. You are actively trying to make sure that’s where you end up. Tell me. What are you going to do there for all eternity? Do you have even the foggiest idea? If you do, lay it all out for me.

    I’m not actively trying to make sure that I “end up” in heaven. That’s a done deal. And are you saying that if I explain what heaven is going to be like, it would be convincing for you?

    Why? Because you don’t understand it? That just another argument from ignorance. “Because my puny little mind can’t comprehend it, it can’t be.” But incredibly intelligent people don’t have a problem with it. If you don’t understand it, are you even capable of dismissing it as a fairy tale? I’m not, and neither are you. I’m happy to say “I don’t know, I will probably die without ever knowing, but that’s OK.” You’re closing your mind to all possibilities, because you can’t comprehend them. And you say you understand science. You are doing the exact opposite of what science presupposes.

    I say that spontaneous creation is a fairy-tale, because it something non-existent, bearing no evidence, but that intelligent people talk about as if it was something confirmed by testable evidence. It’s not that I don’t understand it. It’s just made up.

    BTW, there is evidence for spontaneous creation, as you call it. Much of it is still pretty speculative, but the math is what leads the way. The math says things must have happened a certain way, and when we then look for confirmation of that math, we find it.

    Well, you are correct in saying that there is “speculation” about spontaneous creation, but that’s all there is. The math shows that matter is not eternal, and that the universe is not static (contrary to Einstein’s early theory). The universe is expanding, and based on red-light patterns traceable in stars and other bodies, we have detected that it is expanding from an original point. And based on the balance of gravity and the rate of expansion (exact within 10 to the 60th power), the evidence is that the original force was powerful indeed. But we have no math concerning how all that took place. It’s a matter of convenient a priori adherence to material causes to call it spontaneous.

    There is not a single religious thought there. All of those are strictly human. They deal with how humans interact with each other, how they treat each other, and how they expect to be treated. All explained by the Golden Rule, which needs no god to be effective.You had 900,000 “religious” motivations. So far you’re batting zero.

    There are 10 religious thoughts there, all biblical in nature. And they do deal with how humans interact. So far, I’m batting 10. Until you come to the table with 10 reasons of you’re own, you haven’t even swung the bat.

    You do know that there are a billion Buddhists in the world, technically atheists because they don’t believe in gods, who would find it personally insulting for you to suggest that they don’t exhibit some or all of those motivations.

    I lived among Buddhists for a while, and was able to learn a great deal from them. They do believe in god(s), but that the idea of god is “in” everything. They would actually be offended for you to call them atheists, believe it or not. I asked them myself. What they don’t believe in is the idea “self.” And I would never say they don’t exhibit those emotions. Of course they do. That’s doesn’t make the motivations irreligious. I don’t see it as being so mutually exclusive.

    BTW, that’s not technically “atheism’s answer”. Atheism is not a belief system or religion, it’s a lack of belief, and nothing more. There’s a joke, that’s funny because it’s true, that atheism is a religion, like off is a TV channel, or bald is a hair color, or not collecting stamps is a hobby.

    It sounds like you are claiming intellectual immunity. “I don’t have to defend my position, because I don’t really have one, but I’m going attack yours.” That is bereft reason. But I do see your answer as unblushingly honest. Atheism doesn’t have any answers; it is the position of “off.” If you were in the courtroom, you would have just lost the case.

    Could be. Since atheism is a negative position (disbelief, not belief) , often times an atheist is stuck simply ridiculing theism. Ridicule, however, is a valid form of criticism. Stupidity, you would agree, demands ridicule. Atheists think theism is stupid. And I mean really, really stupid. Ipso facto…

    There is nothing “right” with atheism, since all atheism says is that there is no reason for belief in the supernatural. If you agree with that proposition, as I do, then atheism is “right”. It’s that simple.

    You aren’t “stuck” with anything. But I find your position to be negative, indeed. Let’s just all attack each other endlessly, while not really putting forth anything positive.

    From your description, atheism is the equivalent of having your feet planted firmly in mid-air. You don’t have much credibility for discussing the “right” or “wrong” of any belief system, if that’s the case.

    I’d doubt that. I’ll bet you have, and didn’t realize it. I’ll bet there were lots of atheists helping out. What you didn’t see were atheists taking credit because they were atheists. And you wouldn’t.

    Nope. You can “bet”, but you haven’t been there, right? I’ve interacted with so many people there, and none of them were atheists, or knew of any atheists groups lending aid. I actually made it a point for a few months to try and find some. But that makes alot of sense. They would have no reason to. The channel of “off” doesn’t concern itself with programming.

    Naw. Not going there. It’s a dumb argument, and is pointless. It’s too easy to say “Stalin” or “Pol Pot” or Hitler” and walk away thinking you’ve won the argument. I think you argue better than that.

    It’s not dumb, it’s historical in nature and bears incredible analogy to current events. But I haven’t walked away from anything. I put it there, and am willing to discuss it fully, and be corrected if need be. You have walked away from it, friend.

    Another good quote: “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. ” Stephen Weinberg.

    I can appreciate that, to some degree. I’ve seen awful religions, and the lack thereof, both causing awful things. I also lived in an Islamic country for 3 years…..terrible. But, that’s a one-sided quote. Are you unaware of the atrocities committed by those who detested religion? I don’t imagine you are.

    Really? So all your good atheist friends are illogical? Is that what you really mean? So they are one illogical step from raping and pillaging and murdering?

    Somehow, I doubt that.

    Well, I would say they are illogical when they begin to condemn or praise one worldview or another. They are the “off” channel, and have logically forfeited that right. But they aren’t one, big walking illogical idea, no. It’s not that they are logically incapable of living meaningful lives, or anything like that. I’m just saying that when it comes to defending that lifestyle they choose to live, they don’t really have any solid reasoning.

    Feel free to criticize what I say, but when you criticize how I say it, I lose interest, because I sense the end of the argument.

    I’m not trying to nit-pick you, or make mountains out of molehills. I’m just saying that we can either sit around and make fun of each other, or we can do something more meaningful, without disdain for the other. Call it respect. How we say things matters.

    In all seriousness, I assume you were raised as most Christians, from birth, with church a regular and traditional family occasion. If I’m wrong, and you were brought up atheist, I apologize. But if I’m right, then even you would have to admit that much of your thinking about religion was inherited through the process I just outlined.

    No, I was raised with a range of influences, but it was mostly blank. So, most of what you’re saying is in that paragraph isn’t on point, to me personally. I made my own choices about what I believe.

    Take that a little further, and tell me, if you had been born in Saudi Arabia to Saudi parents, what religion would you be espousing right now? Think about it. When you come to the conclusion I think you will, then tell me how much your religious upbringing affects your current outlook on religion?

    I would be espousing something completely opposed to both atheism and Christianity. Islam is demanded, as you know, in countries like that. But I have to admit that I am missing your point. Are you saying that children learn from their surroundings? Sure they do. But all kinds of people change their thinking as they grow.

  17. Spanish Inquisitor

    But life does have what you call “infused purpose.”

    You can say that, and you can believe that, but you have no evidence for it. It’s pure belief, and like most beliefs, especially of the religious nature, it comes from a desire that it be so, not from a review of empirical evidence. If it’s infused, who or what infused it? What was the mechanism of infusion? When did the infusion occur?

    It’s based on pure faith, and nothing more. And faith is nothing but willful indulgence. It’s brain activity, mental gymnastics, the desire that it be so. Sorry, but I live my life in all other respects without faith. And frankly, so do you. I don’t need it in this aspect.

    If purpose is nothing more than what we make it for ourselves, then you have no room to argue with or about someone else’s choices, logically speaking.

