Science vs. Faith

By Phil Plait | February 17, 2007 11:59 am

I know, a lot of people think I come across as a general religion basher, but I don’t think that’s entirely fair. I restrict my polemics to fundamentalist religions, the ones that are so mired their own infallibility that they cannot see when the entire Universe is proving them wrong (cough cough creationism cough cough) — and even then, generally only when they step on the toes of science (aka reality). It’s blind faith I have a problem with.

So that’s why I love this Wellington Grey cartoon of a flowchart depicting science versus faith:

That’s a crop of the actual flowchart; click here for the whole wonderful thing.

Hat tip to Boing Boing. Updated February 18, 2007 by request of cartoonist.

Comments (97)

  1. skeptigirl

    Worth printing a copy. Thanks.

  2. elgarak

    Saved!

    Check out the other cartoons in his archives … not many. A clear case of quality over quantity.

  3. jeffw

    “science (aka reality)”

    Is science reality? I dunno, I would think it’s more of a description or approximation of “reality” (whatever that is) that appears to get more accurate over time.

  4. Irishman

    Funny, but man are you shopping for trouble.

    Yeah, the Feynman is a killer.

  5. Melusine

    Hey, Lucas, that’s great! I posed that question here once, so that’s a keeper. WWRFD…(I think Matthew McConaughey got the bongos and the skirts right, but missed out the physics.)

    Off topic, but in the humor dept – Orac posted these hilarious videos: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2007/02/theyre_taking_the_hobbits_to_isengard.php

    The guy in the second one is soooo goofy… :-)

  6. Melusine

    Sorry, I knew I should have tagged that link: They’re Taking the hobbits to Isengard

  7. Talking about Feynman, this always gives me a kick: http://xkcd.com/c182.html

    Anyhow, I’m significantly more anti-religion than you are, so I don’t have any problem with your rather mild and tropical form of skepticism. ;)

  8. So, on which side of that chart does Anthropoegenic Global Warming fall?

  9. The Dread Polack

    I have a friend who is a Zen Buddhist monk, a religion not known for its fundamentalism or anti-science attitude (on of the few, actually), and I told him I read the God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, and this bothered him. We’ve been involved in an email debate over science vs. religion. His last email was a 13 page word document. His argument at this point is that science is just as narrow-minded and antagonistic to new ideas as religion, and that religion has found truth in ways that science hasn’t, won’t, and can’t. He also says that there are a lot of scientists who believe in god (which god? not sure what he means) because of their scientific understanding. So far, I don’t buy it, but he has a lot more training in both science and religion, so I’m waiting to read his next email.

    Basically, I want him to explain to me how religion (in general) is more open then science (in general), and what “method” religion uses to get at the Truth that isn’t just science being performed by religious people. I think what it comes down to is that he’s talking about a small percentage of “religious” scholars who are actually open to having their “faith” challenged, and I’m thinking of the other 99% of religious people. We shall see…

  10. But science can work just as much a blinkered approach at times, or perhaps some scientists can, on the forum I posted a link to a google video Horizon programme about how Einstein refused to countenance quantum theory. Even in in faith new scholarship comes along sometimes to show that a previous interpretation may have been flawed, e.g slavery, the support of apartheid by the Dutch reform church. It is not exactly clear cut as that cartoon shows.

  11. The symbols make it clear that the cartoon refers to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But from a historical perspective, these aren’t just “some” religions – they are basically variants of the SAME religion. Its surprising that the Dread Polack’s Zen monk friend has trouble with Dawkins. The principles of Buddhism (or Taoism, or the Vedanta) don’t really seem to be religion at all in the Western sense, and are quite compatible with a rational and empirical approach to the world – even though in working practice they too often descend into superstition. I may be an old hippy, but check out some Alan Watts. Anybody know how Native American belief systems fit in here ?

    Has the Dread Polack been smote on the ice in recent times ?

  12. PK

    The cartoon leaves out the human condition. Otherwise it is accurate. For a complete account of science done by people, read Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

  13. Ruth

    Dread Polack,

    Your friend has a bit of a point in that SOME scientists can be just as narrow-minded and antagonistic to new ideas as SOME religious people. Some Buddhists are very open to new ideas since the path asks us to search for truth and not rely on scripture to find it but I wouldn’t go so far as to claim that all are, and when it comes to other religions [shrugs]. I highly recommend ‘The Universe in a Single Atom’ by HH the Dalai Lama for a discussion of this very subject.

    However, take the basic game plan of science and that of most religions (all except Buddhism as far as I know) and the flow chart is right. I don’t take it personally when people like BA come over all ‘anti-religion’ because I figure they don’t mean me ;o)

    I came over here this morning to post this news story – Europeans’ Understanding Of Science, Evolution, More Advanced Than Americans http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070215181425.htm

  14. Why has “Faith” an end ? “Ignore contradicting evidence” and “keep idea forever” should lay in an endless loop, to be consistent with then neverending process of improvement in Science. Or should a possible end be added to Science, to match the popular belief that one day, Science will explain everything ?
    Or is it precisely the difference between Science and Faith that the latter is the only way to reach a steady state ?

  15. Eddy

    Buddhism is a believe system, but not a religion because there is no central deity and no worship. The main focus of Buddhisme is on suffering and how to minimalize it. The stance towards science is therefore very open: if it helps the goal (to minimize suffering) then all the better. Otherwise, doing science takes your attention away from the main focus, but that is the individual choice of the scientist.

    As an example: a scientist can explain why the sky is blue. A Buddhist then asks: how does this knowlegde help minimize suffering? In this case the answer is: it doesn’t. Therefore this knowlegde is outside the realm of Buddhism.

    There is, however, a small conflict between Buddhism and evolution (and therefore with books like “Why Dawin matters”). In Buddhism, an idea is that the circle of birth and rebirth had no beginning. Evolution tells us, 2500 years after Buddhism made this assumption, that this can not be the case. So, some of the explanations within Buddhism are contradicted by new information. Since this only contradicts some of the ideas, but not the central goal of minimizing suffering, a new explanation must be found that better fits the new information.

    This addoption of new ideas has been in Buddhism from the beginning. Many contributions have been made over the long history of this believe system. For this reason are Buddhists talking to scientist: they have to change some of their ideas and are looking for a way to fit Buddhism into the reality as we now know it. This is one of the reasons why I like Buddhism.

  16. James J. Murphy

    Mr. Plait:

    Perhaps this is a too serious response.

    I regard you as an anti-religionist, an anti-religion zealot, a hopeless case.

    The fact is there is NO CONFLICT BETWEEN TRUE RELIGION AND TRUE SCIENCE. They are complimentary. They are two views of the same thing, reality. Different perspectives.

    Underlying science are its Laws. Science could not exist without its Laws.
    (Gravity, Mathematics, Physics…etc.) Which of course raises the question,
    where did the Laws of science come from? Certainly they didn’t pop out of thin
    air! There must be a Lawgiver.

    Underlying religion are the teachings contained in the Bible. Different folks
    have different views. And that leads to confusion, its not scientific precision.
    In my view, I don’t know about the “Creationists” pretending their teachings are
    “scientific”.

    On the other hand, I regard the teaching of evolution as science-fiction.The
    evolutionists are teaching our children nonsense! If you want to believe your
    ultimate ancestors are some stupid amoeba, be my guest. I only know and believe what the Bible actually teaches, Adam & Eve, not the imaginations of men.

    THERE IS A GOD, whether you want to admit it or not. (Actually to Whom some day you will be held accountable for your sins, like everyone else. But that is
    another subject.) HE EXISTS, and His existence does not depend upon whether you believe it or not, thankfully.

    If you want to believe the theory of evolution, be my guest. If you have a
    mind-set in favor of that crap, be my guest. The theory didn’t originate with God, but with men, Darwin and his ilk, and as such, is subject to error. God doesn’t make errors!

    James J. Murphy

  17. Daffy

    Eddy,

    Von Neumann’s Chain in physics would support perfectly the Buddhist notion that the circle of birth/re-birth has no beginiing, since all time is the same at a quantum level. Whether that is true in reality I have no idea. But it is perfectly compatible with Buddhism.

    James Murphy, you state as fact that your God will hold us accountable. Where is your evidence for this? How do you know?

  18. MO Man

    Dear Mr. Murphy, I think you will find that many of us who know and respect Phil Plait will find your sentiments, well, pathetic. No one will doubt your sincerity, but your reasoning is pretty much on the level of a ten year old’s, and yet you have the confidence, or arrogance, to attack someone who has ten times the brain power. And that is one of the frustrations that many of us who read BA share; we don’t know how to enlighten folks at your level, if it is even possible. I have been teaching at the college level for 40 years and I do now believe that education has limits that I did not want to admit early in my career. I tried to reach every student, but now I accept that we simply need to admit that we have Smart, Dumb and Dumber. The problem for many of us is that those in the Dumb and Dumber categories have no modesty, but are so sure that they have great insights about life and the universe, when in reality they live and think in cliches. And, of course, the one problem we all must deal with is that they can vote, and so the good ol’ USA never really gets all that good because we are held back by such simpletons. Oh, by the way, Phil Plait make an attempt (too much of one in my opinion) to be “respectful” of those who are deists or theists. I would find it perfectly fine if he would instead say that those who believe in anything supernatural have imaginations on steroids. Now, can someone tell me how to open that cartoon (I fall into the Dumb category when it comes to computers)?

  19. I actually teach theology. I like the chart. I’m going to print it and see what my students think.

  20. Ruth

    James J. Murphy said – “Underlying religion are the teachings contained in the Bible”.

    Paraphrasing Eddie Izzard, do you even KNOW there are other religions?

    [shakes head]

    Dumber.

  21. Jim

    James Murphy wrote about evolution: ” The theory didn’t originate with God, but with men, Darwin and his ilk, and as such, is subject to error. God doesn’t make errors!”
    The problem with your statement is that the Bible was not written by God either. It was written by people. So it really has no more authority on scientific matters than any other book. When measured against the authority of observation and experiment, it quickly becomes obvious that the Biblical creation story is a mythological tale, and evolution is the better explanation of reality. But of course the true believer simply igores reality when it contradicts his belief.
    So thank you for confirming what the chart illustrates so well.
    Phil, this is a great web site. I read it daily to keep up with happenings in astronomy. Keep up the good work.

    Jim

  22. DrFlimmer

    When I read the link, Ruth posted above, I thought I am lucky being an European.
    Actually fundamentalism is always the wrong way whereever you look (religion, politics AND science).

    “I know, a lot of people think I come across as a general religion basher, but I don’t think that’s entirely fair. I restrict my polemics to fundamentalist religions, the ones that are so mired their own infallibility that they cannot see when the entire Universe is proving them wrong”

    I think, it’s a good way dealing with it. I am a student of physics because I want to know how the world is working and want to find my/our place in the universe (which is mostly overestimated by many people!) but I also do believe in god (the christian way of believing in it). For me there is no exclusion like many think there is. Science will never proof god “as being wrong” but religion should not come along and say science is wrong.
    Both have their vested right and both need the other one, because there are things the one cannot explain, so there is the need of the other one. Science will explain a lot but not all (I am not sure that a scientist will be able to answer me why or how some elctrical charges in my brain are causing thoughts?).
    I know I’m standing nearly alone with this opinion, but maybe there is a future of coexistence of science and religion.

    (sorry, I know my english is really bad, but I’m trying to improve my skills ;) )

  23. yy2bggggs

    James Murphy:

    You are entirely correct. That was, indeed, too serious of a response.

    You say there’s no conflict between “true science” and “true religion”. The truth of this is impossible to determine, as “true x” implies a modification of x to purify it to an ideal, but everyone has their own ideas about ideals. Rip out the “true” part of this “true x” stuff and it’s true enough. There are, however, a number of people who apply a particular form of “true faith”, which is faith in spite of evidence. This is what the flowchart is about.

    “Underlying science are its Laws. Science could not exist without its Laws.
    (Gravity, Mathematics, Physics…etc.) Which of course raises the question,
    where did the Laws of science come from? Certainly they didn’t pop out of thin
    air! There must be a Lawgiver.”

    This is certainly incorrect! This shows errors about the way you conceive science, philosophy, and religion. Science is not math; it is not axiom based. A lot of these laws are related to such a degree that some laws can be inferred from others. The very concept of “natural law” is not a precision thing. Furthermore, a property of the universe does not need to be “created”. Mentally speaking, creation may solve a problem for you, but push come to shove, creation is a type of willful action. The action requires some sort of property of the universe in order to cause it to be. That, in essence, is something like another “law”. If laws of the universe must be created, that law must be created too. There is infinite regress here. Your asking about the laws “popping out of thin air” is meant to remind us to think about the origin of the laws–I appeal to the same statement to ask you where God got the power to create laws–did it pop out of thin air? Be careful when you answer, lest may give the same response I did–that a state of the universe does not need to be created to exist.

    “Underlying religion are the teachings contained in the Bible.” Bah! Now you’re making the same mistake I see detractors making. You’re saying “religion” but you mean “Christian”. This is so annoying! Christianity is not the only religion. A lot of religious people do not even believe in the bible!

    “On the other hand, I regard the teaching of evolution as science-fiction.”
    Aww… that’s so cute!

    “THERE IS A GOD, whether you want to admit it or not. (Actually to Whom some day you will be held accountable for your sins, like everyone else. But that is
    another subject.)”

    You could be wrong about this. After all, this is faith. The problem with your parenthetical is that you put it in there, so unfortunately, I get to comment on it. Thankfully, you shoved it in the exact right spot.

    Your belief that there is a god is based on faith. This means there’s no evidence per se that there is a god–you must have faith. But, you see, that just leads to the big question. WHY must you have faith? Because God says so?

    I’m not an unreasonable guy. When I die, and stand before God, I’ll certainly become convinced that he exists–you won’t find me in denial. Until I do, though, God seems to be pretty lacking. It doesn’t help that certain people try to force him into existence, by proclaiming all of the bad things that will happen to me if I don’t believe he exists. After all, if God really does exist, why must I be threatened to believe it? It makes me more suspicious, not convinced, when a believer points out the terrible consequences of my not believing. It kind of leads me to suspect that people don’t believe he exists because he exists, but rather, because they’re too scared not to believe it.

    And if the belief of God’s existence is independant of God’s existence, then what reason have I to believe?

    “and His existence does not depend upon whether you believe it or not, thankfully.”

    Agreed.

  24. Sue Mitchell

    I read somewhere that ‘spirituality is about God; religion is about control.’

    This makes sense to me. It is this desire of many religious people (of any stripe, but particularly fundamentalists) to control the lives of others which sparks my antipathy to religion. So carry on bashing, Phil! :)

    As I see it, any God worthy of the name is omniscient, omnipotent and probably omnipresent. Ergo, it doesn’t need any assistance from self-appointed speakers on its behalf, thank you very much. Oh the hubris! God can make itself understood perfectly well by itself *if it wants to.*

    Oh, and Mr. Murphy, what makes you think God has a gender? Is there anything anywhere to suggest that it goes in for sexual reproduction and if so, why? Or are we talking about Zeus and his sexual shenanigans…? ;-)

  25. Will. M.

    MO Man:
    Wow, have you brought back many faculty discussions I’ve participated in throughout the 30+ years of my high school teaching career. I have defended the students who were “slower” or “less able” to grasp the fundamentals of whatever discipline was taught by the teacher with whom I was conversing. We used excuses to compartmentalize the kids: some were not able to grasp the language, some were “itinerant” – moved from one district to another by parents for whatever reasons, some were from homes where the parents had no formal education, some were from homes where breakfast wasn’t a meal which was provided (hence leaving the children with lowered energy levels in the most crucial part of the day), some were not “properly motivated” by a “boring” subject matter or teacher – and in the eyes of some faculty members, some kids were just “stupid” and no amount of teaching or explaining using whatever approach would change them. I did find that, if given patience and the opportunity, most kids could grasp enough of a subject that the light of reason and intellectual curiosity would shine in their eyes, perhaps not brightly, but shine nonetheless. I now believe that what we don’t seem to teach is the methodology behind reasoning – a solid, experential approach to problem solving isn’t much explained to our students. We tend to dole out “knowledge” to students as bits and pieces of science, math, English, writing, history etc. without also explaining the processes which amassed these particles of data for each subject. I think that philosophy, the classical modes of reasoning developed by Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, et al should be a discipline taught to every kid beginning in the third grade and continuing right on through the 12th. Only with the tools of reasoning fully understood and used effectively can students achieve to the best of whatever abilities they possess. And I no longer think everyone can be a genius if given the proper stimulation. But I do believe every student can become better able to learn, which will enable them to better able to deal with the complexities which the world presents each day – whether or not at the highest levels of mastery. I also realize that there are some parents who will not support an education for their children which contradicts their own view of the world, and it is those kids who grow up and seem to become the folks who maintain an absolutist view of everything. But their influence on the rest of us could be lessened by many degrees if more of us could recognize the faulty logic behind their ideas.

