Turtles all the way down

By Phil Plait | March 25, 2009 11:11 am

Despite what a lot of people seem to think, I do not use these pages here to argue for or against the existence of God. As most skeptics will agree, it’s not possible to prove God exists, and you certainly can’t prove a negative.

However, what I can argue against are some claims on this topic. Do people see God in a pattern of wood grain, or is that just our eyes and brains interpreting random patterns after hundreds of millennia of evolutionary pressure to do so? Does a statue really weep milk, or is it fraud? Does intercessory prayer actually work, or does study after study show it does not?

I hope you see the difference. It’s important.

I’ll also note that I have but one single commenting policy on this blog: don’t be a jerk. It has broad ramifications, of course, but it does really cover the rules I enforce.

So I’ll admit that I should delete this comment that was made on my post last week about creationism, since it obviously violates the rule. But sometimes it’s important that we see just how breathtakingly inane some arguments are, yet they never seem to die. Here is the comment, in its entirety:

You people are idiots:
March 22nd, 2009 at 2:57 am

Just some quick questions:

How was the Universe created? The Big Bang? Oh. So where did the material that caused the Big Bang come from? Where did the “spark” that ignited the Big Bang come from?

There is the flaw in your theory that it all happened by “accident” and not by design. No matter how you answer, the next question will be: And where did THAT come from? Eventually, you will have to answer: I don’t know.

And God will be there saying: I do.

Now, ignoring the stunning hypocrisy of someone preaching the word of God and calling us all idiots, there is an obvious, gaping flaw in this commenter’s logic, well-known to skeptics for years: if you ask where the Big Bang came from, why can’t you ask the same thing of God?

When a person like this is asked who or what created God, the standard answer is that God always existed. But why can’t we say the same about the Universe itself? It’s entirely possible the Universe is a part of a larger structure, a metaverse, if you will, that always existed and always will. Our understanding of the nature of time is still incomplete, so something like this is not out of the question.

But the details of this aren’t terribly important; the key thing here is the pot calling the kettle black. This so-called flaw in the Big Bang theory, if it is a flaw, is also a flaw in the supposition that God always existed as well. As such, it’s a terrible argument for the existence of God.

My favorite part of the comment, though, is the statement, "Eventually, you will have to answer: I don’t know." As usual, someone like this has it exactly backwards: we can say that right now we don’t know. But the thing is, science learns. The greatest mysteries of today are undergraduate homework problems in 20 years. That’s the strength of science.

Dogma, however, is unswerving, unbending, unyielding, and unable to learn. What the commenter has done is used a fallacy called "the God of the gaps", inserting God into the gaps in your knowledge. But as we learn more, the gaps narrow. And when the gap is filled, what of God? This is the trap of the zealot: when new evidence comes along contradicting their position, they have to either ignore it or lie about it.

New evidence is coming in all the time, too. I hope the commenter keeps up with modern cosmology.

And finally, I will simply ask: if there is evidence of design, where is it? I’ve seen many claims, but they always fall short. Remember, the claimants come here, so if they want to persuade me then I need to see the evidence on my own terms. And I will not count a book that makes claims from revelation, because that’s not evidence.

Look, if you want to believe in God with no evidence, or even despite evidence, that is your right; it’s everyone’s right. But if you want to persuade others using a scientific basis, or show that our current scientific ideas are wrong, then you’d better have something more than "Because I say so." Obviously, coming into this argument armed only with that… well, there’s only one way to win using that.

pet

Comments (316)

  1. TSFrost

    Amen, Brother! :)

    I actually didn’t think that person’s comment was all THAT jerk-ee. Just ignorant.

    You should come up with a picture of yourself talking to a brick wall for posts like this.

  2. Anti Evolution Loon

    Phil I think your notion of not talking about the existence of God is lost on a lot of your readers.

    How would a reader of yours be received if they called themselves a skeptic and a theist in the same sentence? My guess would be ridiculed and questioned, but that’s just a hunch.

  3. Ostriches too

    Oops, I forgot to change my tag on that one, the anti-evolution relates to a John McCain post from a while back. Guess I don’t comment often enough……

    ~ Formerly known as Anti-evolution loon

  4. I think the question of whether there is a god or not is the wrong question. The question should be, why is a god even part of the equation? The answer, I believe, lies in the gray matter between our ears amongst the cultural backdrop of religion.

  5. Chas

    GREAT POST! You said what I’ve been thinking for many years now since I ceased being a fundamentalist christian and began thinking rationally and looking at the evidence.

  6. bob

    You can’t ask the same of God because people using that argument aren’t looking for a rational debate they are looking to preach, and shout down anyone with any other view. Their minds are already made up. The simple fact that it is so easy to turn the argument around on someone who makes (and that they still use it) it should tell you all you need to know about how open minded that person is to an actual discussion.

  7. Todd W.

    Very nicely stated, Phil. A common misunderstanding that the particularly religious (note, not all believers) view questioning the interpretation of a physical event as questioning their god’s existence.

  8. Todd W.

    Oh, and to reiterate TSFrost’s comment, I didn’t find his post all that jerky (though his handle was), just ignorant.

  9. Wayne

    I’m a skeptic and a theist. I also read this blog daily and agree with a lot of it (although I tend to be more moderate politically) and I think that “The Jerk” is using exactly the sort of wrong-headed thinking that makes people believe that faith and reason cannot coexist.
    I think that the majority of readers here are decent people who don’t have a problem with theists who are reasonable and do not attack science over some misguided theology, I have frequently mentioned in the comments that I am a Christian and I have received very little in the way of ridicule for it. If someone would like to prove me wrong and “Anti Evolution Loon” right, however, now is your chance to do so.

  10. Love the new pic! I am a sucker for animals.

    There are people who “Stop the Turtles” at a different point (I like that expression…stop the turtles). There are Earth god/goddess based religions.

    You have to remember that to some people, not talking about the existence of God is the same as saying there is not God, another distinction lost on some people.

  11. Mike

    It’s quite amazing.. Carl Sagan made this argument (“the standard answer is that God always existed. But why can’t we say the same about the Universe itself?”) almost 30 years ago in the series and book Cosmos. Yet it’s continually and conveniently forgotten by god theorists. Good post, Phil. Keep it up. :)

  12. James

    There is a great old cartoon, the Far Side maybe, that had two scientists standing at a blackboard with equations all over it. But right in the middle it says “Then A Miracle Happens”….One of the scientists says to the other “I think you need to be a little more explicit in step 2″. Theres the difference.

  13. Oh, I thought that was a picture of Jenny McCarthy. It works perfectly for creationists, too. Who knew?

    Great post, Phil. Thank you.

  14. Colin J

    Good point Phil. That’s a big point that is lost on those that argue that way. They don’t have any evidence, and when you point out the gaps in their gaps arguement, they refuse to see it as the same thing. Frustrating for sure.

  15. Oh, I thought that was a picture of Jenny McCarthy. It works perfectly for creationists, too. Who knew?

    The chest was too small…and it wasn’t arguing against vaccinations. Other than that, yeah, kind’ve a dead ringer.

  16. Adam

    Great post, and so true. Faith, by very definition, can’t be proved or it wouldn’t be faith anymore. A person choosing to believe in a faith is not a problem at all and can easily be reconciled with science. They can exist. There are many religious scientists and scientific members of religion the world over. The problem arises when religion tries to assert itself as the be all end all answer over science. When science becomes “evil”, or when science is ignored in favor of religion. When scientific studies and answers are wrong because they don’t mention God, then things have gone to far and the stupid starts to burn.

    Thank you for keeping the right perspective on things and for calling out the quacks for what they are. Keep up the good work!

  17. Justin Wagner

    I’ve debated the cosmological argument with one of my most intelligent of friends (he has about five university degrees, including a Ph.D in economics), who happens to be a loyal Catholic. His main reason for believing in God is because of Aquinas’s first cause argument. The “turtles all the way down” point always seems to go over his head, regardless of how I try to explain it to him. The way I understand his point of view is that infinite regression is only a problem when you are trying to explain events that are subject to time and space. Because he feels that infinite regression is illogical, it is likely that something outside of time and space (something infinite) exists in order to break out of it…a turtle that has infinitely been resting on nothing, if you will. I usually point out to him that his argument is circular, because he’s trying to prove the existence of this being logically by assigning properties to it that make it possible to exist logically. The problem is that by this point in the discussion we are both pretty drunk and the discussion kind of falls apart.

  18. DrFlimmer

    Wow. That’s the first post of you about this specific (and difficult) topic that I totally agree with.
    As I mentioned many times before, I believe in god but I love physics with all my heart and I know that both should not “interfere” with each other. Otherwise it would be dangerous to both of them – so typically one has to choose one side. And I think that is not a good way to treat both topics. As you said, Phil, science cannot proove the “nonexistence” of good and I cannot proove otherwise. This is the reason religion is called faith.

    Phil, you have spoken words of truth!

  19. Colby

    Good stuff. The way I see it, Science and religion are not opposing forces, just very different. They have their own domains, strengths and weaknesses. Science is the realm of reason, and of objective and measurable evidence. Religion is the realm of emotion and philosophy.

    I watch atheists and religious types bicker away and laugh, because it’s like an American tourist haggling for a souvenir in Japan. They both have an ideal amount for the item in mind, but neither realizes the difference in the values of the Yen and Dollar. The American is insulted that the Japanese shopkeeper would demand hundreds of what he believes to be Dollars for a knick-knack, while the shopkeeper is insulted that the American would try to rob him by offering only a few Yen for the item.

    The difference between my analogy and real life is that in my analogy there is a simple solution.

  20. Gregg Sewell

    Very good post.

    It’s a pity that many people of faith are unwilling to consider viewpoints that differ with their own.

    Of course, many skeptics are just as unwilling to consider viewpoints that differ with their own.

    So, Phil, I’d appreciate a post on the topic of why we humans are so prone to being dogmatic. (I myself tend toward being catmatic, as I prefer felines.)

  21. Great post Dr. Plait. It reminds me of one of my personal Blog posts where I talk about “Three Powerful Words” in two parts. “I don’t know” and “I was wrong” are not crimes to admit, yet there are so many theists that will treat it as a crime to say those words. And then they put on this humble ACT about that they don’t know either, but in reality, their dogma is just a cop out, and what they really ARE saying is that they have THE Truth.

    Again, great post, and keep up the good work.

  22. My biggest problem with “faith” is its tendency to stop the next question. Even as great a mind as Newton suffered from this. When confrounted with a problem with the mechanics of the solar system, he resolved that God did it. He was certainly smart enough to answer the question with the tools and brains he had. But instead he fell back to the faith default, and we didn’t get an answer for years. (Please forgive my not sighting the actual historical event, memory being the second thing to go and all).

  23. Robert Mayer

    In my time I have met two kinds of religious believers. There is the kind who practices a so-called blind faith out of an intolerant desperation, and then there is the kind of practices a sense of confident, but tolerant hope in that something similar to a type of truth that can be found — the latter group sees themselves on the same type of journey that a scientist is on. They understand what Stephen Jay Gould means when he says, “Good science is self-corrective.”

    This explains why there are religious people who can’t handle science, and why there are religious who can easily handle science. Those who actually practice blind faith are actually not practicing what the original meaning of the word faith is– at least according to many of dictionaries, encyclopedias, and philosophical commentary I’ve read (I said ORIGINAL meaning). In fact, one writer I ran into said blind faith is an oxymoron. There’s also a particular essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education from a cellular biologist that really makes one think about this. Phil, if you don’t mind, I’m going to paste here a link to that article that, according to the Chronicle, lasts five days from the date of this post: http://chronicle.com/temp/email2.php?id=qjccg5njt4SvkqtTB5sfgtsy8Ydncchs. If you’re uncomfortable with it in the post, I’ll understand; I just don’t have any other way to get you access to it, and the essay is just a bit too complex for me to accurately condense it into a couple of sentences.

    By the way, in case you’re wondering, the so-called second ‘tolerant’ group I’ve mentioned does have one major intolerance/bias. They absolutely DESPITE the first, intolerant group and should not be left in a room alone with the a member of the second group unless you plan to post bail. The first group is sort of like that “cuckoo/blacksheep” brother everybody wants to ask you about everytime you do something right. (My apologies for this post getting so long.)

  24. Kurt

    “certainly can’t prove a negative. ”

    what!!! Of course you can. That is exactly how science works! One of the main reasons Relativity gained confidence is because the ether was disproved.
    The reason Oxygen Theory won out over the phlogiston theory is because phlogiston was disproved. There are countless other examples that happen everyday that demonstrate that you CAN disprove a negative.
    I guess you can’t PROVE anything if you want to be technical about it. But you can observe and perform experiments to rule out theory. That’s what I mean by proving something

  25. Mike

    Wayne Says: I’m a skeptic and a theist.

    Dear Wayne,

    Your position is an insult to all readers of all blogs everywhere, and you are clearly a doody-head.

    Love,

    Mike

  26. Balt_jbo

    Phil you need to fix the grammar in your last sentence.
    “Obviously, coming into this argument armed only with that… well, there’s only way to win using that.”

  27. Tim H

    This is a logical fallacy without a name; I’ve taken to calling it the “causality squared fallacy”. It’s simple:

    1. Assume causality exists.
    2. Since causality exists, it must have a cause for existing.
    3. Nothing can cause causality unless causality is in effect.
    4. Therefore, causality cannot exist because it cannot be caused.

    The problem is step 2, where the principle of causality is applied to itself. Clearly, if there is such a thing as causality, it must exist for no reason.

  28. mapnut

    Quoting James, ‘There is a great old cartoon, the Far Side maybe, that had two scientists standing at a blackboard with equations all over it. But right in the middle it says “Then A Miracle Happens”….One of the scientists says to the other “I think you need to be a little more explicit in step 2″. Theres the difference.’

    A little off-topic, but that reminds me of a hydraulics class I had in which there was a proof that had to be taken on faith. It was maybe 37 years ago, so I can’t remember the details, but Dr. White was explaining to us the derivation of a famous equation. At one point, the paper said “from Step 7, it is evident that . . . (Step 8)”. It was hardly evident to anybody reading the paper, but the resulting formula was useful, and is presumably still in use. I guess the point (if there is any) is that logic and abstract reasoning used in science can sometimes be questionable or at least impenetrable to all but the brilliant. But if the result works, that’s something at least.

    Re the big bang, how it happened seems to be impenetrable. You have to explain to the layman that the theory is just what you get when you extrapolate all observable phenomena back as far as you can go.

  29. themadchemist

    Tim H,

    “Clearly, if there is such a thing as causality, it must exist for no reason.”

    Please clarify this as I don’t see either this clearly or anything that supports the conclusion.

    Regards,
    Caleb

  30. themadchemist

    Tim H,

    Let me clarify my own point here as I wrote this in haste. I don’t see how ” if there is such a thing as causality, it must exist for no reason” is really any different than saying there is a first cause and it is itself “uncaused”

    Regards,
    Caleb

  31. Ben

    @Kurt

    You cannot prove anything. You CAN disprove something. If I say moons are made of cheese, astronauts can fly out there and take a look; no cheese! My theory is disproved. However, one cannot go to every moon orbiting every plant in the universe, so one cannot say for certain that there are no moons made of cheese anywhere.

  32. If you want to read my blog, just click on my name and select “Blog” on the menu on the left. But in an effort to not pimp my site too much, here are the two essays I whipped up one day (the original document had all sorts of links, but I left those off here):

    Three Simple Words (Pt 1)
    “Faith does not give you the answers; it just stops you asking the questions.” – Frater Ravus

    Quite often when having “discussions” with theists , I get the accusation that I “know it all”, or something to that effect. While I do admit to having a good education, and that I spend a great deal of time self educating myself on various subjects, I by no stretch of the imagination know it all. This claim by theists bothers me tremendously due to how disingenuous that claim is.

    First of all, if my display of knowledge and intellectual curiosity makes them genuinely think that I know it all, then I feel sad for them and the ignorance that they live in. Not only for their lack of education, but lack of curiosity to actually go and find out things they may not know or understand. In this day and age, we have unprecedented access to information. Some of it good, a lot of it bad. However, being able to wade through all this information, and weigh its validity only helps to sharpen the mind, as well as expand your horizons. Something that is of great help in this is having a “Baloney Detection Kit” as Carl Sagan often referred to it as. The James Randi Educational Foundation also has a great exposé on the sort of Flim Flam that people get duped into believing. Finally, there is a great video for people who want to sharpen their thinking skills called “Here there be Dragons”. It’s free and educational. Instead of accusing me of knowing it all, how about actually taking the initiative to learn something?

    Another thing that really bothers me about the claim that I supposedly know it all, is that the theist making that claim usually then proceeds to act humble and simple, as if to make me appear to be acting all superior to them. What makes this behaviour particularly disingenuous is that first of all I am not claiming any special knowledge that has been revealed to me. Also, the debate is generally about things that we don’t know the answer to, such as the origin of life, or even the origin of the universe. We have theories and ideas about these things, but in reality we don’t know, and perhaps won’t know beyond a shadow of a doubt. Yet, to the theist, some Bronze Age tales from primitive goat herders does provide them with those answers, even if those answers don’t make any sense and are just revealed truths through third hand sources. Apparently, to a theist, even a bad explanation is better than admitting that we don’t know the answer?

    Hence why I really think that “I don’t know” are three incredibly powerful and liberating words. We can naturally follow it up with, “But this is what we think” about a subject. Or even go so far as to say, “I don’t know, but that’s a great thing to find out more about!” By claiming to have some sort of revealed TRUTH, the theist ceases at any line of questioning. They have the answer already, no need to actually check if it makes any sense. Whereas someone who displays any modicum of intellectual curiosity isn’t satisfied with nonsense and flim flam. By saying “I don’t know” you free yourself from dogmas and rigid beliefs that have only been drummed into you because it says so in the bible or whatever source you place your “faith” in. By saying “I don’t know” it should motivate you to find out what the real answer may be. And don’t be the kind of skeptical thinker that thinks dismissing anything you don’t agree with qualifies as skepticism, that’s just being dismissive and contrary. Instead, start off in a neutral stance, and see where the evidence leads you. Don’t confuse trust for faith either. Again, all things referenced in the Baloney Detection Kit and Here there be Dragons resources can help.

    Many may argue that there is no harm in holding beliefs. To a certain extent, that is true, and I will not deny it. However, the lack of knowledge, combined with a willingness to accept whatever they are told, can lead to a great deal of harm. I also find it distasteful how many theists will pick and choose what they are willing to know, and again don’t apply any skeptical thought to the source. They already have the conclusion set out for them, and continue on forcing reality to meet that expectation. As such, they are defeating any natural skepticism that may be in their minds because they will never need to say “I don’t know” in response to hard questions. And since they think they have The TRUTH already, it naturally leads them to never even consider three other simple words, “I was wrong.”

    Three Simple Words (Pt 2)

    It’s much better to change your point of view in response to reality, than to insist reality has got it wrong because it doesn’t share your point of view.

    Okay, I covered “I don’t know” briefly, but along with those three words are three that people seem even more loath to say. “I was wrong.” And when someone does figure out that they are indeed wrong, and that perhaps something else is a better answer, we have people jumping on that as some sort of mortal flaw. Being occasionally wrong, or not totally correct, is how things like science and technology gets better. Even a field like chemistry got its start in the ridiculous notion of alchemy. Yet, for all the mistakes one can historically cite in science, how many of them were brought to light through theology? Not a one. It was the self correcting mechanism of science that exposed the mistakes, and then proposed a better conclusion.