    And I don’t, as long as they don’t shove those choices down my throat. I’ve already made that clear, haven’t I? Believe what you want. Just don’t get yourself elected to Congress and force your magical, superstitious beliefs on me.

    …history has proven often takes place when this is lived out: it becomes unlivable.

    Examples?

    I don’t fully understand what you mean by that in the first place.

    I was raised Catholic. Catholicism says that you have free will to do and be what you want, yet god is omniscient, and omnipotent. That means he knows exactly what your future entails, and is capable of changing it (which is contradictory, but I won’t go there for now) . So if he knows what the future will be, then the furture already exist, and it is therefore preordained. So where I will end up after I die is already known by him. I really have no choice, and hence no free will. I have yet to see any explanation that alters that. So what’s the point of trying to be good, or bad, or anything? Just be. How depressing.

    As an atheist, my future is encompassed solely within the bookends of birth and death, and I have absolute and complete control over what I do between them. I find that so refreshing, like a yoke has been lifted from my shoulders, because now my life has a meaning that I choose, not someone else, this so-called god who supposedly created me as a plaything for his ego. Ptui.

    And are you saying that if I explain what heaven is going to be like, it would be convincing for you?

    No. I’m saying you can’t do it. You have no idea what heaven is like, other than some general notion that it’s good. You can’t tell me with any specificity what you will do there for eternity. You can’t describe the actual location of heaven. You can’t describe the entities that will reside there with you. You cannot even tell me if it’s exclusive to humans, or if there are others from somewhere else that may be there with you. You cannot tell me what activities occur in heaven,. Your cannot tell me what god will look like to you. You can’t tell me what heaven looks like, not even a small aspect of it. You cannot tell me…OK, I could go on into infinity here.

    Have you ever considered the concept of ennui? Think about when you have nothing to do for 10 minutes? Now multiply that by infinity. What exactly is there in heaven that will keep you interested in your existence there for all time? I was serious about that Parcheesi remark.

    The one thing about religious beliefs is that there is a dearth of information about heaven. Considering that you only spend about 80 years on earth, but eternity (an infinite number) in heaven, you’d think we’d have a lot more information about this place you call heaven. But we don’t.

    I say that spontaneous creation is a fairy-tale, because it something non-existent, bearing no evidence, but that intelligent people talk about as if it was something confirmed by testable evidence. It’s not that I don’t understand it. It’s just made up.

    You need to read more. There is evidence, and it’s not made up. There is a whole field of physics devoted to it. That’s science, which you say you love and understand. Research is ongoing, and cumulative. To say it’s simply “made up” is pure, willful ignorance on your part. And don’t take that personally. I’m not saying you are ignorant, in the pejorative sense. I’m saying that if you really believe that the science doesn’t exist, you” don’t know”, i.e. you are ignorant. That’s the definition of ignorance.

    There are 10 religious thoughts there, all biblical in nature.

    I guess that’s a matter of interpretation. 😉 The bible was written by humans. The fact that they happen to be in the Bible doesn’t mean the Bible created them. Do you think that humans thought murder was a good thing until Moses came down the mountain with the Ten Commandments and said it wasn’t? All the attributes of human goodness (and evil for thsat matter) surely predated the bible.

    I thought I made it clear that there is nothing divine or supernatural about your list. If we lived in an atheistic universe (as I believe we do) all of those motivations could and would still exist. We would still love others as our selves, we would show mercy and kindness, we would still value individual lives, etc. Another way of looking at it is, atheists have those same motivations, and they don’t have them because they believe in god.

    You want to claim them as the exclusive province of religion, have at it. But you’re wrong. And millions of compassionate atheists prove it. And lets not forget all the non-bible readers.

    If you were in the courtroom, you would have just lost the case.

    What case? My point is that you are claiming atheism has answers to questions it lays no claim to. So there is no case for atheism to win or lose.

    Let’s just all attack each other endlessly, while not really putting forth anything positive.

    I have a better idea. Let’s not attack each other at all. Let’s attack each other’s arguments. And evidence. And rhetoric.

    From your description, atheism is the equivalent of having your feet planted firmly in mid-air. You don’t have much credibility for discussing the “right” or “wrong” of any belief system, if that’s the case.

    I would say my feet are planted firmly on the ground, with the ground being a metaphor for “reality”. It’s the theist that believes in the unknown and the unseen and the unprovable. Atheism simply says it’s impossible to believe in the unknown the unseen and the unprovable. Nothing more.

    Belief in gods is the belief in magic, superstition, angels, devils, spirits, miracles, talking snakes, fruit with powers of knowledge, etc. If you think your feet are planted in reality there, you’re deluding yourself.

    Do you still believe in Santa Claus? No, you don’t. And why not? Because you grew up and found that there was no evidence for SC. And so, as there was no underlying evidential support, you realized the truth – your parents were Santa Claus. Guess what? God is Santa Claus for adults. Only this Santa has a shitload invested in keeping the fantasy alive, and too many adults will lose too much if he’s unmasked. So it continues.

    The channel of “off” doesn’t concern itself with programming.

    I like that. I may steal that.

    You have walked away from it, friend.

    No, I’ve just written about it before, and didn’t feel like doing it again.
    Here and
    here.

    They are the “off” channel, and have logically forfeited that right.

    But that is not logical. Do you forfeit the right to discuss faeries, leprechauns, Santa Claus and wizards, simply because they are not in your TV program?

    Call it respect. How we say things matters.

    I agree, to a point. But I always have the right to disrespect ideas. People, not so much. I have not said one disrespectful thing about you personally (you don’t happen to be twittering pictures of your crotch to young girls, do you?). But I have been thoroughly disrespectful of your arguments. And that is implicit in all discourse.

    I don’t respect your beliefs. They are silly. Ideas don’t have feelings, people do. If it hurts your feelings that I disrespect your ideas, then perhaps you’re a bit too emotionally involved in those ideas, and that emotion may be coloring your perceptions of the rectitude of those ideas.

    I’m not saying you do this (but you’re starting to) but I notice a lot of theists take personal umbrage when their religious beliefs are challenged. They shouldn’t. Either they are true, and supportable, or they are not, and should be rejected. Look at the reactions to Richard Dawkins. Rarely do theists actually address his ideas, instead calling him out for being hysterical, or strident, or obnoxious. It’s a nice way of deflecting criticism, but it’s really not helpful to a thorough airing of the ideas.

    Are you saying that children learn from their surroundings? Sure they do. But all kinds of people change their thinking as they grow.

    No, I’m saying that children can be indoctrinated when they are young and impressionable, and that on the whole, as a population, they retain that indoctrination for their entire life. There are exceptions. I’m one, but even I remained under the sway of my religious indoctrination until I was about 40. You may be one, too. I don’t know, and will stop presuming.

    There is a reason that most Arabs are Muslim. They are born and raised into Muslim life. There are some exceptions, usually when they leave the strictness of Muslim society. The same goes for Hindus, Buddhists and Christians. As a percentage of the population, most people die in the same religion they started in. That is a testament to the power of youthful indoctrination.

    Looked at another way, if a particular religious belief, or worldview, is true, why isn’t it obvious to people no matter what country they are born in? Why isn’t that one truth of religion pervasive across all humanity? Why are their multiple religions today, and why were there tens of thousands of gods all through history? And where was this truth prior to written history, and culture and civilization?

  18. You can say that, and you can believe that, but you have no evidence for it. It’s pure belief [that life has an infused purpose], and like most beliefs, especially of the religious nature, it comes from a desire that it be so, not from a review of empirical evidence.