  26. James J. Murphy

    To MO MAN:

    The thrust of your comment is that I’m stupid! I regard your response to my comments as total nonsense, not really worthy of a response. I’m not s simpleton or “pathetic”. Perhaps your teaching experience at the college level is swelling you head to total vanity!

    I respect Mr. Plait as an astronomer, not for his views on Science vs Religion, they are flawed. With regard to the later, he’s a hopeless case in my view! If you disagree, sobeit, but don’t call me “pathetic”, I’m not a ten year old. I happen to have a a college degree, Electrical Engineering, from New York University. I can’t believe the arrogance of your response. Anyone who disagrees with you apparently is “pathetic”. Gee, what crap.

  27. Bryan D.

    Something interesting I found while doing some research is this page where someone used the Bible to prove that Christians thought the World was flat, with a response by another guy who uses quotes from the Bible that actually states that the Earth if round.

    http://www.answering-islam.de/Main////Responses/Isawa/flatearth.htm

    On a side “keep idea forever” is a crock, are you telling me Religious doctrine hasn’t changed one iota in the past 3000 or so years? I subscribe to no Religion and even I know thats not true.

  28. Daffy

    I, for one, do not consider you pathetic, Mr. Murphy. I do wonder though: people of “faith” often make the argument (central to their thesis) that they choose to take things like religious dogma on faith…meaning that they choose to believe something despite the total lack of evidence to support it; and they say that like it is a good thing!

    That makes no sense to a logical mind; it makes no sense that a loving god would require such an absurd thing.

  29. Gary Ansorge

    James:Laws are defined by man. They are desciptions of PHYSICAl relationships.
    The physical relationships exist whether there is anyone around to know that or not.

    Sue: Spitiutal vs religious. You’ve hit the nail on the head. Religion is all about consensual reality. Obviously, if anyone disagrees with the religionist interpretaion it must not be PERFECT and we may all end up going to hell in a bucket because we’re worshiping the wrong thing,,,
    Spirituality is about direct experience. As such, it must remain suspect, as is all such anecdotal “evidence”.
    Having said that, sometimes anecdotal evidence is correct as in the anecdot about rocks falling from the heavens. Since the “heavens” at that time were defined as “perfect”, obviously rocks could not fall from them. Turned out the anecdotal evidence was correct but that wasn’t known until someone well respected saw and analyzed the “rocks” and discovered they were not earthlike, as in having been deformed by the heat of atmospheric re-entry and being made of nearly pure nickle-iron.(Meteors).

    James: Evolution from amoeba. Well, every life form on this planet shares certain DNA sequences in common, those having to do with basic biological processes. This could not be unless we’re all derived from a common source. Perhaps god is an amoeba,,,

    The dicta of the mystic is that it is possible to directly apprehend a direct connection with the One, which of course undermines the dicta of religion which is predicated on the idea that only a man(priest) has the power to interpret for the masses what these mystical experiences “really” mean.

    Having been a participant in just such a “mystical” experience, I can attest to the power of such. It’s enough to make anyone a believer that there is something more significant to our lives that what we normally see. Having said that I hasten to add, there is still no proof of ANY kind that the experience is anything more than a brain siezure of the temporal lobe variety. But boy, was it cool!!!

    Gary 7

  30. Eddy

    yes, a literal belief in re-incarnation could give both Hindus and Buddhists a problem with evolution. On the other hand, somewhere in the Upanishads there is a calculation of the length of time the whole Universe takes to repeat itself. One day of Brahma is 4,320,000,000 years – within spitting distance of the Hubble time.. cute eh ? Do I take this seriously ? Nah. But it sure knocks Bishop Usher into a cocked hat.

    Phil – you could argue that rationalism, like Buddhism, is a way of liberation. Your devotion to the cause is so dedicated I think you count as a Boddhisattva.

  31. skeptigirl

    Eddy Says:
    Buddhism is a believe system, but not a religion because there is no central deity and no worship.

    So belief in reincarnation and praying for [fill in the blank] at the millions of Buddhist statutes and temples all over the world is only a philosophical point of view? Your description of Buddhism is analogous to the “noble savage” myth.

    -

    James J. Murphy Says:
    Mr. Plait:
    …I regard you as an anti-religionist, an anti-religion zealot, a hopeless case….

    Murphy, why would you have such an objection to the two diagrams? Considering your post I’d say the diagrams aptly apply.

    -

    DrFlimmer Says:
    When I read the link, Ruth posted above, I thought I am lucky being an European….Actually fundamentalism is always the wrong way whereever you look (religion, politics AND science).

    A science “fundamentalist” would by definition be continually open to new evidence and to questioning existing conclusions.

    You seem to be referring rather to someone who would argue some specific scientific conclusion or argument was fixed and faultless, just as one might profess a conclusion based on a religious belief or political ideology was fixed and faultless.

    If on the other hand you are claiming that tired nonsense that we need spirituality for morals and humanity yadda yadda yadda, then call me a science fundamentalist. I don’t need a religious context to understand or experience love, kindness, or even hate. I don’t need a religion to determine right from wrong. I don’t need the fear of hell to stop me from murder or theft or disloyalty to a spouse. And if this is what you meant by your comments, you have no evidence that supports your claim I am wrong.

    -

    Gary Ansorge Says:
    Having been a participant in just such a “mystical” experience, I can attest to the power of such. It’s enough to make anyone a believer that there is something more significant to our lives that what we normally see. Having said that I hasten to add, there is still no proof of ANY kind that the experience is anything more than a brain siezure of the temporal lobe variety.

    You pose two hypotheses for whatever it was you experienced. Yet you arbitrarily chose one over the other. Or did you actually have some valid evidence that whatever you experienced wasn’t explainable by natural phenomena?

    It’s fun to fantasize such experiences are supernatural. It can be just as fun to investigate the incredible workings of the human brain.

  32. James J. Murphy

    Regarding faith. Accoring to Paul, an Apostle, “faith is the substance of things not seen”. Hebrews: 11: 1

    If I’m waiting at a bus stop with no bus in sight, I have faith a bus will arrive. That’s faith.

    What else can I say regarding faith in more important matters?

  33. JustAl

    James J. Murphy says: I respect Mr. Plait as an astronomer, not for his views on Science vs Religion, they are flawed. With regard to the later, he’s a hopeless case in my view! If you disagree, sobeit, but don’t call me “pathetic”, I’m not a ten year old. I happen to have a a college degree, Electrical Engineering, from New York University. I can’t believe the arrogance of your response. Anyone who disagrees with you apparently is “pathetic”. Gee, what crap. (emphasis added).

    And lo, we hear from the pot, who has proclaimed the reflective properties of the kettle.

    JJM: Which of course raises the question,
    where did the Laws of science come from? Certainly they didn’t pop out of thin
    air! There must be a Lawgiver.

    Who came from, where? Ah, he/she/it was always there! And always will be! But it’s impossible to conceive of this for anything else, that’s just plain silly!

    I really have to wonder if, at any given point in time, posts from religious zealots who attempt to use logic will ever contain the slightest hint of what logic actually is, and that it doesn’t turn on and off to suit self-contradictory mindsets?

    But I’m really, really hoping that the ancient and stupid chestnut, “It had to come from somewhere!” stops getting raised from the long-dead. Yet, as long as there are people who mindlessly repeat whatever they’re told by their local religious leaders, we’re going to keep hearing it. I don’t suppose “circular reasoning” means anything?

    Nah, forget I mentioned it.

    JJM: The theory didn’t originate with God, but with men, Darwin and his ilk, and as such, is subject to error. God doesn’t make errors!

    “Ilk,” I like that. Nice boogeyman feel to it. And of course, deities don’t make errors, though their scriptures are chock full of them. Hah! That’s just man’s fallibility!

    So, um, how do you determine which sides of the multitudinous contradictions in your scriptures are the correct ones there, Mr. Murphy? Flip a coin? Chicken entrails? Ooo, no wait, I know! You pray for a sign!

    Of course, you also have a way of telling that the sign is not from the anti-lawgiver, and that you yourself are not suffering from those errors that mankind (you know, the “ilk”) is so subject to. And that, of the points presented in your scripture, at least one of them represents the “truth”.

    Uh, you do, don’t you?

    Oh, wait, I forgot about the electrical engineering bit. Sorry, I’m wasting my time talking to someone so qualified on the matter as you yourself. We are all quite well aware of how much careful consideration goes into the education process of electricians.

    Sigh.

  34. Some Guy

    James,

    You seem to be taking a very offensive position here in this discussion, and then defending yourself in yet again a very offensive way. May I suggest a different tactic: Put your engineering training to work here, and consider this a technical challenge (instead of an personal or emotional one). You will earn some respect, and possibly make some of the people here question their own beliefs.

    Think for a moment about the laws of electricity and magnetism. I cannot see the electrons from the copper atoms jump from one atom to another inside the power cord going to my computer, but I know that they do. I did not learn from the Bible that current flows from areas of negative charge to areas of positive charge. This phenomenon, even though we cannot see it, is real. It can be tested, and the billions of cellphones in the world prove that the laws of electricity as we know them are true.

    Now, please, if you would, explain to me how the same methods used to discover electricity do not provide the same level of results (believability, if I may say) when applied to biology or evolution of the species. (And do so without using the phrase, “Because God said so in the Bible.”)

    I have faith that you can provide the people here some explanation for your phrase, “On the other hand, I regard the teaching of evolution as science-fiction.The evolutionists are teaching our children nonsense!” and do so in a calm and rational manner. Prove me right.
    ;)

  35. m1eai - radio is fun

    Having looked at the chart has anyone noticed that it could also be used to define people who believe in conspiracy theories. Few changes in words and you just define the believe systems of people who thingk 9/11 was an inside job, etc, etc.

    Man trying to get topic back on some sort of track, leave the fundies to their concrete thinking. Makes me glad to be a European.
    ;-)

  36. James J. Murphy

    To JustAl

    Your totally off base. I mentioned the Electrical Engineering bit to refute the contention I was stupid by MO MAN. I really can’t believe how my comments get twisted and tortured into something I didn’t intend.

    As for the “multitudinous contradictions”, there are none. The Bible doesn’t contradict itself, only in your mind it does! Chicken entrails are no involved. If there are contraditions please cite Chapter and Verse. Your babbling is nonsense. Your given freedom of speach to the ignorant.

  37. yy2bggggs

    James J:

    You wrote:
    “On the other hand, I regard the teaching of evolution as science-fiction.The
    evolutionists are teaching our children nonsense! ”

    In doing so, you introduced evolution into this thread, and elaborated on it. You saw the need to express your views of evolution and how it was science fiction. But you did not elaborate, or explain why–in fact, you said this:

    “If you want to believe the theory of evolution, be my guest. If you have a
    mind-set in favor of that crap, be my guest. The theory didn’t originate with God, but with men, Darwin and his ilk, and as such, is subject to error. God doesn’t make errors!”

    Then someone mentions contradictions in the bible, and you write this:
    “As for the “multitudinous contradictions”, there are none. The Bible doesn’t contradict itself, only in your mind it does! Chicken entrails are no involved. If there are contraditions please cite Chapter and Verse.”

    So, you see a need to make sure the bible is presented in a good light, but you make no attempt to straighten out science.

    Why are you here?

  38. yy2bggggs

    “But you did not elaborate” should read “But you did not elaborate further”

  39. Some Guy

    m1eai is right!

    You can use the same chart to describe conspiracy theorists! Numerous links on this very blog point out people who refuse to believe the scientific evidence in front of them when it contradicts a particular belief.

    I wonder if there is an inherent human characteristic in our brains that make us predisposed to want to so strongly believe in something improbable, that we will ignore all evidence to the contrary? Maybe somebody should perform a scientific study to prove or disprove this. Maybe somebody already has… Maybe the results were touted by scientists all over the world, but of course, by our very nature, we refused to believe it.
    ;)

  40. JustAl

    JJM: Your totally off base. I mentioned the Electrical Engineering bit to refute the contention I was stupid by MO MAN. I really can’t believe how my comments get twisted and tortured into something I didn’t intend.

    MO Man did not call you stupid, so hoist by your own, yet again. He said that your reasoning was on the level of a ten-year-old’s. He is perfectly correct. Your reasoning does not contain logic, connection, or consistency.

    What electrical engineering has to do with this observation remains to be seen. As I hinted at with more than a passing amount of sarcasm, electrical engineering has absolutely nothing to do with reason, or understanding the vast and overwhelming biological basis supporting evolution, or even helping you form coherent sentences with proper spelling. Whatever you may think your credentials do, they do not give you any support for your statements or your attitude.

    But if you really want to go that route, your credentials aren’t jack compared to the thousands of scientists who study the things you’re arguing on a regular basis and will happily tell you your flaws. Again, you seem to have this thing about double-standards, and I’m happy to point them out to you.

    JJM: As for the “multitudinous contradictions”, there are none. The Bible doesn’t contradict itself, only in your mind it does! Chicken entrails are no involved. If there are contraditions please cite Chapter and Verse.

    We aims to displease. I figure it’ll save us both a bit of time by simply pointing you to this link.

    So, are we going to be treated to a refutation of that rather distinctive and lengthy list with some useful and intelligent discussion, or are we going to see some kind of handwaving dismissal or drastic change of subject? I don’t need to remind you that you specifically asked to see this, do I?

    JJM: Your babbling is nonsense. Your given freedom of speach to the ignorant.

    Um, what was it you were saying above about your intelligence? Would you like to try again, especially at that last sentence?
    [Deletion of further, unnecessary harping on the subject - it's too cheap a shot]

    I have no power to give freedom of speech to any man – that’s the goal of the US Constitution (and other examples in other countries, I’m assuming). But yes, even the ignorant have it, as is being amply demonstrated. So does everyone else. And this does indeed mean that the freedom extends to those who will gleefully point out your inability to even debate your views coherently.

    Now, let me make my stance on this clear: I honestly, really don’t care what your personal beliefs are or how you arrived at them. You want to be a christian, buddhist, wiccan, or cargoist, you don’t need my permission, but you have it anyway. Find whatever works for you and be happy. I seem to recall that’s what religion is supposed to provide, though I have a hard time seeing it from anyone.

    However, if you want to come onto a forum dedicated to skeptical thought and claim some kind of empirical truth from your religion, you should expect to have your ass handed to you. And if all of your arguments are as weak as you’ve presented so far, you are in way above your head.

  41. JustAl

    Hmm, don’t think the link is working right. Let me try again:

    Maybe this one?

    I think it helps if I remember to close the quotes…

  42. JustAl

    Some Guy says: I wonder if there is an inherent human characteristic in our brains that make us predisposed to want to so strongly believe in something improbable, that we will ignore all evidence to the contrary? Maybe somebody should perform a scientific study to prove or disprove this. Maybe somebody already has… Maybe the results were touted by scientists all over the world, but of course, by our very nature, we refused to believe it.

    A few years back when I hung out on the UFO and paranormal newsgroups, before they degenerated into mindless name-calling, this observation was readily apparent. There really is some aspect of mankind that takes a firm hold of ephemeral ideas. And I feel sure there have been studies regarding it, though I am unable to point you to any right offhand.

    I speculated a lot on this [warning: what follows is from a high-school dropout with no background whatsoever to be conscionably discussing this] and came up with a couple of ideas:

    1. Adulthood brings a loss of the wonder and surprise that we have as children. As we grow more educated, the idea of anything “magical” gets buried in the rather humdrum world of “laws,” with mathematical and determinate explanations for just about everything;

    2. Our insecurity as a species makes us dissatisfied with an infinitesimal role in the universe. We look for something that makes us special. In some cases, this is believing in a benign supernatural parent figure who considers us a trophy creation. In other cases (and perhaps sometimes even the same ones), this is the possession of some special knowledge, the “real” answers behind the curious phenomena we witness. This second one made itself known from time to time in the UFO/paranormal newsgroups – the believers were the elite, the chosen ones, the insightful ones. By their own admission of course.

    And in most cases that I could see, the knowledge of science was pretty low. There is a potential correlation there, and one could make the jump that either better understanding of science might have discouraged this, or that the proponents felt threatened by the scientific process that they had a hard time understanding, or both. I can sympathize with the latter to a small extent – two of my science teachers in high school made quite spirited attempts to quash my delight in science through their inept teaching methods.

    But others have made the connection with, at least, UFOlogy as a form of religion, with the high priests Hynek and Vallee and numerous holy books. The method of assigning relative importance to items which support or deny their beliefs is just about identical. Which is yet another thing that tells me religion isn’t anything special.