    Religious scholars have a conclusion and build the evidence up to support it. Science has the evidence and builds a conclusion out of it. Then (and this is the important part), scientists do everything they can to try to disprove the conclusion. I have yet to meet a physicist who wouldn’t love to be the one to show that Einstein or Hawkins’ theories were garbage and here is the correct model. I have yet to meet a christian theologist who wanted to show that those Moses and Jesus guys didn’t know what they were talking about and here is the correct theology.

    Of course, theists don’t seem to take so kindly to scientific methodology applied to their claims. By definition, in order to hold those beliefs, they are not even allowed to contemplate that those beliefs may be wrong. Since they have no avenue to point out mistakes in their theology, they keep jumping on the bandwagon of pointing out every mistake ever made in the field of science, while they fail to grasp that not once did they actually contribute to the field. Yet the mistakes themselves were all part of the overall improvement. They will gladly enjoy the benefits, but at the same time spend all their energies on tearing it down.

    So, in refusing to consider “I don’t know” and “I was wrong” into their lexicon, theists have doomed themselves into a mental dissonance that makes them challenge reality on a daily basis. It’s like science is a bold voyage to find out the unknown, with lessons in humility at every step. Yet these people so sure in their version of The Truth, would rather just have stayed home. The methods of science may not be perfect, but they are the best we have. To embrace dogma and throw away skeptical inquiry will just lead to a dark age in our history. The basic reaction of a theist to anything that challenges their belief is to suppress the idea. To a scientist, they discuss the idea and completely expose it the full rigor of science, and form a better idea.

    I guess what it all comes down to, is that all that talk about having science and biblegod coexist really can’t happen. The basic starting positions are diametrically opposed. The methodologies are the inverse of each other. The fundamental claims do not in any way match. I contend (to paraphrase Carl Sagan) that it’s far better to really see the universe for what it is than to persist in delusions, no matter how comforting those delusions may seem. I don’t want to have meaning assigned to me; I would rather make meaning myself. Especially if the assigner is that biblegod S.O.B.. I know I can do a whole lot better than him!

  33. Pedro N

    Dear Phil Plait,

    I’m not sure what did you think when you wrote “and you certainly can’t prove a negative” but that’s not correct. I invite you to read Prof. Steven Hale’s “You Can Prove a Negative” (just 3 very worthwhile pages) at:

    http://departments.bloomu.edu/philosophy/pages/content/hales/articles/proveanegative.html

    Keep the good work,

    Cheers

  34. DTdNav

    Good stuff Phil. Unfortunately, logic (flawless or not) is largely ineffective in world-views not built upon logic in the first place. Never give up though.

    @ Kurt,

    I don’t think your examples are of proving a negative. They are of disproving something as it was defined. Proving a negative would be “Prove to me that X does not exist.” It becomes slippery because of ever changing definitions of X as each specific attribute is disproved. It is impractical to disprove all possible attributes, therefore the burden of proof falls to the person who says X exists.

    That’s my interpretation of it.

  35. TheBlackCat

    Proving a negative is only difficult if the thing in question is not defined specifically, or if the definition is changed to explain away every contrary data point. If you define something as being that which is undefinable, or if you define at as that which cannot be detected, or if every contrary data point elicits an ad-hoc rationalization that changes the thing’s properties, then you of course can’t disprove it but it also means the thing in question is entirely irrelevant. On the other hand, if you give it specific properties, if you say it interacts with the universe in a manner that has consistent, measurable properties, then yes you can most certainly prove that it doesn’t exist. Of course that may be beyond the limits of our capabilities right now. But as long as you have specific, testable, and inflexible properties to work then in principle it is possible to prove a negative. You just have to show that those properties do not exist or that they are mutually exclusive.

  36. if you read Pratchett, you’ll know that turtles swim through space. No standing, no infinite regression ;)

  37. The creationist says everything is too complex, only an intelligent entity called god could create it. But with that rationale, god would be too complex — so someone/something had to create god; but then that creator would be too complex — so someone/something had to create it; but then that creator would be too complex — so someone/something had to create it; but then that creator would be too complex — so someone/something had to create it. And they tell two frinds, and so on, and so on, and so on, and so on …..

    Maybe a creationist should consider that a being more complex than the universe just evolved to that level — oh, that might have implications, though. :)

  38. Thanny

    I was about to post something very much like what TheBlackCat wrote. Now I won’t.

    Except, perhaps, a simplified summary. If X is defined as something that must produce effect Y (among other things), the absence of Y proves the non-existence of X.

    Using logic such as this, one can absolutely disprove the existence of every well-defined god every invented by humanity. Vague, amorphous gods are another matter. There, I simply take the tack of concluding that without any evidence whatsoever in favor of their existence, the rational default of disbelief is appropriate.

  39. RickK

    First: Good post!

    Second: Hitchens: “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.” That pretty much sums up the God argument.

    Third: Why do people who argue in favor of Young Earth Creationism reply with “yeah?, but who set off the Big Bang???”. Once they admit the Bang happened, the whole YEC thing has pretty much gone out the window.

    If these people want to believe in God, why can’t they see cosmology and evolution as their god’s mechanisms? They instead look at these beautiful facts and processes and just deny them.

    “In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed!”? Instead they say, “No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.”
    – Carl Sagan

  40. Dark Jaguar

    About proving negatives and positives, proof is the realm of logic and math, and in those cases, you can prove BOTH. Heck cantor’s diagonalization is one of the more famous proofs of a negative.

    In terms of facts about the universe, it’s about establishing based on available evidence. For example, what is establishing an animal’s extinction but trying to “prove a negative”, and yet I’m very confident we can agree that to the best available evidence, the Tazmanian Tiger no longer lives.

    There’s no particular reason why we couldn’t establish to the best available evidnece that a god or gods exist. My standards would be satisfied by a single appearence in the middle of a crowded mall of a deity who stated what he was and then left, turning the mall into gold on the way. Something unequivacally witnessed by the masses. Sure, it wouldn’t be “faith” any more, but I really don’t care about that. Now a god that created everything and then left us all, a deist sort of god, THAT kind would be hard to find any evidence for. The most we could find out about are details of how that being went about making things since we coulnd’t actually find it. All I’m saying is it IS possble to establish an entity we would call a god’s existance, depending on it’s behavior and characteristics, and that with such evidence I’d be a theist too. Heck in that situation not being one would be as nutty as thinking we didn’t land on the moon.

    By the same token, we can establish by looking at the evidence that claims about specific gods existing aren’t true. There’s no Mt. Olympus around and we’ve never found any satyrs, which is what one would expect to find if Zeus existed, so we can safely conclude he doesn’t. As gravity is a result of the mass of things, and the earth is round, we need not believe in Atlus. We’ve yet to find massive root-like craters in the earth so it’s safe to say the World Tree never existed (that said, Norse mythology is my favorite mythology, all hail Odin!). As to the idea of “god” in a very general undefined way, no it’s not really possible to establish that any more that it would be possible to establish a meta-verse of universes with each one having it’s own laws. With no specific claims as to what we could predict would be true if such a being existed but not if it didn’t, the claim is essentially meaningless.

    However, that said, a faith in the latter example would be pretty much harmless. I too think certain faiths can exist just fine with science. The key is that the person of faith, when presented with science that goes against that faith, must be willing to change their faith to fit the facts rather than willingly block out those ideas. Some are, and those people I respect. Further, for it to not be harmful, it must be the sort of faith that does not guide that person’s morality. Rather, I’d rather see someone who gets their morals through a human concern with their fellow beings than some absolute arbitary rules. Again, some people have a sort of faith that allows this. I’d call that faith harmless and I respect those people.

    However, I do not consider the topic of religion off-limits to debate at all. Even in those mellowed down cases, I have to wonder why the person bothers to believe in such a god. Now of course everyone has a right to believe whatever they want, but that said, we don’t have the right to ACT however we want. That’s the place where uncompromising religious belief IS very dangerous. If one lierally believes that the earth was created in 6 days, they’ll act according to that belief. We can hardly expect them to do otherwise. How can we ask a person who believes killing is wrong, for example, to kill someone? They simply won’t be able to do it, at least not without some extenuating circumstances. Someone who believes in 6 day creationism, when given the chance to determine our education system, is going to suggest we TEACH said 6 day creationism. That’s just what’s going to happen. Listen to their defenses. It’s not about religion, they say, because to them, it isn’t, it’s about facts. Since they truly believe it’s true, teaching anything else would be lying to children, and at the very least those lies should be removed from the curriculum. That’s their thinking, and when you have those beliefs, that’s the only logical conclusion one can reach.

    When you insult those people for spreading their religious dogma into the schools, it’s a just thing to do, but remember that from their perspective, they think they are doing the right thing and are acting based on their own beliefs. You are literally insulting their beliefs and saying they are wrong when you do that. We’re not so different, you and I. I acknowledge this and do it anyway, because it must be done.

    This is why I consider religious debate to be not only something that should be considered acceptable, but also important, because it has real world effects. If we had a populace that believed in fairies, they would act on that too, and get road projects shut down to protect forests. There’s nothing wrong with belief in and of itself, except for the actions that they engender. That’s why the only truly harmless faiths are the ones in just a general hazy idea of god with a grounded practical morality the person develops themelves instead of reading a list of ancient instructions.

    Well, those are my thoughts there.

  41. David J

    Oh great… I hate it when this happens. I dislike jerks, especially when they share my views. Excellent point about the idea of a meta-verse.

  42. Caleb

    Much of the problem between the science vs. religion debate comes when people put BEING right above discovering WHAT is right. In order to be focused on discovering WHAT is right (or true) your own agendas and biases must be left behind. Many people simply aren’t willing to do this, or don’t know how. For those not willing, there’s not much you can do (but don’t give up trying). For those who don’t know how, they can be quickly pushed into not being willing by offensive or aggressive language.

    As a religious person who goes to great pains (I’ve strained some relationships trying) to correct fellow worshipers when their reasoning is faulty, I’ve gotten the best response when I start by acknowledging their point of view (without necessarily agreeing to it) and starting on common ground. Then simply introduce them to a scientific or logical explanation by PROPOSING it to them rather than DEMANDING they they acknowledge it. Often, the trick is to prevent people from going on the defensive so they remain open to additional light and knowledge. It also helps when someone’s religion doesn’t doggedly insist upon them interpreting the universe from a snapshot of beliefs hundreds/thousands of years old (and no not all religion is like this).

  43. My principle argument against intelligent design is simple: If ID is true, why are our testicles on the outside? As any guy who has ever slid off a bicycle seat or gotten a soccer ball in the crotch will tell you, there is absolutely nothing intelligent about having your body’s most sensitive parts in such a vulnerable area.

  44. Becca Stareyes

    Carl Sagan used a nice example of ‘proving a negative’ in the chapter of Demon-Haunted World called ‘The Dragon in my Garage’. He pointed out that a claim like ‘there is a dragon in my garage’ could be tested based on what we think we know about dragons, but when the claim-ee starts going on about how it is an invisible, hovering dragon that breathes heatless fire, one cannot disprove this as the goalposts keep getting moved with every test.

    In a different case, it can be easy to prove ‘there are no canal-building civilizations or fields of seasonal vegetation on Mars’ once we got a good look at the place and see no canals or fields, but it would be a lot harder to prove ‘there is no life on Mars and never has been’, given the limited amount of searching we can do on Mars and the sheer versatility of life on Earth. Worse still would be proving ‘there is no extraterrestrial life in the universe’, when we can’t even image Earth-mass planets except around our Sun.

    The second case isn’t moving the goalposts, but is making a statement so broad that it would be effectively impossible to check. After all, all you need is one bacterium growing on a rock to disprove it. You can make statements about the likelihood or unliklihood of life in the universe that can be refined, or say that we currently have found no evidence that life exists, but you cannot say that it doesn’t. That fact doesn’t mean that it does exist, though — just because we haven’t looked everywhere doesn’t mean there is something to be found in the place we haven’t looked.

  45. mike

    Dark Jaguar, no one thinks religion can never be taught about under any circumstances. It makes fine sense in history, philosophy, literature, and so on.

    But it is a lie to call it science, even if the Bible is truly believed to be literal truth. The Bible makes no claim to be a scientific text. And religion does not attempt to disprove itself, as scientific method requires.

  46. Shnakepup

    I was on a discussion forum a while ago where someone was making sort of the same argument. They were saying, essentially, that God was infinite and the universe was not. I said “How is that not special pleading? Why does God get to be infinite but the universe can’t?”

    They replied saying that the universe can’t be infinite, due to entropy. Which doesn’t apply to God, apparently. I asked “Okay, so entropy applies to the universe but not God?” to which they replied “Of course! He’s GOD, stupid!”

    I just didn’t know what to say :P

  47. James

    @ncc1701…
    That made my day, too funny! I have often thought the same kind of thing though, stepping out of the shower and looking at myself in the mirror. Looking at my current physical state, my reaction is always “Someone DESIGNED This???”

  48. Todd W.

    @ncc1701

    why are our testicles on the outside

    Temperature control. Because the body’s temperature can get pretty high, and the little guys don’t do so well at higher temps, some temperature regulatory structure is required. The current structure handles this pretty well. So, that’s one reason, even though it evolved that way, rather than being designed. :)

  49. Pedro, I would agree that there are reductionist cases where you can prove a negative. For example, by inspection I can prove to myself that am not holding the entire planet Jupiter in my hand.

    But when it comes to the existence of God, it obviously cannot be disproven. It can only at best be shown that the vast overwhelming majority of claims of evidence for God’s existence by believers is incorrect. In the real world, you might be able to consider that ample proof of the nonexistence of a deity, or at least realistically live your life as if that has been proven, but in a more theoretical sense you always have to leave the door open a crack.

  50. Crux Australis

    So say we all.

  51. IAmMarauder

    For the question regarding “If God created everything, where did God come from?”, I actually got an answer for that in scripture classes when I was younger (around 8 or so). The answer was, as expected, “He always was and always will be.” As I was not satisfied with the answer, I did pursue the point – stating that he couldn’t just be and must of come from somewhere. It turns out the ultimate answer was a slap up the side of the head followed by a dismissal from the room.

    Asking similar questions of the science teacher would elicit a response of “Well, we don’t know exactly (why/where/how). But there are people looking for answers all the time.”

    This is one reason I prefer science over scripture :)

    @TheBlackCat:

    Proving a negative is only difficult if the thing in question is not defined specifically, or if the definition is changed to explain away every contrary data point. If you define something as being that which is undefinable, or if you define at as that which cannot be detected, or if every contrary data point elicits an ad-hoc rationalization that changes the thing’s properties, then you of course can’t disprove it but it also means the thing in question is entirely irrelevant.

    A great example of that is the “The Dragon in my Garage” by Carl Sagan (a quick search on Google will find it).

  52. Glen

    I dislike the theist argument “what existed before the Universe?” but I also dislike the approach of postulating metaverses to counter it. The simplest explanation is that time started with the start of the Universe (ideas about black holes and relativity appear to support this, and most cosmological models use it). There is no “before the Universe.” There is no need to invoke metaverses because there is no need to explain anything. The theist argument is based on a false premise about time. Time is eternal, by definition, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a start and end!

  53. Everyone took my comments again! All I did was go to the dentist!

    I cringe whenever I read or hear the word “prove” expressed by a skeptic because it is misleading to those who did not receive a good education in science and its philosophy. Proof is interchangeable with “inescapably strong evidence”, but not with “absolute certainty”.

    In simpler terms than what BlackCat & Phil said, what we cannot “prove” is the nonexistence of something, especially when that something in not observable.

    What I find downright silly is that there are more people that accept, without question, the existence of something that is totally and completely unobservable and for which there is not even a tiny speck of evidence than people who do not.

  54. To make it even worse, theists have no hesitation to make strawmen of the atheist position when it comes to this sort of thing…

    And for even worse news…you all know of the anti-vaccination movement? It’s really taking hold in the Ukraine.

  55. rbtroj

    Here is a useful theme song for all d-bags out there:

    http://www.thesongoftheday.com/index.cgi?_w=1&_d=012609

  56. Wes

    An interesting discussion, to be sure, but most of the comments reflect a very limited familiarity with the varieties of spiritual beliefs. Not all theists are fundamentalists lost in 6,000 year old myths and literalism, but the ones that are tend to be vocal and sometimes obnoxious and they make an easy target. Others, like Wayne and I, seem to thrive in both the science and spiritual worlds without conflict. It’s also true that some science folks, like Mike, behave like fundamentalists with rude intolerance for other points of view, which shows that bad behavior is not confined to just one group.
    From an integral standpoint, spiritual beliefs are an upper left quadrant item, while physical science is upper right. From a proof and experience standpoint, never the twain shall meet and great confusion is the result when you try to take the tools of one quadrant and apply them to another.
    In practice most of the spiritual people I know seem to take a very pragmatic approach to their beliefs – does it work for me, does it make my life better, more productive, more peaceful? If so, I’ll keep it. If not, I’ll look for a replacement.
    Atheism is a valid spiritual path and if it works for you, great! Just don’t make the fundamentalist mistake of thinking your path is the only valid path. We’re all learning.

  57. Girl Noir

    Thanks for the excellent post, Phil. I’m a theist (Catholic) and a skeptic. As I’m sure has already been said by a number of commenters above me, the way I see things, we have a moral obligation to understand the incredibly awesomely amazingly cool world that God has given us (if there is a God). Studying science is not a challenge to God, but a further glorification thereof – I mean, come on, quantum physics? The mind that came up with that has got to be pretty effing sweet. So in summation, I really don’t understand the (>.<) hands over ears LALALALALA types – why turn away from something God has given you? And as a side note, attempting to prove God is missing the point entirely on several counts – just roll with your own beliefs, and let everyone else do what makes them happy. Tolerance, woo.

  58. Excellent post, Phil!

    I recently addressed an old story of someone in Florida “seeing” Jesus in a chest X-ray:
    http://www.sciencecomedian.com/blog/2009/03/10/you-got-jesus-in-my-x-ray/

    Brian

  59. mapnut

    Yes, Todd, James and ncc1701, testicles are an excellent example! If God designed them, since He was able to design ovaries that can produce ova deep within the body, He surely could have designed temperature-tolerant testicles. Therefore evolution must have produced them, and evolution is kinda rough and not finished yet. Evolution can be blamed for all our troubles. That makes it way more useful than religion, which is always at a loss (every sermon I’ve ever heard, at least) to explain why God doesn’t protect good people from terrible troubles.

    Hey, since Man was made in God’s image, God must . . . never mind.

  60. OFF TOPIC: http://www.sciam.com/blog/60-second-science/post.cfm?id=stephen-colbert-may-be-honored-with-2009-03-24&sc=DD_20090325

    I think it’s got a certian poetic justice to it, and I think Stephen can appreciate it in his own sarcastic way. :)

  61. Right on Phil! Some of the comments I get are worthy of being posted on an entirely different blog called “TheseAreSomeOfTheCraziestCommentsIveEverSeen.com”, and I can guarantee that the top ten would be populated by creationist dogma.

    Another thing I find stunning is that someone can come to a blog, spout nonsense and then be shocked when they are taken to task on their beliefs. I think each comment needs to be publicised and pulled apart, nice job!

  62. Dave Morris

    Phil,
    I suggest you NOT remove comments like these.
    They are the best example possible against the person making the argument.

  63. Maybe God is on the other side of what we can see 13.7 billion light yrs away. And maybe our universe is just an atom of an entirely different universe.

    And who created God, Mr Billy B Christ and his wife Thelma NMI Kilpatrick

    Funny thing about God, only child, liked to play alone, it was like he lived in his own little world.