    It was a few posts back that I first mentioned the “reason” for breathing. You asked me why there “had” to be one, implying that there indeed is not one. Then I made an observational comment, that people evidently breath for more purpose that to be the opposite of dead. You agreed. I think that’s my first piece of evidence, and it’s existential in nature. This is a line of reasoning, not a simple conclusion. I observe that generation after generation has never been satisfied with just, “making your own purpose.” If that were the case, Hollywood wouldn’t be full of Prozac, and the rest of the nation wouldn’t be popping pills either. Youths are committing suicide in record numbers, mothers are cutting up babies and hiding the remains in BBQ pits. I don’t look around and see the human species content with such a bland answer as you propose.
    Think about it. With all of the scientific gains and educational milestones we have achieved over the last century, the voices concerning this existential topic have not changed. In fact, if anything, they have intensified. We have pushed back the horizons of understanding, and yet our society sinks lower and lower at the same time. In some ways, I think our understanding has yielded great gains. I’m not saying it has been dismal in every area. But take a look around! 60 years ago we didn’t have an epidemic of students shooting up their schools. I think another coinciding factor is that we as a nation have been consistently denying a moral framework, saying that we ought all just “make our own purpose”, or however you want to word it. So, evidence, you ask? My only problem is where to start.

    No. I’m saying you can’t do it. You have no idea what heaven is like, other than some general notion that it’s good. You can’t tell me with any specificity what you will do there for eternity. You can’t describe the actual location of heaven. You can’t describe the entities that will reside there with you. You cannot even tell me if it’s exclusive to humans, or if there are others from somewhere else that may be there with you. You cannot tell me what activities occur in heaven,. Your cannot tell me what god will look like to you. You can’t tell me what heaven looks like, not even a small aspect of it. You cannot tell me…OK, I could go on into infinity here.

    In order to avoid an endless go-around here, I would just ask you to consider that I can point out the same thing about some aspects of what you believe. But that would do nothing to show that what I thought was indeed correct. I can explain with specific detail other aspects of Christianity. This one, I can’t. I’m OK with saying, “I don’t know.” Don’t you see how futile this is? I could spend the next couple of days punching all the holes in evolution, and maybe that’s what you want, I don’t know. I just see that as the easy way out. I have never claimed to be able to answer every detail of every question.

    Have you ever considered the concept of ennui? Think about when you have nothing to do for 10 minutes? Now multiply that by infinity. What exactly is there in heaven that will keep you interested in your existence there for all time? I was serious about that Parcheesi remark.

    Somehow I think that even if I explained this to the best of my ability, you would just dismiss it. Don’t worry. I will not be bored. But I appreciate the concern.

    You need to read more. There is evidence, and it’s not made up. There is a whole field of physics devoted to it. That’s science, which you say you love and understand. Research is ongoing, and cumulative. To say it’s simply “made up” is pure, willful ignorance on your part. And don’t take that personally. I’m not saying you are ignorant, in the pejorative sense. I’m saying that if you really believe that the science doesn’t exist, you” don’t know”, i.e. you are ignorant. That’s the definition of ignorance.

    You know what? I will. It’s been a bit since I last looked into it, and I will. The last time I read about the physics devoted to spontaneous creation, it was a mathematical explanation. The writer (I can’t remember his name off the top of my head) went on to explain that before gravity began to take place, there were “mathematical points” that began to swirl, and that gravity took hold, and that was the beginning of the universe. I think my main question was, “What’s a mathematical point?” No one knew, and to this day its a purely invented term.
    Also, I would say that you need to read more, too. There was an excellent book in which the theistic and atheistic views were both reviewed and defended, with Kai Neilson on the atheist side and J.P. Moreland on the theist. One thing the book revealed definitively is that only ignorance or prejudice calls the theistic position intellectually insufficient, or without evidence.
    I don’t take your comments personally, I get what you mean.

    Do you think that humans thought murder was a good thing until Moses came down the mountain with the Ten Commandments and said it wasn’t? All the attributes of human goodness (and evil for thsat matter) surely predated the bible.

    Most people fall into a fairly regular pattern: we don’t hurt others, don’t rob banks, don’t fly planes into buildings, etc. Sure. I don’t think the 10 commandments broke that mold at all (but they don’t claim to, either).

    I thought I made it clear that there is nothing divine or supernatural about your list. If we lived in an atheistic universe (as I believe we do) all of those motivations could and would still exist. We would still love others as our selves, we would show mercy and kindness, we would still value individual lives, etc. Another way of looking at it is, atheists have those same motivations, and they don’t have them because they believe in god.

    I can find the common ground here. I agree with you that most people tend to live “good” lives. I know plenty of people who don’t believe in god that live out the “golden rule”, like you say. But I also know plenty who don’t.
    I think back to Dawkins’ statement about the brain being a “computer.” One, that’s honest and consistent with his worldview. If we are just another result of evolution, then humans are nothing more than organic computers, simply an advanced version of something simpler that traces its roots all the way back to nothing. From that point of reasoning, it is impossible to arrive at a moral framework without smuggling in parts of another worldview. It makes perfect sense to “assign” higher and lower values to different people (computer) groups, like Dells and Macs, if the human is just an organic computer. But no one actually lives that way; we can’t. We cry out for justice and equality and all sorts of things that you don’t hear coming from a computer factory.
    I agree that there are tons of compassionate atheists. But how do you reckon the ones that aren’t? (I admit, this is a huge topic, and if I were to try and parse it all out in a comment box, I would actually finish my book.) I’m just saying it’s not as easy as saying that mercy and compassion tend to be normal.

    I have a better idea. Let’s not attack each other at all. Let’s attack each other’s arguments. And evidence. And rhetoric.

    You’re right. I have been annoyed in the past when people lose the stamina to really get down and wrestle with ideas like this.
    My point is that we ought to make sure we aren’t generating more heat than light. Sadly, that has happened too often. I think the masses of my generation (I’m 29) are put off by this whole discussion, because all they see is people fighting. Atheists fighting, religious people burning Korans, zealots on both sides making completely useless arguments and hurtful conclusions, etc.

    Do you still believe in Santa Claus? No, you don’t. And why not? Because you grew up and found that there was no evidence for SC. And so, as there was no underlying evidential support, you realized the truth – your parents were Santa Claus. Guess what? God is Santa Claus for adults. Only this Santa has a shitload invested in keeping the fantasy alive, and too many adults will lose too much if he’s unmasked. So it continues.

    The evidential support for god spans more than one discipline (science, history, etc), and the evidence is expansive. I know you don’t believe that. We could go one forever, “Yes there is! No there isn’t!” (I’m going to make a broad attempt at that in a bit). I sense that you view god as simply something people hold onto like a security blanket, or something marketed for monetary purposes? You know, in many instances, I agree. Those abuses have been awful. I remember backpacking through Mexico a couple years ago, and seeing the grandest of Cathedrals amidst wretchedly poor surroundings. What a corrupt system! But I have also seen people sacrifice everything, beyond their own means, all for what they believed in God. Just fools? Useless lives lived in sacrifice? No, I think the picture is bigger than pointing out the abuses, as we’ve agreed before.

    Look at the reactions to Richard Dawkins. Rarely do theists actually address his ideas, instead calling him out for being hysterical, or strident, or obnoxious. It’s a nice way of deflecting criticism, but it’s really not helpful to a thorough airing of the ideas.

    I get tired of bigotry. I have stood in forums before, having been dismissed beforehand as one who doesn’t believe in reason, fact, etc. After my overwhelmingly factual and reasonable presentation, no one addresses any of the arguments I made. I don’t like seeing that done to Dawkins either. You’re right, its just deflection, and it happens on both sides. Atheists do the same things to Ravi Zacharias, who has written extensively, some in direct response to Dawkins’ arguments. You might like his books.

  19. Spanish Inquisitor

    I made an observational comment, that people evidently breath for more purpose that to be the opposite of dead. You agreed.

    No. Go back and re-read that. I didn’t. Your statement had nothing to do with breathing.