    And at the same time, some adults haven’t lost their delight in something “magical,” and instead search for it in the realms that can still be explored. And in some cases, this even gives them some way to feel more than insignificant. I suspect this is why a lot of us frequent this blog ;-)

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go write an article to try and get published someday…

  43. John

    Phil,

    You state that people perceive you as a religion basher, yet you claim to not understand where that perception comes from. Such a perception comes from the fact that you are condecending and arrogant in your treatment of those you perceive to be ignorant and misled by religious fundamentalism. You appear to hold those people in utter contempt, you attempt to refute them but always do so with disdain. You do not appear to have any compassion for them, nor do you appear to want to help them understand what science is capable of for the world. You are the equivalent of a ‘firebreathing bible-thumper’ in the world of science.

    You fail to understand that not everyone is satisfied by an understand of the mechanical world, some people need more than that to find their place in the world. You have no compassion for those you consider unenlightened. You seem to want to have people come to your understanding of the world, yet you refuse to attempt to view the world from the perspective of those you despise. People do not respond well to being lectured and called stupid, flawed, ignorant, or any of the other labels you are so willing to pin on them for not being a carbon copy of yourself.

    You have no tolerance for differences of thought. You do not understand the adage that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Can you understand that you can help to bring enlightenment to others if you treat them with respect and not contempt? Many religious people would understand your views better, and possibly understand science better if you could relate to them, and answer their questions rather than rail upon them about their shortcomings.

    I do like your website, you provide a valuble service by pointing out where bad science lies, combatting the ignorance that is out there. Yet some of your tactics need some serious refinement. I am in no way religious, nor fundamentalist, I’m an agnostic, yet your tone offends even me. I dislike ignorance just as much as the next person, yet I know enough not to belittle those that I’m trying to bring to greater understanding.

  44. yy2bggggs

    John:

    Your response is quite ironic. What I get from this is, from top to bottom: Phil is a condenscending, arrogant, overly judgemental, incompassionate, unhelpful, firebreathing skeptic; a failure at understanding that humans seek more than mechanical knowledge. He despises people and refuses to allow himself to see things from their perspective. And your basic criticism? He fails to understand that you catch more flies with vinegar.

    I do not think Phil is at all like you characterize; in fact, I think you failed at identifying the basic issue of why Phil is perceived that way. Perhaps you’d be more helpful with more focused criticism, and you might be better received with a more positive approach.

  45. The Zapman

    Because drastic oversimplification shows the true power of science!

  46. John

    yy2bggggs

    You have utterly failed to understand my criticisms. If you fail to see the positive suggestions in my criticism that is hardly my failing.

  47. yy2bggggs

    John:

    Let’s just try this. How would you respond to your last post if you were me?

  48. Quiet Desperation

    So according to the Richard Feynman comic… you can win a Nobel Prize for bongo playing?

    Jeepers, I’d have submitted my 29 second solving of a Rubik’s cube in 1983 if I’d know it was that easy.

  49. Quiet Desperation

    As a fellow electrical engineer, I’d like to distance myself from James. :)

    James, I accept evolution, and have seven U.S. patents with my name on them. Four of them have ONLY my name. Do I win?

    As for people needing more than a mechanistic explanation for the universe, that’s fine. I have my own private views about potential life after death based on some rather remarkable experiences I have been fortunate enough to have had, but it should be a private thing. I don’t bother relating my experience because as a rational person I understand to anyone else they are merely anecdotal tales.

    When people try to get their religion passed off as an alternative to science in the classroom, or try to get it enshrined into the legal system, that’s over the line, and that’s what pisses people off the most.

  50. JustAl

    John: You have utterly failed to understand my criticisms. If you fail to see the positive suggestions in my criticism that is hardly my failing.

    I think you have a good idea, John.

    Take it up with Falwell, Robertson, Hovind, Bridges, and especially Bush and let us know how you fare.

    I bet nobody’s ever thought of just sitting down and talking to fundamentalists before. “Scone?”

  51. Rockingham

    James J Murphy: “THERE IS A GOD, whether you want to admit it or not. (Actually to Whom some day you will be held accountable for your sins, like everyone else. But that is another subject.)”

    Okay, say there is a god, and he is all loving and all that stuff, shouldn’t he be doing a better job of proving to us atheists that he exists, otherwise his judgment, when it comes, will be flawed? How can it be a sin if we are living in ignorance and the skyfairy has the power to eliminate that ignorance. It’s like prosecuting someone for speeding despite the fact that the speed limit was not advertised.

  52. Darth Robo

    “I am in no way religious, nor fundamentalist, I’m an agnostic, yet your tone offends even me.”

    John, you don’t seem to realize what religious fundamentalists are like. I also consider myself as agnostic. Maybe there is a God, maybe there isn’t. I don’t know, nor care. But you are saying that Phil should use more constructive arguments against these people (he has, many times over) but the simple fact is constructive arguments don’t work. This tends to make dealing with them frustrating. I have talked with religious people who will literally swear that up is down and left is right as long as it fits with their faith. (Take a look at James J Murphy further up who says it’s stupid saying that man came from an amoeba, but he forgets that he was actually once split into two parts – a microscopic egg and tadpole thingy – just as bizzarre if you ask me). These people don’t realize that science does NOT conflict with the idea of a god. But, unfortunately for them, it does if they tend to take the Bible literally. But that’s their problem.

    If Phil does sometimes sound a bit too p*ssed off, he has good reason, to be fair. After all, it is fundamentalists who have been trying to push their religion into schools (either politically or through the school boards). Scientists haven’t tried to do the same thing to get science taught in church. So I think that reasonable people have a right to get a bit p*ssed of every now and then. If fundies don’t wanna learn science, they don’t have to. That doesn’t mean they should spoil it for everyone else.

  53. Scott G

    JustAl: “Oh, wait, I forgot about the electrical engineering bit…We are all quite well aware of how much careful consideration goes into the education process of electricians.”

    Not to spoil the flow of the argument here, but please do not confuse an Electrical Engineer with Electrician. There is a vast difference between the skills and education required between the two professions. The EE title is not a euphemism for “electrician” but an indication of study of the physics of semiconductors, electronics, optics, circuit design and more. At the top level, these guys are brilliant theorists comparable to any of the many astrophysicist names we see here. The electrician is the guy who wired your house. (They should also be respected, albeit for different reasons. Unless they’re the ones who wired MY house, in which case ostracism is perfectly fine.)

    Sorry for the brief rant, but I thought it an unfair dig (and not too polite to electricians in any case).

    [No, I am not an electrician.]

  54. RWG

    John, Murphy…Help me out here.

    Do you guys simply have no sense of irony or hypocrisy at all? Do you really think about these things before you type them? Do you seriously mull them over in your heads and honestly come to the conclusion that your responses are unhindered by utterly baseless assertions and fallacious reasoning?

    Can you really not see it, or are you just following the standard “ignore absolutely everything that doesn’t coincide with my impossibly narrow world-view” strategy as jokingly described in the flowchart?

    Is the sort of unmitigated ignorance you display a conscious decision? Are you simply compartmentalizing the obvious contradictions in you line of reasoning out of a slavish devotion to a dead-end ideology?

    Or worse, can you just not see it at all? Either way, you two seriously need to reevaluate your thought processes. They’ve failed you.

  55. Gary Ansorge

    Skeptigirl:
    “You pose two hypotheses for whatever it was you experienced. Yet you arbitrarily chose one over the other. Or did you actually have some valid evidence that whatever you experienced wasn’t explainable by natural phenomena?”

    The ONLY reason I included the reference to a “mystical” experience was to show I know how powerful these experiences can be. They literally knock your socks off.
    Wsa there any evidence one way or another?
    What did I SAY in that post?

    It was the most powerful, emotional experience of my life. Was it “supernatural”?
    I don’t think so.
    I’m a rational materialist. There was nothing in my world view that would predispose me to such an experience. But having had that experience, now I understand how anyone sharing that could go off half cocked, trying to tell everyone all about it and inadvertently end up starting a “new” religion.

    Gary 7

  56. JustAl

    Scott G: Not to spoil the flow of the argument here, but please do not confuse an Electrical Engineer with Electrician…

    Duly noted, and I offer my corrections. My apologies to James J. Murphy for minimizing the field of his study and degree in this way.

    I was aware that EE is more involved than simple electrical wiring, and should not have resorted to the comment. I am also aware that a unspecified “degree” is also not the same as a licensed Engineer, a difference roughly comparable to an “accounting degree” and being a licensed CPA. So, the rest of it pretty much still stands ;-)

  57. Ruth

    And so Mr Murphy shows his true colours as a troll. You catch him out on a point and he just ignors it, focusing instead on replies that he thinks he can fight, or changes the subject. I have seen his type SO MANY times before. People, he’s not worth your time.

  58. miller

    James J. Murphy said:
    “If I’m waiting at a bus stop with no bus in sight, I have faith a bus will arrive. That’s faith.”

    I don’t think this is faith, at least not the kind of faith depicted in the flow chart. You know, or at least are fairly certain, that a bus is coming because: 1) you see the bus stop sign near by 2) the bus schedule says that the bus comes every 10 minutes 3) there are several other people also waiting, etc. The sort of faith in the flow chart is analogous to stopping at the nearest corner and hoping a bus will come and take you in the right direction. If nothing comes for hours, maybe your watch is fast?

    Even if you think faith is good, you should agree with the rest of us that blind “faith” as depicted in the flow chart is at best worthless. If so, I’m not exactly sure what your criticism of the BA is… unless you just wanted to rant against anti-religious zealots.

  59. Is there a God or higher being.

  60. Has anybody else noticed that the original flowchart is NOT about religious fundamentalism, rather “faith” as such?

    Methinks that is the idea of somebody that does not have a clue about what “faith” is…

  61. Ruth

    Maurizio Morabito. The word faith has a selection of uses, including being a girl’s name, but in this case I should think we’re looking at definiton 2 “belief that is not based on proof”. What it means to you is a thing personal to you, but the dictionary does support the flowcharter’s usage very well.

  62. Darth Robo

    My faith in buses turning up has been lost many times over. Especially in winter.

    B*stards.

  63. DennyMo

    My only problem with the chart is that it implies that scientists and the technical community are never dogmatic. In my experience, this is terribly untrue. There are hard-heads on both sides of the aisle, this cartoon really oversimplifies the issue in a very snide and sarcastic manner – and that does nothing to help the debate.

  64. yy2bggggs

    Maurizio:

    The left part of the chart is “science”. The right is “faith”. The flowchart is really comparing science and faith; it is “science versus faith”.

    Darwin’s introduction of the theory of natural selection has destroyed the necessity of religion in order to account for our existence; in essence, it has become a major thorn in the side of a large chunk of Christianity. As Christians have grown to try to absorb the implications of evolution, some have begun to see the rise of skepticism as a result of Darwin’s theories. A big religious countermovement–evangelicalism–arose from these ashes, and led to the development of fundamentalism. Now here, today, in our society, these religious fundamentalists and the skeptic culture are in a major conflict.

    This is one of the biggest cultural battles in our society. Science versus faith is simply an allusion to this battle. This is not about faith as a philosophical epistemological method–it’s not about your faith that logic works, or that other people are sentient–it’s about a conflict between faith and science; it’s about this battle. Yes, this is indeed about science versus fundamentalism.

  65. Darth Robo

    I would say that hard-headedness is different from dogma. The ‘debate’ you refer to is not a scientific one. Faith relies on dogma far more than science does. In fact, it is a good thing that some scientists may be somewhat resistant to change. When a scientific theory that has been tried and tested for a long time is met with new evidence that may involve a change in the theory (or disregarding it completely*), it would be foolish to throw it out straight away before a thorough investigation of the facts has been done.

    The recent ‘Pygmie’ dwarf fossil find is an example. IIRC, there was some disagreement at first whether or not it was a new species or was a normal human with a genetic disorder. Last I heard it turned out that it was a new species, but for the sake of good science, it would be a good idea not to make that assumption straight away.

    *Note – This is not an invitation for fundies to come along and start talking rubbish.

  66. James J. Murphy

    I have decided not to make any further comments, although I certainly could.

    I find that my comments become twisted and tortured into meanings I did not intend. Any further comments would also become twisted and tortured.

    This my first and last experience on such a website as this. Thank you.

  67. Darth Robo

    Translation: “You beat me, guys.”

    Why are you worried about your comments being “twisted and tortured” when they are here for everybody else to see, plain as day, just the same as ours? The must be the ‘evil atheist liberal darwinist conspiracy’ at work again, right? You worried people won’t be able to make up their own minds?

    Yet another fundie complains and has another chance to show off his martyr complex. Oh, the pain.

  68. Irishman

    Regarding Buddhism, there are a couple aspects to keep in mind. One is that Buddhist philosophy has been taken and melded with traditional cultural ancestral worship beliefs, and so some forms of Buddhism are “less pure”, as it were. Thus the version of praying to the statue and all. The “more pure” form of Zen Buddhism does not have prayer as such, only meditation to seek internal harmony and oneness with the universe. The elimination of suffering, which is linked with the elimination of pleasure as well.

    As a meditative practice, there may be some benefits to Zen. But I have issues with some of the interwoven philosophy. Specifically, the concepts of reincarnation, and the “soul” concept that seeks enlightenment. These elements are every bit as much supernatural as the elements of more “standard” religions. They are just as unfounded.

    James J. Murphy said:
    > The fact is there is NO CONFLICT BETWEEN TRUE RELIGION AND TRUE SCIENCE. They are complimentary. They are two views of the same thing, reality. Different perspectives.

    There are plenty of reasonable people who make the same assertion. However, the truth of that assertion can only be determined by defining “true religion” and “true science”. Throwing out undefined labels and then claiming the result will not get to the heart of the matter.

    The conflict that Phil addresses between Science and Religion is one of approaches. Science is the approach of Empiricism, testing of knowledge. Faith is antithetical to empiricism and testing. Faith is the belief without evidence, or even in spite of evidence. “Gnosticism” is a good word (thanks John Armstrong). It’s about revealed truth rather than empirical truth. On that basis, there is an inherent conflict, an opposing of approaches to knowledge.

    > Underlying science are its Laws. Science could not exist without its Laws. (Gravity, Mathematics, Physics…etc.) Which of course raises the question, where did the Laws of science come from? Certainly they didn’t pop out of thin air! There must be a Lawgiver.

    You’re playing semantic games, and may not even realize it. Science is the method for studying objective reality. It works by empiricism. Scientific Laws are descriptions of behavior that are determined to produce accurate results. If errors are found in data compared to reality, then the Laws are adjusted to conform to reality. This is a different use of the word “Law”. You are trying to state that the Universe works by laws. This is unfounded. The Universe exists. It does what it does. Laws are just are attempt to describe that behavior in a predictive manner (we can guess the next state). Your wordplay allows you to create an analogy which then creates the need for a role to be filled, a role you fill with God. But the role is the result of the analogy, and the analogy is flawed.

    > On the other hand, I regard the teaching of evolution as science-fiction. The evolutionists are teaching our children nonsense! If you want to believe your ultimate ancestors are some stupid amoeba, be my guest. I only know and believe what the Bible actually teaches, Adam & Eve, not the imaginations of men.

    That’s an amusing irony. You claim Evolution is the imagination of men, and Adam and Eve are reality. Science says the reverse.

    The thing is, the Bible does not declare Evolution false. There’s no reason to think that God couldn’t use Evolution to accomplish His goals. So decrying Evolution in order to retain your faith is unnecessary. NOTE: The Bible is NOT a science text book.

    > THERE IS A GOD, whether you want to admit it or not. (Actually to Whom some day you will be held accountable for your sins, like everyone else. But that is another subject.) HE EXISTS, and His existence does not depend upon whether you believe it or not, thankfully.

    You are correct on one point, the existence of God is independent of my belief in him. He exists or he does not. I believe, or I do not. The rest of that is your belief. There’s no evidenciary grounds sufficient to convince others. Your proseletyzing won’t change our minds. it is irrelevant to the discussion.

    Some Guy said:
    > I wonder if there is an inherent human characteristic in our brains that make us predisposed to want to so strongly believe in something improbable, that we will ignore all evidence to the contrary?

    Some scientists are investigating the evolutionary basis for beliefs, including religious beliefs. There are also psychological studies into belief.

    There are several factors for conspiracy theories. One is the feeling of superiority generated by believing you are one of the few smart enough to see through the “lies”. The feeling of secret knowledge, of seeing the clues and the discrepancies and solving the puzzle. Even when there isn’t a puzzle. The notions are fed by a cultural underclimate of suspicion of authority figures – the government in particular. Watergate and ensuing fiascos did a lot to poison the well for trust of the government. Factor in the ego trip that comes from being a “whistle-blower”, an voice in the wilderness as it were, someone trying to alert everyone else to the danger they face and don’t see. It can be alluring. Couple that to a weak grasp of logic and reasoning.