  64. Davidlpf

    The main reason way I like your site over PZs is that you seem to try to avoid going after peoples religious choices.

    oh

    So say we all.

  65. I think astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said it best in his essay, “The Perimeter of Ignorance”:

    “Science is a philosophy of discovery. Intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance. You cannot build a program of discovery on the assumption that nobody is smart enough to figure out the answer to a problem. Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes. We know when and where they start. We know what drives them. We know what mitigates their destructive power. And anyone who has studied global warming can tell you what makes them worse. The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms.

    “To deny or erase the rich, colorful history of scientists and other thinkers who have invoked divinity in their work would be intellectually dishonest. Surely there’s an appropriate place for intelligent design to live in the academic landscape. How about the history of religion? How about philosophy or psychology? The one place it doesn’t belong is the science classroom.”

    I would encourage everyone to read Dr. Tyson’s essay at http://www.haydenplanetarium.org/tyson/read/essays/nathist/perimeterofignorance

  66. Calli Arcale

    Reynold: “To make it even worse, theists have no hesitation to make strawmen of the atheist position when it comes to this sort of thing…”

    I’ve seen atheists do the same thing towards theists. The reason it happens is not so much because atheists and theists are both intolerant jerks but because both are assuming that such a thing as “the atheist position” or “the theist position” actually exists. Neither exists. There is a wide diversity of opinion in both theists and atheists. This sets the stage for a whole lot of logical fallacies (particularly the “no true Scotsman” argument) and tends to result in a bunch of people basically getting snippy at each other, and nothing really gets achieved.

    mapnut: “Yes, Todd, James and ncc1701, testicles are an excellent example! If God designed them, since He was able to design ovaries that can produce ova deep within the body, He surely could have designed temperature-tolerant testicles.”

    Well, some animals *do* keep their testicles inside. Whales have a sophisticated heat exchange system that keeps their gonads (and the uterus of pregnant females) at a constant temperature despite being buried under layers of blubber. So clearly this problem has been solved. If life was intelligently designed, clearly it was by a rather cantankerous committee and not by a single, omiscient diety. ;-)

  67. Brian

    mapnut: That’s actually the most convincing argument that I’ve ever heard for why God would design testicles that way — “If I have to put up with these things, so will all of you too!”

  68. Martin Moran

    I am religious but have a more open view of things than most, I suppose because I understand the Church existed for hundreds of years before the Bible was written (by a man in ancient Hebrew) then translated etc.etc. The moon is not a light in the sky it is more of a mirror etc. Theology is as important to me and for all the reasons as above. To rule it out completely though, well that is just not something I can accept.

    I would like to start with science works a relevant example would be this, me communicating with you.

    Science at the moment only explains 4% of the universe, although I am certain that when the LHC gets going that will change. For me Black Holes that destroy the Earth: No. Alternate Universes (String Theory): unlikely, Higgs boson: Yes but this means there is a Higgs Field, my interpretation is liquid matter everywhere and that means that this field is holding identical atoms together in different ways to make different things, like rock, humans & stars. This is of course just my opinion at the moment as the just the most likely result from what I have managed to gather.

    I guess I just don’t like it when people deceive others by making out that all religious people don’t think.

  69. MadScientist

    It always astounds me that religious types want a god which did not have to be created and which has never been observed and yet cannot accept an entire universe which we can observe as having that priviledge of just being there. So a real universe can’t come into existence on its own, but a fairy can. Yeah.

    I wouldn’t remove the jerk’s comments – let everyone else read it, laugh, and say “I’m glad I’m not that stupid.”

  70. Hi Phil:

    I think the issue with the “believers” is not what they believe ( after all, I used to believe in Santa!), but what they DON’T believe. They can see a fossil in a rock, and not even believe their own eyes.

    John D.

  71. Terry Harding

    Actually that cartoon was by the great science cartoonist Sidney Harris.
    http://www.sciencecartoonsplus.com/pages/gallery.php

  72. Dan I.

    I’ll say it. I believe in God, I have faith. I also have faith that God WANTS us to understand creation. Meaning God is a-okay with the scientific process, evolution, the big bang theory etc. He doesn’t see a quest to explain life, the universe and everything as some kind of sin of hubris. That’s the POINT.

    If God wanted mindless, subservient, automatons he would have made us like that. He didn’t, he gave us big brains, free will, and reasoning ability.

  73. @Todd

    Actually, it now looks like keeping cool is secondary Plenty of animals, Elephants for instance, that keep the testes internally. It seems that animals that generate high internal body pressure have external testes, and that these function at lower temps because they are external, not the other way around.

  74. themos

    Please don’t waste time and energy discussing this. It is quite obvious that if there is a god, he needs shooting and that is all that can be said on the matter.

  75. Wayne

    Mike,

    I see what you did there. I’m afraid comedic ridicule doesn’t count. I agree with Wes, except that I’m pretty sure you’re just trying to be cute.

    Wayne

  76. Radwaste

    I hope you all can notice that there isn’t an example of “creation” to be had.

    No, when you point at something, it was converted from something else. Do you not remember your principle, the conservation of matter and energy?

    The word, “creation” is our invention, and it is regularly used without thought.

  77. Wow – that last comment of mine was pretty incomprehensible. It should read: “it now looks like keeping cool is secondary. Plenty of animals, Elephants for instance, have internal testes.”

  78. There is a great old cartoon, the Far Side maybe, that had two scientists standing at a blackboard with equations all over it. But right in the middle it says “Then A Miracle Happens”….One of the scientists says to the other “I think you need to be a little more explicit in step 2″.

    @James: That’s actually a Sydney Harris cartoon.

  79. Um, I mean Sidney Harris. Not Sydney. Sorry.

  80. I’m a skeptic and a Buddhist! So there! lol! Ridicule and questions welcomed gladly Ostrich Loon person!

    Great post, Phil! Beautifully presented argument!
    I’m a newbie here, but I read every post… and Digg them too!

  81. SLC

    Re Buffalodavid

    The story about Newton can be found by using a Google Video Search on Neil Tyson.

    However, the story is as follows. Newton developed the laws of motion and the inverse square law of gravity which he used to explain the motions of the 6 planets then known. However, the question arose as to whether the interactions between the planets, which he was neglecting, would, over time, cause the solar system to become unstable. Since, at the time, he had other fish to fry, he was content to state that, every so often, god had to intervene and apply a nudge to each of the planets to maintain the observed orbits.

    Approximately 100 years later, the French mathematician, Laplace developed a technique known as perturbation theory which allow him to compute the interactions between the planets. His computations showed that the solar system was stable over very long periods of time. Subsequently, he showed his treatise on the subject to Napoleon who, after skimming through it asked him what part god might play. Laplace famously responded that he had no need of that hypothesis.

  82. amphiox

    Presenting for your examination. . . .

    Gapism, the cult of the incredible shrinking deity.

    At the annual pilgrimage to the sacred shrine, a walk-in refrigerator wherein sits a mishapen lump of dry ice approximately 3 cubic centimeters in volume, slowly sublimating away, true believers insist that once, thousands of years ago, the idol was 800 feet tall, with nine crowned heads, six pairs of arms, and forty-seven wings.

  83. Dan I.

    This is a really timely blog entry Phil. I actually just linked to you on another forum (GameTrailers) where this guy basically said I deserve to be mocked for “believing in fairies.”

    Just dropped the link with a “read this, this is how a respectable skeptic debates this issue…”

    Hope he takes a few pointers.

  84. Saint Leibowitz

    I love your blog. But do you want to preach to the choir or do you want to help everyone understand the universe?

    I think you can make a bigger impact if you help believers to understand that science can be compatible with religion. Not by ridiculing their mistaken beliefs, but by showing how the essence of religion is perfectly compatible with the discoveries of science.

    Maybe you can invite a theist who believes in the Big Bang and evolution to write about how both of those are compatible with God. Just a thought.

  85. I have the feeling that we don’t know the whole story on God – a lot of religious folks think we do. God, if truly omniscient and omnipotent, might have us all very far down on his agenda. True, he cares for us and likes us and pays attention, but to think we’re everything he ever made or cared about would be a little egotistical.

    We can think about the fourth dimension and do math int he fourth dimension. We can draw close approximations of four-dimensional objects but we can’t even get a computer to render them properly! That’s just proof that there’s a lot of crap in this universe that though we can understand it, we can’t “GET” it completely.

    Let God be. He knows what he’s doing. He can exist and not exist at the same time. Stop arguing about it! :D

  86. @ Dan I:

    If God wanted mindless, subservient, automatons he would have made us like that. He didn’t, he gave us big brains, free will, and reasoning ability.

    Well, depends which god you’re talking about, I guess. That Adam fellow seemed pretty dopey and docile, with little in the way of curiosity until he literally had it stuffed down his throat.

    I think Yaweh likes his peeps on the dim side.

  87. Clearly I havent read your blog long enough to know how to argue correctly. I appreciate you posting the trolls comment, as it made me laugh. I plan on coming back, for certain. Thumbs up!

  88. Matts,

    Why can’t religious people just accept science as fact? I am very religious, yet furiously dedicated to modern science. why is the true workings of of the universe ugly, disgusting, or wrong to religious people, simply because it is different than told to us in thousand year old books? If religion is truth, and science is proven true, then why can’t science possibly come from God? Why can’t God represent what we find to be true instead of what we were told was true by ancient peoples? Is someone who died two thousand years ago more right than the proof found above in glorious stars which shine above in their amazing ages? religious people need to start respect science as a search for truth, and not a witchhunt to destroy god. we can be religious and scientific at the same time, certainly. Just my viewpoint. – From a religious person who cares about the true, scientific universe and it’s beautiful workings.

  89. Wes

    Saint Leibowitz Says:
    “Maybe you can invite a theist who believes in the Big Bang and evolution to write about how both of those are compatible with God. Just a thought.”

    It’s already been done. Check out the excellent book by Rev Michael Dowd, “Thank God for Evolution” with endorsements from both Nobel winners and spiritual teachers. The info is here: http://www.thankgodforevolution.com/ His basic thesis is that it’s impossible to not be in awe of the beauty and grandeur of evolution and we can choose to see that as revealing God, not replacing God. I thought the science in his book was majestic.

  90. Creationism is, at best, fairy-tale fakery with large dollops of warm, creamy illogic and wishful thinking thrown in to sedate the believer. At worst, it’s a lie based on a desperate need of the believers to control what other people think.

  91. Todd W.

    @Bipedal Tetrapod

    I was aware of the fact that whales house theirs internally, but it was my understanding, as Calli Arcale mentioned, that they have a system for controlling the temperature. So, heat is still an issue, it’s just solved differently by different critters.

  92. DTdNav

    Dear Human Race,

    The Generated Objectivity Delineation (G.O.D.) program was intended to weed out the purely credulous members of our seeded species. Only those who reject the all or nothing faith wager of our implanted premise get to pass into the next phase. We felt that the ultimate answer to the ultimate question should be left beyond the veil. We did this to avoid the “Yeah, I really knew that all along” excuse.

    Love,
    Your Galactic Overlords

    P.S. It’s working.

  93. You all refer to God.

    Which one?

    Why do you think you may be heard when your personal experience indicates a deaf ear?

  94. gopher65

    You may not be able to argue against the existance of a god in a general sense, but it is certainly possible to conclusively prove that “personal” gods don’t exist, such as the Judeal-Christian-Islamic god. It isn’t even hard. We’ve done it. We can’t say that a generic (non-interfering) god doesn’t exist, but we can say that *their specific* god doesn’t exist. They make very specific claims about the nature of their god and the things that he does, and those claims (and thus the existence of the god those claims support) are simple to disprove.

  95. James

    Thanks to the guys who found that cartoon I referred to. I printed off a copy to hang in my classroom!

  96. Hey Phil,
    Love the blog.
    Just wanted to throw this out there, because I’m sure a lot of insanity is going on in the comment section (which I’m not going to read because I’ve learned not to read internet comments), I’d just like to say that I love science, I’m a mathematician (well…studying to be a philosopher of mathematics. close enough.), I agree with the majority of what you say on this blog about the inanity of creationism in schools and the like.
    I’m also Catholic. I have no problem with that. And I’m sure you don’t either. As someone who has been liberally educated, I know that it is alright to hold what religious beliefs you like, and not have to try to constantly prove it scientifically.
    For some people, it seems like they can’t understand that we can be scientific, rational, and still religious, if we so choose. It’s alright.
    It’s all alright.

  97. If God is invisible, and man was created in God’s image, how come we can see ourselves?

  98. Davidlpf

    @ncc1701
    If God is invisible how does he know what he looks like?

  99. I don’t understand algebra.
    Therefore algebra is proof of God’s existence.

  100. Phil dids’t say: “As usual, someone like this has it exactly backwards: we can say that right now we don’t know. But the thing is, science learns.”

    That reminds me of a quote that has stuck with me for as long as I can remember: “The most basic scientific principle is the admission of ignorance.” Simply put, you can’t even begin to truly learn until you admit you don’t know something.

    I’m saving this blog entry of yours in a big quote file I keep. It’s one of the best statements of this kind of truth, that you can’t find the answers until you accept that you don’t know them.

    Oh, I don’t know where I got that quote from… maybe Star Trek. It sounds like a Data thing.

  101. Jim

    I find that it’s only the extremists who portray science and religion as enemies. On both sides.

  102. Bryant

    I’ve got nothing against your post, Phil. You presented your argument quite well.

    However, I think the main underlying reason for why many people believe in God is because a belief in God gives people someone to look up to and gives people something to look forward to after death. I’m personally disconcerted by the idea of my existence quite literally vanishing after death, and I also feel that a presence such as God exists (and as you may likely note, that source is most likely genetically wired within me, as it is with many people assuming the so-called “God Gene” exists).

    Therefore, as much as I love science and believe in everything the scientific method has uncovered, I still prefer believing in God because said belief satisfies a cozy feeling within me.

  103. StevoR

    The Greek philosopher Socrates said something similar.

    I can’t find or recall his exact choices of words now though ..

  104. zdub

    I would have to disagree with your assessment that belief in a Creator is an ignorant thing, God is evident in many ways, and as science progresses it points more and more towards an intelligent designer. Michael Behe has done an extensive amount of research on the topic, and there is an entire movement in the scientific community that points to an intelligent designer. I reccomend “The Case for a Creator” by Lee Strobel to anyone who would want to see more on the scientific proof of God. I hope to defeat the stereotype that Christians are just ignorant people who are bigots and hypocrites. I hope that I enlighten someone, but that’s all I have. Peace an Love to you all through Christ Jesus.

  105. B Rye Dawg

    If there was an all knowing, eternal God, wouldn’t he be smart enough to have an explanation for everything? How come the why of things always mixed up with the how? Understanding how something works doesn’t prove there’s no God, and not understanding it doesn’t prove there is a God.

  106. Paul

    Apologies on behalf of any ignorant Christian who has ever insulted you in the name of God.

    I think we have come to a bridging point between science and faith. I believe God did create the universe… but it says in scripture that he is a God of order, not chaos.

    That being said, and seeing how the world operates, it makes sense that an orderly God would, in the creation of the universe, institute a set of rules for nature to obey. Sort of like a computer programmer would set rules for software to run, despite the variables a user will input.

    Recognition that the universe might be eternal is a positive for the cause of trying to find a logical reason for faith. Recognition that SOMETHING, be it God, energy, matter, the universe or a metaverse is eternal… means that Christians aren’t so foolish for believing in something eternal.

    Now the question of the day becomes, “What do YOU personally believe is eternal?”

    Writing the bible off as fiction or myth is writing off a very surface level understanding of the bible. If you don’t believe the bible because of the old testament accounts of things… your a fool. Plain and simple, the people of the day didn’t have an understanding of this world well enough to explain certain things. Oral tradition handed down as poetry was transcribed in the creation story, and no clear understanding of millennia of creation could be made.

  107. Paul

    I’m not trying to tell you to believe what I do.

    I am asking that some people who call Christians fools please be more considerate. Don’t generalize that we all are ignorant of science. We aren’t. Don’t suppose we all take a literal view of some of the more fantastic stories in the bible, we don’t.

    The important things to me are: There is a God. He is eternal. He created us. He sent his son to be with us, who died, rose from death, and offers us a chance to be with him when we die.

    Do I know everything? No. I don’t. But I take this view on faith, based on eye witness accounts and scripture after study and personal experience.

    If you don’t share this view, fine! But please stop treating me and other Christians like idiots for it, we aren’t. Never once has science proven or disproved God. It can’t. Faith and science CAN coexist because they are two separate things.

    I’ll get off my soap box, thanks for taking the time to read what you’ll probably disagree with if you don’t already share my views.

  108. Malliemcg

    I think the problem with the religious arguments going about arguing against science from the bible are quite backwards about what they are doing.

    The bible is a guide for life not an explanation of where it came from or how all that is around exists, and just as Paul says to test every spirit (1 John 4 : 1-3) as a guide to if you should listen to the claims someone makes on a faith basis – how can someone live life as a Christian and not also apply the same to things around them in the physical world.

    Look I’m a Christian and I make no apologies for it – I’m not going to shove it down your throat or try and argue against the scientific process we’ve been given a gift in the ability to learn about the world around us and a curiosity we should use it. To push a young Earth/Universe in my opinion is to limit God.

  109. DNA

    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.

    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.

    Is he both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?

    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?”

    - Epicurus

  110. Andrew

    Maybe the question should be, does it matter is God exists? We all argue for and against ‘his’ existence yet what does it matter? We don’t need God to define our lives or make us moral beings. Most religious views lead to an arrogant, lieing trickster of God. (testing our faith and required worshiping) A God like this probably does not exist, however there is almost no way to disprove that some sort of higher life form exists. Definitely not the personified God Christianity and other religions has defined though.

    Our lives on earth are not directly affected by a God and it is basically impossible to disprove some form of supreme being. So why try?

  111. Jeff

    AWESOME! I’ve read your blog for a long time, and this could be my favorite post. You’ve said nothing I haven’t heard before, but they way you said it really hit the nail on the head!

  112. Jimbo

    Despite what many will say, demanding an answer to “What caused the big bang/where did that material/matter come from?” is valid- and cannot be applied to God. If you’re going to try, you’re going to miss who and what God is. Unlike the big bang- requiring matter of some kind- God is not bound to physical limitations of any kind- so you can NOT say, “Well how’d God come to be, huh? What made him?”- Asking that, you have no idea about the very definition of God.

    The entire… question of this blog shows a severe lack of understanding of anything religious.

  113. As I read your post and the comments, a couple things occurred to me. First, Science is where we turn for rational answers. God/Goddess/Spirit is where we turn when the rational answers fail us. And it happens, even to those of us who are committed to learning, growing, and doing our darnedest to actually make sense of the universe that hosts us. It follows, therefore, that any God/dess worth his/her salt must by definition INCLUDE all scientific knowledge. If the Divine is to be divine at all, it must supersede what we know.

    The second thing is what fundamentalism and creationism say about the god they are trying to defend. By denying the knowledge that science offers, creationism basically affirms that the god its followers worship is not a god for modern times. This god is a doddering old fool who must be protected from the short skirts, fast drivers, and complex technology of the world in which we live. In essence, to deny science in the name of religion is to deny that the god of that religion has any validity today.

  114. StevoR

    Phil Plait Says: (March 25th, 2009 at 1:54 pm) :

    Pedro, I would agree that there are reductionist cases where you can prove a negative. For example, by inspection I can prove to myself that am not holding the entire planet Jupiter in my hand.

    Actually that example could be proven by logic too! Many times over really :

    Size of human hand versus size of Jupiter,

    Holding or even touching Jupiter (as whole planet not ejected material – & ejected material most unlikely given Jovian gravity) would equal falling into the planet’s massive gravitational well.