    I observe that people live for more than being not dead at the moment, don’t you think?

    I Certainly do.

    You were referring to purpose of life, not purpose of breathing. I’m not being a stickler, but there is a distinction. One is metaphysical, one is empirical.

    Empirically, we breath so that we continue to live. You can break that down into subsets of processes, but that’s the only reason we breath. There is no metaphysical reason for breathing.

    On the other hand, humans do make their own reasons for continuing to breath. That’s the “purpose of life” we’ve been discussing. Those that no longer feel they have any reason to live stop themselves from breathing. It’s called suicide. I don’t throw god into any of that, because gods don’t exist.

    I think that’s my first piece of evidence, and it’s existential in nature.

    In other words, we breath therefore there’s a purpose for breathing beyond the obvious? That seems to involve a leap in logic, but then all religious belief involves leaps in logic, so I’m not surprised.

    Look at what your argument is. That we breath, (or have a purpose of life), because we breath. The mere fact that we breath is your evidence. And from that you conclude there is a god? Because we breath? You don’t see any circularity to that reasoning?

    Logic is all amount making connections between ideas. “Such occurs therefore such is a fact”. You’re not using that process here. You are simply making an observation and leaping to a conclusion, because you LIKE the conclusion, not because it follows from the observation.

    I don’t look around and see the human species content with such a bland answer as you propose .

    So you think people are committing suicide and cutting up babies because they don’t find any purpose in life, and the purpose that you find – god – would solve that? Then tell me why Andrea Yates drowned her 4 boys and specifically stated that god told her to do it? C’mon, mental illness has nothing to do with what you’re talking about. If anything, thinking that there is a magical man in the sky where you can kill your children, or yourself, and they will be better off with him seems to me to facilitate mental illness. If one believes in unprovable, fantasy worlds, it may be hard for the mentally challenged to not want to visit them, or send their children there. Hell, a very good argument could be made that religious thinking IS a form of mental illness. It’s certainly not rational, by all standards of logic.

    …and yet our society sinks lower and lower at the same time.

    By whose standards? In what part of history did we fly spaceships to the moon? How about life expectancy? When in history has life expectancy been higher than it is now. Do you still ride your horse to work? If you get a cold, do you quarantine the house for fear of spreading polio? Were we able to communicate with our kids in California instantly in 1860?

    You sound awfully pessimistic. Is that what belief in god does?

    Look, I’m not going to argue with you about what aspects of society are good, or bad. I’ve got problems with many aspects of society. But I don’t go to church and pray to a mythical, nonexistent being to make it better. Human beings like you and me roll up our sleeves, identify the problem, and work toward a solution.

    And none of it has any bearing on what you are talking about. Man has an inquiring mind. If existentialism is mode of inquiry, then fine, let it go there. Just because “voices concerning this existential topic have not changed” just means that voices concerning this existential topic have not changed. It doesn’t mean that the answer is god.

    60 years ago we didn’t have an epidemic of students shooting up their schools.

    No? You don’t think so? Or is your emphasis on the word “epidemic”? Because if it is, we also didn’t have access to the type of guns we have now, nor did we have the type of instant news coverage we have now. I would say your statement is not a problem of fact, but one of perception. It LOOKS like we are in an epidemic of school shootings, but violence in schools, and elsewhere, is an almost human trait. Easy access to guns, instant notoriety via the news, and a very large disaffected public school population have more to do with school shootings than a lack of religious belief, in my humble opinion.

    The second worse school massacre in reported history (and the worst in American history, second only to the one in Russia in 2004) occurred in Bath Township in Michigan. Guess what year? 1927. That’s more than 60 years ago. 45 dead, 58 injured, 3 bombs and the suicide of the perpetrator. Google it.

    I think another coinciding factor is that we as a nation have been consistently denying a moral framework, saying that we ought all just “make our own purpose”, or however you want to word it.

    More perception. One man’s perception is not fact. Sorry, but I would have to say that I would much prefer to live in these times than any time in history. It’s a great time to be alive. There are a lot of assholes out there, granted. But there are a lot more PEOPLE out there too. It’s a given that with the rise in populations, the number of assholes will increase.

    Don’t worry. I will not be bored.

    I’m happy that you’re so confident, but my point is that you really don’t KNOW that. Your faith, and your friends, and your church lend reassurance, but in the end, you can’t tell me, because you don’t know. And worse, there is no way of knowing – no library to go to, no videos of heaven, no tales from those who have been there, no resources whatsoever – that you can refer to. You have no choice but to take it all on faith, because that’s all you have to reassure you. You’ll only KNOW after you’re dead. And as far as I’m concerned, knowledge stops when the brain flames out.

    Which, as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, is why it’s not enough for me. If someone tried to sell you a car, and told you that if you bought it, it would get 150 miles to the gallon, run on water, reach speeds exceeding the speed of light, and produce intense orgasms in the process, just sign on the dotted line, but he had no literature, no studies, no testimonials, no evidence whatsoever for any of those claims, I guarantee you that you would not buy that car. So why do you buy those promises about heaven? Isn’t eternal life far more important than a car?

    I don’t think the 10 commandments broke that mold at all (but they don’t claim to, either).

    I don’t get that impression from (primarily Christian) people who think the 10Cs are the basis of all law, that they should be placed in every courtroom, that America was founded on Christianity, and that we are in fact a Christian Nation. But they are only one subset of Christianity.

    My point there is that the 10Cs only codified that which was already known about morality. Morality is human based, not given by god, and it was humans that made up the story about the 10Cs to give some kind of credence to the religious leaders of the time. It may have been a necessary way of controlling ignorant goatherds, and it may have worked, but the 10Cs are archaic, they are (with the exception of 2 or three of the obvious ones like murder) irrelevant to modern morality (who worships false gods?) and they should be relegated to the dustbins of history, along with others like the Code of Hammurabi.

    From that point of reasoning, it is impossible to arrive at a moral framework without smuggling in parts of another worldview.

    You had me nodding my head in approval up to this last sentence. Why is it impossible? You’re leaping to conclusions again. If you agree that we can be moral without god, then you’ve agreed that there can be a worldview that’s internally consistent without “smuggling in parts of another worldview”. What parts would be needed? If we have established our communal, societal morality, we then create laws dealing with those who violate it. Funny thing is, we’ve already done that!

    So, again, we don’t need gods.

    My point is that we ought to make sure we aren’t generating more heat than light. Sadly, that has happened too often.

    Without sounding sycophantic , might I compliment you on not sounding like many theists I’ve talked to who get pissed off and walk away, or just start repeating stuff I can read in a Chick tract?

    I would actually finish my book

    Might I inquire as to what you are writing?

    The evidential support for god spans more than one discipline (science, history, etc), and the evidence is expansive.

    Interesting. Can you name one data point? Because while I hear this a lot (William Lane Craig says it often) the actual evidence is never forthcoming. If you ever read anything on my blog, I’ve had a running debate with a theist over there who has been asked endlessly for evidence. The only evidence he ever comes up with is a purely anecdotal account of one evening when a couple of DVDs fell off of a speaker onto the ground in a way they physically couldn’t have. Or so he says.

    That’s it. It’s also not evidence, as the term is understood.

    I sense that you view god as simply something people hold onto like a security blanket, or something marketed for monetary purposes?

    Those are two good explanations for belief, but certainly not the only ones.

    But I have also seen people sacrifice everything, beyond their own means, all for what they believed in God.

    I would never disagree with the proposition that belief in god is a very powerful motivator for people to do good. It’s is another leap in logic that that means god exists. It just means that someone fervently believes he does.

    We often get into contentious arguments about god by pointing to the good things about religion. But that is always mere deflection from the question about the TRUTH of religion – i.e. does god exist. Just because people believe in something doesn’t make it true. The entire population of the earth once believed the earth was flat. But I’m repeating myself.