    JustAl, harping on the electrical engineering part is irrelevant. James J. Murphy did not post that as credentials for justifying his beliefs, only to refute that he is an idiot. Given that it takes a certain amount of intelligence to study EE and get a degree, I think that’s a fair use of his accomplishment.

    John, some have misunderstood you, but I get your point. Phil seems to dismiss the religious as irrelevant at best and contemptible at worst. That is not the best approach to get them to listen. From my perspective, I don’t see him as treating all Religious people that way, but there is some validity to the argument that he is open to misinterpretation, and his tone drives off people he should be trying to reach.

  69. Irishman

    There was some twisting of his comments. In particular, JustAl going off on his mentioning his EE degree as if that was some sort of justification. It was not intended to justify his stance on Evolution or belief in God, only to demonstrate that he is not an idiot, regardless of the quality of his arguments.

  70. Kyle Kivett

    Ladies and Gentlemen,
    Words, words, so many words…

    This discussion has covered so much ground it is difficult to compose a comprehensive reply extemporaneously, so I will address the larger issue at hand.

    The biig question that we all seem to be trying to answer is “What is truth?” This question could be answered specifically by defining what we mean by the word “truth,” i.e., “that which accurately explains, reflects, and defines reality.” Or we could answer the question more generally (mystically) by answering wiith more questions, like “Can truth be experienced?” or “Is truth what we experience or is it independent of our experience?” Most of the sciences (and much religion) are primarily focused on the former, while most Eastern religions (and some sciences) are more interested in the latter.

    Science succeeds when it pursues answers the former question without prejudice and fails when it tries to answer the latter question, or pursues answers to either prejudicially. (This is the error of dogma – science and religion are equally guilty of this.)

    Religion succeeds when it answers both former and latter questions equally well. (It should be noted that I think “religion” is a term often misapplied and more often misunderstood, especially in the contexts of Eastern Mysticism and Evangelical Protestantism.) Because of this, religion is greater than science in the same way that the Pacific Ocean is greater than the Bering Sea – not necessarily a matter of importance, just of scope and scale. Therefore the assumption that you must “choose sides” between science and religion is false, because they are not opposites.

    Indeed, neither are faith and reason. Faith is NOT belief without evidence – that is foolishness – but faith BEYOND evidence. If you have an appointment to meet a friend for lunch, and they aren’t there on time, what leads you to believe they will show up at all? A purely reasonable person would probably realize that there are more potential obstacles to the expected meeting than likelihood that the friend will show up, and order without them. Most of us, however, would exercise a little faith in our friend and give them a few minutes extra before we eat without them. Is this blind devotion, or an understanding that our friend truly desires to meet with us and deserves a chance to show up? This isn’t exactly the way faith works in a religious context, but it demonstrates the difference and relationship between faith and reason. Also, to say that those with faith are lacking reason fails to account for some of the greatest minds in history, including C.S. Lewis, Isaac Newton, and Blaise Pascal to name a few.

    What needs to be remembered is that the true answer to this question matters more than any of our answers to it. Logic leads inexorably to the realization that truth is what it is, not what we make it, and yet when our perception of truth is attacked, we react emotionally instead of responding with gentleness and respect. As this discussion continues, let’s question assumptions, correct error, and debate positions, but not attack one another personally. As much as I consider X-Files ridiculous TV schlock, I agree that “The Truth is out there,” and I’d like to think we are all sincerely trying to get closer to it.

  71. Irishman

    Kyle Kivett, I agree that terminology is at issue, and most of us are making assumptions that don’t hold for everyone. However, you are guilty of the same by your definition of “Faith”.

    In your example of meeting a friend for lunch, I have evidence that clocks are not always synchronized exactly, that traffic interferes with the best made plans, that schedules are rarely exact, and planning to the second is impractical. I also have a pattern of behavior and other evidence to support the conclusion my friend does wish to meet with me. I would call that trust in my friend rather than faith.

    >Logic leads inexorably to the realization that truth is what it is, not what we make it, and yet when our perception of truth is attacked, we react emotionally instead of responding with gentleness and respect. As this discussion continues, let’s question assumptions, correct error, and debate positions, but not attack one another personally.

    This I do agree with.

  72. Kyle Kivett

    Irishman,

    I appreciate your approach to the question at hand. In defining faith the way I have, I am certainly limiting its definition. However, I have tried to limit it in a way that opens up new possiblities to use it. I have offered my definition of faith because I was concerned that it was being used in simplistic and even dangerous ways. I believe my definition to be the most useful because faith must begin with trust (as in the friend analogy above), but faith in God, the Creator and sustainer of the universe, must need to go beyond trust into realms where evidence is not extant. This does not mean that it does not exist, but merely that we are not aware of it.

    Take the case for the earth being round: is it round because it was found to be round, or was it found to be round because it is round? This can be carried to other less obvious matters as well. Was the universe expanding before the Red Shift was discovered? Yes. Because I see no REASON to not ascribe the Big Bang to God instead of to impersonal forces (in fact the latter seems to me unREASONable), this leads me to believe (i.e. “have FAITH”) that other evidence for a created universe exists that has not yet been discovered. You probably believe that evidence exists to the contrary. Our faith in either case stems from what has demonstrated trustworthiness to us in the past: for me, the work that God has done and continues to do in my life, and for you, the science that accurately describes the world you see. In either case, our faith stems from trust, but is beyond trust, and is therefore faith.

  73. Some Guy

    James said, “I have decided not to make any further comments, although I certainly could.”

    Darn. I was hoping he would answer my question regarding his previous comments on evolution. I guess that’s what happens when somebody (in this case, half the bloggers) force you to question your own beliefs, or worse… make you think.

    Kyle, I like your comment about the obviousness of the earth being round before we discovered that it was. The same thing could be said about God. If humans had not learned to communicate by writing words into a book, would God still exist? Just out of curiosity, what kind of “work that God has done” for you can you actually contribute to a deity, and not to the actual hard work of a human, or to your own conceptions? Wouldn’t the world around us still continue if you had never heard of or read the Bible?

    The more I read and try to understand the world around me, the more and more I realize that this whole religion thing is nothing more than a figment of our primitive mind’s imagination. Only a human would create a belief system where everyone is told they have to worship an imaginary creature, or else suffer the consequences, whereby the only way to find out if we are right or wrong is to die.

    I’m going to wait and see if I get smote or something for my blasphemy… ;)

  74. Alan Friesen

    The assumption here is that the left-hand of the flowchart is talking about science as a whole, right? Wouldn’t it be fair to assume that the right-hand section of the flowchart talks about religion as a whole? There’s three good arguments for why not all religions or religious adherents do not always ignore contradictory evidence.

    No religion is static. Within Judaism, you have the change from worship centred around the temple cult before the destruction of the temple and worship in the synagogue after the destruction of the temple, continuing until today. In Christianity, there have been two major schisms resulting in three very distinct wings (four if you count the small Assyrian Church of the East), each with different ideas about the core beliefs of the religion. Take a look at reformers such as Zwingli or Luther: were they content to ignore contradictory evidence and believe it forever? Even Jesus was a rabbi brought up in the Jewish tradition who founded a radically new religion out of the old. Was Jesus content to keep the status quo? What about Mohammed? Henry VIII?

    Religion is not as completely divorced from reality as the diagram suggests. Creationists attempt (!) to reconcile the physical world with the Bible. Judaism was very concerned with interpreting the Holocaust in light of the Torahic and Talmudic tradition (“Were we punished because we sinned?”, for instance). There are branches of Zen Buddhism that attempt to incorporate quantum physics as a linguistic model for their relationship with the universe. Vatican II attempted to bring the Catholic church into the 20th century by allowing, among other things, birth control for practitioners. Some Protestant churches are actively recruiting women for senior pastorships. As sociological ideas about the body and the role of gender changes, so too does religion. Most religions have a vested interest in central ideas, so while there are certain core ideas that will not change, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t less integral ideas that won’t. This is different from the scientific process, of course, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Finally, some people change religions, or stop being religious, or go from non-religious to religious. They examine their system of beliefs, find them to be lacking, and change what they believe. Religions are made up of people, and while some people blindly adhere to certain beliefs, others challenge their beliefs.

    On many levels, this flowchart is incorrect. Entire religions change because they refuse to ignore contradictory a priori evidence, and some religions are born out of others because of this refusal. Individual religions sometimes conform themselves to sociological beliefs rather than adhere to outdated ideas. Some people take a priori knowledge and change their religious status. I’m not saying that all beliefs of any given religion are up for grabs, but certainly the diagram’s implication that all religions (and religious adherents) ignore contradictory evidence all the time isn’t true.

    It seems to me that this diagram idealises science and looks at the worst-case scenario in religion. Don’t some scientists cling to contradictory evidence and try to fabricate their findings? Like some religious fundamentalists, they cling to an elegant thesis and try to bend the facts to fit their model. In an ideal world, science adapts, and religion adapts. It seems to me that the creator of this diagram has a vested interest in portraying Judaism, Islam, and Christianity in a negative light. I don’t know anything about the author, so what I’d like to know is why science and religion aren’t portrayed on equal terms, and why the author has compared apples and oranges in an attempt to discredit the validity of faith.

  75. Irishman

    Kyle Kivett said:
    > In defining faith the way I have, I am certainly limiting its definition. However, I have tried to limit it in a way that opens up new possiblities to use it.

    So you’re redefining the word so it means what you want it to mean, and not what everyone else expects it to mean?

    > I believe my definition to be the most useful because faith must begin with trust (as in the friend analogy above), but faith in God, the Creator and sustainer of the universe, must need to go beyond trust into realms where evidence is not extant. This does not mean that it does not exist, but merely that we are not aware of it.

    So because you need it to work a certain way to justify your faith in God, everyone else must use it that way?

    > Because I see no REASON to not ascribe the Big Bang to God instead of to impersonal forces (in fact the latter seems to me unREASONable),

    Now you’re stepping beyond science into ontology. Fine if you do so, but don’t equate that with science.

    >… this leads me to believe (i.e. “have FAITH”) that other evidence for a created universe exists that has not yet been discovered.

    Careful – the unqualified equivalence of “belief” and “faith” is misleading, and certainly counter to your previously stated aims. A “belief” is something held to be true. The grounds for belief can be faith, or they can be evidence. Those are different means of justification. Unfortunately, the terminology is not clearly distinct, and often shorthand is used that equates belief with faith and knowledge with evidence. I think this is unfortunate, as it muddies the water.

    > You probably believe that evidence exists to the contrary. Our faith in either case stems from what has demonstrated trustworthiness to us in the past:

    Now you’ve swapped word usage. You’re equating “faith” with my prior use of “belief” to include evidence as a possible ground. This is semantic sabotage. By juggling the words around in this manner, any coherent meaning becomes lost and is thus open to whatever you wish it to mean. But then you can’t argue your meaning is better than anyone else’s.

    > … for me, the work that God has done and continues to do in my life, and for you, the science that accurately describes the world you see. In either case, our faith stems from trust, but is beyond trust, and is therefore faith.

    Again, I disagree with your use of the word “faith” here, especially as applied to my “beliefs”.

  76. Kyle Kivett

    Well, now that I’ve stepped into it, I guess I should try to clean my shoes off…

    First, a few clarifications. In entering this discussion, my prime intent is to defend the beliefs and thought processes that crawl around in my brain as they relate to science and faith. Secondarily, I wish to clarify what I see as some unnecessarily simplistic and caricatured ideas of faith, religion, and Christianity (often from both sides of the aisle, as it were.) Only tertiarily do I have any desire to move anybody from one side to the other – that’s not my responsibility. As it has been said by someone far more capable than I, “You don’t believe in God because you believe in the Bible; you believe in the Bible when you believe in God.”

    Now some responses:

    Some Guy said:

    Actually, my point was that God (truth) exists regardless of our perception, so of course God would exist without written language. In fact, we have only had our Bible for the last 2000 or so years, and the Bible gives us about 4000 years of history before most of His believers had any scripture to study. (This is not where we have the young earth/old earth debate. Another time, perhaps…) But this speaks to the love of God; that he has allowed us in our epoch of time to have a means of knowing Him (through his scriptures).

    Well, if you knew me, you would be able to see my growth and development as a husband, father, friend, teacher, and student of the Word of God, and I could remain silent. Since you have asked for my answer, I will give just one example of what God has done in my life: Even a few short years ago, I could not have written this series of posts without becoming agitated and frustrated with what I viewed as “the insanity of disbelief” and with being cinsistently misunderstood. However, now I have the spiritual maturity to speak in love, gentleness, and respect to those that disagree with me, even when they return kindness with venom. I still struggle with these issues, as well as with humility, but I can see where I was a few years ago compared to now and know that no earthly thing (willpower, Dianetics, or otherwise) would have brought me to where I am now. But that answer holds no merit to you if you don’t believe, because if I could prove to you beyond any shadow of doubt that God exists, you wouldn’t need faith, and “without faith it is impossible to please God.”

    Again, yes, but then I would miss the joy of discovery each day as I learn more about He who is unfathomable.

    Your thoughts reminded me of a quote I saw recently:
    “Man is the religious animal. He is the only religious animal that has the true religion — several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight.
    -Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)

    The veracity of this “soundbite” is not where you might expect it: Man and animals are of different stock and have different purposes. This is really the problem most Creationists have with Evolution, even if they can’t voice it as such: Evolution establishes a hierarchy, but a linear one, whereas Creationism establishes a clear delineation between the animal kingdom and human kind. There is only one set of data – what is at question is how to interpret the data, and the preconceptions you bring to the table will necessarily alter your understanding of the topic.

    It must also be noted that I believe that much of what is wrong with the world today (and throughout history) is the fault of religion. More precisely, how people have used religion for their own personal gain or have misapplied religious principles because of their avarice, malice, or ignorance. But don’t mistake a misapplication for the fault of the real thing.

    On to Irishman’s comments…
    In a previous post, I said:

    To which Irishman replied:

    We all use words in our own way – communication is a constant struggle even between people who agree! My attempt was to define faith in the way that most people of faith use it, not how it was being defined in this context. My definition may have been limiting, but it was certainly broader than Irishman’s.

    Another exchange:
    Me:

    Irishman:

    What I meant by “must need” is that if God exists, his existence goes outside the realm of empirical evidence. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. My point was assumptive, I grant, but the reasoning is not circular.

    Me:

    Irishman:

    The reductio ad absurdum of evolution is that action came from inaction, something from nothing. I agree that this is not a valid scientific claim, but if not, what is science’s answer to what began it all?

    Irishman ends his response to my thoughts with a clarification of the terms “belief” and “faith.” You can read above for context, but basically he is making the point that they are similar but different for specific reasons, primarily because faith is just one reason for belief, with evidence being the other. As I mentioned in an earlier post, faith is based on evidence, which leads to belief. Again, one set of data exists to tell us how the world began, and bright minds disagree on the conclusions drawn from that data. What you are looking for in the data will cloud your perception of what you see. Science ends when evidence runs out – faith keeps the train moving in the same direction. And scientists must have faith. Very little is known about stem cells, for instance, but because many scientists have faith that they will revolutionize medical care, research continues. Faith and belief aren’t merely similar: they are in a relationship of superior/inferior on the same path – the path of evidence-faith-belief.

    This is not a semantic difference, but a real and important distinction.

    I look forward to receiving your responses.

    -Kyle

  77. Kyle Kivett

    I apologize for the formatting of the last post. I was regrettably distracted while I composed it. Please read kindly and let me know what isn’t clear.

    -Kyle

  78. Irishman

    Kyle Kivett said:
    > Actually, my point was that God (truth) exists regardless of our perception, so of course God would exist without written language.

    Here’s an point of contention between you and Some Guy. Some Guy’s contention is that the only solid existence we have for God is the written text and oral teachings. Vs the example of the roundness of the Earth, where physical evidence was present if not recognized. I won’t argue the point other than to highlight the issue.

    > I still struggle with these issues, as well as with humility, but I can see where I was a few years ago compared to now and know that no earthly thing (willpower, Dianetics, or otherwise) would have brought me to where I am now. But that answer holds no merit to you if you don’t believe, because if I could prove to you beyond any shadow of doubt that God exists, you wouldn’t need faith, and “without faith it is impossible to please God.”

    You are correct on one point, that answer holds no merit for non-believers. You see a change in your personality that is for the better, and attribute it to external influence. Yet there’s no “influence” to be nailed down. It’s your perogative to interpret your emotional growth and change as you see fit, but the reason it is unconvincing is because it is unexaminable. A personal interpretation is not justification for others. The rest of that is mumbo-jumbo to justify why God won’t give us solid evidence. It’s a logical “get out of jail free” card that allows God all the leeway he needs to remain non-disprovable. It’s the lauding of faith, because faith is all you have.

    > Man and animals are of different stock and have different purposes. This is really the problem most Creationists have with Evolution, even if they can’t voice it as such: Evolution establishes a hierarchy, but a linear one, whereas Creationism establishes a clear delineation between the animal kingdom and human kind. There is only one set of data – what is at question is how to interpret the data, and the preconceptions you bring to the table will necessarily alter your understanding of the topic.