    Conditions inside Jupiter simply aren’t survivable by humans (millions of degres temperature wise & enormous (understatement!) pressures etc …

    So you can prove negatives in many ways.

    Many atheists (eg. Dawkin’s) would state itas fact that the “God hypothesis” has indeed been as disproven as Phil’s holding theentriue planet Jupiter.

    Incidentally while I’ve seen a couple of refs to Sagan’s “Garage invisible dragon”, there’s also another similar analogy – Russell’s teapot in solar orbit .. See via Wikipedia. (“Russell’s Teapot” analogy was also used in Dawkin’s TV version of ‘The God Delusion’ shown on Compass ABC-TV (Australia) a year or two ago.)

  115. Click on my name to visit the Wikipedia entry for “russlel’s teapot.

    Corrected sentence forclarity (wish we could edit here ..Sigh.) :

    Many atheists (eg. Dawkin’s) would state it as fact that the “God hypothesis” has indeed been as much disproven as the idea that Phil’s holding the entire planet Jupiter in his hand. ;-)

  116. You are right, though misguided in your response.

    “Because I say so. lalalalala I can’t hear you!” has been going on for a long time.

    Do you think it has been long enough?
    Do you think it has been not-long enough?
    Do you need more time to figure it all out?
    You have all the time in the world.

    Cosmology can be a fun game, but not everyone can win all the time.
    For everything that there is there is not something if you read between the lines.
    Have you learned to read between the lines?
    If you read only the lines you have, you will not be aware of what is between them.
    If you see only the atoms that are, you will not be aware of the space between them.
    If you believe only what gods tells you that you feel, you will not be aware of what you think about god.
    If you feel what you think about god, you will know.
    This is the power of truth.

    There are many ways to see the same thing and only one way to see everything
    0 ! = 1

    Do you see zero-not-equal-to-one and zero-factorial-equals-one?
    Will you see both?

  117. Paul

    Hi – I agree with the people who said that this is an old argument, one happening in many forms on the internet and in people’s dining rooms right now.

    What I feel is missing, though, is that the word science is friendly and happy. Science helped us with polio, didn’t it? Wow. And how about that problem with darkness at nighttime? And getting to places around the world really fast? Gosh.

    It’s when science delves into areas that religion claims a stake on, the primacy of humanity, the nature of our personal occurence, that things get heated.

    That science includes theories of evolution is the problem here, and sadly, you don’t address that. Few theists reject the light-bulb, but many, many reject the notion of us as a natural occurence brought about by natural, materialist means.

    Science is a nice word. Evolution is not. Yet science embraces evolution (until it’s replaced by something even better, of course) and so science can’t be considered seperate from religion. We are at a point in time where scientists dare say no to the religious establishment without fear of being burnt at a stake (or bombed outside your clinic) and follow the research where it leads.

    The two can’t co-exist, one says that we, humanity, are part of an ongoing natural process.

    The other says we are divinely inspired from the mind of a creator being.

    We are either intended, or not.

    How can a theist reconcile this outside of intelligent design?

    They cannot.

    So how can this be an argument that either side can win, given science’s habit of clinging to the idea it might be wrong as matter of daily instruction?

    Do we dare trust humanity to review the evidence for themselves, knowing, as we do, that innumeracy is still a huge problem in many 1st world countries?

    How does science teach a theory which defies millenia of cultural heritage to say that we, that curious species we call homo-sapiens, were not intended, but instead a glorious happenstance? Knowing also, that as a theory, we may, as new evidence comes to light, simply change it?

    I would say that religion *is* a science – and a wizard did it was the answer.

    We have new sciences, which do not permit that answer.

    Religion has become outdated as a tool for understanding the universe. We should be teaching that controversy in the class-room.

  118. Boxcar

    I tend to find myself in the minority of, well, pretty much everyone I’ve talked to or read comments from. I am a young-earth creationist. I firmly believe that the earth was created by God between six and ten thousand years ago. I take the Bible to be the Word of God, passed on to us through divinely inspired authors. And I believe that I will find eternal life in heaven after I die, because Christ took my wrongdoings and punishment for them upon Himself.

    At the same time, I know that all of the evidence points to the Big Bang. I know that, when thoroughly examined with all tools and methods available, the age of the universe is approximately 13.5 billion years. I know that, some number of thousands or millions of years ago, men and apes split from a common ancestor.

    But here’s the thing. Scientific fact has no bearing on my faith. God will never be proven to exist by science, as it would make eliminate the ability for “blind faith.” Blind faith is the only kind of faith that matters. Faith backed by facts is not faith, but knowledge. I know the universe is 13.5 billion years old, but I believe it to be 8000 years old. I know that humans exist because, a long time ago, lightning struck a bunch of proteins and BOOM!, we had life. But I believe that God created the human race in His image to give Himself someone to talk to. And if science ever proves that God does not or can not exist, I will know that as well. But it won’t stop me believing that He does.

  119. Chris

    Martin Moran Says:
    March 25th, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    I am religious but have a more open view of things than most, I suppose because I understand the Church existed for hundreds of years before the Bible was written (by a man in ancient Hebrew) then translated etc.etc. The moon is not a light in the sky it is more of a mirror etc. Theology is as important to me and for all the reasons as above. To rule it out completely though, well that is just not something I can accept.

    I would like to start with science works a relevant example would be this, me communicating with you.

    Science at the moment only explains 4% of the universe, although I am certain that when the LHC gets going that will change. For me Black Holes that destroy the Earth: No. Alternate Universes (String Theory): unlikely, Higgs boson: Yes but this means there is a Higgs Field, my interpretation is liquid matter everywhere and that means that this field is holding identical atoms together in different ways to make different things, like rock, humans & stars. This is of course just my opinion at the moment as the just the most likely result from what I have managed to gather.

    I guess I just don’t like it when people deceive others by making out that all religious people don’t think.

    I guess you showed them good.

  120. Dr. BA can’t hold the planet Jupiter in his hand???

    Oh, mannnnnnn!

  121. Anonymous

    I know that God is real not of my own understanding of science, laws, and human research. Those things only validate my God. I know that God is real because of the personal impact in my life because of my relationship with Jesus and because of the interaction of the Holy Spirit in my life. The evidence of God are the followers of Jesus. We prove God through our love.

    I apologize for my brothers’ inappropriate comments. God is the God of love. And I love you all because Christ first loved me.

  122. Push926

    First of all…SCIENCE DOENS’T LEARN.

    Only our knowledge and awareness of scientific properties that already exist, increases.

    Second of all…if there truly is a GOD, then it must have been his intention to keep his actual form/presence hidden to inspire this very debate about his existence because it must be in some way beneficial to us as a species.

    Third, for those people who are absolutely positive there is a GOD, why do you argue? I know when I’m 100 percent right about something, I don’t feel any need to argue…its only when i am less sure do i express my uncertainty in an angry way, almost trying to bolster self assurance from a defeated ‘enemy’ expressing a counterpoint; that there is no for God example. So will believers who debate this issue only feel positive about God’s existence when non believers admit they are wrong? If so, maybe their faith isn’t as strong as they think.

  123. veepy

    I will concede to anyone that something or someone greater than all of us may exist and that it or they may not be bound by limits as we are. I will not concede to anyone that the answers to everything important were ‘divined’ before I was born and written down in a holy book.

    It’s OK for uneducated people, living at a time when little was known about their natural world, to imagine magical explanations for everything. It gave them more comfort to believe in the fantastic than fear the unknown. But people living today have no excuse. They’re now forced to intentionally disregard both common sense and common knowledge in order to justify their ‘make-believe for adults.’ They have to stir their fears wildly while dismissing all reason lest they succumb to the temptation to think.

  124. Mark Twain

    I think Mark Twain described the arrogance of scientists best in his classic, “Life on the Mississippi.” Here’s my favorite excerpt:

    Since my own day on the Mississippi, cut-offs have been made at
    Hurricane Island; at island 100; at Napoleon, Arkansas; at Walnut Bend;
    and at Council Bend. These shortened the river, in the aggregate,
    sixty-seven miles. In my own time a cut-off was made at American Bend,
    which shortened the river ten miles or more.

    Therefore, the Mississippi between Cairo and New Orleans was twelve
    hundred and fifteen miles long one hundred and seventy-six years ago.
    It was eleven hundred and eighty after the cut-off of 1722.
    It was one thousand and forty after the American Bend cut-off. It has
    lost sixty-seven miles since. Consequently its length is only nine
    hundred and seventy-three miles at present.

    Now, if I wanted to be one of those ponderous scientific people, and ‘let on’
    to prove what had occurred in the remote past by what had occurred
    in a given time in the recent past, or what will occur in the far future
    by what has occurred in late years, what an opportunity is here!
    Geology never had such a chance, nor such exact data to argue from!
    Nor ‘development of species,’ either! Glacial epochs are great things,
    but they are vague–vague. Please observe:–

    In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower
    Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles.
    That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year.
    Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic,
    can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period,’ just a million
    years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards
    of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out
    over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token
    any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now
    the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long,
    and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together,
    and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual
    board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science.
    One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling
    investment of fact.

    To be fair, Twain made quite a few (painfully accurate) comments about the arrogance of religious people as well. And I think that tends to be the problem in these arguments. There’s a lot more arrogance than logic.

    The argument of the necessity of an uncaused cause is a sound one. People of faith believe God to be a being who exists independent of any cause. We understand Him to be of a different essence than the physical universe. I don’t want to be so arrogant as to say we define God in any certain fashion, but we believe that God is not affected by the physical universe. He is unchangeable. He is immeasurable. He is entirely different than the physical world in which we live. Logically, it makes sense to believe in something or someone that has no cause, something that has always existed. Something that is not bound by the limitations of causation that are so readily observable in nature. Hence the term, supernatural.

    Substituting “the universe” into God’s place in the First Cause argument is fallacy. Proving the idiocy of the argument when applied to universe-toting turtles hardly disproves God’s ability to exist eternally. That’s the arrogance that frustrates people of faith, this idea that God must be subject to the laws of science. I understand that people of faith should be subject to the rules of logic, but that’s another story.

    So many scientifically minded people begin with the basic assumption that God is bound by the physical world. It’s like saying that an author who writes a story about the destruction of the universe will cease to exist when he gets to the part about time and space unraveling. Which leads me to believe that y’all got way too into “The Neverending Story.” But the author exists independently from his own creation. That’s the theory anyway.

    I know that doesn’t prove God exists. But logic demands a first cause. Making up a word like metaverse doesn’t preclude the need to explain how a world of chain reactions came into existence. The answer, “there has just always been a universe” seems so pathetic coming from a group of people who pride themselves on their intellect. I’m a Christian. We’re supposed to be dumb.

    I justify God’s existence as a First Cause on the basis that He is of an essence altogether unique from that of the world in which we live, this universe in which the cause of everything can be explained by scientists (at least to the satisfaction of their own minds). I guess I still don’t understand what the counter argument is.

    Are you really just saying the universe always existed, and we don’t really need a better answer than that?

  125. big daddy

    to be fair..if religion was the absolute truth, why would it learn? learning implies theres more to it.

  126. chadster

    I think, if there is a god, it is nothing like religious people foolishly believe. Instead of a being that rewards, punishes, and becomes angry like an eight year old child, I suggest that god is a universal presence or consciousness. It does not control or condemn, it simply perpetuates.

  127. Stefan

    Sir,
    You mention in your article that,

    “…if they want to persuade me then I need to see the evidence on my own terms.”

    Point taken. Being a “they”, I would then respectfully suggest that you perhaps try walking around doing something other than stare at your own two feet. I am assuming that this is precisely the manner in which you get from point A to point B… otherwise you might have noticed that everything around you is – at the risk of sounding like a bloody sap – truly remarkable in its beauty and complexity. In my mind, I can’t envision how everything around us could have come to be without some guidance.

    (And keep up the haphazard arguments, I think I might get bored if someone proves their side to be correct.)

  128. Noone

    God bless America. It’s all you deserve.

  129. TEO

    Just keep religion and science apart. They are two entirely different things and they can easily coexist. If you are a scientist you can always argue that you are only trying to understand the universe that god created. How can a religious person argue against that?

  130. Deepak

    Dear Phil,

    Everything in life is not about shoving evidence into someones face. Somethings are understand in a more non-material way. Where is the proof and evidence that I love and care for my kids? You can’t provide evidence and signed documents to prove that. It is just the way you feel for your kinds. Isnt God understood in a similar way? Its a belief. Belief cant be backed up with evidence.

    Why do u keep asking for proof of god’s existence time and again when you very well understand that its a belief and nothing more? I fail to get your point in the article.

  131. Scooter

    I am a believer. I believe there is a God who, by design, created this awesome universe for us to explore, study and understand. We aren’t mindless drones. We have free will to believe or not believe whatever we choose.

    I have long believed that evolution has been part of His plan from the beginning. The Bible states that God created man in his image. But do we know what God looks like? He may be a formless mass, a cloud, or ever changing wad of plasma. Not unlike the first single cell organisims that appeared on this planet.

  132. kickerofelves

    Why would you post anything to reply to a silly comment such as that one anyway?

    And why this:

    “Now, ignoring the stunning hypocrisy of someone preaching the word of God and calling us all idiots,”

    I doubt the existence of God, but the current crop of under-40 internet atheists are a particularly nasty bunch most of whom are poorly versed in history, psychology or culture.

    Many tend to spout out insults about intelligence of believers when the facts show that there are many very intelligent and educated people, individuals with high IQs; doctors, lawyers, CPAs or even mathematicians who are believers.

    I was brought up in a fairly liberal Catholic parochial school system where I was taught that religion and science are not in conflict or competition. Even after losing my belief in God I still retain that view.

    It’s a form of atheism that seems to have lost it’s humanist edge. A great pity. But in the end the right-wing evangelical zealots helped spawn their attitudes so perhaps it’s richly deserved.

  133. Mark

    Phil – nicely put. Whilst I agree with your “jerk commenter” that the Universe came about at God’s command, I completely recognize that from a science point of view, that’s just passing the buck. The question then becomes the origin or context of God, which we’ll never discover in this life.

    I keep up with modern cosmology (and other sciences), and the more I learn, the more it reinforces my faith (usually). This is the dichotomy of pre-conception – a theist will tie new learning to their God-centred universe-view, and an atheist will tie it to their God-free universe-view.

    The only way to discover God (if He exists) is spiritually – and this is independent from intellectual science. The two fields are not mutually exclusive like young-earth creationism and panspermic evolution, but they are separate, like say economics and biology.

  134. pure faith 108

    Welcome all the seekers of Truth!
    Don’t you think that blind faith is useless? It’s better to check for yourself the existence of God. There is a method, by which you can FEEL the GOD. Yes!!!. Check Sahaja Yoga, and You will find out, that the God exists. It’s easy and the most powerful experience you could ever imagine!
    All you need is to have a desire, pure desire.

    with love
    r

  135. My full response, for anyone interested, from a Christian point of view, can be found here:

    http://divinusmentis.blogspot.com/2009/03/vs-turtles-all-way-down.html

    Give it a read, you may be surprised.

  136. shawmutt

    “The greatest mysteries of today are undergraduate homework problems in 20 years.”

    AMEN BROTHA! That’s a great statement.

  137. By full rebuttal can be found in my url.

  138. Just keep religion and science apart. They are two entirely different things and they can easily coexist. If you are a scientist you can always argue that you are only trying to understand the universe that god created. How can a religious person argue against that??

  139. colin

    Scooter! You are a mindless drone.

  140. taiki

    My favorite is when they show a photo or a picture of a painting and they go, “isn’t it obvious there was a designer in this picture? So why not life?”

    So many times I’ve been tempted to scream, “What about Jackson Pollock? Try to find a proof of a creator in *that*!”

  141. corinne

    Wow! I am having my doubts about the existence of God, but I do know there is a higher power greater than myself and that has helped me overcome 2 of my illnesses. THERE IS a “GOD” if you will. There is someone or something more powerfull that we may not understand…yet.

  142. Brian

    Phil – you rock! Clean and clear arguments.

  143. Dino

    am interested in this topic… first of all, i believe in god existence,
    why i don’t?… emm its simple

    people who don’t believe in god think that this universe and life all came by random!
    and those same people believe about random can occur and buy it …(despite how endlessly epically hard it is)… think god didn’t create this universe and life..

    while if we wanted to use “logic”…we know that this life chances to exists by random seems endless.. which is like infinity, and chances to occurrence is like zero. Let alone, cestained!!

    you can use probability and science logic… and ask any scientist about probability of life appearance, you will be stunned :)

    in my case, i cannot accept an almost impossible to apply random creation theory over the miraculous complex creation of god around us…

    take now all technologies we have now , all science you are proud of..
    can a human nowadays create a new living moving specie from raw materials???
    i dare if they can… not even a living mosquito…not evening a SEED!!

    how about a universe and all this life with all its forms started from NOTHINGNESS!?!?!?!?!?

    machines are not living things despite how hard some try make them mimic creatures, and by any chance if anyone believe they all can be labeled as “creature”, then i think you should stop watching fantasy movies.. just wanted to get this covered…

  144. You wrote: “Now, ignoring the stunning hypocrisy of someone preaching the word of God and calling us all idiots …”. While I do agree with most of what you write, you can’t call the commenter a hypocrite. The commenter never stated a religious preference; they merely asserted that God knows how the universe was created*. For all you know they could be part of some obscure religious sect which has no issue with being arrogant and condescending to others.

    * To be truly pedantic, they didn’t even state that God was the first cause, merely that he knows where the universe came from, though I doubt they noticed that subtlety, given the nature of their comment.

  145. Michael Wylie

    I’ve had some of the same questions that you have posted here, and I’ve had time to think about them. The two questioning themes seem to be:

    1) When I see proof of God, I will believe in God.
    2) Where did God come from?

    Firstly, these are two very excellent questions. To explore the first concern, let us remember that God is, if you prefer, invisible or unseen. So, how do you prove the existence of something unseen? Take the wind for example; if we wanted to prove that wind exists, we couldn’t say we’ve seen the wind. We have seen the effects of the wind, like rustling leaves or the sound it makes, but we have not actually seen the wind. The easiest argument I can think of to prove wind exists is: we know the wind is there because we can feel it. I would argue the same for God … that you can feel God … but of course we have to be looking for it to notice it. Slight winds throughout the day are not noticeable, but when there is a wind storm we definitely notice.

    Secondly, asking where something comes from inherently assumes the thing was created. Talking about something being created only makes sense if time exists. Time does not exist for God, because he created it. We are subject to time, God isn’t. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to ask where God came from, because He was not created.

    Thanks for reading my thoughts.
    Good Day

  146. Br. David Klecker O. Cist

    A few things I always thought were interesting. There is actually no “real” authentic tangible evidence for the existence of alien life (sure there are pictures but almost everyone has been debunked and if real evidence exists it’s private knowledge) yet science is willing to go out on a limb to believe in the existence of aliens. Why can’t science go out on a limb for God? Science is willing to believe in a theory based on evidence they see in the universe of the Big Bang. They never actually saw it, but all evidence points to it. On the flip side there are a lot of people who perform some of the most miracluous and charitable works and are considered amazing people or Saints who don’t point to themselves but to God. The universe provides evidence for an event we have never seen but we experience the aftermath and we will believe, yet God provides evidence for an existence we cannot prove yet we experience the effect but we don’t believe.