    Those people in the Heavens Gate cult thought there was a spaceship going to take them to god. Their belief was fervent. I’ll bet they did good things while they were alive. They are now just dead, and I doubt you’d agree that they are in a spaceship heading to heaven.

    Atheists do the same things to Ravi Zacharias, who has written extensively, some in direct response to Dawkins’ arguments. You might like his books.

    My problem with all Christian apologetics is that they always assume that which they need to prove first. I have yet to hear anyone of them actually get to the gist of what I want to hear, the question I’ve asked since I was a little boy – does god exist? Not once.

    So I would probably find myself equally dismissive of Zacharias. I’d read his book if the first chapter was titled “Absolute Proof of God’s Existence”. And it would have to be very convincing, for me to read the rest of the book.

    Are you familiar with PZ Myers? Specifically his “Courtiers Reply”? Google it, because it deals with the way Dawkins is treated by theologians, and is spot on.

  20. Spanish Inquisitor

    Never Mind.

    I did it for you.

  21. I popped back in to see your reply, and started typing when I realized I don’t have time at the moment to give your reply justice. However, I couldn’t leave it untouched. Just wanted to say that I will be back asap, because I respect the time. I was laughing about the guy who was talking about DVD’s falling off his speaker. I needed that, a good laugh. It’s been a “trench-work” kind of day. Be back soon.

  22. blockquote>In other words, we breath therefore there’s a purpose for breathing beyond the obvious? That seems to involve a leap in logic, but then all religious belief involves leaps in logic, so I’m not surprised.

    Look at what your argument is. That we breath, (or have a purpose of life), because we breath. The mere fact that we breath is your evidence. And from that you conclude there is a god? Because we breath? You don’t see any circularity to that reasoning?

    Logic is all amount making connections between ideas. “Such occurs therefore such is a fact”. You’re not using that process here. You are simply making an observation and leaping to a conclusion, because you LIKE the conclusion, not because it follows from the observation.
    I think this has become tangled. I was using an extremely obvious thing (breathing), to illustrate that we tend to live for more than purely biological reasons. I’m not saying that the mere fact we breath is proof of god. Not at all.
    I’m not making leaps in logic, even though it might seem that way to you. I am jumping to the point sometimes, to avoid writing enormous responses. I can work on being more concise. I don’t see that our biological reasons for existence are the sum of our purpose. I see that as evidenced by the way people seek meaning in their lives. From that I do not jump to anything.

    So you think people are committing suicide and cutting up babies because they don’t find any purpose in life, and the purpose that you find – god – would solve that? Then tell me why Andrea Yates drowned her 4 boys and specifically stated that god told her to do it?

    I think that selling ourselves the idea that we are here by cosmic accident, by chance, leadsto actions like that. Why wouldn’t it? Once you remove all the moorings of life, it drifts aimlessly.
    I think we can both agree that Andrea Yates is mentally ill. Anyone can invoke god’s name, and that may have no bearing whatsoever on the truth of the matter. That’s plain to see. The question you’re asking becomes much more clear when we also ask the same question about those who have killed and done terrible things, while prescribing to atheistic beliefs.

    By whose standards? In what part of history did we fly spaceships to the moon? How about life expectancy? When in history has life expectancy been higher than it is now. Do you still ride your horse to work? If you get a cold, do you quarantine the house for fear of spreading polio? Were we able to communicate with our kids in California instantly in 1860?

    Oh I’m not talking about the gains made in technology and medicine and such. I agree with you, to be sure. This is the best time to be alive, in many ways. I guess I didn’t make that clear enough. But at the same time I think we are caught in some very unhealthy moral trends, on a social scale.

    The second worse school massacre in reported history (and the worst in American history, second only to the one in Russia in 2004) occurred in Bath Township in Michigan. Guess what year? 1927. That’s more than 60 years ago. 45 dead, 58 injured, 3 bombs and the suicide of the perpetrator. Google it.

    I really like your “lawyer” style. I mean it. I am ready to stand corrected. Again, I was using school shootings as an illustrative point, and I don’t argue with the data you presented.
    If we were to examine history, we would see depravity all over it. The French Revolution, Persian Wars, and murderous deception in feudal Japan. I’m not ig’nant. I do think our society is losing reasons to act morally. We are removing them all, and telling people to “do whatever feels good.” That is, until they do something that doesn’t make us feel good. We want them to let go of these silly religious beliefs, and carve out their own purpose in life. That is, until that purpose collides with ours. We want them to find all morality in human reasons, just like a computer cares about other computers. This new construction of society, one “freed” from the ancient and dull notions of god, has been tried before many times–several from Nietzsche’s influence. But in the new construction we do net see the promised freedom or progress. We see results that are predictable when all points of transcendent moral reference are removed.
    At this point, let me say something that I think you will appreciate. In this forum, I’m not baking entire pies and serving them, I’m just going piece by piece. Even if you and I were sitting on a porch somewhere, this would be a very long conversation! (In fact, I would relish that.) So, it’s easy to feel like leaps are being made, because I’m trying to make this really concise. I will try harder to balance clarity and brevity.

    You had me nodding my head in approval up to this last sentence. Why is it impossible? You’re leaping to conclusions again. If you agree that we can be moral without god, then you’ve agreed that there can be a worldview that’s internally consistent without “smuggling in parts of another worldview”. What parts would be needed? If we have established our communal, societal morality, we then create laws dealing with those who violate it. Funny thing is, we’ve already done that!

    I disagree that we have “established” a communal morality. We are nowhere near it. I think there are some biggies that just about everyone agrees with. My main question is, “How can one prescribe a moral principle, or the lack thereof, without justifying the authority of the source?” Even though some biggies might be agreed upon, the foundation is shaky and ready to collapse.
    A historical, cumulative, and reasonable argument can be made when one examines other times in history when an attempt has been made to establish morality, with man being the measure of all things (humanism). You have said you didn’t want to discuss those things, because you’ve written about them at length before, and so I won’t go any further on that. Just saying that I didn’t arrive at my conclusion by default.

    Without sounding sycophantic , might I compliment you on not sounding like many theists I’ve talked to who get pissed off and walk away, or just start repeating stuff I can read in a Chick tract?

    Thanks! And I readily return the compliment. I enjoy your rigorous, blunt, and well-educated style. It’s been hard work to find a discussion that doesn’t end in people yelling, as if volume meant anything relating to reason.

    Might I inquire as to what you are writing?

    I’m writing on this subject that we are currently discussing. To be concise, my premise is that it is out of one’s belief or disbelief in god that all other convictions are made.

    Interesting. Can you name one data point? Because while I hear this a lot (William Lane Craig says it often) the actual evidence is never forthcoming.

    Nothing that exists can explain it’s own existence. All forms of matter are being studied deeper and deeper as technology increases, and the more we learn, the more we see exact precision in everything from atomic structure, to planetary alignment. We know that it didn’t happen by “chance”, because chance is not a cause. It is reasonable to acknowledge design in something that is clearly designed. When we take facts from observational, repeatable, testable data, we know that something never comes from nothing. Random acts do not create precision. Explosions do not construct things. No one looks at the precision in a truck engine and comes to the conclusion that it must have constructed itself over time, even though they hadn’t watched someone build it. That is the most basic, broad summary I can think of for data points. It’s a cumulative argument. But something tells me you are most likely very familiar with it. I would be very willing to talk about this further, if you want.

    I’d read his book if the first chapter was titled “Absolute Proof of God’s Existence”. And it would have to be very convincing, for me to read the rest of the book.