    You are correct, that is the underlying distinction that makes religious people uncertain or resistive to Evolution. The emotional separation of humans from animals is the distinct point of contention. The specialness of humanity as God’s chosen, in God’s image, is significant enough that they resist findings that put that uniqueness into question. Of course, many religious people are able to accept Evolution. They do so by stepping beyond the literal need to be different and retain the spiritual difference. If God is great enough to create the universe out of nothingness and form the Earth out of the void, then surely he’s great enough to evolve humans out of animals and still find a way to infuse the soul. No? So the resistance of Creationists to Evolution on those grounds really is unnecessary. But for soem reason Creationists won’t listen to an atheist tell them so.

    > More precisely, how people have used religion for their own personal gain or have misapplied religious principles because of their avarice, malice, or ignorance. But don’t mistake a misapplication for the fault of the real thing.

    That’s really a sensitive issue. Just how is one to separate the misapplication from “the real thing”? Religious people justify abhorrent acts to themselves from within the framework of their religion, and frame their acts as morally justified. How are we as external viewers to separate the mistaken from the correct, when they can’t do it themselves? That’s a fundamental reason for atheist distaste for religion as a whole. There’s no internal structure that provides a clear boundary for delineation, everything is interpretation. Even the simple rules like “Thou shalt not kill” are repealed in later chapters where God directs his followers to annihilate people living on the land He intends for his followers. The hit and miss application of the rules, the post-hoc validation, the arbitrary determination “if it’s good then it’s really from God and if it’s bad then it’s either Satan or human fallability” – those are the things that lead atheists to reject all religion as bad.

    > We all use words in our own way – communication is a constant struggle even between people who agree! My attempt was to define faith in the way that most people of faith use it, not how it was being defined in this context. My definition may have been limiting, but it was certainly broader than Irishman’s.

    Breadth is not necessarily a particularly useful point for a definition. Conveyance of meaning is what is important. Sometimes adding breadth reduces the value of the word. Meaning comes from limits as much as from inclusion – heck, limits are probably more important. Words are just shorthand for concepts. Concepts are most important where they separate from other concepts. Blurring and stretching the lines does not aid communication, it reduces it.

    Despite sometimes being used as synonyms, faith and trust are not the same thing. This we agree on. You say faith is not without evidence, but beyond evidence. You say faith relies upon evidence as far as the evidence goes. What I’m saying is that the point where the evidence leads up to does not require faith, because there’s evidence. So faith is the step beyond the evidence. But if it is beyond evidence, and up to the limit of evidence was not faith, the faith is without evidence. Faith is believing what you want to be true.

    > Faith is NOT belief without evidence – that is foolishness

    You said it.

  79. Irishman

    Kyle Kivett said:
    > The reductio ad absurdum of evolution is that action came from inaction, something from nothing. I agree that this is not a valid scientific claim, but if not, what is science’s answer to what began it all?

    Careful where you’re going. Are you speaking evolution to apply to biological evolution, or the larger scale way it is often used to mean the universe itself? Assuming the former, I will state that science currently doesn’t have an answer for how it all began – biogenesis is an open question in science. However, from within the scientific context, God is irrelevant. Whether or not God played a role, science looks at the question from the standpoint of how it happened. Scientists are currently exploring the question. There are some tenative findings and some suggestive points, some reasonable starting points for investigation. We know that amino acids are formed naturally in space. A certain class of meteorite is made of “carbonaceous chondrite”, a fancy way of saying carbony goo. Essentially it is a clump of long chain polymersof carbon. There is some evidence of how complex compounds formed out of simpler compounds through various chemistry reactions. The famous Miller experiment is one example, but hardly the only grounds. There is even evidence showing how some molecules will self-form around clay particles as a scaffold. Research is looking at the early Earth atmosphere, the oceans, and even underground and hydrothermal vents to determine possible ways the processes started rolling. There are challenges, but the methodology of science is to look at the how naturalistically, and that is what is being explored.

    The “why” question is broader. When you ask why, you are stepping beyond science into philosophy. There’s no evidenciary grounds for dealing with why. Why is about purpose. As a personal answer, I feel that “why” is an inappropriate question. We can talk about purpose from the perspective of a conscious agent. But I see no grounds to project a conscious agent onto the universe as a whole. Asking why is there life vs. no life is meaningless – it is here, it happened. There was no intention behind it. It’s like asking why is there the color red? Why is there sand? That’s the way things happened. Why only becomes meaningful once intent is introduced.

    > As I mentioned in an earlier post, faith is based on evidence, which leads to belief.

    And I disagree. Evidence leads so far. Faith is the step beyond evidence. If it’s beyond evidence, then it is without evidence.

    > Science ends when evidence runs out – faith keeps the train moving in the same direction.

    Arguable. Faith may keep the train moving, but the direction is not necessarily in the same line. Furthermore, many people use faith instead of evidence. Thus Faith is not an extension of evidence for them, it is a replacement.

    > And scientists must have faith. Very little is known about stem cells, for instance, but because many scientists have faith that they will revolutionize medical care, research continues.

    Again, contentious use of the word “faith” in that context. Scientists have reasons to feel stem cells will lead to new treatments or cures. These reasons are built upon the principle of what a stem cell is. There is a certain amount of hope involved, but mostly it’s projecting what is known (stem cells are undifferentiated and the source of all differentiated cells, so there should be some way to use them to grow differentiated cells that otherwise are difficult to grow) onto the logical progression of what could happen.

    > Faith and belief aren’t merely similar: they are in a relationship of superior/inferior on the same path – the path of evidence-faith-belief.

    I disagree. Creationists are a perfect example of Faith conflicting with Evidence. There’s no progression from one to the other. Furthermore, many of us form beliefs straight from evidence, without a faith step in between.

  80. Harriieee

    Don’t worry if you come across aas a religion basher. Religion deserves to be bashed just as much as anythig else which is a lie based on false evidence.

  81. Kyle Kivett

    Sorry for the delay in responding. As they say, life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans… I wish to say here how much I have enjoyed our discussion – “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

    In my earlier post, I postulated that science’s answer to how things began is a logical impossibility. Even Julie Andrews knows that “nothing comes from nothing – nothing ever could.” Irishman wished to clarify my apparent overstatement:
    > I will state that science currently doesn’t have an answer for how it all began – biogenesis is an open question in science.

    In my readings (admittedly limited), I have often seen scientists fail to make a distinction between the empirical micro-evolution (e.g., that viruses and bacteria mutate in response to treatment, making over- and under-medication a significant problem) and macro-evolution that has yet to provide conclusive evidence that one species can transmutate into another. While I don’t deny the logical possibility, the absence of fossil evidence of transitionary lifeforms is conspicuous. Also, macro-evolution is necessary to deny the existence of a creative being or force, and the inherent assumption – one way or the other – will certainly affect how one sees tthe evidence. This contradicts Irishman’s comment that:
    >However, from within the scientific context, God is irrelevant. Whether or not God played a role, science looks at the question from the standpoint of how it happened.

    Imagine for a moment – hypothetically at least – that God exists and that he made the universe. If this is true, then it would be inappropriate to remove his intent from the study of His creation. Would you ignore an author’s childhood if he writes a book about children? Every effect has a cause, and to ignore the reasons behind the cause will obfuscate the effect.
    Now imagine for a moment – hypothetically, of course – that God doesn’t exist. Any work done to attribute reason to an effect would be necessarily suspect. In this case, the work of Galileo, Newton, and Pascal to name a few would have to be thrown out. (Galileo was not a heretic – the Catholic church misapplied their interpretation of an issue not addressed in Scripture. When the church – or anybody – ignores truth to support their prejudices, error ensues. This hopefully helps answer an earlier question wanting clarification on how to tell what is a “misapplication” of Scripture.)

    In brief (too late, I know), the existence of God is central to science because it informs the interpretation of all data. Analogously, the Galilean model of the solar system informs the interpretation of astronomical data, and what one thinks of Darwin’s writings informs interpretation of the fossil record.

    Irishman continued:
    >Scientists are currently exploring the question. There are some tenative findings and some suggestive points, some reasonable starting points for investigation. We know that amino acids are formed naturally in space. A certain class of meteorite is made of “carbonaceous chondrite”, a fancy way of saying carbony goo. Essentially it is a clump of long chain polymersof carbon. There is some evidence of how complex compounds formed out of simpler compounds through various chemistry reactions. The famous Miller experiment is one example, but hardly the only grounds. There is even evidence showing how some molecules will self-form around clay particles as a scaffold. Research is looking at the early Earth atmosphere, the oceans, and even underground and hydrothermal vents to determine possible ways the processes started rolling.

    OK, but science, as you say, asks “How?” So, how did these ingredients and conditions arise? One way to prove the existence of God is to answer the question, “Does anything exist?” (If we can’t agree that things exist, then you are most likely insane and have no business being a scientist!) If we can agree that things exist, then we ask, how did they come to exist? Working backwards, we can continue to ask that question ad infinitum. But there must have beeen a first thing that existed that caused all the other things to exist. This primo genitor, by definition, must be self-existent (nothing caused it) and eternal (it must have been there before time began). It may have other characteristics, but these are logically necessary. Regardless of belief system, these are two common characteristics of God – indeed, the only two necessary characteristics of a deific being. It is important to recognize at this point in the train of logic that we do not know if we should call God Jehovah, Mohammed, Jesus, or Elvis – but that God exists is demonstratable through mere logic. How can we depend on logic? Without a logical mind, all our thoughts are a meaningless collection of experiences, and any conversation we attempt is just as meaningless. You can’t deny the inevitability of logic without accepting the black abyss of nihilism.

    Irishman continued:
    >There are challenges, but the methodology of science is to look at the how naturalistically, and that is what is being explored.

    This is a definition of science that has taken hold in the last 200 years or so, but is not the necessary definition. Many early scientists (those mentioned before, et al) were attempting to find out more about their Creator by studying His creation. While I understand that science is an attempt to understand the laws by which the natural universe works, to deny the possibility of supernaturalism is foolish if, indeed, supernatural events can happen. However, this speaks to the predisposition of many scientists to deny the existence of supernaturalism because they don’t believe them possible, not because they can prove they don’t exist. Indeed, how do you prove a negative?

    Irishman also disagreed with my use of the word faith. I said:
    > Science ends when evidence runs out – faith keeps the train moving in the same direction.

    To which Irishman answered:
    > Arguable. Faith may keep the train moving, but the direction is not necessarily in the same line. Furthermore, many people use faith instead of evidence. Thus Faith is not an extension of evidence for them, it is a replacement.

    I will answer below the train analogy, but on the second part of his response, I must say that this is a great point. The problem is that Irishman has stopped disagreeing with me and started disagreeing with people with whom I would have the same disagreement. Far too many Christians (and followers of other religions, I imagine) are not intellectually prepared to even desribe what they believe, let alone defend their beliefs to those that don’t hold the same beliefs. (For what its worth, Christians are told to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1Peter 3:15 NIV.) This lack of intellectual preparation is one of the reasons that non-believers have a poor opinion of Christians, and one of the reasons that I jumped into this snakepit of opinions contrary to mine. Not that I have every answer, but I am called to be engaged in the struggle to defend the hope that I have, which means this kind of conversation.

    Specifically on point, many people abuse the word faith in myriad ways and contexts. How I am defining it is how it is used in the bible and by the foundational teachers of the Christian church for the last 6000 years. (Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:9) That is, simply, believing God. Not believing IN God, but believing that God is who he says he is, has done what he says, and will do what he has promised. So we can look at what God has promised and because he has always fulfilled his promises before, we can know that he will continue to fulfill them. (The story of Abraham in Genesis is a fascinating example of this.) This is what I meant by faith leading from evidence.

    You are correct that not all beliefs require faith (I believe I’m writing in American English), but when an outcome is unknown, faith is required. For instance, are you loved? Spouse, children, mothers can all do things out of obligation or for their own reward that you might misunderstand as love. If you demanded empirical evidence of their love for you, you will most likely be disappointed – not because they don’t love you, but because empirical evidence doesn’t exist. We must believe, through faith and as an extension from circumstantial evidence, that we are loved. We must have faith in our government that they will abide by the Constitution and the rule of law in their dealings with us. Other instances abound, but to deny the role of faith in everyday life is untenable. The object of faith is the key. We only trust the government so far because of the abuses we have seen so many times. Hopefully, we can trust our family a little more than the government, but in either case, we can look at past events, predict what will happen in the future, and then decide how to act based on the level of reliability of our prediction. Voila – faith, defined scientifically.

    Faith must lead from evidence. Indeed, it is a step in the same direction that the evidence leads. When faith conflicts with evidence, it isn’t faith, it is either foolishness or wishful thinking. Creationists are not all faith-based, nor are all people of faith Creationists, so be careful how broad a brush you use, but as I’ve mentioned before, there is only one set of data (the fossil record, genetic experiments, etc.) and there is a disagreement on how to interpret the data. It is logically possible that Creationists are just plain wrong – and it is just as logically possible that Evolutionists (i.e., macro-evolutionists) are just plain wrong. The other logical possibility is that they are both wrong. Personally, I find it extremely arrogant to imagine that we can understand the process and details of how life as we know it came to be, whether the process took less than 10K years, or more than 5B years – I don’t care, because we can’t know with any certainty in either case. But both systems of thought depend heavily on taking one step (or more) beyond the current evidence – science makes an experiment based on what is known in the panople of science, while pure faith evaluates the step based on previous evidence and searches for confirmation from the panople of scripture. This is where most believers should take a cue from science – scientists are notoriously more careful about testing themselves, even though Christians are commanded to do so as well (1 Corinthians 13:5).

    Please remember that my primary reason for entering this fray is to fulfill the commission of 1 Peter 3:15, mentioned above, and I am most interested in maintaining my gentleness and displaying the respect I have for you as a person and as an intellect. I pray that I would represent my savior in a way that pleases Him, and hopefully gives you a fair picture of who He wants me to be, whther I am that yet or not. Thanks for your time.

    -Kyle

  82. Irishman

    And the essays grow longer. ;-)

    Kyle Kivett said:
    > I wish to say here how much I have enjoyed our discussion – “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

    Yes, it is nice to share a pleasant exchange over contrasting views.

    > In my readings (admittedly limited), I have often seen scientists fail to make a distinction between the empirical micro-evolution (e.g., that viruses and bacteria mutate in response to treatment, making over- and under-medication a significant problem) and macro-evolution that has yet to provide conclusive evidence that one species can transmutate into another. While I don’t deny the logical possibility, the absence of fossil evidence of transitionary lifeforms is conspicuous.

    Because the distinction you’re making is arbitrary. There is no process distinction to limit changes within species from changes to new species. The fact is most people’s standard concept of a species is even flawed, because we tend to conceive of them as static objects, when “species” is itself a transitional form. A simple example can be drawn from a hackneyed phrase about chickens and eggs. Biologically, the chicken egg came first, layed by a bird that was “one step” short of being a chicken. Now you just have to pick what “one step” defines the distinction of “not a chicken”. This is clearly exemplified by the concept of ring species. A ring species is a species that is geographically widespread such that the whole population is not interacting. What occurs is that there are varieties and sub-population groups along the geographic spectrum, whereby any two groups sharing overlapping geography can and do interbreed, but groups from the extreme ends not only do not interbreed, but cannot interbreed if brought together. This is a fascinating example of speciation at work.

    You state the absence of transitional fossils as being significant. Yet transitional forms do exist. Talk origins has much discussion on the topic. What effectively ends up getting argued is how to define what a transitional form is. A recent find that is clearly a transitional form by any definition is Tiktaaluk – the odd “fish” found not too long ago. This “fish” not only has wrist bones (no other fish has them) in just the right place to match all land vertibrates, but it also has neck features clearly between land vertabrates and fish. There are several fish-like features, several amphibian-like features, and a number of ambiguous ones. Just because scientists choose some fuzzy line and classify it on one side of the line or the other does not change the truth that the features are intermediates. And Tiktaaluk was found where scientists predicted they should find intermediates.

    There are plenty of other transitional forms showing transitions from reptile to mammal, and reptile to bird (and not just Archeopterix that is so controversial). To claim there are no transitional fossils is just uninformed.

    > Also, macro-evolution is necessary to deny the existence of a creative being or force,

    This is a logical fallacy. The lack of one explanation is not de facto justification for a different explanation. Each explanation must stand on its own merits. The best you get if “macro-evolution” is unproven is an opening in which to stick some other mechanism. Science is not concerned with creative beings or forces. Science is concerned with the mechanism of how it occurred.