    I’m sure you could find holes in these questions, debunk them, consider yourself a rational thinker for debunking them so you don’t have to believe in God but the real question one must ask themselves is “Why?” Why is God irrational thinking? Some of our greatest thinkers and minds believed in God. In antiquity God and science were inseperable. Today individualism and the so called “rational age of ideas” was lead people to believe that God is not part of the equation in any shape or form.

    Yes, I to also cannot understand why some people are so fanatical when it comes to religion. Why can’t evolution be God’s plan? Creationism read literally from the Bible has been systematically debunked through carbon dating. Why do so many people take the Bible as 100% literal truth when the original creators and writers were simply providing a door to experience God. They were not writing a historical document. History comes through in the Bible but it’s not the Britannica.

    This all boils down to respect. Atheists need to respect those who believe and vice versa. The whole idea that someone thinks I’m crazy or delusional is more ignorant than an person who thinks a specific event will convince an atheist they are wrong. For example Richard Dawkins is not helping anyone with his cause and in my opinion is a secular bigot but that’s beyond the scope of this reply. Respect will make this world go around more smoothly, but if people will continue to point the finger and nag, scream, yell and convict, judge and execute the only creatures left on this planet when the dust settles will be the cute little hedgehogs like the ones after the dinosaurs died out.

  147. Nigel Depledge

    Kurt said:

    “certainly can’t prove a negative. ”

    what!!! Of course you can. That is exactly how science works! One of the main reasons Relativity gained confidence is because the ether was disproved.
    The reason Oxygen Theory won out over the phlogiston theory is because phlogiston was disproved. There are countless other examples that happen everyday that demonstrate that you CAN disprove a negative.
    I guess you can’t PROVE anything if you want to be technical about it. But you can observe and perform experiments to rule out theory. That’s what I mean by proving something

    Kurt, I think you missed the point here.

    While it is perfectly reasonable to disprove a statement, whether positive or negative, it is fundamentally impossible to prove a negative statement.

    If I were to claim that sardines never fly to the moon, this statement cannot be proved, only disproved. The simple fact that sardines have never been observed to fly to the moon does not prove it to be a true statement.

  148. Nigel Depledge

    Pedro N said:

    I’m not sure what did you think when you wrote “and you certainly can’t prove a negative” but that’s not correct. I invite you to read Prof. Steven Hale’s “You Can Prove a Negative” (just 3 very worthwhile pages) at:[URL omitted so my comment doesn't need moderation]

    Actually, the first example in this essay is not really a negative statement, it’s a play on words. To claim that “something cannot be both true and not true” is a rule of logic is wrong. It is the very definition of the words. You might as well equally say that something cannot be both tea and not tea simultaneously. It’s not a rule of logic, it is the blindingly obvious. I gave up after that.

    I put it to you that it is formally impossible to prove that sardines never fly to the moon.

  149. Paxalot

    Christians, who exist in time and space, claim to experience the love of a God that does not exist in time and space. How is that? They claim to be able to experience something that, by their own definition, cannot exist in our plane of existence. Given that all experience occurs in the human brain and body their argument is extremely weak. But let’s not be too hard on them. Entire political and artistic movements have hung on weaker threads.

  150. Pembertom

    Deepak:
    “Why do u keep asking for proof of god’s existence time and again when you very well understand that its a belief and nothing more? I fail to get your point in the article.”
    Yes, you definitely do.
    Phil is not asking for proof of God’s existence, he just says that if some people pretend that ID, YEC, etc. are SCIENCE, and not RELIGION, then they have to use SCIENTIFIC methods.
    And in SCIENCE, every claim that you make can be verified or falsfied.
    If you want ID to be treated as science, as many folks do, then you have to provide PROOF, because THAT is the scientific method.
    If you believe certain things without proof, then we’re talking about FAITH, not SCIENCE.
    These two should not be mixed.
    Which is not to say that scientists cannot believe in God, or that religous people cannot trust science. You just cannot substitute religon for science.
    Then they can coexist perfectly.

  151. Nigel Depledge

    Thanny said:

    Except, perhaps, a simplified summary. If X is defined as something that must produce effect Y (among other things), the absence of Y proves the non-existence of X.

    No, this ain’t necessarily so. While your logic is parsimonious, you miss the mathematical definition of the word “proof”. In real terms, it is fairly easy to prove something beyond reasonable doubt.

    For instance, by examining the propoerties of sardines, one can prove beyond reasonable doubt that they are incapable of flying to the moon. But this is not an absolute proof of the statement that sardines never fly to the moon.

  152. Bob from Easton

    I have always had the image of our universe as a work of kinetic work of art in a museum somewhere in the larger Metaverse. Some creature in the Metaverse is trying to maintain the harmony of the piece by adjusting the elements that make up the universe, and from time to time has to destroy bits of it to maintain the balance. This curator has discovered that there is some kind of infestation somewhere in the piece, and at this very moment is trying to find a way to eradicate it. He has narrowed it down to a very pretty spiral galaxy.

    I think there was an reception for the artist last Saturday.

  153. The infinite regression, “Where did God come from?” argument has probably been around for centuries, if not millennia! Having been indoctrinated with Christianity as a young child, this was precisely the argument which first led me to reject the concept of God, at about the age of ten.
    This can be summarised by the following hypothetical conversation:

    Christian: “The Universe is far too complex and wonderful to ‘just exist’; it MUST have been created by a super-intelligent, supernatural being!”
    Atheist: “OK, so where did the super-intelligent, supernatural being come from?”
    Christian: “Well, nowhere – He just exists!”

    D’ohhh!!!!

    As for “faith”, Mark Twain said it all:
    “Faith is the ability to believe what you know not to be true.”

  154. Gene Thomas

    The infinite regression problem is actually more properly applied to the universe than it is to God. Let’s begin with the assumption that God is. That being the case, he existed before the universe he created existed. Ergo, he doesn’t live in our universe, or if he does, it is by choice and not necessity. Since he has his existence elsewhere, or at the very least it began elsewhere, there is no reason to believe that he is bound by the same “laws” of the various sciences as we are.

    For example, time. Time is a function of our universe and in it we live from moment to moment. (Which, by the way, is the problem with an infinite regression.) But in our assumptive God’s place of existence, where perhaps time as we know it is not a dimension, . . . well, who can say? It could be that by our kind of reckoning his existence is regressively eternal.

  155. Mark Twain

    But Neil, your argument neither proves God cannot be self-existent nor establishes a logical explanation for how the universe can be self-existent. I’ve argued that God is completely different in nature than creation. You’ve argued, “D’ohhh!!!!”

  156. CMK

    “The greatest mysteries of today are undergraduate homework problems in 20 years. That’s the strength of science.”

    Bravo, I do believe you have something there Phil.

  157. mapnut

    I’m surprised that this has been such an Agree-With-Phil party. Where are the 1 or 2 “faithful” that usually pop up? Phil must have really nailed down the logic this time.

  158. Joe Meils

    Oh, no… God exists. (I saw it on Battlestar Galactica!) ;)

  159. ND

    Joe Meils,

    But he doesn’t like being called that according to the head-Baltar angel.

  160. Ismael

    You claim that science learns, so what is now ‘true’ might not be ‘true’ forever. That immediately says to me- evolution may be true, but it may also be completely false and therefore, Evolution is much like Creation, in that it is just another example of Shroedinger’s Cat. Religion learns, as people grow and learn more about their God and their spiritual relationship with the universe. The real spiritualists aren’t cemented in their God, they’re always learning and getting closer to the answer with small steps.

    Prove that I was upset at 2:30am early this morning lying next to my lover, and how she touched my arm and in no more than 10 seconds of your earth time I was reversed and happy, my heart had slowed and my fever calmed. Prove that love has a beginning, middle, end, and afterlife. I don’t think you can, yet it appears to exist and affects us all. We haven’t given it names, but its effect is noticeable.

    Robert Anton Wilson shortened Belief Systems to B.S. This includes science.

  161. mapnut:
    They have no use for logic. That’s the devil’s work in their eyes. Not their strong point…

    Great post, Phil!
    IMHO the problem is that ignorance is easy. Too easy.
    But whatchagonnado? Trolls will be trolls.

    The whole thing the troll poster doesn’t understand is that the Big Bang was an explosion -OF- time, not -IN- time. Thus there was no “before” the Big Bang, and therefore there was no “cause” of the BB. Causality requires time to be present. Thing A happens, then thing B happens a little TIME later. Stuck as we are in 4D spacetime we have trouble seeing the big picture.

  162. Science and Religion can coexist very happily. The only problem I have with your article is that you make it seem that exactly the opposite is true, which is unfair to some of the more educated readers of Discover and makes you look like a 17yr old blogger on this issue.

    Why doesn’t anyone talk about William James in this arena? Why don’t we hear from people who’ve read Huston Smith? Why is it so hard to find common ground and so easy to pick a fight and call the other person irrational or stupid? Because the latter is more inflating to our egos and the former takes wisdom and patience.

  163. jason

    I’ve read through a lot of the comments and found them interesting and well thought. I likely don’t have anything contribute but food for fodder.

    Yes, I’m a Christian. Despite that, I don’t fear science. I had never heard the argument that flipped the ‘God has always existed’ argument around. That’s a fair thought.

    Still, I’ll stand on my own ground here. I believe in a God that created everything. I’m open to the idea that there are instruments he might have used in His work. I disagree with many of your definitions of faith. Don’t scientists even have faith to an extent? Weren’t the existence of germs and such just a thought went science set out to see if there’s something more to it. Doesn’t science come up with theories to explain things that cannot yet be explained? Wasn’t DNA a theory before it was found to exist?

    The real reason I’m posting is that you guys seem to be good down to earth thinkers. I welcome that. I don’t really think I can compete, but we’re not competing. We’re discussing.

    I would be interested in your thoughts on morals. You are all well versed on the presumption that since we have morals, there must be some one that gave them to us or installed them in us in some manner. Is morality really just pragmatism from your perspective? If that is the case, what would your first thoughts be if someone were to take a new born baby and pound it with a sledge hammer? Yes, that was graphic and I apologize. My point is that it would likely make you feel pretty sick. Why is that?

    On another note, I’ll give you guys a free target here. The idea that we’re all the result of chance; that this life is coincidence, an inevitability of nature, with no real meaning or purpose; that is just too bleak a future for me to accept. Perhaps that is why I choose to believe in God and Jesus Christ. I know inside myself I want to believe there is something greater than me because I am wicked. I fear the evil sin causes, especially that of my own. I fear a world left to its own devices and man’s depravity. I do not believe we are born good. Look around. Sin’s havok is everywhere.

    Lastly, it comes down to personal experiences in my faith and life where things have happened that simply defy logic or reason. Events where logistics and statistics say I should be dead, but, yet, here I am.

    I’m not here to preach. I’m just a guy sharing my thoughts on life and this conversation. Especially seeing that not many Christians have posted comments. I’m no better than anyone. I’m just here to have an honest conversation.

    So, that said, fire away. I really do want to see your responses. I’d like to know where you coming from.

  164. chrispc88

    This may become long, but I’ll try to make this comment as concise as possible. First a little background, I’m 32 and work as a computer programmer. I graduated college with honors and hold a Computer Science degree in Software Engineering. None of that do I fee to be all that important except to say I’m not just some kid making this comment. I was raised “Christian”, but I always had doubts about the teachings of the Bible that only grew more and more as I got older (until by the time I was about 20 or so) I no longer believed in God or anything written in the Bible. As a result (rightly or wrongly) at that age and in college I ended up with what some people would consider to be a ‘bad’ crowd and basically I was at parties every weekend, and would drink – later that led to weed, and finally one night I tried LSD. Just as a point to mention, those 3 substances are in-fact the only ‘drugs’ I’ve ever done except the occasional Asprin for a headache, or Thera Flu when I’m feeling sick. By about the time I was 24 I was nearly arrested along with some of my friends – and basically that scared me “straight”. Since then I’ve not done any of those things – including drinking alcohol.

    So, I admit all of this, that I’m not proud of to get around to my point that is relevant to this discussion. The LSD. When I tried that, which was only the 1 time – I will say that the experience of first hand knowledge of how the mind can completely distort reality made any residual consideration of God completely disappear. I became convinced that any story of someone seeing angels or anything of the kind was most likely the result of an illusion created within that persons mind – that may very well have seemed real, but most likely was nothing. I could go into much further detail, but suffice to say – I was completely convinced that there is no God and that our existence is nothing more than the result of randomness.

    However, in the past few years I’ve again been contemplating the question “Is there a God”. I can not ever see myself ever believing in the Dogma of the Bible ever again… but the question of is there a being of some sort that to a greater or lesser degree is in some way manipulating the very reality that we are experiencing? This new questioning of mine has been brought on by 2 things. First after reading about some of the latest theories of reality, and that there may be 11 dimensions (or perhaps it’s been proven – I can’t remember – again, I’m a computer programmer so this isn’t really my field). Various articles about string theory and quantum physics that is all way over my head. The other thing is that I read the book “The Science Of The Mind” – as recommended by a friend. Right off the bat, I must say that I think 98% of the book is total crap – but the first couple chapters did get my attention, in the idea of thinking of God as more of a consciousness that is ever present and is everywhere but is a a level far beyond our comprehension. Basically I started to think maybe God could perhaps be that upper most dimension or something even more profound beyond that.

    So, now at this point of my life I’ve came to my own personal conclusion that I think there may very well be a “God”. And furthermore I fully admit that I come to this conclusion from reading about things that are far removed from my field of expertise. I don’t attempt to push my believe onto others – but as with this comment, I do at times try to explain why I think there might be a God. And in person I get into much greater detail.

    My point with this comment is essentially that, I think that it does seem a bit harsh to immediately come to the conclusion that if a person believes in God, they must follow a particular religion. I personally make the distinction, that I believe in ‘a God’. And I no longer dismiss out of hand those that believe in the Bible. While I think most of what they believe is completely unrealistic (e.x. Age of Earth, Adam and Eve, Noahs Ark) – but I no longer feel a need to demean them or their beliefs. I simply feel that people can believe whatever they want to believe. And as science finds answers to more and more questions, that’s great! But I don’t think science should be used to make a person feel ignorant or unintelligent. That just pushes the very people away that (I assume) you’re trying to educate. Case and Point – the comment that you state here that you describe as something that you should delete. Personally I don’t take that much offense to this person calling everyone an idiot. I am fully aware of the irony that if this person is Christian – that calling others idiots is not very ‘Christian’. But I must point out that the person never claimed to be Christian. Given the nature of the comment, I would agree that the person most likely would describe themselves as Christian, the fact remains that the person has not made that claim thus there is no proof. From a scientific point of view, it seems (to me at least) to be just as ironic for someone that follows the logic of science but yet immediately takes offense from such a week argument and makes an assumption without proof of the dogmatic background of this particular writer.

    While that persons comment is obviously full of holes, rather than stooping to that persons level of personal attack and assumptions – why not simply point out what is wrong with their argument using scientific evidence. While you attempt to do that here, I think that you fail because you’re using the same logic that this person is using. Personally I would have answered that comment with something like this…

    “Could there be a God that is determining the fate of all reality? Perhaps, but as a scientist I must question that possibility and test the theory behind it. I can no more prove or disprove God than you can, and I make no attempt to do so. Believe what you wish, that’s your right. But I’m simply dealing with that which I can scientifically and methodically prove.”

    IMO – a response like that basically puts to bed the question of “God” in a scientific discussion, while not being rude or demeaning to the person. It simply states a fact and implies that a religious discussion is not something you would be willing to entertain.

  165. Challenge to the Writer

    I know you specifically asked for us to prove the Bible, but please dear sir, do me a favor.. Proove that the events in the Bible did not happen, such as the sun standing still, and The Great Flood.

    Christianity is about faith, believing in God even when you can not directly feel or see things around you. Wind is a great example of this, you can’t see it but yet you can feel it.. so how can something that has no matter (it doesnt take up any space really) exist? And with that how is something that we can see so important to the life of this world?

    I am not against science, I believe the scientists are seeking the answers to God’s masterpieces in this world, and I would love to understand why God made things work in the way they do. Big Bang Theory, why not? It would have taken perfection for that event to happen, who is more capable then an all perfect God to handle that? Evolution? It exists, God created us and the things around us to adapt to our environment to survive.. life is quite complex.

    Why can’t science and religion co-exist? In the end like I said earlier you scientists are just seeking the answers to God’s truths.. you just never knew it.

  166. Grump

    Well, ain’t no breakthrough in apologetics gonna happen on this site today. Same ol’-same ol’ as far as the arguments presented here go.

    “God is like the wind. You can’t see Him, you can feel him.”
    “What existed before the Big Bang? Can only be God!”
    “Love exists, therefore God exists”
    “True theories turn out to be false all the time. Science is meaningless, therefore God exists!”
    etc.

    Two thousand years of apologetics, and this is the best the average theist can come up with? (And the most philosophical of theists are no better: They simply rework the trite proofs by using polysyllabic philosophy jargon.)

    Sorry, I was going to stick to the “live-and-let-live” theme of this thread, but several theists insist on trying to argue their case regardless.

  167. Gary Ansorge

    As Aunt Kate said, about her Atheism, ” I don’t say that God does not exist. I say that I do not BELIEVE that God exists,,,”

    For something which is not definable in the first darn place, that pretty well puts these contrary viewpoints in perspective.

    GAry 7
    PS, I am a skeptic/agnostic/theist/rational materialist/mystic.
    There, that should pretty well cover everything,,,

  168. Winnamon84

    There is a flaw to your theory….science is all about laws…and according to your laws something cannot be made out of nothing, but God is not bound by laws so you can say he always existed where as you cannot say that something always existed in science.

  169. Quiet_Desperation

    How was the Universe created? The Big Bang? Oh. So where did the material that caused the Big Bang come from? Where did the “spark” that ignited the Big Bang come from?

    From the universe that preceded it. This is why I like cyclic theory. :-)

    Link: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ekpyrotic_universe

    That and the fact that “Ekpyrotic” sounds sorta sexy and has the whole fire thing going on.

  170. sam

    It’s multiverse, not metaverse.

  171. jimmy

    If the universe existed infinitely it would have ended an infinity ago. (entropy) Scientist agree that it could not exist forever. So still we must wonder how everything came from nothing. That sounds scientific. Matter was created? That’s scientifically possible. Something however that exists outside the laws of the universe could indeed make the universe without going against science.

  172. c

    Wow, lots of ignorance, on both sides here. People, why don’t you get your facts straight, before sapping those of us in the know of our precious time, reading your uninformed comments.

  173. As a Philosophy of Religion major, your counter arguments to religion really don’t hold that much weight in an academic circle.

    I, too, am an atheist, however the issue is perhaps not as simple as most people think.

    Cheers!

  174. Mike

    Wayne Says: Mike, I see what you did there. I’m afraid comedic ridicule doesn’t count.

    What!? Why not?

    Yeah, Wes may have mis-read my post. Sarcasm translates poorly to text. I am also of the opinion (even in the face of contrary evidence) that “doody-head” is a universally recognized mock-insult.

    When Anti Evolution Loon postulated that “a reader who revealed themselves a skeptic and a theist in the same sentence would be ridiculed and questioned,” it seemed apparent that the real questioning should be directed at Anti Evolution Loon. I can see no reason why that statement alone should bring down the flames.

    You’re a theist and a skeptic. I’m an atheist and a skeptic. Unlike Anti Evolution Loon, I’d be willing to wager that we’ll agree more often than not.

    Best,

    Mike

    PS: Of course, Wes’s comment may have been referring at the other “mike” (lowercase “m”) who posts from time to time. If that’s the case, I retract all of the above, and Wayne is still a doody-head.