    I can really understand you’re point of view here. Over time we’ve progressed in so much understanding. We have learned that the earth is not flat, the greek gods don’t actually shoot lightning, or control the ocean. You have a very clear line of reasoning. The reasoning for gods existence is similar. It’s not a few pages long, but rather a conclusion reached after alot of examination. Just like there isn’t one piece of data that says, “Definitive proof that god doesn’t exist.”

    I’m a bit disappointed with myself, because I had much more to say, but forgot it while I was writing. When it comes back to me, I will type it all out.

  23. Spanish Inquisitor

    I don’t see that our biological reasons for existence are the sum of our purpose.

    So, then. You tell me. What is our purpose in life, and what do you base your conclusions on? Why are humans on this little planet we call Earth, that revolves around a medium sized star we call the Sun, on the outer fringe of a galaxy we call the Milky Way, one of hundreds of billions of galaxies in what we call the Universe, each containing hundreds of billions of stars, with each star probably having multiple planets revolving around them. Why here? Why Us? Why now, some 13 billion years after the Universe began? Hmmm. I really want to know.

    I see that as evidenced by the way people seek meaning in their lives.

    So because we seek, there must be something we’ll find? Does that really follow?

    I was looking for a leprechaun the other day. Does that mean leprechauns exist?

    I think that selling ourselves the idea that we are here by cosmic accident, by chance, leads to actions like that. Why wouldn’t it? Once you remove all the moorings of life, it drifts aimlessly.

    So, simply acknowledging that what-you-see-is-what-you-get, i.e. that we simply are, rather than we are because some god said we are, leads people to commit suicide, etc? As you can tell, I don’t think that logically follows, so I don’t buy it. What “moorings of life” have we removed?

    The question you’re asking becomes much more clear when we also ask the same question about those who have killed and done terrible things, while prescribing to atheistic beliefs.

    Two things.
    1. Name someone who killed because of their atheistic beliefs.
    2. Assuming you can name one person (and don’t say Stalin, or I’ll accuse you of failing to read the two links I provided to you), turn your question around – “ask the same question about those who have killed and done terrible things, while prescribing to theistic beliefs”. Does that process tell you anything about the existence of god? No. It doesn’t, because it doesn’t matter what one believes about gods when they do terrible things. They are responsible, as humans, for their human actions. Their religious beliefs usually don’t matter, (unless, like Andrea Yates, they are mentally ill – which says a lot) You can’t blame no-god any more than I can blame god.

    Gods. Don’t. Exist.

    Neither do fairies, goblins, djinns, angels, devils, demons, leprechauns, spirits, Santa Claus or the Ester Bunny.

    But at the same time I think we are caught in some very unhealthy moral trends, on a social scale.

    I could pick any single year in history and find examples where the people of the time thought the exact same thing about their times, and I could find examples of really bad things that were happening at that time that would support their beliefs. You happen to live in 2011. If you lived in 1911, you’d say the same thing. If you lived in 1011, ditto. Or 611 BCE. People were, for instance, predicting the end of the word in all those generations. Get some perspective. Life’s a bitch. There are good and bad things about it. Don’t dwell on the bad, and say that’s proof of the moral failing of society. Society’s been failing morally since we started keeping records. Especially if you listen to someone with a religious agenda, who wants to sell you a place in the pew.

    This is religion’s stock in trade. Fear. Create fear and people will listen, not very skeptically either, to your proposed solutions. That’s really all organized religion has. Fear of death, fear of the bogeyman (communists, islam, atheists, you name it, they say you have to fear them), fear of hell (a purely contrived concept from the get go), fear of sin (another made up concept) . But Hallelujah! We have the answer! Just put your faith is Jaysus, give us 10% of your income, and I promise you you’ll go to heaven (another fictional concept).

    Got any proof of that?

    “Trust me”.

    Did you see how much money Harold Camping has collected from religious suckers over the years? And Rick Warren, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell’s estate ain’t doing too bad either, not to mention the Pope, the Ayatollah of Iran, and The Rev. Sung Yung Moon.

    They are all selling something that can’t deliver.

    OK. Pull me down off this high horse. 😉

    Again, I was using school shootings as an illustrative point, and I don’t argue with the data you presented.

    And my point was not to make a lawyer “gotcha” (thank you Sarah Palin), but to illustrate that which I expanded on above. That when we live in the present, which we all do, we always think the present is the best of times AND the worst of times (thank you Charles Dickens) . We lose (or ignore) the historical perspective that at all times in the past people thought the same thing about their present. It’s a lousy way to view the present. My college degree is in history, and that’s one thing I took from that part of my education. “Those that ignore history, are doomed to repeat it”
    You gotta keep a skeptical perspective about these things.

    But in the new construction we do net see the promised freedom or progress. We see results that are predictable when all points of transcendent moral reference are removed.

    Sorry. I’m not really following your thinking here. It’s too general, too amorphous. You need to be more specific.

    So, it’s easy to feel like leaps are being made, because I’m trying to make this really concise. I will try harder to balance clarity and brevity.

    You’re doing fine. The leaps of logic are clear. If not, I’ll ask you explain. But for the most part, you are not saying anything I haven’t heard before, so if you think you are leaving blanks, I think I know what you would fill them in with, and try to anticipate them. If I misconstrue you, you’ll tell me. I have confidence. 8)

    I disagree that we have “established” a communal morality.

    And I didn’t say that. I said that we agreed one can be moral without god. It only takes one person to do that. For religious morality to be true, and absolute, you have to be able to claim that no one is capable of morality without god, but as you agree, there are millions who do. So for those who don’t believe, there is an established, as you say, “communal morality” that works for them. It is internally consistent, and needs nothing from religion. Indeed, it rejects religion.

    My main question is, “How can one prescribe a moral principle, or the lack thereof, without justifying the authority of the source?”

    So, it’s important to identify the authority for the principle, before the principle is valid? Why? Why can’t you simply agree that the principle is valid on its face? What if you don’t know the source? Does that mean you automatically reject it?
    What if the source is simply common human consensus as to what is right and wrong? Does the source have to be singular, from something greater than us? And if you believe that, is the consensus of humanity a source greater than any individual on whom that principle of morality is imposed?

    You know my answers to those questions. What are yours?

    It’s been hard work to find a discussion that doesn’t end in people yelling, as if volume meant anything relating to reason.

    YOU MEAN LIKE THIS?

    We know that it didn’t happen by “chance”, because chance is not a cause.

    Glad to hear that, because a very common misconception of evolution, for instance, is that we evolved by chance, and chance is decidedly NOT an element of the evolutionary process, despite creationists assertions to the contrary.

    Explosions do not construct things. No one looks at the precision in a truck engine and comes to the conclusion that it must have constructed itself over time, even though they hadn’t watched someone build it. That is the most basic, broad summary I can think of for data points. It’s a cumulative argument.

    William Paley argued that 200 years ago, and he’s been proven wrong. Evolution itself is the argument against that. Evolution is a fact, long established.

    In any even, if you had the right elements, and the time to allow it to happen that is contemplated by evolution, you theoretically could see a truck engine construct itself. The element that is never given its due is the time. 4 billion years is sufficient to explain evolution, and it does so nicely.

    The contention that explosions don’t create anything is a non sequiter. It doesn’t follow. No one ever said that explosions do, in fact, create (though I don’t reject the possibility that they could). If you are referring to the Big Bang, what makes you think that was an “explosion” in the sense of your limited, human experience with them? I don’t profess to know the physics very well, but it’s my understanding that it was simply a rapid expanse of matter and energy from a singularity, not a combustion event.

    So, with all due respect, those data points don’t work. And to remind you what I asked for, it was one data point of evidence to substantiate your contention that “The evidential support for god spans more than one discipline (science, history, etc), and the evidence is expansive. ” It clearly is NOT expansive. To the contrary, it’s non-existent. Unless you have something else.