    > Imagine for a moment – hypothetically at least – that God exists and that he made the universe. If this is true, then it would be inappropriate to remove his intent from the study of His creation. Would you ignore an author’s childhood if he writes a book about children? Every effect has a cause, and to ignore the reasons behind the cause will obfuscate the effect.

    If you wish to deal with God scientifically, then you have to submit the claim to the rigors of science. But the concept itself is hard to treat objectively, because people rewrite God to fit whatever niche they want him to fill. “No evidence for God? That’s because God wants to be inscrutable.” You know what? That makes the claim untestable in the physical sense. Untestable claims are unjustifiable. Before you can scrutinize how God’s intent affects God’s creation, first you have to prove you know God’s intent. But if God can be twisted, shaped, and reformed to avoid any form of scrutiny, then you cannot prove you know God’s intent. Ergo, it’s all guessing games.

    > Now imagine for a moment – hypothetically, of course – that God doesn’t exist. Any work done to attribute reason to an effect would be necessarily suspect. In this case, the work of Galileo, Newton, and Pascal to name a few would have to be thrown out.

    Now you fail to grasp what science is and how it works. Their work doesn’t automatically require being thrown out. Science works by objective verification of evidence. If the findings work, they are accepted. If they don’t work, they are rejected. It doesn’t matter that Newton was into numerology and studying alchemy, optics works. Calculus works. Newtonian mechanics works. Newtonian gravity is accurate for common scales of behavior.

    > One way to prove the existence of God is to answer the question, “Does anything exist?” … If we can agree that things exist, then we ask, how did they come to exist? Working backwards, we can continue to ask that question ad infinitum. But there must have beeen a first thing that existed that caused all the other things to exist. This primo genitor, by definition, must be self-existent (nothing caused it) and eternal (it must have been there before time began). It may have other characteristics, but these are logically necessary.

    Careful: you are relying on our current conceptions of causality and necessity. Modern physics shows us that our current conceptions may not hold at the extreme ranges beyond our experience level. What cosmology tells us is the very nature of causality and time may cease to apply at the extreme.

    > Regardless of belief system, these are two common characteristics of God – indeed, the only two necessary characteristics of a deific being. It is important to recognize at this point in the train of logic that we do not know if we should call God Jehovah, Mohammed, Jesus, or Elvis – but that God exists is demonstratable through mere logic.

    What we also don’t know is if we should call this god “God”, or “quantum vacuum fluctuations”. What I’m saying is that you are projecting more content onto the logical position than is warranted. You are projecting an identity and will onto this “first cause”, but that is ungrounded. The only thing logic tells us is that the First Cause cannot be caused, or it wouldn’t be first. The cause of the universe cannot be within the universe, because it would be self-causing. Again, perhaps our concept of cause and effect breaks down at the limits, and self-causality is possible. But either way, the logical result does not require a conscious, active agent to be the First Cause. Any other properties you assert for the First Cause are not justified by the logical position. They are just your assertions.

    >> Irishman: There are challenges, but the methodology of science is to look at the how naturalistically, and that is what is being explored.

    > Kyle Kivett: This is a definition of science that has taken hold in the last 200 years or so, but is not the necessary definition. Many early scientists (those mentioned before, et al) were attempting to find out more about their Creator by studying His creation. While I understand that science is an attempt to understand the laws by which the natural universe works, to deny the possibility of supernaturalism is foolish if, indeed, supernatural events can happen. However, this speaks to the predisposition of many scientists to deny the existence of supernaturalism because they don’t believe them possible, not because they can prove they don’t exist. Indeed, how do you prove a negative?

    I don’t have to prove a negative, you must prove a positive. Prove something supernatural exists, and scientists will believe it. Scientific naturalism was born from the process of observing the world. The world works in consistent, repeatable ways. If it didn’t, life itself would be rather complex because you wouldn’t know if the dinner you fix tonight just like you did last night will be edible or toxic. Heck, you wouldn’t know which way gravity was going to pull. The motivations of prior scientists isn’t particularly relevant, what is is their methodology – the methodology that has framed science as a process. That process has been remarkably successful in providing results that lead to better answers and predicting results better.

    > Specifically on point, many people abuse the word faith in myriad ways and contexts. How I am defining it is how it is used in the bible and by the foundational teachers of the Christian church for the last 6000 years. (Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:9) That is, simply, believing God. Not believing IN God, but believing that God is who he says he is, has done what he says, and will do what he has promised.

    It would be a lot easier to believe God if I didn’t hear everything third-hand. As it is, everything is relayed through ancient, multiply translated documents and oral stories. The ground you’re walking is a non-sequitur. I see the distinction you are attempting to make, but I don’t follow how that applies to terminology about “faith”.

    > So we can look at what God has promised and because he has always fulfilled his promises before, we can know that he will continue to fulfill them. (The story of Abraham in Genesis is a fascinating example of this.) This is what I meant by faith leading from evidence.

    Two comments. First, the evidence you have in this regard is mighty slim. Myth and allegory do not validate “he has fulfilled his promises”. Second, once you have evidence, it is not faith.

    > You are correct that not all beliefs require faith (I believe I’m writing in American English), but when an outcome is unknown, faith is required. For instance, are you loved? Spouse, children, mothers can all do things out of obligation or for their own reward that you might misunderstand as love. If you demanded empirical evidence of their love for you, you will most likely be disappointed – not because they don’t love you, but because empirical evidence doesn’t exist. We must believe, through faith and as an extension from circumstantial evidence, that we are loved. We must have faith in our government that they will abide by the Constitution and the rule of law in their dealings with us. Other instances abound, but to deny the role of faith in everyday life is untenable. The object of faith is the key. We only trust the government so far because of the abuses we have seen so many times. Hopefully, we can trust our family a little more than the government, but in either case, we can look at past events, predict what will happen in the future, and then decide how to act based on the level of reliability of our prediction. Voila – faith, defined scientifically.

    I don’t think you are using terminology correctly. There is a distinction between “faith” and “trust”. However, let’s look at the more extended point, that faith plays a role in our lives and decisions. Belief that our families love us because while we can see behaviors and actions we cannot feel their emotions. So we believe they love us because we project our own emotions onto them, and because we want it to be true. In that sense, there may be value in our lives for faith, as projected from evidence.

    However, I don’t think those conditions are pure faith. We don’t live in pure states, I think that is a blended position. There’s the evidenciary grounds of behavior and stated words. There’s the projection of our own emotional abilities and conditions. There’s the trust granted to others that they mean what they say. Blend that with the projection of faith that they love us, because we want it to be true. The further you step from the evidenciary grounds (or the more the behaviors are at odds with the conclusion), the less you rely on evidence and the more you step into faith.

    > Faith must lead from evidence. Indeed, it is a step in the same direction that the evidence leads. When faith conflicts with evidence, it isn’t faith, it is either foolishness or wishful thinking.

    Now we’re stepping away from what faith is and into how you think faith should be used. You think that faith is fine if projected from evidence, but is wrong when it violates evidence. Okay, I agree with the latter and if you’re going to use faith then I hope you follow the former. But that is irrelevant to the definition of what faith is.

    > Creationists are not all faith-based, nor are all people of faith Creationists, so be careful how broad a brush you use, …

    I do try to be careful and emphasize the distinctions between believers and Creationists. However, I am not aware of any Creationists who are not “faith-based”.

    >… but as I’ve mentioned before, there is only one set of data (the fossil record, genetic experiments, etc.) and there is a disagreement on how to interpret the data. It is logically possible that Creationists are just plain wrong – and it is just as logically possible that Evolutionists (i.e., macro-evolutionists) are just plain wrong. The other logical possibility is that they are both wrong.

    You are correct, in the absense of evidence, logic allows those three possibilities. The fourth, that they are both correct, is eliminated because the specific claims of Creationism and Evolution are methodologically contradictory. Now let’s step beyond the limits of pure logic and look at the evidence, and evaluate those methods of the claims. Creationism states everything appeared like it is, forms are static. Evolution says life forms change over time, and all life has common ancestry. The evidence – from the fossil record to genetics to agricultural techniques to animal breeding to even the notion of extinction – all the evidence points to common ancestry and change over time.

    > Personally, I find it extremely arrogant to imagine that we can understand the process and details of how life as we know it came to be, whether the process took less than 10K years, or more than 5B years – I don’t care, because we can’t know with any certainty in either case.

    Perhaps we can’t know with certainty, given we only have evidence to stand on and did not witness the whole process from start to finish. But I find that a poor grounds to say that both possible means are equivalently likely. That evidence that we do have, including witnessing the process from within, on small scales, gives much greater credence to one method than the other. The only evidence supporting Creationism is 6000 year old stories. All the physical evidence supports a process of change from common ancestry – what we call Evolution. I don’t care if you care about the answer, I care about the answer. I’ll take the one consistent with the evidence, and don’t have much worry about how “arrogant” it might make me.

  83. yy2bggggs

    Kyle Kivett:

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to step in here with a few challenges.

    “In brief (too late, I know), the existence of God is central to science because it informs the interpretation of all data. Analogously, the Galilean model of the solar system informs the interpretation of astronomical data, and what one thinks of Darwin’s writings informs interpretation of the fossil record.”

    I’m sorry, but can’t God’s creation speak for itself? I don’t quite buy that God’s existence is central–it’s not his existence that draws one to conclude different methods and different interpretations of the data–it’s one’s dogma. God’s existence doesn’t get called out, for example, when people talk about atomic theory. God’s existence doesn’t tend to play out when one discusses thermodynamics. God’s existence becomes important when one discusses the age of the earth, and evolution. Why? Not because God’s existence negates these, but because certain established dogma does. Therefore, it’s not the existence of God that would demand a change in interpretation, but rather, the truth of a dogma.

    So, consider this for a second. If God can somehow cause books to be written in Ancient Hebrew and Greek, certainly God can also speak using languages of mathematics and logic. Is it the same God that created the world and its inhabitants in six days, that created quantum mechanics, and its probabilistic symmetries? When God said, “Let there be light”, did he create Pauli Exclusion and chemistry? Can God’s creation speak against God?

    There is belief, and reality. There may not be certainty, but certainly reality is a good guide to belief. If the two conflict, sure–it could just be your misunderstanding of reality, but the big question is–how likely is it? Couldn’t it also be likely that you’re mistaken? If faith is immune to a check in reality, what claims to intellectual honesty are left?

    It is rationally imperative to accept that truth must be revealed by the actions and properties of that which is studied. That which is unknown may be amendable enough to conjecture, but that which is revealed should not be indefinitely questionable. If the believer is merely finding excuses to believe, his belief should be called into question. If God is real, and he created this vast expanse, all creation will point to him–or at the very least will not point away. What do you think God would say to you when he leaves so many clues, and you just ignore them? Would there be an excuse left for you? As such, is it even valid theology to go against his creation?

    “OK, but science, as you say, asks “How?” So, how did these ingredients and conditions arise? One way to prove the existence of God is to answer the question, “Does anything exist?” (If we can’t agree that things exist, then you are most likely insane and have no business being a scientist!) If we can agree that things exist, then we ask, how did they come to exist? Working backwards, we can continue to ask that question ad infinitum. But there must have been a first thing that existed that caused all the other things to exist.”

    Is there even more than one step? Think of a few examples of things being created. Were any of those examples, valid examples of things being caused to exist? Or are they just transformations of that which is already there? Think harder and broader–can you think of a single example in the natural world of something causing something else to exist? Sure, it’s reasonable to say that nothing comes from nothing–but as far as you know, nothing comes from anything! Creation ex nihilo is an alien phenomena from the get go. It’s difficult to even imagine a mechanism for it, much less to come up with a logically consistent argument for its necessity! God as a first cause is a nice theory, but even that’s one more step than is logically required. That’s not to say that God couldn’t have started things going–this just isn’t a valid argument for why he had to.

  84. Kyle Kivett

    Irishman:
    >Yes, it is nice to share a pleasant exchange over contrasting views.

    Well, at least we can agree on something! :)

    And I will try to make my responses more concise – sorry to anybody that is using this exchange as nacolepsy training. (My wife finds this discussion frightfully boring, but I love her anyway.)

    Irishman:
    >There is no process distinction to limit changes within species from changes to new species. (snipped – see above for complete context)

    Me:
    While I don’t deny that species vary according to age (egg to birth to sexual maturity, etc.) and that species can even alter and change (average height of humans, moths changing color, etc.), the evidence seems lacking to support the idea of one species mutating into another species.

    Me:
    >> While I don’t deny the logical possibility, the absence of fossil evidence of transitionary lifeforms is conspicuous.

    Irishman:
    >Yet transitional forms do exist.(snip)
    >There are plenty of other transitional forms showing transitions from reptile to mammal, and reptile to bird (and not just Archeopterix that is so controversial).

    Me:
    While I’ve heard of fossils of lifeforms that many see as evidence of transitions between species, I am struck by the consipicuous absence of the expected quantity of them. If transitions arise through random mutations, wouldn’t you expect to see more mutations that didn’t work in the fossil record? Certainly more than mutations that were efficacious. I suppose this could be answered by saying that only the mutations that worked survived long enough to reproduce enough to put them in the position to be captured in the fossil record.

    Irishman:
    >To claim there are no transitional fossils is just uninformed.

    Me:
    I don’t believe I have made any claim to be otherwise – I’m just a band teacher, after all, not a scientist – but I still have my doubts when science speaks too boldly of things not known or known only in part. Regardless of my lack of training, I remain unconvinced by much of the evidence science presents and I can’t help but notice the prejudice against faith generally and Christians in particular (see the earlier posts by others in this forum!) You might say that this is a result of stubbornness, ignorance, or plain idiocy, but I hope through this discussion I have at least given you pause before you reach these conclusions.

    Me:
    >> Also, macro-evolution is necessary to deny the existence of a creative being or force,

    Irishman:
    >This is a logical fallacy. The lack of one explanation is not de facto justification for a different explanation.

    Me:
    I apologize for my poor sentence structure and incomplete thought masquarading as a logical fallacy. (What I wrote is not what I meant.) A better attempt at my intended meaning might read: Many people wish to avoid the existence of an omnipotent creator that would hold them accountable for their actions, and use macro-evolution to explain how our current world came to be. While this is not a scientific reason, it is not unreasonable to imagine that many scientists hold this view.

    Irishman:
    (snip)
    > Science is concerned with the mechanism of how it occurred.

    Me:
    Which makes it odd that science would refuse to consider the idea of Intelligent Design. Is the very concept of supernaturalism so logically impossible that science turns up its nose prejudicially? Is ID considered an illegitimate mechanism merely because it is untestable? If so, then the same could be said for macro-evolution. I’m not just asking hypothetically – I haven’t heard a scientist defend their refusal to consider ID, and I’m very curious to hear what you say.

    Irishman:
    > If you wish to deal with God scientifically, then you have to submit the claim to the rigors of science.

    Me:
    I have no desire to deal with God scientifically. The very idea is ridiculous to me – as ridiculous as dealing with color monochromatically or philosophy Platonicly (or Nietzsche-ly or Bonhoffer-ly for that matter, if you’ll pardon the linguistic violence). Science is not big enough to understand God, just as Plato (or the others alone) doesn’t give a holistic picture of philosphy. However, those science-related matters that the God of the Bible has deemed us worthy to address in scripture, I will try my best to understand. Keep in mind, however, that the Bible is not a science text (thank goodness! Speaking of narcolepsy training…) but a collection of writings in several genres, including historical narrative (originally from oral tradition, so memorization is a primary concern over science) and poetry (where figurative language trumps scientific clarity). This does not however, negate the reality or accuracy of the text within its genre. When Edgar Allan Poe refers to a “black tarn,” do we imagine that he was referring to a small lake of petroleum deposits? No, we understand it as figurative language to describe a body of water in a particular place (in this case, outside the fictional “House of Usher”) whose color represents the mood of the narrator. Poe may or may not have had an actual pond in mind in writing the story, but the veracity and impact of the story does not hinge on the location of that pool. In the same way, when the Bible speaks of the breadth and glory of creation in Job 38-41 (within the context of poetic language in one of the oldest books of the Bible), we may interpret that he is referring to actual elements of creation in figurative language, or perhaps of unobserved elements of creation in literal language. In either case, the veracity and impact of God’s wisdom and strength compared to man rings true.

    I said I was going to try to keep this shorter, didn’t I…hmm…

    You might say that in the above example I am changing my reading of the Bible to give it the meaning I want -

    >But the concept itself is hard to treat objectively, because people rewrite God to fit whatever niche they want him to fill.

    - but instead I am trying to read the Bible in its intended way. I find newspapers almost intolerable because of their banal treatment of nearly every subject – I see no reason to exclude art from every form of communication. However, when I read them with an attempt to find the author’s intent, they are more tolerable. How can we know the author’s intent? Only from context, which is at the root of most Biblical misunderstandings and misapplications. Critics of the Bible often refer to passages about God killing women and children, without reading the context that perhaps it was better for them to die (especially the children) in innocence that be raised as God-haters. This is a hard teaching, I admit (and this truncated discussion of it remains insufficient), but context provides clues to a greater God than the misogynist, bigoted war-monger as which He is often portrayed. Certainly, misogynist, bigoted war-mongers will worship a God who is the same, but most who rewrite God to fit their needs are no better than a run-of-the-mill athiest or agnostic.