  175. Bob

    You absolutely can say that God existed before the Universe because God is defined as the grounds of existence. He is defined as Cause itself. Everything in the Universe is effect. The Universe cannot be defined on its own terms. It exists, whereas God is the base of all that will exist, has existed, or does exist. You can argue whether or not he does exist, but to compare the universe to what God may or may not be is to compare apples and oranges.

  176. Ein

    Why cant the universe be ever existing like God?
    Science has had its many grlorious discoveries and its shameful share of mistakes. It is true, science does learn, but it also proves its wrong in many ocassions. Going with the theroy (because everything is a theory) that the universe is expanding, at some point in time the universe was much smaller that it is today. Going back even further the universe must have had a beginning if it is growing, otherwise, into what would it be growing if it already existed? In the beliefs of God, he does not grow or change, hence we cannot conclude he had a beginning. Everything that exists develops into existence. Take the views and works of Antony Flew a leading British philosopher and atheist who in this century changed his notion of evolution into that of believeing everything came from an intelligent being or a creator. I am unable to post all his work here but do the research yourself and you will find how the most brilliant minds who follow the argument where ever proof leads come to the conclusion that the complexity of life comes from an intelligent source. Im not stating a speficip faith here because that is not what we are discussing, but rather the idea of a creator. Thank you.

  177. Ein

    PS Antony Flew is not a christian or belive in the God christians do, but his name was used only to bring some proof that the most brilliant minds out there are coming to their own conclusions.

  178. Ulric

    Mr. Plait, you said:

    “Now, ignoring the stunning hypocrisy of someone preaching the word of God…”

    Weren’t you the one who said in a previous blog that there is a rule in written communication, where if you call someone a fool, chances are you will be called a fool too by someone else?

    Mr. Plait, you also said:

    “But as we learn more, the gaps narrow. And when the gap is filled, what of God? This is the trap of the zealot: when new evidence comes along contradicting their position, they have to either ignore it or lie about it.
    “.

    This is also the trap of the pseudo-skeptic, as opposed to the true skeptic. And I disagree with you: the more I learn, the more I realize I know nothing. A healthy dose of skepticism is fine, so is a healthy dose of humility.

  179. Adam

    Good article; I’ve had several discussions with my roommate on the subject and he’s made similar points (particularly the “God of the gaps” argument). The trouble with our debates is that attempting to argue faith is fighting from a logically indefensible position. As you said, there’s no evidence to support the existence of God (though there’s no way to prove, at this point in time, that He doesn’t exist, either).

    I think, however, it’s important to find a definition of what God *is*, should He exist. For instance, you mention a “metaverse” that exists outside our understood universe. For the purposes of our existence in this universe, is it possible that this overarching metaversal structure could be defined as “God”? A system or a structure or entity that exists beyond our ability to measure or observe that has some place above and beyond the universe?

    This is merely speculation on my part, but too many people get caught up in the “old guy with the long white beard” image of God and fail to consider *what* He might be. To me, positing the existence of God and positing the existence of an overarching metaverse are equivalent, as both are equally unmeasurable and unobservable (with science being as it currently is).

    Which has lead me to my current state of faith (one that I’ve attempted to keep dynamic as arguments like the one you laid out so well challenge my beliefs). My faith is less that God *exists*, but rather than His existence is *possible* and is not necessarily counter to a logical and scientific world.

    Thanks for feeding the debate!

  180. Haruchai

    The problem with the “You people are idiots:” comment is that it tells me how I would answer the question and then proceeds to critique that answer. In reality, there are much better answers provided by science, but it might take a while to take the commenter through all the required background knowledge to understand the answer. I suspect he has neither the time nor the inclination to listen to the background information, which could take months to review. As noted in one of the other comments above, the likely response to an attempt to provide the background information and an in-depth response on all of the current theories would be that the person who tried to provide the information was trying to act as if they have all the answers – a know-it-all. That is a nonsense reply since a question has been stated and an answer requested. The answer would avoid his “Where did THAT come from?” infinitely recursive question. We don’t have all the answers but we have theories which, if proven correct, could answer the question without resorting to “God” or any infinitely recursive “where did that come from?”

    As simple answer is that the way our brain interprets the nerve impulses that our senses send to our brain may not entirely reflect reality. For example, the laws of physics which seem to govern our every day experiences are only an approximation of reality. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity which I think most physicists and even the average person these days would accept shows that “time” is a relative measure. Even at this simple level of understanding our universe it means that “when” the big bang occurred is dependent on your frame of reference. If I go fast, time slows. This is not just speculative – atomic clocks flown around the earth prove the time dilation effect and are in agreement with the calculated effects.

    Einstein’s “space-time” co-ordinate system – (x , y, z, ict) – does not use any absolute measure of time. Our perception of time is an emergent property of “space-time” – relative to the observer. There are theories which can explain the big bang as a closed 4 dimensional space time surface so there is nothing “before” the big bang. Something can only be “before” something else once our local frame of reference has been established. Other modern theories of physics propose that the 4 dimensional “space-time” is just an emergent phenomenon that we use in everyday observation to make sense of what we observe through our senses. Some physics theories suggest that the universe is a lattice of nodes and vertices at the Planck scale, and that space-time is just a convenient way of organizing the information about how the Planck scale nodes are interconnected. Just because this is a difficult concept does not make it any less valid as a theory and an explanation that answers questions like “Where did the “spark” that ignited the Big Bang come from?” This question presupposes that a “spark” is needed, when the truth may not require any “spark”.

    These are just theories. Currently there is insufficient information to know if they are right or wrong. We do know that time is relative and depends on the frame of reference which is enough to know that there is something which could eliminate the need to explain what came before the “big bang”. Part of the problem is just the use of the descriptive term “bug bang” which implies something exploding in some predefined frame of reference, like three dimensional space, over a period of time, when in reality the “big bang” is the rapid inflation of space time itself and it is not expanding inside some other frame of reference. Our inability to conceive of this in our everyday experience, which pre-supposes an emergent space-time reality and a local frame of reference does not make it any less “real”. It is just hard to comprehend without the right tools to model the theory and the answer to the questions like “where did the material that caused the Big Bang come from?” If we do not have the tools to understand the answer, it does not make the answer any less valid. A simple analogy of the problem of trying to visualize the implications of modern theories in physics is trying to visualize a fourth dimension of space which is proposed by some theories in physics, is mathematically consistent, and may be testable in the future. It is not a requirement of our everyday existence, so we cannot imagine an extra special dimension orthogonal to the three dimensions that define our every day “reality”.

    The fact that we can provide a theory which explains the Big Bang which answers questions like “what came before?” or “Where did everything come from?” does not mean there is not a God. It just means we can provide explanations for these kinds of questions which are logically and mathematically consistent, and which may or may not lead to testable predictions. It means we cannot prove the existence of “God” by saying we cannot explain certain physical phenomena so that “God” is the only possible explanation. We have other, very valid explanations that are just difficult to understand from the point of view of our every day experience and the way we see the universe – from our local frame of reference and as a result of space-time emerging from the underlying structure of the universe. The two ideas – the existence of God, and science being able to explain all observable phenomena – are independent and must stand on their own merit, not on the failure of the other idea to provide adequate explanations.

  181. Jared

    The answer to God’s existence is something that will never be answered by the living. The basic teachings of Christianity is that all of life is a test of faith to determine whether or not someone is worthy enough to return home and be with the father. No one will ever be able to explain the existence of God and the people who have faith are not blind. It’s not something that can be explained but has to be experienced and it’s only through experience that faith can be built upon.

  182. turtle

    How come Christians are the only ones getting blasted? What about muslims? Buddhists? I think yall can find evidence to disprove those religions and not Christianity, and that terrifies yall to no extent. You know, christians dont go blowing themselves and other innocent people to little parts, but those other religions do. So why are yall blasting the christians?

  183. Brett

    Blah, blah, blah we heard it all before. Digg has absolutely no more credibility. The author here is crying about the same thing we’ve heard over and over. This is such a dead topic. I’m not even a believer and I know that evolution is so full of crap that it’s not even funny.

    -something came from nothing.
    -that nothing-something (wow) came to life from a force created out of nothing (LOL)
    -all of the sudden…(well not all of the sudden…let’s throw in trillions of years to to make it more believable) that force of nothing caused the nothing to be formed and gain a conscience out of pure nothing! (wow)
    -now that something-nothing knows the difference between good and evil…all from nothing.
    -that nothing became a living animal with absolutely no blueprint for a structure of any sort and all of the sudden that animal became a human.
    Get real people. Evolution was and always will be a money-making raquet fueld by racism and hate.

  184. You have turned science into a religion. So your a Scientific Religious Nut

  185. Chad

    Evolution is not science idiots. You can’t observe it. And don’t tell me that I’m observing it all the time. That’s bullcrap.

  186. George Palickar

    Well, the best thing I can say about the comments on how science learns and religion does not, is that you should check out the actual doctrine and practice of the Roman Catholic church. Roman Catholicism is currently compatible with evolutionary theory, current cosmological theory (the Vatican operates a modern observatory)

    Quit wasting time debunking the fundamentalist misconceptions, and go back to the true root of all Christianity. The offshoots of the original Church have all sorts of different doctrines, some flexible, some rigid. But RC seems to have a very reasonable stance on every issue I spent the time to do the research on.

  187. Bob

    “Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer”

  188. Luke Dyson

    I agree with everything you say, but just wanted to make a few points:

    1. Science has always existed, it is our knowledge of it that “learns”. And presumably because the universe is ever expanding, Science can also evolve to fit the conditions of the universe, meaning that it will be always impossible to completely understand how Science effects us to 100%. Maybe 99.9% :)

    2. I am no believer in Religion, I consider it restrictive. The point is made by your commenter you quote; most believers have a limited understanding of what “God” is, if you ask them, they will presumably answer that he is some outer-worldly deity that controls everything – Perhaps a bearded figure – However, is this not a similar description for Science? Why does God have to be a single being and not be the culmination of everything co-existing in the universe. I would say the religious people that God does exist in everyone, because we are all shareholders in God… our actions, an animals actions, the weather, are all stakeholders in this God organism. There is no director, just a co-operative :)

    But cest la vie, these people will always argue and not share ideas, because, obviously, everything is pre-set in the name of “God”, so nothing can change, and only those who believe are right…. >:(

  189. McBeast

    A few points:
    * I believe in God.
    * There’s nothing I can do to convince anyone else of my belief.
    * I frankly don’t care if anyone else believes in God or not. I know I’m supposed to, but I don’t.
    * I have a PhD in theoretical physics.
    * I believe in science.
    * I think that debating whether something is “true” or not is pointless. The universe doesn’t have a back of the book where you can look up the answers.
    * I think talking about “useful” is far more productive.
    * Scientific theories are very useful for various things, regardless of whether they’re “true” or not. They are less useful for other things.
    * Belief in God is also very useful, regardless of whether it’s true or not.
    * Everyone who’s read this far has already forgotten my suggestion, and is back to debating whether things are “true” or not.
    * Oh, well.

  190. Michael K.

    The problem with atheism has to do with relativity: Without a God, all humans become defacto “gods” and eventually, they start arguing about who is the greater “god”. This eventually and invariably leads to euthenasia, eugenics and extermination.

  191. Haruchai

    @ Chad – no scientist has ever said a hypothesis about a process or the process itself has to be “observable”. Scientific theories have to have testable predictions. We theorize about the processes at the core of the sun and other stars, even though they are not likely to be “observed”. These theories do make predictions which can be observed and confirm the original theory. Evolution is a theoretical process which can only be observed directly in a very limited sense – small changes that happen over a short period of time. Hoever, the Theory of Evolution does give testable predictions. Those predictions have been confirmed.

  192. mapnut

    Somebody a dozen or so posts up asked how morality can exist without God, or was it without religion. Simple: logic. All morality is basically The Golden Rule. While that’s a direct quote from Jesus, it’s so simple it has to be universal. If you consider doing something that you wouldn’t like to have done to you, that gives you an incentive not to do it. Humans are complex, and I don’t think either religion, evolution or psychology go very far in explaining our emotions. But the fact that we can imagine having something unpleasant done to us, plus the fact that we would incur the anger of others for doing it, can explain morality.

    And to Turtle, who thinks that Christians don’t kill and other religions do, boy, you need to do some reading.

  193. ND

    Brett,

    Are you trolling?

    Where does evolution say “something came from nothing.”?

  194. nanibold

    “Evolution is not science idiots. You can’t observe it. And don’t tell me that I’m observing it all the time. That’s bullcrap.”

    Hey Chad! Read up, brother – do a little homework on the ideas and evidence put forward to support evolutionary theory, and you will in fact find that not only can you see it happening all around us, but Darwin was able to make an extremely convincing argument even 150 years ago… without the help of things like carbon-dating and ancient fossils, etc. If you understood the concept of evolution, you’d see that it’s pretty obvious that it’s a pretty accurate representation of what happened. Learn something, seriously… look outside your little religious box and expand a little…

  195. Pete

    While God clearly can’t be proved or disproved with current science, it is hilarious to see skeptics mention God as often as theologians. Perhaps the concept of God is so natural to the human brain that those who are skeptics have to constantly reassure themselves.

  196. John Hubertz

    I know God learns.

    Two years ago this June, an event happened in my home. Essentially – me, an agnostic, has a set of phenomena seemingly focussed in my home that parallels the ark of the covenant.

    I’m an engineer – the voltage surges in my house wiring whenever it is active.

    God learns, god has knowledge – but without grinding it against OUR experience, without processing it for a purpose, it is meaningless.

    Think of it this way. God minds his own business – thus open interaction is the flour mill of thought.

    WE, you and I, are millstone and grindstone, God is the power turning the wheels… and the output (knowledge and experience are the raw inputs) is the BREAD, the wonderful FLOUR, the MEAL. It is the truth.

    I find it interesting and it has changed my life, and btw, made me the luckiest man in the world.

    “click here for your miracle” Send me a “1 miracle please” email, I’ll send you back a simple OK.

    And, you’ll get one.

    Hell YES God learns “created in his image” what the hell else COULD it mean? BTW, I’m a heretical church-mocking Roman Catholic agnostic to this day, who believes in 1 thing only. REALITY and God are the same word, but – send me an email and he’ll likely reply.

    Not btw churchy at ALL – but this is very consistent with the core of all faiths – interesting yes?

    Agnostic Person who Believes (and can replicate the experience at will)
    Indiana

  197. nanibold

    “The problem with atheism has to do with relativity: Without a God, all humans become defacto “gods” and eventually, they start arguing about who is the greater “god”. This eventually and invariably leads to euthenasia, eugenics and extermination.”

    @ Michael K: so your speculative, confusing and almost nonsensical statement above is meant to convince us to… what… pretend we don’t know anything about how species develop?

  198. nanibold

    @ Brett: yeah, I have to back up Mr. ND on this one… either you’re trolling, or you have such a dismally sad, dead-wrong understanding of evolutionary theory that you really shouldn’t be talking about it. I think the whole “something came from nothing” idea comes up exactly ZERO times in all theories about the origin of species…

  199. B

    “la la la I cant hear you!” Obviously goes both ways. How could a material science hope to understand that which is spiritual? You can ask where does the energy come from and give any answer you like. But the metaphysics cannot bridge the gap between the source of energy (let’s call it spirit) and the ground we stand on.

    Comparing religion with science is apple to oranges. Of course its easy to be critical of man’s religion it was created in previous eras, but there are all based on a faith. A faith of the unknown, a simple attitude. A true religion is not dogmatic and rigidly fixed, it is about living not dying.

    Science the study of the physical environment, the world of energy-matter; Religion is man’s experience with values, with abstract ideas such as God and love and justice. A logical approach to understanding the universe cannot be built upon materialism alone or spiritualism alone.

  200. D Rob

    In regards to the question “where does God come from?” I think that’s a bit of a naive question. It assumes that God is somehow bound by the same rules that the universe is… that He is part of this system we find ourselves in, when the Bible is pretty clear that He is now. He is the creator of the Universe, and the creator of time itself. He is by definition eternal. Before God made time there couldn’t be anything before God, because there was no such thing as “before” cause and effect can only happen within time. If God is thus the creator of time and space, and by extension cause and effect, he certainly is not bound by time and space nor can He be explained by cause and effect.

    The Universe however is bound by these rules, without them all our science and understanding goes out the window.

  201. nanibold

    OK one more comment and then I’ll back off a bit. But I really have to say this because for me it frames this stupid “debate” pretty much perfectly.

    I really don’t see why all these religious people feel so threatened by the concept of evolution. You should be able to simultaneously believe that your god created mankind, and that mankind was formed through the process of evolution… I just can’t understand why people think these concepts are so incompatible with each other.

    Like you might say that god created you. Fine. A biologist might say that you were created by a process called gestation, where your dad gets your mom pregnant, and you develop as a fetus inside her, etc etc. Also fine. Creationists don’t have a problem with the concept of gestation, do they? I don’t hear them saying “pregnancy is a hoax, just a stupid theory, and we all know god created each and every one of us”, do I? No.

    That’s because the two concepts are not incompatible. If you want to believe that god created you, that’s okay, but you’re not going to try to tell me that his hands came out of the sky and formed you perfectly, looking exactly as you are now. Instead you can surely agree that you are represented by a whole lifecycle: once a clump of cells, once a fetus, once a baby, now yourself, later an elder. But still, all you. So maybe god did create you personally, who knows… but if he did, he did it through extremely interesting (and still somewhat mysterious) processes called conception and gestation. Just like if he created all animals, he did it by establishing this really amazing process called evolution… read up on it folks! Once you actually understand the principles behind it, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to accept the idea. Seriously. No more of this flat-earth crap, just give it up and try learning something for once. You may even find such beauty in the mechanics of evolution that you will feel closer to your god than ever before…

  202. Xavier

    That is a good point that if you can use the argument that something must have created the universe then something must have created god. Even though I disagree with it.

    You also made some good points about how people have double standards when it comes to their statements/proof. They sometimes say “we dont know yet” but science does not know all either. Science has many times contradicted itself. If you lived a few centuries ago you would have been convinced the would was flat and if someone claimed the world was round you would have thought of him as an idiot.

    I am a strong proponent of looking at the evidence and taking from it what you can, not assuming anything. It has been shown time and time again that the bible is true. You probably will just disagree with that though (its true look it up, don’t ask me where though)

    You make statements about how we came around by accident, ok great, lets just say I believe that too. My only question is do you then support SETI? You must not. The whole basis of SETI is that if we hear any signals that are a pattern, especially complex patterns, (I wonder if anyone actually read this part?) then they must have originated from an intelligent being and we have a very good chance of not being alone in this universe (I’m talking about aliens here, in case you didn’t figure that out) Double standard? I think so.

    Is it not easier to believe that the earth was created by an intelligent being? (even if it was not the God that many people talk about) You ask for more proof, well the truth is, the proof you seek does not exist.

    I would just like to comment on evolution. It it true? Yes and no. It depends on which parts you talk about. Specieation (yes that is spelled wrong) does occur and we have seen it. Finches on the Galapagos islands are an excellent example. Does one animal magically obtain new DNA and become another animal? It does not. Scientists have an current estimate of how long it takes for this to happen, and it is millions of years. So if you translate this into generations it is thousands of generations. If you take bacteria (very short lifetime) and look at its generations it does not take more than about 6 years to see noticeable changes in bacteria in labs (becoming a higher form of life!), this has not happened. Im sure you disagree with this too, look it up.