    I would be very willing to talk about this further, if you want.

    Always. But frankly, I can’t imagine that you will be able to satisfy my request for evidence. My troll with the DVDs refuses to provide evidence to me, partly because he’s says, in advance, that I’d reject it anyway. I may, but how would he know unless he provided it? I did reject his flying DVD evidence, for obvious reasons, as would anyone with half a brain, but I suspect he really has nothing but faith, as most theologians will admit, to substantiate the existence of god.

    And with all due respect, I think the same can be said about you. You just won’t admit it.

    Yet. 😉

    The reasoning for gods existence is similar. It’s not a few pages long, but rather a conclusion reached after a lot of examination..

    My problem, as always, and as indicated above, is that the argument for gods does not involve “reasoning”, as I understand the use of that term, which is simply the examination and testing of evidence, using logic. The so called process of reason applied to the existence of gods involves the creation of things that cannot be seen, tested or falsified. In short, the only place they reside is in the minds of men. They are pure mental constructs, having no place in reality.

    Gods exist because that’s what man wants. Man created god, not the other way around.

  24. Spanish Inquisitor

    Damn!. Dwight, would you mind closing that BOLD tag for me?

  25. During this short interlude, we present a humorous word from our sponsors:

  26. Please excuse that drastic delay! Days just flew by there, busy with work. Alright…where were we?

    So because we seek, there must be something we’ll find? Does that really follow?

    I was looking for a leprechaun the other day. Does that mean leprechauns exist?

    When you’re hungry, do you scoff at the idea of food? No I don’t think seeking something makes it burst into existence, but I think searching in the way I mentioned above can serve as substantial, existential evidence for a reality. Just like being hungry.

    I’m almost 30, and I have tried to realize in my young age that some people wait far too long to start worrying about accruing wisdom, or trying to glean from those who are farther along this merry-go-round of life. I have tried, in my own flawed way, to learn from experienced people so that I don’t start “getting the picture” when I’m 90. By and large, across every culture I have lived in, many wise people have cautioned (in different ways, had to sift through it all) that we don’t get so arrogant in our modernity that we excuse historical, religious thought for nothing more than myth and superstition. Some of it is, to be sure. No argument there. But don’t you know of the countless, highly intelligent people that believe in Christian faith? These people aren’t money-hungry, and they don’t serve a conspiracy bent on fear and control. Alister McGrath, Dr. John Lennox, etc…these people are intellectual heavyweights, as are Dawkins and Hawking. I don’t think we need to discuss leprechauns.

    So, simply acknowledging that what-you-see-is-what-you-get, i.e. that we simply are, rather than we are because some god said we are, leads people to commit suicide, etc? As you can tell, I don’t think that logically follows, so I don’t buy it. What “moorings of life” have we removed?

    I’m saying that using “we simply are” as the starting point for a moral framework results in quick collapse of moral reason. Once you accept that basis, there is no rational argument against someone who chooses to commit suicide, etc. You (as in, you) may choose to live a perfectly good life, and that’s great. Atheism does not automatically equate to nihilism. But atheism cannot rationally argue against nihilism, nor can it argue for anything else. That is why humanism is grafted in, when it comes to moral ideas. That’s the beauty of a position that doesn’t claim to be a position (“atheism is not a system of belief”). While railing against other worldviews, atheism claims default. I see that as the highest form of intellectual hypocrisy.

    Name someone who killed because of their atheistic beliefs.

    I don’t think its as direct as that. What I said is that in a moral system where we are nothing more than computers, a swirling of chemicals, it doesn’t take long before someone wants to domineer and do whatever it takes to be in control. And in that system, there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Get some perspective. Life’s a bitch. There are good and bad things about it. Don’t dwell on the bad, and say that’s proof of the moral failing of society.

    You don’t know how much I agree with you, for the most part. It is my perspective and experiences living all over the globe that have shaped my understanding of some of the bad things that are going on. It’s not hat I have my head buried in the sour patch. I am overjoyed about alot of things, we just haven’t talked about that is all. So I take your point about living in 1911, and thinking society was bad then too. For sure. But I don’t live in 1911, I live now. So I want to help now, whether or not 1911 had problems too. I can’t help those. Just because Caesar was stabbed in the back, doesn’t mean I brush aside the murder last night. That would be a negative way to live.

    This is religion’s stock in trade. Fear. Create fear and people will listen, not very skeptically either, to your proposed solutions. That’s really all organized religion has.

    So it’s all puppy-dogs and cotton-candy out there? I think you and I would agree that there is a medium here. Fear crazed and utopian both don’t work. You’re going to hate me for this, but haven’t you heard of Stalin’s method of control? Chingiz Aitmatov told the story of Stalin calling for a live chicken with which to demonstrate control in front of his generals. He systematically plucked the chicken bare, inflicting horrible pain. Then he placed the chicken on the floor, and said, “Now watch”, with some grain in his hand.The terrified bird hobbled over and clung to his leg. As he tossed down some seed, he said explained that people are the same: if you inflict inordinate pain on them, they will follow you for food for the rest of their lives. He then proceeded, as many others, to use that fear philosophy to rule his country.
    So your charge is, in my opinion, out of balance. That philosophy (creating fear) has been horribly used by catholics and governments, religious and secular, and is hardly the trade of any one group. You’re view here, although honest, is terribly acute in that sense.

    Did you see how much money Harold Camping has collected from religious suckers over the years? And Rick Warren, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell’s estate ain’t doing too bad either, not to mention the Pope, the Ayatollah of Iran, and The Rev. Sung Yung Moon.

    We are seeing eye-to-eye here. I’m totally with you…it’s criminal, and should be exposed as such. It makes me sick.

    Glad to hear that, because a very common misconception of evolution, for instance, is that we evolved by chance, and chance is decidedly NOT an element of the evolutionary process, despite creationists assertions to the contrary.

    I’m shocked here. I’ve been hearing all my life that chance decidedly is a foundational element of the evolutionary process. That’s what it says in every science textbook I’ve ever read.
    Correspondingly, I refer again to Hawking’s words: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.” It’s amazing to hear such a brilliant man speak that way. (I have to agree with Dr. Lennon here) Gravity and the law of gravity are not nothing, first of all. If there was nothing, there would be no gravity. Second, laws only describe what is already reality. Laws do not cause anything, just as chance does not cause. The law of gravity only describes what we understand about what is already there. Thirdly, to speak of things creating themselves is to step completely outside of a realm where the scientific method is relevant or even useful. If this kind of “explanation” is the best atheism can muster, I see no reason to scoff at the religious explanation.

    William Paley argued that 200 years ago, and he’s been proven wrong. Evolution itself is the argument against that. Evolution is a fact, long established.

    Change within a species? Yes, that kind of evolution takes place every day. However, cutting to the chase here, the belief that species can continually make gradual changes, spawning new species, creating beneficial and completely new genetic codes that sustain until the next beneficial change….that’s not fact. It has never been subjected to the scientific method, but it has been the object of much speculation. If we are talking about that which is observable, testable, and repeatable, then we concede that species only change within genetic parameters, with the only exceptions being non-sustainable/non-repeatable/non-beneficial. That’s fact. Where are the animals in the middle of genetic code change, other than rabbit’s with three eyes? Did everything stop changing? It seems that all things are rather set in their genetic code, unless there are fish with feathers swimming around that I haven’t heard of. I mean that honestly, not tongue-in-cheek.

    Always. But frankly, I can’t imagine that you will be able to satisfy my request for evidence.

    I will most likely be unable to fulfill your request. I’m just a guy. Conversely, I don’t think you could satisfy mine either. But, here we are having this great talk. You know, you are clearly not a nihilist, and I’m no Pat Robertson. I wish very deeply that, as we all share this journey together, I would see less fighting, and more of people doing this. You know, holding hands and making smores and….