    Irishman:
    >“No evidence for God? That’s because God wants to be inscrutable.” You know what? That makes the claim untestable in the physical sense. Untestable claims are unjustifiable.

    Me:
    Not sure what you’re referring to in your quote above – I wouldn’t think of it as a Christian teaching, because Christians glory in the miracle that God chose to reveal Himself in the Incarnation (God became man in Christ) and in the revelation of Himself in scripture. In the ways that God is inscrutable, it is because of the ontological difference between He and us, not because He has not desired to communicate to us. Much like we would really like to teach our cat to use the toilet, but their brain power can’t handle more than a litter box.

    Irishman:
    > Before you can scrutinize how God’s intent affects God’s creation, first you have to prove you know God’s intent.

    Me:
    To know God’s intent is different than knowing that God has intent – I’m at this point only interested in the latter. Intelligent Design (ID) merely expresses that intent exists – determining what that intent is remains a question of faith, but we needn’t know why God created anything (the system we call the Periodic Table, for instance) to recognize the inherent design.

    Irishman:
    >But if God can be twisted, shaped, and reformed to avoid any form of scrutiny, then you cannot prove you know God’s intent. Ergo, it’s all guessing games.

    Me:
    God cannot be twisted, etc., but our interpretation can be when we are uninformed because we don’t know scripture. However, this eventually comes down to an issue of faith, because as Christians we are constantly searching for a deeper understanding of God’s will in our lives.

    Me:
    >> Now imagine for a moment – hypothetically, of course – that God doesn’t exist. Any work done to attribute reason to an effect would be necessarily suspect. In this case, the work of Galileo, Newton, and Pascal to name a few would have to be thrown out.

    Irishman:
    >Now you fail to grasp what science is and how it works. Their work doesn’t automatically require being thrown out. Science works by objective verification of evidence. If the findings work, they are accepted. If they don’t work, they are rejected. It doesn’t matter that Newton was into numerology and studying alchemy, optics works. Calculus works. Newtonian mechanics works. Newtonian gravity is accurate for common scales of behavior.

    Me:
    Perhaps I overstated my case, but science has to be more than mere pragmatism, doesn’t it? Besides, didn’t Heisenberg question the very nature of objectivism? I guess you could say that I treat science with the same sketicism you treat faith because I don’t accept “objective verification of evidence” as certain, just as you don’t accept scripture as certain. Simply put, I don’t trust humans (at least not their observations), and you don’t trust God (at least not the interpretations you’ve heard). I hope I’m not oversimplifiying the issue, and I don’t mean that to be a hypercritical statement – do you agree with me on that point?

    Me:
    > One way to prove the existence of God is to answer the question, “Does anything exist?” … If we can agree that things exist, then we ask, how did they come to exist? Working backwards, we can continue to ask that question ad infinitum. But there must have beeen a first thing that existed that caused all the other things to exist. This primo genitor, by definition, must be self-existent (nothing caused it) and eternal (it must have been there before time began). It may have other characteristics, but these are logically necessary.

    Irishman:
    >Careful: you are relying on our current conceptions of causality and necessity. Modern physics shows us that our current conceptions may not hold at the extreme ranges beyond our experience level. What cosmology tells us is the very nature of causality and time may cease to apply at the extreme.

    Me:
    Pardon me for saying that this is perhaps your weakest retort, and seems a bit out of character for you. Do I understand you to say that laws may exist which govern conditions we cannot experience? That doesn’t sound very much like scientific naturalism. In fact, it sounds like God-speak. This goes to my point that God is so much bigger than science – what is outside our experience is merely part of His reality.

    Me:
    >> Regardless of belief system, these are two common characteristics of God – indeed, the only two necessary characteristics of a deific being. It is important to recognize at this point in the train of logic that we do not know if we should call God Jehovah, Mohammed, Jesus, or Elvis – but that God exists is demonstratable through mere logic.

    Irishman:
    >What we also don’t know is if we should call this god “God”, or “quantum vacuum fluctuations”. What I’m saying is that you are projecting more content onto the logical position than is warranted. You are projecting an identity and will onto this “first cause”, but that is ungrounded. The only thing logic tells us is that the First Cause cannot be caused, or it wouldn’t be first. The cause of the universe cannot be within the universe, because it would be self-causing.

    Me:
    Actually, you have projected an identity that I hadn’t intended. According to my definition above, personality is not necessary and not mentioned. By calling that eternal and self-existant entity God, I have perhaps unwittingly brought the baggage of my previous mentions of the Christian deity. I suppose I should have called it “god” or perhaps even “hnfrsp” to lose any connotations with any previously known word. (Of course, that’s what the God of the Bible did in referring to Himself as “I AM” and what the Jews did by referring to Him as the tetragrammaton “YHWH” so even that may have aroused associations on your part.) The rest of your point is in agreement with my earlier statements. (We just can’t help but find common ground this time around!) I think I know why God didn’t ask scientists to pen the Bible – “Quantum vacuum fluctuations are my Shepherd, I shall not want” is a little awkward… :)

    Irishman:
    >Again, perhaps our concept of cause and effect breaks down at the limits, and self-causality is possible.

    Me:
    Pardon me for considering this patently ridicuous. I mean, doesn’t science still need to follow the compulsion of logic?

    At this point, I need to call it a night. I will try to answer the rest of the essay soon. Again, thanks for your time.
    -Kyle

  85. Irishman

    yy2Bggggs, great comments.

    > Is there even more than one step? Think of a few examples of things being created. Were any of those examples, valid examples of things being caused to exist? Or are they just transformations of that which is already there? Think harder and broader–can you think of a single example in the natural world of something causing something else to exist? Sure, it’s reasonable to say that nothing comes from nothing–but as far as you know, nothing comes from anything! Creation ex nihilo is an alien phenomena from the get go. It’s difficult to even imagine a mechanism for it, much less to come up with a logically consistent argument for its necessity!

    Excellent observation, something to really ponder.

    > God as a first cause is a nice theory, but even that’s one more step than is logically required. That’s not to say that God couldn’t have started things going–this just isn’t a valid argument for why he had to.

    Yes, that was what I was trying to convey.

  86. Irishman

    Longwinded response to follow. It’s a good thing we’re on page 32 of the blog. ;-)

    Irishman:
    >>There is no process distinction to limit changes within species from changes to new species. (snipped – see above for complete context)

    Kyle Kivett:
    > While I don’t deny that species vary according to age (egg to birth to sexual maturity, etc.) and that species can even alter and change (average height of humans, moths changing color, etc.), the evidence seems lacking to support the idea of one species mutating into another species.

    I guess the question that has to be asked is what would you find convincing? There have been some very lengthy generational experiments demonstrating how speciation occurs, using the methods found in nature to change the offspring to produce a desired result that is different than the ancestors. Over generations, the results are significant enough that if the two end points were compared side by side, they would not be deemed the same species. These experiments were not formally documented, because they predate science as a methodology. I’m talking about agriculture and animal husbandry. Just think of corn for one example. “Ah, but that’s artificial selection,” you say. Yes, but it uses the inherent capabilities within the biological system without understanding the details of how they work. Sure, it’s consciously directed instead of unconsciously directed, but the mechanisms are the same. Selective breeding is the same thing as what occurs in the wild – the only difference is “who” is doing the selecting. In the wild, that “who” is predation and disease and sexual selection rather than an outside director. But the result is the same thing, using variations within the genetic population to provide the most viable offspring. Viable being one of those fuzzy words defined by context.

    I think ring species are another pretty good example. The two end points are different enough that fertile interbreeding cannot occur. That seems to be the standard working definition of speciation.

    Usually when pressed, Creationists describe wanting to see something like a rat turn into a bat, or a fish grow legs. But the thing is, that’s not speciation, that’s change at a much higher taxonomical level – say class or order. That kind of change will not be witnessable, because the scale of change is so dramatic, it takes time. The fossil record does not work in such a way as to capture an unbroken record of every individual along the process, from the original pair all they way through the ten-thousand generations or so it takes to get to something different enough for a Creationist to admit “that’s a different ‘kind’”. That’s simply an unrealistic expectation. But what we do have is several cases of strings of fossils that show progressive similarity. Each successive form is close to but different from the previous one, and they produce a string that goes from one extreme to another. An example is the record for the horse, growing from a dog-sized critter to the modern horse. I suppose to be fair, there is a small amount of interpretation to read that as a connected string of changes and not completely independent creatures that happen to have just the right similarities and live in just the right areas and timescales to fit the hypothesis they are ancestral forms. Scientists feel the best fit is to connect them, rather than explain the string of coincidences to produce data that fits the hypothesis but has some other non-identifiable cause.

    Kyle Kivett:
    > While I’ve heard of fossils of lifeforms that many see as evidence of transitions between species, I am struck by the consipicuous absence of the expected quantity of them. If transitions arise through random mutations, wouldn’t you expect to see more mutations that didn’t work in the fossil record? Certainly more than mutations that were efficacious. I suppose this could be answered by saying that only the mutations that worked survived long enough to reproduce enough to put them in the position to be captured in the fossil record.

    Bolding added. Yes. Fossils are not a necessary outcome of death. Fossils only form in the right types of soil conditions. The record only builds under the right geological conditions. If conditions are wrong, fossils that did manage to form can be eroded away through subsequent exposure to wind and water. Thus a record can be erased. Given the unlikelihoods and contingencies that are inherent to the formation and preservation of fossils for them to be present and discovered, it is not surprising that they are few and far between.

    Kyle Kivett:
    > Regardless of my lack of training, I remain unconvinced by much of the evidence science presents and I can’t help but notice the prejudice against faith generally and Christians in particular (see the earlier posts by others in this forum!) You might say that this is a result of stubbornness, ignorance, or plain idiocy, but I hope through this discussion I have at least given you pause before you reach these conclusions.

    Any prejudice against faith generally and Christians in particular is usually built up from exposure to people professing faith, especially Christians. Perhaps that isn’t fair, but it is true. I would hope we can reduce prejudice and approach people as individuals, but the reality is that some responses are built upon previous experience. And yes, I see how that works both ways.

    Kyle Kivett:
    > Many people wish to avoid the existence of an omnipotent creator that would hold them accountable for their actions, and use macro-evolution to explain how our current world came to be. While this is not a scientific reason, it is not unreasonable to imagine that many scientists hold this view.

    It may not be unreasonable to think that some scientists hold that view, but I think it is unreasonable to think most scientists or atheists hold that view. In particular, I reject your assertion as to causation: “an omnipotent creator that would hold them accountable for their actions”. I do not see most atheists (whether scientists or not) as motivating themselves by a desire to be free of judgment for their actions. Rather, there is a rejection of the premise of an omnipotent creator, largely on grounds of lack of evidence and incompatibility of the premise with experience. Leaving aside the particular motivation for lack of belief, you are correct that many people feel “macro-evolution” makes a supreme creator unnecessary. However, it should be noted that there are plenty of religious people who have no issue with “macro-evolution”, they accept the evidence of changing forms over time and common ancestry as the results of scientific investigation and if they ascribe it to God, do so as God’s mechanism. Whether or not some atheists use Evolution as a justification for lack of belief in God, that does not negate the accurace of Evolution as a scientific explanation.

    Kyle Kivett:
    > Which makes it odd that science would refuse to consider the idea of Intelligent Design. Is the very concept of supernaturalism so logically impossible that science turns up its nose prejudicially? Is ID considered an illegitimate mechanism merely because it is untestable? If so, then the same could be said for macro-evolution. I’m not just asking hypothetically – I haven’t heard a scientist defend their refusal to consider ID, and I’m very curious to hear what you say.

    Intelligent Design is a complex issue. “ID” is a label that has a couple of levels. At the top-most level, it is primarily a philosophical position – the premise of a conscious entity creating and controlling the universe as a whole, and the development of life in specific. Most ID proponents (in fact, all the predominent advocates and the creators of the term) are religiously motivated defenders of a pre-conceived position, rather than relying upon evidence to frame a conclusion. As such, they cherry pick the “evidence” to support their pre-conceived result. That is not science. It’s primarily philosophy, with bad science or pseudoscience around the fringes to give it credence.

    At a lower level, one can look at the supposed evidence presented by ID, the mechanisms of change and methods for identifying the action of an intelligent agent. This level can be evaluated scientifically. This is the level of “Irreducible Complexity” and “Specified Complexity” come into the picture. The thing is, these concepts are not scientifically validated. IC is best described and proposed by Michael Behe. However, statements made by Behe in his book have been explicitly contradicted by the scientific literature. These examples were identified and descibed during the Kitzmiller (Dover) case. Behe claimed particular biochemical pathways were inexplicable and had not been studied. Yet evidence was presented of scientific articles addressing those biochemical pathways that were published before his book. And even more have been since his book first came out. Simply put, the evidence condemns IC as unsupported. But even more, the assumptions that ground IC as a premise are unfounded. The assumptions underlying IC do not match what Evolution actually says and the premises biologists use for how complex pathways form from simpler ones. It’s poor science. Specified Complexity suffers from similar faulty assumptions and failure to generate scientific validation.

    So scientists reject ID because the philosophical premise does not fit within the framework of science, and the evidenciary mechanisms are subjected to scrutiny and found faulty.

    More to follow.

  87. Irishman

    Once more:

    Irishman:
    >> If you wish to deal with God scientifically, then you have to submit the claim to the rigors of science.

    Kyle Kivett:
    > I have no desire to deal with God scientifically.

    But you are the one who brought God into the science picture. You’re the one advocating including God in science. That can only be done within the framework of science.

    > Science is not big enough to understand God,

    Yes, God is inscrutable. What was I saying before, something about defining away the ability to subject the claim to testing?

    > Keep in mind, however, that the Bible is not a science text (thank goodness! Speaking of narcolepsy training…) but a collection of writings in several genres, including historical narrative (originally from oral tradition, so memorization is a primary concern over science) and poetry (where figurative language trumps scientific clarity). This does not however, negate the reality or accuracy of the text within its genre.

    Thank you for acknowledging that. That puts you ahead of folks at the ICR and other Creationist organizations. Yes, the Bible is a collected work involving historical tradition, cultural learnings, moral injunctions, teaching parables and allegory, and stories to cope with the “big” questions of origins and meaning. The trick is sorting out the various elements and knowing which is which.

    > In the same way, when the Bible speaks of the breadth and glory of creation in Job 38-41 (within the context of poetic language in one of the oldest books of the Bible), we may interpret that he is referring to actual elements of creation in figurative language, or perhaps of unobserved elements of creation in literal language. In either case, the veracity and impact of God’s wisdom and strength compared to man rings true.

    Careful, you could be making the mistake of treating allegory as historical when ascribing existence to God. Like I said, knowing which is which.

    > However, when I read them with an attempt to find the author’s intent, they are more tolerable. How can we know the author’s intent? Only from context, which is at the root of most Biblical misunderstandings and misapplications. Critics of the Bible often refer to passages about God killing women and children, without reading the context that perhaps it was better for them to die (especially the children) in innocence that be raised as God-haters. This is a hard teaching, I admit (and this truncated discussion of it remains insufficient), but context provides clues to a greater God than the misogynist, bigoted war-monger as which He is often portrayed. Certainly, misogynist, bigoted war-mongers will worship a God who is the same, but most who rewrite God to fit their needs are no better than a run-of-the-mill athiest or agnostic.

    Interesting example. This is a particular example of God taking an action that we, today, judge morally as evil, in contradiction to the proclaimed eternal goodness of God. Your comment is that we must evaluate the context of the situation. Isn’t that the dreaded evil of situation ethics? Be that as it may, your particular example isn’t particularly comforting. Your comment about the intent of the author is noted. Now consider that the actual author is some human trying to convey a message, rather than God himself. Is it not possible the message to be conveyed is morally wrong? Is it not possible that the person conveying the message misunderstood? Further, is it not possible that the God mentioned isn’t a real being, but rather an allegorical one used to frame the message in a manner to make it easier to tell, just like Santa Claus?

    Irishman:
    >>“No evidence for God? That’s because God wants to be inscrutable.” You know what? That makes the claim untestable in the physical sense. Untestable claims are unjustifiable.

    Kyle Kivett:
    > Not sure what you’re referring to in your quote above

    Sorry, that way my attempt to represent a common argument used by Christian apologists.

    > I wouldn’t think of it as a Christian teaching, because Christians glory in the miracle that God chose to reveal Himself in the Incarnation (God became man in Christ) and in the revelation of Himself in scripture. In the ways that God is inscrutable, it is because of the ontological difference between He and us, not because He has not desired to communicate to us.