    Here is a quote from a dialogue between Richard Dawkins and Bill Moyers:
    ” MOYERS: Is evolution a theory, not a fact?
    DAWKINS: Evolution has been observed. It’s just that it hasn’t been observed while it’s happening.
    MOYERS: What do you mean it’s been observed.
    DAWKINS: The consequences of. It is rather like a detective coming on a murder after the scene. And you… the detective hasn’t actually seen the murder take place, of course. But what you do see is a massive clue. Now, any detective…
    MOYERS: Circumstantial evidence.
    DAWKINS: Circumstantial evidence, but masses of circumstantial evidence. Huge quantities of circumstantial evidence. It might as well be spelled out in words of English. Evolution is true. I mean it’s as circumstantial as that, but it’s as true as that.”
    hmm circumstantial evidence, seems like it could be wrong. What if you interpret it differently? Like it was a designer who made it? If you look at it with the thought that God made it like that you can see it, if you look at it expecting to see evolution then you will see that.

    Now what is to say that God (or the intelligent designer of you choice, the flying spaghetti monster if you like(look him up too)) could not create everything to look similar? You may say things defiantly evolved because they all look the same!!! They use the same type of cells and the DNA varies only a little. Ok great, keep thinking that, and ill start thinking that one brick building over there evolved from the other smaller one next to it because they have very similar building materials, they just changed the brick mixture a little…(sounds ridiculous right?)

    What is to say science does not make discoveries later that disprove current theories? Nothing. When you are basing your beliefs on theories, and supporting them so strongly, what does it make you?? A religious fanatic? “religion: relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity” Webster thinks you are a religious. (that was from the Webster’s dictionary) You seem devoted to your theory of evolution/big bang here.

    Hmm, it seems you think that the grand canyon took millions of years to carve out. Okay, thats a good idea, I like it! I see 2 other alternatives to this thought. It could either have been created that way, or taken a few weeks to carve out, with massive amounts of water (like the Genesis flood?) Yes, there is evidence that supports this flood too. You know those rock layers where each layer is another 1000 years? Yeah well those might have taken millions of years, or a few weeks with a lot of water. In fact, (look it up) fossils do not form unless they are covered fast by dirt/mud, the way they would if a rather large flood just occurred. Then if you look really hard (they try to hide this) you can find some trees growing up through all those layers, and dont even try to tell me that the tree took millions of years to grow, or stayed intact for millions of years to get buried.

    Well thats all, thanks for probably not reading it, but whatever. Oh yeah, if you want to delete this comment go ahead. But if you delete it, it is only reinforcing the fact that you will not look at the other side, look at the other evidence, and realize that you might not be correct. But as soon as you show me some concrete evidence (no not evidence that concrete exists, I know it does) of your thories, I shall believe them, until then, I shall continue being a “religious fanatic” and you can go back to thinking that you know everything and everyone else is an idiot, without realizing that you are exactly like them, with a different infatuation. (yes that big word means obsession)

    Thanks (yes, that was sarcastic because im sure you shall delete this comment, you remind me of a dictator, censors everything he does not like, yes very dictator like. If you so strongly believe what you believe (and im sure you do) then you should not fear what an “idiot” thinks about it, idiots can not sway any oppinions)

  203. Kumiho

    Well I understood the blog anyway, and you cleverly managed to not say, “THERE IS NO GOD” so I can’t really argue that you were wrong or anything.

    Yes, science learns, keeps improving, maybe some day we’ll have conclusive proof that the big bang was the cause of everything (I’m not really betting on that one because of the whole spiral galaxy direction paradox) and evolution was the cause of life’s development….but you didn’t mention the possibility that science can learn that both those theories are impossible. I know it’s not a nice thought because then the people that refuse to believe in God won’t have anything scientific to hold on to until something else intelligent shows up but I thought it was interesting enough.

    And the fact that even if the bigbang/evolution were proven (and I’m not trusting blogs or magazines about the latest findings for the same reason you don’t trust revelations) how is anyone ever going to prove that God didn’t use the bigbang and evolution as instruments in creation?

    Those are my only thoughts.

    What your blog really boils down to in my eyes is that we just have the choice of believing in God or not believing in God, which everyone kind of knew about anyway.

  204. Jake

    The problem with your argument that the same questions can be applied to God that can be applied to science’s explanations of origin is that religous ideas contend that God exists outside the laws of the universe, time and science as we understand it. You can argue plausibility all you want but within the constructs of faith in God he doesn’t have to abide by the same rules as the physical universe, science, laws of time etc. The universe must have an origin because it will certainly end, and can not have existed infinitely, whereas under religous belief He can. Therefore, within this perspective there is an answer to Aquinas’ idea of divine origin. God can always have existed because he isn’t subjected to the same characteristics as physical matter, and hence could have created the physical universe. Also, again, he would be exempt from the “learning” in the sense that science is not. Science must learn and be consistently make new discoveries to advance; God (assuming you’ve adopted the persuasion above) is omniscient and already supremely advanced, and as creator would not need to learn new things about His creation. I don’t think Apple’s programmers are suprised by the capabilities of the iPhone. I say all this at the risk of sounding like a jerk and being banned I suppose, and for the record, I couldn’t care less about the debate I’m just playing devil’s advocate, your arguement demonstrates a profound misunderstanding religous belief.

  205. Brendan

    After reading a few of these posts I think the fundamental error many make is they are unwilling to accept the fact that they may be wrong. The ultimate sign of intelligence is to admit that you do not have the answer, which is why the search is necessary. Whether one uses science or theology to explain the unknown, to me is unimportant, but the most important thing is to acknowledge that you do not know the answer. Neither side can prove the other wrong, or itself correct. You use fancy, eloquent words to make it sound as if you are more educated than the rest, but if your truths were so apparent, they would be understood in simple terms without being so luxuriously dressed up in “educated” terms. However, please understand that simply exposing the shortcomings of the other side in no way proves your own side to be correct.
    I will choose to keep my own personal views to myself because I have no desire to persuade any of you towards my own understanding. Those who have “faith” must acknowledge that in having faith you must be willing to accept the fact that you may be wrong – that is why it is called faith and not fact. Those who use science as a basis for understanding must be willing to accept that the works of the study, though advancing, are still currently limited and may never be able to explain every question of the ultimate “cause.” Certainly theists would greatly help their own case if they were more willing to accept science and incorporate it into their belief system rather than denounce that which is undeniable. Likewise, science, though it should not deter it from further pursuit, must accept that it does not explain all things either. Until further discoveries, we are at a standstill. Please quiet the shouting.

  206. The Helio Sequence

    I want to make a point that personally validates my belief in God…followed by some questions:

    If I did not have the understanding that I am made with a purpose by a devine creator that has cared about me since before I was born, then I would be very depressed and not optimistic about anything.

    If there truly is no god of any kind, then my life is no more significant than an ant, fire hydrant or piece of chewing gum stuck on the underside of my desk.

    This would mean that morals really don’t exist as we are all going to die a meaningless death and not have any type of accountability in eternity to ponder the repercussions of the life we lived here on this earth. This means that I could do unimaginable and horrific things that my conscious would normally validate as insane. I would have no problem carrying them out tho if I was convinced that in the end I didn’t have to take responsibility in front of a greater power. In my mind my conscious would simply be a chemical chain reaction set into my being from the thousands of years of man crafting this notion of right and wrong and imposing it on all of mankind. I would dismiss this and do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to do it without a care as I would be living a meaningless existence.

    Could someone please tell me (that has no faith in any god b/c it is all validated by science) why you have purpose and a drive to live your life at all? I would love to hear how you comfort yourself on a daily basis and turn a blind eye to the fact that your life is heading towards the ultimate end that everyone else has…a crappy form of death and joining the dust of the earth.

    I have thought about this alot and it solidifies who I am and the hope and joy I have in my heart on a daily basis. I would love to hear if you think my argument is ludacris and why or if you actually agree that life really is sad when you sit around and think about it on the long term….I know I would.

  207. 42

    God made me an atheist. Who are you to question his judgment?

    That, and the Hitchens quote from way up in the comments (“What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”) pretty much does it for me.

    If theists claim the truth without producing evidence, and think less of people who don’t believe them (note: not all theists apply), I should at least have the right to think less of them.

  208. IPU

    Oh Man! The FSM is going to be so pissed off when he hears about this. He living in those knowledge gaps exclusively!

  209. Until an atheist can DISPROVE DNA as pure data language and present evidence that DNA DOESN’T possess all the qualities to be classified as such (which is does), this whole “no evidence for GOD” argument is pointless because DNA is tangible evidence that LIFE WAS CREATED. The debate about evolution is also pointless since all this is based on DATA LANGUAGE (DNA). So unless an atheist can present factual data that DNA is not data language, to say there is no evidence for God is laughable. It is like saying “there is not evidence this website was created by intelligence” although we can exam the HTML and CSS coding behind it (which is pure data language). Atheism is at it is best a faith of luck.

  210. nanibold

    ““la la la I cant hear you!” Obviously goes both ways. ”

    Hey there B! I just have to take a moment to point out here that scientists supporting evolutionary theory are NOT attempting to argue that “there is no god” – it’s the religious folks who see the theory as some kind of anti-god argument.

    What scientists (and most rational people) are saying is more along the lines of “you haven’t given us any reason to seriously question the concept of evolution, so why should we?”. It is the religious folks who have taken up arms against evolutionary theory, and apparently without merit… it seems that they just don’t like the way the theory *sounds*, it doesn’t sit right with them. So they stick their fingers in their ears.

    People really have to get this one, extremely important message through their heads: Evolutionary theory IN NO WAY ATTEMPTS TO “DISPROVE” THE EXISTENCE OF YOUR PRECIOUS GOD. As if anybody could even imagine a way to do such a thing… these theological beliefs have nothing to do with science whatsoever, so scientists are naturally not interested.

    Get it? Evolution describes the *way* in which new species develop and change. Evolution does *not* say “life is meaningless and everything is random and your god sux” etc etc… the ideas are really quite tame. And extremely believable. So go fight atheists instead, if that’s what you’re going for… attacking credible scientific theories only makes you look stupid.

  211. Andy

    I agree that the universe has always existed, but even the best scientist knows that they did’t create the scientific laws they discover. If the laws of science have always existed then there is something more intelligent than us at work here because we discover new things everyday. The issue I take with your argument is that you feel that god and science cannot co-exist. What I feel is that god is the greatest scientist that has ever existed. That in the eternities he/she/it has come to understand these laws and perform miracles that science has yet to be able to explain. I think that many people shut themselves off to possible solutions to their questions like the believer who won’t even consider evolution is part of gods plan, and the scientist who believes that anything can be answer except god. you narrow your ability to learn and be open to new knowledge. which is exactly what a good scientist is looking for, new knowledge and the actual answer to their question,and not necessarily the one they started out looking for.

  212. nanibold

    I should also point out, B, that the irritable tone of my post isn’t actually directed at you… you appear to be taking the rather rational view that religion and science operate in totally different fields… they don’t really overlap. And that’s very much true.

    My irritation is more towards those who stubbornly refuse to accept that scientists support evolution for scientific reasons, and not because they’re looking to build up anti-god evidence, or whatever…

  213. Mike

    Mathematical proofs are awesome. I can’t make sense out of most of the equations but some smarter-than-me people can use these proofs to show validity to all sorts of theories I would never believe otherwise (a² + b² = c²? Wouldn’t have thought is possible if Pythagoras didn’t show his work).

    So we’ve got theories about the Big Bang, evolution, and God. There’s the LHC trying to prove the first, chemists/biologists proving the second, and no test for proving God.

    After already waiting a few millennium, I’m not holding my breath for a God-litmus test. This could mean that we have no way to physically interact with God or God does not exist.

    If we can’t interact with God though prayer, wars, genocide, blasphemy, or fornication then it’s safe to say that God has no observable influence on our physical world, leaving God only with the meta-physical world as his domain. Both the metaphysical and the physical world can cooperatively exist as long as they remain distinct. So God’s in his heaven and we’re in ours.

    That begs the question…if God’s in a totally closed off space with no interaction, what’s the reasoning behind shaping any of our policies and beliefs based on some incorporeal never-to-be-proven theorem of a divine being? He’s so removed from our physical world we may as well not believe in ‘Him’.

  214. The same way that you can make a group of 5 year olds do anything by saying that if they didn’t Santa wouldn’t bring them any presents (or even worse, bring them coal), you can get a group of religious adults to do almost anything by saying that if they didn’t God wouldn’t let them into heaven (or even worse, send them to hell).

    We live in a world of sheep.

  215. Brendan

    Had you not written the second post I may have taken offense to your comments. I did not say that science is wrong or is trying to disprove the other. The statement I made is quite the opposite, that it is pointless and unnecessary to attempt to disprove the other. I think the two studies can coexist and neither need feel it necessary to prove itself superior. Religion deals with belief while science deals with facts and if religion wants to be credible, it should use what has been proven in its own theory, otherwise it simply fails as a means of explanation.

  216. Art

    It’s very simple: The burden of proof lies on the person making the extraordinary claims. The more extraordinary the claim is, the more extraordinary the evidence must be.

    If I claim pink fairies roam my garden at midnight, its not your job to disprove it, because the default state is pink fairy atheism. It’s my job to collect the extraordinary evidence to support my extraordinary claim.

    In the end science is NOT compatible in any way with religion. None, nada, zip. Semantic creativity may get you somewhere, but in the end, we all know the truth.

    God is purely a faith based concept. It can never spill into the logical territory because the concept self-refutes.

    It goes back to the question of can God create a rock so heavy he cannot lift? Either way you answer, there is something God cannot do, create the rock…or lift it.

    There is no logical way around it. And its usually at that point that the theists invoke faith as their weapon of choice.

    At that point, the argument ends.

  217. John Paul

    While you have successfully addressed the inanity of the comment, you have also successfully contributed to a rather pointless discourse between science and religion. There are certainly much more sophisticated anti-science arguments you could attempt to countervail, and descending to the level of a brief, ill-informed, poorly meditated, trite, blundering diatribe is not productive. But mad propz for the Geertz.

  218. Ismael

    nanibold- You say ‘scientists’ as though 100% of scientists support evolution. There’s no evidence at all that points to this. Why is it still so hotly debated in scientific circles.

    “What scientists (and most rational people) are saying is more along the lines of “you haven’t given us any reason to seriously question the concept of evolution, so why should we?”.”

    Are you serious? By that rationale we should stop thinking critically about everything because they have the acceptance of the majority? Is that what you’re saying, cos I think you may want to re-word that? So John F. Kennedy and the Governer of Texas were hit with the same bullet, from one gun, from one gunmen, right? We’ll just accept that, and never question it, because the majority, and the ‘rational people’ deem it so.

  219. Haruchai

    @Xavier

    There are all kinds of facts about genetics at the evolutionary level that you have completely overlooked.

    Bacteria don’t evolve in hours because their genome is very simple and the structure of bacteria is not very complex. Any mutation would die out within seconds since it is unlikely to be a very large change in the overall genome and most are unlikely to be beneficial. Evolution accelerates as the life form becomes more complex. Incremental changes become much smaller in the overall genome hand have a smaller impact on functionality. This is borne out by the fossil record. Simple single celled creatures where around for a billion of years with almost no change. The explosion in diversity is a recent phenomena as life forms became more complex. Also, there are many mechanisms for the evolution of DNA, not just random mutation. There is swapping of DNA segments between viruses and their hosts.

    Evolution is not a continuous process. Species fit into ecological niches and it often requires some environmental change to upset the balance and make some DNA change beneficial. The bacteria are in a stable environment which from the bacteria’s point of view has not changed in millions of years. They are in a niche where changes are not beneficial. The state of the world now is not the same as it was when life evolved from single celled organisms into multi-cellular life forms, so the same selective mechanisms are no longer driving evolution. For example, the single celled life form becomes multi-cellular at a time when there was nothing to challenge it or consume it, so the first multi-cellular life forms could have been very clumsy but still able to survive. If the same evolution did take place today, the clumsy multi-cellular life form could not survive in the face of modern competition. So there are many reasons why bacteria do not evolve in the lab. Lack of evolution itself may actually be a beneficial trait and stabilized its genome to make the single celled bacteria better able to survive and replicate.

    Most of the arguments made against evolution are simplistic. They just reveal a lack of understanding of the theories that are used to explain how it happened.

    Note that what is known as the “theory of evolution” is just an explanation of how evolution took place. Evolution itself is a fact, and the “theory” is just a way to explain how it happened. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_as_theory_and_fact

    The scientifically enlightened are not devoted to anything. They simply expect some evidence to support an alternative hypothesis.

  220. matt

    The commenter was using his right to opinion and freedom of speech, the problem is when you argue for god you shouldn’t judge people, because god is supposed to be the only judge.

    I used to know a kid that said he was the ONLY REAL Christian he ever met, oh the hypocrisy!

  221. sujes

    In response to Xavier. I hate to comment but i was drawn to this. Unfortunately you have demonstrated his point so perfectly. Your only comments are “t has been shown time and time again that the bible is true. You probably will just disagree with that though (its true look it up, don’t ask me where though)”
    Blindly following something without any evidence, just the saying because i say so and its been show, then without even knowing how where or why.
    Your post displays a complete lack of understanding of evolutionary theory.
    let me put one of your many ideas to a simpler form. DNA does not “magically” appear just as 1 man and 1 woman did not “magically” appear and eat an apple as some magicians might believe. please oh please please please understand what you are arguing against before blindly demonstrating ignorance.

  222. John Hubertz

    Look, I respect all views. All are sacred.

    Look instead within – universal truths across all faiths:

    1. existence implies a creative force “a creator” if you like
    2. this force is interactive, and seems to have an agenda of goodwill and harmony
    3. all knowledge stems from this, and indeed – one could say the illusion of reality is separation, since all faiths claim “god” is universal and infinite
    4. mankind has a spark of this infinite, “soul” is our western term
    5. occasionally people manifest the authority and power inherent in a certain deep knowledge – i don’t think it is logical to deny the existence of christ, buddha, gandhi… you
    6. science itself reveals a cosmology consistent (in all matters but time) with scientific theory of the process and event sequence of creation as the major faiths describe it
    7. sadly, science is by default, a process of open exploration of new phenomena – fundamentalism is not

    Anyway, my 2c

  223. Paul

    Science and religion get screwy when they begin to infringe on each other’s territory. We once thought the earth was flat. If you never go farther than 20 miles from your home IT IS FLAT. The science of the day could prove it. Then as knowledge increased new understandings replaced the old ones.

    Experience and science itself tell us that much of what we know through science today will one day be invalidated by new learning. I think that was the point of this article. As long as science remains in it’s own territory it is free to change and grow with our understanding. This is because science is not a fixed position of thought but a methodology with which to understand the universe around us.

    Religious faith, on the other hand, is a mostly internal search for truth. Truth can only be known objectively by someone who knows everything. As finite beings we only have our observations and experimentations. As a finite being I KNOW that I will never know the whole truth. My life will come to an end long before I have all the answers. Religious faith allows me to cheat if you will; to look at the end and work backwards from it. This violates the scientific method at its core. Religion gets into trouble then when it believes that it is science. Religious faith is not a methodology with which to study the universe around us, it is a fixed position of thought around whose axis revolves the unanswerable questions of our existence.

    Here is the issue: We humans are not able to live in the present as most other animals seem to; accepting the world as it is. We HAVE TO ask why and how. We want answers and if we don’t get them we will make them up.

    There is a GOD.
    There is NO GOD.
    I’m here for a reason.
    Life has no purpose.

    All of these are statements of faith that can never be proven to anyone but the person who already believes them.

    Anyway, I enjoyed your post. Keep up the good work.

  224. matt

    anyone on here arguing proof that god exists ISNT very religious.