    Ok, seriously. I currently work in home remodeling (while working on the permanent move to Romania.) I was building a deck for a wheelchair ramp the other day, and I was thinking about our discussion. (Thanks for distracting me at work) I can take apart a deck in a flash, but it takes me all day to build one. When I remodel a bathroom, the demolition is the easy/fun part. But it takes weeks to build one correctly. I think the same about stuff like this, and my experience in different forums with atheists is that they tend be on the demolition side. But I don’t hear any of the building when it comes to life’s turbulence, dealing with the rough edges of reality, understanding the things we all yearn beyond ourselves. I think that’s part of what bothers me. I would find atheism more attractive if it offered a meaningful alternative. But it seems to just show how everything else is not an answer. Is atheism innocent until proven guilty? I’ve heard all the reasons why my deck is stupid…but I haven’t seen the accuser build one. That’s my viewpoint.

    We may never sway each other, as has been my experience before. I think mainly what I try to get people to see is that this isn’t “faith vs. fact.” I think that’s spin. There are atheists who didn’t reason to their conclusions, and there are many theists who have bought a line. But here are atheists such as yourself who have substantial reasoning, and there are theists like me who have done the same. If that’s established, I think we have a better shot of exposing the idiots all over the place, and also for sharing the merry-go-round together.

    Now it’s raining today, and I can’t work, but I’m starting to rant here, so I’m off.

  27. Spanish Inquisitor

    Hmmm. I guess Dwight stopped reading this conversation. He never closed my Bold tag. We must be boring him. 😉

    When you’re hungry, do you scoff at the idea of food? No I don’t think seeking something makes it burst into existence, but I think searching in the way I mentioned above can serve as substantial, existential evidence for a reality. Just like being hungry.

    You have not cured the leap in logic. Existential evidence? What is that? There’s either evidence, or there’s not. All you did \was give me another somewhat irrelevant example. Just because you’re hungry, doesn’t mean there is food. It means your body craves food. It doesn’t mean food exists.

    Sorry, I’m just not following your reasoning. It seems to me that you can’t say “I search, therefore what I search for exists”, which is what your whole argument boils down to. If you want to convinced yourself that it’s not rational to search for something that doesn’t exist, therefore whatever your searching for must, ipso facto, exist, then have at it. That makes no sense to me.

    I have tried, in my own flawed way, to learn from experienced people so that I don’t start “getting the picture” when I’m 90.

    And I have learned in 56 years years that the best means of learning is by making a mistake. You learn more, and better, from your own mistakes, than from any book, or sage, or teacher.Go figure.

    My mistake was listening to people, and accepting what they told me. We are taught to do that at an early age, but at some point we should be taught to figure things out on our own. To trust our minds, and our own abilities, rather than anyone else.

    But don’t you know of the countless, highly intelligent people that believe in Christian faith?.

    Yes. So what? Are you trying to say, because a lot of apparently intelligent people are Christians, that means that god exists? Surely you see where that fallacy leads you.I know I’m beating a dead horse here, but humor me. “A lot of highly intelligent people once believed the earth was flat”. Makes you want to join the Flat Earth Society, doesn’t it?

    Alister McGrath, Dr. John Lennox, etc…these people are intellectual heavyweights, as are Dawkins and Hawking. .

    I’m familiar with McGrath. He is NOT an intellectual heavyweight in my opinion, at least not based on articles he’s written, or debates I’ve watched. Completely unimpressive, indeed, kinda of embarrassing, and out of his element. I don’t know Lennox. I’ve read Dawkins, and admire him, not because of his atheism, but because of his science. I’ve never read any of Hawking’s books.

    But I don’t live in 1911, I live now. So I want to help now, whether or not 1911 had problems too. I can’t help those.

    Well, Ok, but so what? I’m really not following your train of thought. My point was in getting perspective. You seem to be implying that there is something special, something really different about today’s society that requires a completely different approach to fixing society’s ills, whatever they are, like school violence? I’m just not sure where you’re going with it, and what does it have to do with the existence of gods?

    So it’s all puppy-dogs and cotton-candy out there?

    Of course not. But religion doesn’t use puppies and cotton candy to lure people to their flocks. They use fear. Fear of death. Fear of annihilation. Fear of gays. Fear of women. Fear of Hell. Pick your fear du jour.

    So your charge is, in my opinion, out of balance. That philosophy (creating fear) has been horribly used by catholics and governments, religious and secular, and is hardly the trade of any one group. You’re view here, although honest, is terribly acute in that sense.

    OK. And you would agree then that if Stalin’s use of fear to control the hearts and minds of the Russians was not a good thing, that would also be true of religion?

    I’m shocked here. I’ve been hearing all my life that chance decidedly is a foundational element of the evolutionary process. That’s what it says in every science textbook I’ve ever read.

    All I can surmise is lousy textbooks or lousy teachers. 😉 Read a little more on it. Try this one, at ,Talk Origins.

    Change within a species? Yes, that kind of evolution takes place every day. However, cutting to the chase here, the belief that species can continually make gradual changes, spawning new species, creating beneficial and completely new genetic codes that sustain until the next beneficial change….that’s not fact.

    There certainly is a lot of evidence for it.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_transitional_fossils

    Additionally, why do you think that we have the same strands of DNA in us as say, a sponge? Is that a coincidence?

    And why do Chimps have 24 sets of Chromosomes, and we have 23? Evolution predicts that for that to be true, and for chimps and humans to have a common ancestor, and hence be related to each other, evolutionarily, one of the chimp’s strands of DNA had to fuse with another set somewhere in the process of evolving, to reduce it to 23. And guess what? It did.

    Don’t close your mind to this stuff.

    If we are talking about that which is observable, testable, and repeatable, then we concede that species only change within genetic parameters, with the only exceptions being non-sustainable/non-repeatable/non-beneficial. That’s fact..

    No, that’s religion. But who am I to tell you something you don’t want to believe? I’m not even going to try. You need to make those mistakes, and figure them out for yourself.

    It seems that all things are rather set in their genetic code, unless there are fish with feathers swimming around that I haven’t heard of. I mean that honestly, not tongue-in-cheek.

    How about a Crocoduck? Kirk Cameron’s favorite pet. And I mean that honestly, not tongue-in-cheek. 😉

    I think that’s part of what bothers me. I would find atheism more attractive if it offered a meaningful alternative.

    But you like the demolition part! Atheism is just that, the fun part. But that’s all it is. It doesn’t make any promises, or claims to truth. It’s simply non-belief, and non-belief in a fictitious god is what you have to have to rebuild a proper worldview of reality. But in order to rebuild anything, you have to start somewhere. First, the crumbling edifice of religion has to be removed. Then you start fresh. That’s where humanism comes in. Add a little of rationalism and naturalism, held together with the mortar of critical thinking and logic, and eventually you find yourself with a very nice worldview, underpinned with a solid base of reason.

    And it’s far more satisfying than a belief in fantasy, magic and superstition.

    I’ve heard all the reasons why my deck is stupid…but I haven’t seen the accuser build one.

    The “accuser” doesn’t build it for you, you build it yourself. But you’ll never be able to do so while the old deck is still there. You’ll say to yourself “that deck still works just fine. Sure, there are boards missing, and nails sticking out. And dry rot has set in. But it still works, so why bother?” And you’ll still be using it when you die.

    I think this particular conversation has run its course. Not much more to say, unless you want to add a last word. Too bad Dwight didn’t stick around.

  28. My only last word is “thanks.” Been nice learning and talking. I have complete confidence that we will interact again. I’ll have to get more witty. I will read the links you sent, thanks for doing that.

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