    I didn’t mean it so much that God was completely unrevealed, but rather that whenever we encounter possible contradictions (i.e. the “problem of Evil”, why so-and-so had to happen, etc) we questioners are always provided the “God works in mysterious ways” answer, as if that answers anything.

    > Much like we would really like to teach our cat to use the toilet, but their brain power can’t handle more than a litter box.

    Funny you should mention that, I have, in fact, read a book about how to toilet train a cat. It actually isn’t that difficult, merely taking a consistent effort over a period of time and a few strategies for slowly allowing the cat to adjust expectations. I have not actually tried it myself on any cats, not having any available, but the authors claim to have used it successfully.

    Kyle Kivett:
    > To know God’s intent is different than knowing that God has intent – I’m at this point only interested in the latter. Intelligent Design (ID) merely expresses that intent exists – determining what that intent is remains a question of faith, but we needn’t know why God created anything (the system we call the Periodic Table, for instance) to recognize the inherent design.

    But you’re proposing we use that intent to interpret the results of science. How can we if we don’t know the intent.? As for recognizing the inherent design, that is a definitely arguable point. Systematic pattern does not equate to design.

    Irishman:
    >>But if God can be twisted, shaped, and reformed to avoid any form of scrutiny, then you cannot prove you know God’s intent. Ergo, it’s all guessing games.

    Kyle Kivette:
    >God cannot be twisted, etc.,

    Sorry, interpretations or understandings of God.

    Kyle Kivett:
    > Perhaps I overstated my case, but science has to be more than mere pragmatism, doesn’t it? Besides, didn’t Heisenberg question the very nature of objectivism?

    That is a difficult question to address from the framework of pure philosophy. There are serious unanswerable questions about how we define reality, what it really means, and how our experience of reality relates to the reality itself. Or if our conceptions of reality bear an resemblance to an actual reality. Science cannot answer those questions – they are outside the framework of science. What science can say is that it has provided a very strong performance of success at connecting with objective, physical reality. It provides results that are consistent, repeatable, reproducible, and systematic. It allows us to make predictions about future events (i.e. mathematical equations to determine numbers for conditions not currently being met). In the overall philosophical position, science does boil down to pragmatism. We use it because it works. We judge it right or wrong based upon how good of results it gives us. Now many people do ascribe some extant reality to the world, and do feel that science connects to that reality, our concepts match that reality as best we can, and the concepts and theories of science are our insights to understanding how things really are. But those are ultimately conclusions that must be evaluated on some other framework (philosophy) because they are inherently not objectively measurable, and are assumptions within science.

    > I guess you could say that I treat science with the same sketicism you treat faith because I don’t accept “objective verification of evidence” as certain, just as you don’t accept scripture as certain. Simply put, I don’t trust humans (at least not their observations), and you don’t trust God (at least not the interpretations you’ve heard). I hope I’m not oversimplifiying the issue, and I don’t mean that to be a hypercritical statement – do you agree with me on that point?

    I would phrase it differently. It’s not that I don’t trust God – I have no evidence of God to know if he even exists, let alone measure his trustworthiness. I do not trust the descriptions and justifications for the existence of God and his identity. They do not measure up for me, they are inconsistent with my experience of reality and with the best logic I can parse. So in a sense, I guess you could say we both don’t trust humans. I don’t trust scripture (written by the hands of humans), and I don’t trust revelation (experienced by others and relayed through the words of humans). The only revelation I could possibly trust would be directly experienced by me, and even that would be scrutinized to my best understanding of how brains work and work funny. I rely on objective verification of evidence, because it works. I haven’t seen anything that works even close to as good, much less better. It may be pragmatism, but it’s what I’ve got.

    Kyle Kivett:
    >>> One way to prove the existence of God is to answer the question, “Does anything exist?” … If we can agree that things exist, then we ask, how did they come to exist? Working backwards, we can continue to ask that question ad infinitum. But there must have beeen a first thing that existed that caused all the other things to exist. This primo genitor, by definition, must be self-existent (nothing caused it) and eternal (it must have been there before time began). It may have other characteristics, but these are logically necessary.

    Irishman:
    >>Careful: you are relying on our current conceptions of causality and necessity. Modern physics shows us that our current conceptions may not hold at the extreme ranges beyond our experience level. What cosmology tells us is the very nature of causality and time may cease to apply at the extreme.

    Kyle Kivett:
    > Pardon me for saying that this is perhaps your weakest retort, and seems a bit out of character for you. Do I understand you to say that laws may exist which govern conditions we cannot experience? That doesn’t sound very much like scientific naturalism. In fact, it sounds like God-speak. This goes to my point that God is so much bigger than science – what is outside our experience is merely part of His reality.

    I suggest that your attitudes are filtering what I said to mean something other than I intended. Scientifically, it is known that things at the extreme conditions outside our common experience behave funny. The speed of light is a constant. That is in direct contrast to our concept of any other type of velocity and motion. Similarly, at the quantum level there is inherent indeterminancy. This is not an artifact of how we measure results on that scale, it is an inherent property of the universe. Our ability to experience is shaped by the conditions under which we developed (evolved). We see EM radiation within a certain narrow band of wavelengths. There are huge swaths of the EM spectrum that are invisible to us – our eyes do not perceive them. There are sound frequencies that our ears cannot discern, no matter how loud they are. These are realities of our bodies that we have found some ways to extend through technology, but are built in to the hardware (i.e. the flesh, the DNA). Our experience of motion and light and such is all stuck at the level of our bioloigical system, even though our brains are able to conceive ideas much different, and our technology gives us glimpses into realms we are otherwise blind to. We can tinker in these realms and read the results, and the results in those realms don’t match our experience in the common realm. But the patterns are consistent and the results are explainable. You can call it different laws working in those realms, but I don’t like that terminology because it lends itself to anthropomorphic interpretations that are not intended. Rather, I would say that the universe behaves differently on those scales. The big challenges in modern physics are mapping between the different scales to tie the diverse behaviors together with one coherent system.

    My point to you is that what we consider time appears to be inherently linked to the Big Bang itself. If so, there is no meaningful “before” the Big Bang. That is inherently difficult to grasp, because our logical concept of time is not inherently limited in that way, so we can’t grasp that any more than we can truly grasp infinity, or four spatial dimensions. Causality is a principle within this universe – it is an underlying principle derived from our common experience. But just like the nature of time and observation are different than our common experience, so too might causality be different. We just have difficulty grasping that because it is so at odds with common experience.

    Kyle Kivett:
    > Actually, you have projected an identity that I hadn’t intended. According to my definition above, personality is not necessary and not mentioned. By calling that eternal and self-existant entity God, I have perhaps unwittingly brought the baggage of my previous mentions of the Christian deity. I suppose I should have called it “god” or perhaps even “hnfrsp” to lose any connotations with any previously known word…. The rest of your point is in agreement with my earlier statements.

    It seems to me you inherently projected something more onto the “first cause” by the nature of connecting it with any deity. The concept of deity itself is a projection of identity, of anthropomorphism, of form and will. Unless you allow “deity” to be so vague and undefined as to be meaningless as a word. I suppose that is allowed in some allegorical manner, but it certainly does confuse the masses. They keep looking for a bearded guy in the sky rather than a tendency for existence over non-existence, or some other equally vague description of a condition of being. To me that reeks of obfuscation rather than illumination.

  88. Kyle Kivett

    Evidently, you have significantly more expendable time than I…

    As much as I would enjoy a point-for-point rejoinder to your previous post (which provided much intellectual pleasure), I cannot afford the time it would take to do the research to be properly informed to enable me to formulate the answers I would like, what with three kids under 6, a wife who enjoys spending time with me, and a job which has nothing to do with science. Not to mention that we could continue dueling for some time without drawing blood, or one of us could lash out and cause significant harm to the other for no real purpose.

    A disagreement is different than disbelief. I don’t disbelieve what you are saying, I disagree with it. You disbelieve me and my God. This is perhaps the root of the difference of trust and faith. Not believing is a lack of trust, disagreeing is a lack of faith. I have no faith in science, you don’t trust the revelations of God. Since I trust the revelations of God (scripture and the universe around me both tell me of the glory of God the Creator), I can say I believe. If I disagree with what God tells me (and there are times I do), I lack faith.

    A question: who is the most influential scientist? I’ll leave you to answer that, but follow me on this point. Archimedes is a more important scientist than the local high school science teacher because of the influence on science each wields. If person “A” has more influence than person “B” than it is possible that person “C” has more influence than person “A.” If we can establish a continuum, then we can establish some kind of objectivity. Therefore, in this subjective analysis, we can objectively say that C is more than A, which is more than B. If we put more letters on the graph, we might disagree on where to place some, but we could come to a general consensus about where most should be, and some examples would be very clearly on one end or the other. (This is probably known better to you than I, but Google uses the same “Mass intelligence” to rate and sort their search results. Their problem is that there is no test of individual intelligence or knowledge – everybody gets their one vote. You and I can be peer-reviewed.)

    Once we have established that a continuum exists, then we must admit that there is an ultima thule on either end. This doesn’t mean the continuum stops, but there is a final point of reference beyond all the others. You might disagree with the placements along the continuum, but you wouldn’t disbelieve them.

    Christianity requires that you believe the continuum exists (of truth, not scientists’ relative influence), and that you agree that The Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the superior end point (not just the ultima thule). Additionally, you must agree with what God has commanded in His scripture – agree in thought, word, and deed. This distinction is often related to the work of the Holy Spirit: belief comes at the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and is a gift from God. Agreement (or the fruit of the Spirit) is the daily working out of finding new ways to love the Lord your God. To agree with Him in new and deeper ways. To always say Yes to His will and not your own.

    If you won’t believe in the supernatural, all this is just a lot of bunk. I can’t change that opinion you hold, but I can tell you that if you’re looking for personal evidence of its reality, you will find it in Christ, but only if you give yourself to Him. You must reach a point where you aren’t coming to God for what He can give you, but because you recognize your need for Him. Until then, His glory will be masked – he wants no guests at the wedding feast who don’t appreciate the wedding party and just eat all the food.

    As was mentioned before, what is real is not real because it can be proved – it is real because it is real, whether it can be proved or not. The only specific point I will address in this post is Irishman’s comment about others loving us that “we project our own emotions onto them, and because we want it to be true.” If that is how you have experienced love, I am truly, truly sorry for you. I sincerely wish for you a newer, deeper, better kind of love.

    If we are to continue this discussion (or at least if I am), we need to keep to broader contexts. I hope I have demonstrated that I at least am not an idiot, but I freely admit that I cannot refute each and every specific point of quantum theory you bring up – not because I believe a satisfactory answer doesn’t exist, only because I am not the one qualified to answer them, and I don’t have time to research them, which I would actually really like to do.

    Thanks again for your time.
    -Kyle

  89. Irishman

    Kyle Kivett Said:
    > Evidently, you have significantly more expendable time than I…

    I’ve been spending more time on this than I really should.

    > A disagreement is different than disbelief. I don’t disbelieve what you are saying, I disagree with it. You disbelieve me and my God. This is perhaps the root of the difference of trust and faith. Not believing is a lack of trust, disagreeing is a lack of faith. I have no faith in science, you don’t trust the revelations of God. Since I trust the revelations of God (scripture and the universe around me both tell me of the glory of God the Creator), I can say I believe. If I disagree with what God tells me (and there are times I do), I lack faith.

    Interesting phrasing. I’ll have to ponder on it.

    > If you won’t believe in the supernatural, all this is just a lot of bunk. I can’t change that opinion you hold, but I can tell you that if you’re looking for personal evidence of its reality, you will find it in Christ, but only if you give yourself to Him. You must reach a point where you aren’t coming to God for what He can give you, but because you recognize your need for Him. Until then, His glory will be masked – he wants no guests at the wedding feast who don’t appreciate the wedding party and just eat all the food.

    Two points. 1) Your response assumes that I have never been a Christian. This is untrue. “Knock, and a door will open. Seek and ye shall find.” Well I knocked and a I sought, but no doors opened and no finding occurred.
    2) “Personal evidence of reality” is a bit of an oxymoron. I realize people tend to treat personal (i.e. subjective) evidence as the most important in their lives, but when describing what is known of “reality” it is really pretty weak. There’s no reliable method of validation and no way to cross-compare. That’s why it’s ultimately unconvincing. You might convince yourself, but it’s darn hard to convince others.

    > The only specific point I will address in this post is Irishman’s comment about others loving us that “we project our own emotions onto them, and because we want it to be true.” If that is how you have experienced love, I am truly, truly sorry for you. I sincerely wish for you a newer, deeper, better kind of love.

    I mentioned that as one means we have of identifying if others love us. Because without being empaths (either telempaths or direct touch empaths), we just cannot experience someone else’s emotions. We can witness them experience their emotions, and there’s some level of bleed over from that, but their experience is not our own.

    > If we are to continue this discussion (or at least if I am), we need to keep to broader contexts.

    You’ve been thoughtful and considerate. I understand the time commitment to adequately address everything is huge – it’s impacting me, too. If I can summarize, you came to this thread to address what you considered an overly-simplified and misrepresentation of Faith as a thought process, especially within the context of religion. Your motivation was to convey this religious view with a thoughtful and respectful manner. My responses have been tailored to address specific statements you made with which I disagree about terminology and meaning. I have tried to clarify what my thought processes are and justifications for the statements that you disagree with or don’t follow. I think perhaps we may have reached the limit of where we are clarifying our positions for each other and now are getting caught up in restating our points of disagreement. I’m not averse to continuing meaningful discussion, but I’m not sure how profitable it will be for either of us. I know I am not being convinced to change my mindset, and I suspect you aren’t changing many of your opinions. I hope that our example can demonstrate how a reasonable disagreement can proceed without animosity. Thanks for your participation.

  90. AJ

    yy2bgggs,

    In saying:

    “This is certainly incorrect! This shows errors about the way you conceive science, philosophy, and religion. Science is not math; it is not axiom based. A lot of these laws are related to such a degree that some laws can be inferred from others. The very concept of “natural law” is not a precision thing. Furthermore, a property of the universe does not need to be “created”. Mentally speaking, creation may solve a problem for you, but push come to shove, creation is a type of willful action. The action requires some sort of property of the universe in order to cause it to be. That, in essence, is something like another “law”. If laws of the universe must be created, that law must be created too.”

    I would ask for more clarification on this point. An assertion such as this, which would defy the very rules of logic that science is predicated on, deserves a bit more space. Whatever started/created/(insert description here) the universe was supernatural by definition, since it caused the natural. You are saying that whatever caused the universe required a property of what it created. In other words, you are saying that the universe existed before it existed, if it aided in the cause of its existence.

    “There is infinite regress here. Your asking about the laws “popping out of thin air” is meant to remind us to think about the origin of the laws–I appeal to the same statement to ask you where God got the power to create laws–did it pop out of thin air? Be careful when you answer, lest may give the same response I did–that a state of the universe does not need to be created to exist.”

    Until you are able to prove the assertion called into question above, then your entire argument is invalid. Please prove your supposition that the cause of the universe required a property of its effect. Please also understand that you are now arguing from the stance of philosophy and faith since there is absolutely no way for you to observe, test or make predictions of whatever caused the universe, since all we can observe is the universe and its contents. Anything outside of this, and you are speculating. If you do have further knowlege than this then you have outpaced the admissions of the greatest scientists of all time.

    To reiterate the invalidity of your suppositions, and to speak specifically to the criticism of the infinite regression: Whatever would have created the universe (and thus the laws which govern it) would have to be seperate from the universe. The effect can not be the cause. So, it is irrational to say that the cause is or could be “a state of the universe.”

    Since time is a property of the universe, then whatever it was that created the universe would not be affected by time. It would be outside of time, and thus infinite. So, your accusation of infinite regression does not apply.

    I believe in God, not because I choose to hide from fact and reason, but because reason tells me that He must exist. If it does not tell you that He does, that is fine. We all have the presuppositions that we work from, that define how we interpret reality. I am the first to admit that. Until you or anyone else admits theirs (including scientists), then these discussions are useless.

    I hope you are well…

  91. Mr Murphey, you are pathetic. The fact that you have a degree just makes things even worse. Only a 10-year old child would make the “Lawgiver” argument. It’s stupid. It failed to impress before. Why would you think it would impress now??

    “If I’m waiting at a bus stop with no bus in sight, I have faith a bus will arrive.”

    (rolls eyes)
    Um, it’s…easy…to demonstrate that the bus stop exists. Buses have actually been, y’know, OBSERVED. Buses stop at bus stops all the time. Honest. You have knowledge that the bus will arrive. “Faith” doesn’t enter into it. Any more than you have “faith” that, if you don’t eat, you will become hungry.
    Read your bus timetable, cretin.

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