    Its a faith based system, the facts are… THERE IS NO PROOF. That is the way its supposed to be, you are supposed to dedicate your life to god out of faith, knowing that he exists without any proof!

    I was a christian, and that is why im not. If no one ever taught religion, no one would know about god. That means its a belief based system that can only spread by other people, its like a spiritual STD. So who told the first person/persons (since a few people spoke to god according to the bible) and did god really tell them or did they make it up? Even more so is Jesus real because there are many people who claim to be the second coming(ie charles manson) , and if there was a man named jesus was he really the son of god , no one ever wrote about him in the time of his life and the people that did obviously believed in him so any of the accounts of what he did would be put in to question (in any court now of days). A miracle could have been no more than an exaggerations.

  225. nanibold

    Hi Ismael! Nanibold here. I’ll address your criticisms in order, just to stay organized here:

    1) “You say ’scientists’ as though 100% of scientists support evolution. There’s no evidence at all that points to this.”

    I do speak as though scientists support the fundamental concepts of evolutionary theory. That’s because the vast, vast majority of them do. I would be surprised if you could find me a serious, well-respected and/or accomplished biologist who would come out and say that evolutionary theory is wrong. So far the only scientists who seem to say things like that are what you call “creation scientists”, who don’t actually respect or understand the scientific process at all, and as a result they have no respect among the scientific community. They’re just not scientists.

    2) “Why is it still so hotly debated in scientific circles.”

    The fundamental principles behind evolutionary theory are in fact NOT hotly debated in scientific circles. There are definitely raging debates about the *specifics* of how evolution works, whether it works this way or that way… the details etc. But they agree on the basic idea: new species are created by the gradual evolution of earlier species.

    3) “Are you serious? By that rationale we should stop thinking critically about everything because they have the acceptance of the majority?”

    No dude, it should be obvious that I’m not trying to say anything like that. I didn’t bother to spell it all out, but clearly I need to do that, so I will. Here’s my rewording, then:

    What scientists (and most rational people) are saying is more along the lines of “We have LOTS of evidence to back up a very sensible and well-thought out theory. You want us to question whether or not it’s a good theory? Sure we will… but you’ll have to produce some evidence, any scientific evidence will do. Oh, you’re not offering any evidence? Well, if you haven’t given us any reason to seriously question the concept of evolution, why should we?”

    It’s a very reasonable position for them to take. If you wish to disprove the theory of evolution, you’ll have to offer up some kind of evidence. But people don’t… and until they do, the scientific world won’t listen. Is that a little clearer? I won’t bother commenting on your JFK bullet analogy, because it doesn’t apply to my argument. In no way would I ever suggest that anything is true just because the majority believes it. I’m a little sad that you interpreted my argument that way, but whatever.

  226. there is an obvious, gaping flaw in this commenter’s logic, well-known to skeptics for years: if you ask where the Big Bang came from, why can’t you ask the same thing of God?

    I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you don’t know the very basic answer to this question and that you’re not just preaching to the atheist choir for a series of cheap hurrahs in which you misrepresent the opponents’ viewpoints. I’ll assume that’s not the case, though others might think otherwise.

    You’re missing the whole point of the cosmological argument. The point is that in nature, the law of causality is basic and necessary. Something that violates the law of causality must be, by definition, supernatural–outside of nature. Until science (repeatable, observable, testable) can show that there exists in nature processes that do not follow the law of causality, it is a valid hypothesis to posit that the universe was caused by something supernatural, as its existence does not follow the laws of nature as we have discovered them.

  227. ND

    Ismael,

    I think your interpretation of nanibold’s comment is a bit off:

    “What scientists (and most rational people) are saying is more along the lines of “you haven’t given us any reason to seriously question the concept of evolution, so why should we?”.”

    I take this to mean, given all the evidence we have so far, as incomplete as it is, like in any field of science, there is enough of it to point towards evolution as a real phenomenon and these set of theories describing the mechanism behind it. If evolution is to be overturned or seriously rethought, any new evidence needs to overcome (and fit with) the evidence we have so far. And so far, this has not happened.

    Your response that this means we should stop thinking critically about evolution does not make sense. However, you do have to take into account whether you have enough background in biology to understand the theories on evolution.

  228. nanibold

    Now – I know some religious people in here are going to say “what kind of evidence could I produce that would convince these scientists that evolutionary theory is wrong?”. So I’ll pre-emptively answer that question. It’s actually quite easy to imagine a number of scenarios that would provide evidence that runs against evolution. Dig down through all the layers of strata etc and find me just ONE fossil that shows evolutionary theorists have got the order wrong… find me a rabbit from the triassic period, or a monkey in the belly of a dinosaur fossil or *something*. But no such evidence seems to come up. If you can find it, I bet evolutionary scientists would be *very* interested in studying your discovery, it would be a pretty big deal. Instead all that religious people offer are poorly conceived philosophical arguments… that won’t do much to sway the scientific community.

  229. RE: Intelligent design

    If the strong force holding atoms together was just a bit weaker, only hydrogen could exist =no fusion = no sun = no energy source to support life.

    If it was only a bit stronger, all the matter in the universe would collapse into super massive atoms andpossibly even atoms the size of neutron stars = no chemical reactions and no life

    If gravity was weaker stars would not be able to form out of interstellar gas, and the few that did form might not be able to fuse hydrogen to helium = no sunlight to support chemical reactions = no life.

    If gravity was weaker the few stars forming would not be able to create enough heavy atoms as they burned out and then went nova – spreading those precious heavy atoms around to later form planets and possibly life, assuming that another star forms in that area and provided those few planets with sunlight to sustain life

    If gravity was stronger, much smaller stars would be able to fuse hydrogen to helium, and die long before life could evolve as they are not big enough to keep it up – don’t have enough hydrogen

    if gravity was stronger super large stars would quickly form from interstellar gas, quickly burn themselves out, and quickly form black holes trapping the vast majority of available mass , again tough on life.

    If gravity was stronger, the universe would already have collapsed back in on itself, in a reverse big bang, again bad for life.

    Is the universe intelligent design, or were we plain old lucky and hit the once in a zillion, kazzilion, bazilion shot?

  230. nanibold

    ND, I appreciate your attempt to clarify my comments. I thought they were pretty clear, but obviously they were still misinterpreted.

    But that’s okay, Ismael requiring me (and you) to reword my statements is just distracting. What I’d really really like to see is an anti-darwinist (or creationist, or evolution-hater, or whatever they want to call themselves) come out and argue against the process of gestation. Tell me folks, why do they *not* argue against gestation? Why are they okay with that idea and not evolution?

    A creationist might say that god created me. Fine. A biologist might say that my mother created me. Also fine. And both concepts should fit in anyone’s head at the same time without any trouble. Apparently, creationists don’t have any trouble with the concept of gestation. So what’s the big difference with evolution? Evolution describes the *mechanism* by which species are created. Just as gestation describes the *mechanism* by which individuals are created. If religious people want to believe that their god is at the bottom of it all, then go for it! But they should not attack solid ideas like gestation and evolution just because they don’t like the sound of them…

    Somebody tell me, what’s the difference? Why do creationists not feel threatened by the scientific description of gestation? Given their hysterical reaction to evolutionary theory, you’d think that gestation would bother them too.

  231. What probably creates species is not evolution per se, but massive disasters that take species down to a low population of survivors. A large population species will evolve very very very very slowly if at all because mutation are swamped by the humongous gene pool available.

    Once some sort of disaster takes down the population, mutations form a larger proportion of the gene pool and can cause enough genetic drift to create a new species.

    Islands for instance are good at keeping populations down due to lack of living space. Genetic drift is much more possible there and that is why many small island have species seen nowhere else.

  232. ND

    nanibold,

    The temptation to point out that someone is wrong can become overwhelming at times. This is an affliction that can affect anyone on any side of any debate :)

  233. John Hubertz

    I never argue about the existence of “God” – I know that the universal and infinite we name “God” is quite literally the translation of the ancient Jeh- oea- viiya (ummm not easy to put in english phonetics) from the ancient ancient pre-”Judaism” records of what became Jewish tradition.

    That word you see, means simply “all that is”.

    Existence exists… WE are the impossible. Reality and the perceived distance between objects… our PERCEIVED world is a matter of faith.

    Three googles will show you:

    1. Xeno’s paradox

    2. Definition of INFINITE

    3. Definition of TIME

    You see, existence – MY thoughts? Easy to prove. The entire concept and reality of what I perceive as MY LIFE? A matter of faith.

    Thus, the issue may quite well be, how can we help GOD believe in US?

    (grins)

  234. Lance

    Actually just to make a remark on what you said about proving a negative, I would like anyone to name an even prime number after 2. There isnt one. I just proved a negative. So it is possible.

  235. nanibold

    “The temptation to point out that someone is wrong can become overwhelming at times. This is an affliction that can affect anyone on any side of any debate :)

    ND: I know, I totally know what you mean. But the thing is, for me, it’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong, it’s more about people’s ability to make convincing arguments and/or debate things in a rational way. Instead you see people attacking things like evolution when in fact they don’t understand even the first thing about evolution… or where they try to argue their point by spewing nonsense, etc. I’m more interested in just kind of boosting the level of rationality in these “debates”.

    Me personally, I’d LOVE it if someone would come and present me with arguments that totally shake my worldview… those have been the best moments of my life. If I engage in a spirited debate with someone – and we have a rational argument about it – and I “lose” this rational argument… well I haven’t really lost anything at all, I just learned something new! But people aren’t so good at arguing things in a sensible way…

  236. Ein

    Why was my comment not posted?

  237. Ein
  238. Grump

    Is it just me, or does the average atheist know more about religion than the average anti-science theist does about science? (Please note that I am not saying that all theists are anti-science.)

    In a world dominated by theism, few atheists are born, most are “made”. So most of us start from a background of theism, and thus understand the basic dogma. In fact, many of us are so curious abut the world around us, that we have learned bits and pieces of religions other than the one we were indoctrinated into during our youth.

    And yet, when we argue with the more arrogant of Christian theists, we end up realising that these people are ignorant of everything outside their particular fairy-tale. They can only attack straw-men of science, they know bugger-all about other religions, and barely even know their own religion, so they rely on “talking points” they read somewhere rather than actual arguments that spring from their own lazy brains.

    In short, they are ignorant and proud of it.

  239. susej

    @Lance

    Far be it for me to question logic, but your example. Even numbers by nature are not prime not because they have been truly proven otherwise, but because by the nature and definition of prime, they are not. I don’t like to use another analogy, but its of the same token as if i were to say “since no biped has 4 legs i have proven it is not a quadruped” when by the simple fact that they are mutually exclusive by definition, they cannot be the same. I personally am not taking sides on proof or disproof of negative, but merely saying your example is flawed.

  240. Haruchai

    This discussion started out with the Big Bang. The point of the original comment was that scientific theories cannot explain it, and so the only other reasonable explanation is that God created the universe and this then proves the existence of God because there is no other explanation. This was also applied to the Theory of Evolution. Otherwise there is no direct connection between a belief in the scientific theories explaining the Big Bang and evolution, and one’s faith in God. What I do not understand is the insistence that there must be some semi scientific proof of God’s existence, and why people are so insistent on there being a connection.

    I agree with Nanibold that there has to be some rational reason to believe that the scientific theories concerning these events and processes are not correct. Xavier tried to tell us that bacteria should evolve at some extremely fast rate since they reproduce quickly, and if they don’t then evolution cannot be correct. This is clearly not accurate and I provided the reasons why. On the Big Bang, the argument seems to revolve the concept of some huge explosion in another “space” and that it occurred in “time” so we can ask questions like what came before and what started the “Big Bang”. There are perfectly good scientific theories showing that the universe is space and time, the “Big Bang” which is poorly named is simply the inflation of space-time, and that “before” is a meaningless concept.

    The discussion also tries to go beyond the two primary disputed theories and to talk about consciousness and morals and how these cannot be explained by science – which is debatable, but there should not be any reason to expand the scope beyond the original premise – are the scientific theories regarding evolution and the origin of the universe refuted by any of the evidence offered up by those who do not believe these theories to be correct? I am open minded, but there has been nothing offered that disproves the theories. Also, I do not understand the motivation to disprove the theories – it is not being used to suggest there must be an alternative scientific theory to explain the observations, but to suggest that God must exist as the only viable alternative.

  241. Luke

    Isn’t it amazing. The church created science to prove the existance of God, how the tables turn.

    And, RE Intelligent Design; its a theory that bares no basis. If its so intelligent, how comes only our planet that we know of contains such diverse levels of life? Why not every planet… We know Jupiter cannot sustain life because its gravity is a lot stronger than gravity on Earth – so the poster than suggested Gravity is a constant… no, it isn’t, its a variable based on the environment.

    And to the poster who suggested that all athiests need to reassure themselves about god by mentionning the word in their posts – I need no reassurance; my belief of something that can fulfill this terminology is similar to Buddhist theory, However I feel I can extract the way I understand the world to create my own belief. But I’m not going to push it on anyone, I believe everyone is smart enough to make their own choice over what they believe; what annoys me is when someone of a faith tells me I am wrong just for being wrong… not convincing. Until I see someone in the clouds drinking a beer, I will not believe in this single deity; nothing would create the insane world of humans with so called intelligence to live beyond their means…

  242. Haruchai

    There are many inaccurate statements in this discussion:

    “it is a valid hypothesis to posit that the universe was caused by something supernatural, as its existence does not follow the laws of nature as we have discovered them”

    First, I am not sure what is meant by “laws of nature as we have discovered them”. Science is a collection of theories about the universe, some of which are commonly accepted because there is a large body of observations which fit the predictions of the theories. The “laws of nature” can be revised as we continue to experiment and new theories are added to the various fields of investigation. Some have little or no evidence that the theory is correct because the predictions have not yet been observed. So the “laws of nature” are a continuum of highly probable theories to the extremely unlikely.

    There are lots of theories in modern physics and cosmology, which fit current observations and could be correct. There is not yet have any evidence that they are not true. They can explain the “origins” of the universe, they are consistent with what we know, and they do not lead to questions like what came “before” the universe or how can something be “created” from nothing. This would imply that there was a “nothing” into which a “something” could be created and that there was an absolute time outside of our relative sense of universal time to define a “moment” of creation. These theories do not invoke the supernatural.

    Statements like this are inserted into the discussion due to lack of knowledge about the current state of scientific theory.

  243. nanibold

    Lance wrote:
    “Actually just to make a remark on what you said about proving a negative, I would like anyone to name an even prime number after 2. There isnt one. I just proved a negative. So it is possible.”

    Nice! I’ve never actually heard anybody successfully prove a negative before, that’s pretty cool.

    I have to wonder though – could it be that it was only possible because we’re working with abstract concepts that we have ourselves defined?

    For example, could I not also just say something like: “I can prove that, of all the hot dogs I’ve eaten, there was only one ‘first’ hot dog”?

    Haha… I still totally enjoyed it

  244. Michael

    Can you refer to Pascal’s Wager on this topic. I didn’t read all the comments for there are many (funny how religion and science makes that happen) but if I were a betting man, I would wager on the existence of God because I have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

  245. nanibold

    Grump said:
    “Is it just me, or does the average atheist know more about religion than the average anti-science theist does about science?”

    Dude, sometimes I really really get the feeling that I can internalize a lot more of the teachings of this jesus guy than most of his self-declared followers. I’m certainly not a christian, and I’m not associated with any particular religion, but I nonetheless have a great respect for and curiosity about what you might call the “spiritual” side of reality, and of life.

    So although I suppose I might officially fall into the ‘atheist’ category, I have such a deep understanding of (and appreciation for) the core principles of ‘the teachings of christ’ or whatever, that I can’t help but see the over-religious masses as a sort of sad spectacle, where people with basically good intentions end up missing the point and focusing on all sorts of stupid stuff instead.

    Like – saying a bunch of hail marys isn’t going to do a damn thing for you or your ‘soul’. Being a good person will.

    Like – if jesus was real and was here today and saw the way good christians were treating gay people, he’d be *disgusted* and would probably form a gay rights group.

    Like – attempting to interpret the words in the bible as historical fact is so contrary to all of our natural, intellectual and scientific capacities that you could almost describe it as a slap in the face of god himself. He gave you eyes and a brain, not a list of orders to be followed.

    Like – if god exists, and if he sees how many people have murdered other people in his name… he’d puke.

  246. Jl solo

    Its good to think outside the box, I know it is easy to understand science even those without college education understand the theory of the big bang.. and i wouldn’t doubt that there is a metaverse…. How ever that verse could be our GOD it resonates in my heart i could never prove GOD exist there are rules as there are laws in science there are laws in GOD….
    Those of you that are non believers in a higher power keep on learning and passing information it is very interesting and ill keep on believing and believing in my GOD so that when I die I do not have to think thats its all over…I will die calmly thinking this life is over now let me meet my Creator so that he can explain all of the science humans are just now beginning to understand….My questions will be many for him i hope you get you all your answers while you are alive.. GOD bless the world and non believers.

  247. Me

    Can you prove scientifically that a feeling like love exists, and explain how it feels, without experiencing it yourself? Some things you simply have to experience in order to understand.

  248. nanibold

    Actually, that’s a fantastic argument to support the non-existence of god. If god existed, and if he saw how people had killed and tortured others in “his good name”, he would puke. By definition however, god is perfect – so he can’t puke. Since we all know that one cannot puke and not puke at the same time, this is of course impossible. Therefore god cannot exist.

    I totally nailed it

  249. @The Helio Sequence
    Why must people look to an external judge (ie God) to decide what is right and wrong? Is there a culture on this planet of any faith (or none at all) that does not have more or less the same community-supporting set of morality codes? Are you implying that without a God you would feel no compulsion whatsoever to behave in an ethical or moral manner?
    That frightens me.
    I behave in a moral fashion because it is to everyone’s benefit, expecially mine. I don’t do it because of some fear of judgement day.
    As to why I have purpose, well, it is because I am here. I could choose to have no purpose, and rot. Or I can choose to have a purpose – or indeed many purposes – because it provides a sense of fulfillment. As well as putting food on the table. Ultimately I will be dust, but maybe my descendents will carry on for a long time, and maybe my work (my purpose?) will live on.
    These thoughts do

    @Xavier
    I resent your accusation that “they” (by which I assume you mean paleontologists) try to hide that there are tall tree fossils. In fact, there are not only many published papers on these, but also world famous localities that promote thes finds (http://jogginsfossilcliffs.net/). But before you try to use these fossils to argue against evolution and the fossil record, you should spend some time learning how they form.

    @Ismael
    Evolution is NOT hotly debated in scientific circles. Specifics of the mechanism are actively investigated and face scrutiny, that is how Science works. The idea that evolution is something that is not widely accepted in the scientific community is bull cookies put forth by boldface liars trying to undermine science for their own agenda. Period.

  250. Jl solo neatly sums up what may be the fundamental reasoning behind the creationists’ attacks on science education.

    I will die calmly thinking this life is over now let me meet my Creator so that he can explain all of the science humans are just now beginning to understand…

    Kids don’t need to worry about doin’ that hard science stuff…god will ‘splain it all for ‘em later!

    Anyone remember James Watt’s opinions on forestry?

  251. Cammie Moore

    Why can’t science and religion exist together? I think it would be much more ignorant of us to not consider that.

  252. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    you certainly can’t prove a negative.

    I’m not sure what such a statement even means, especially in the context of science where we instead test things “beyond reasonable doubt”. Usually it is put as “prove a universal negative”, but that doesn’t help much to clarify things.

    We usually prove things in math. There we can, for example, show that sufficiently complex algebras all have the Gödel property, undecidability, which means that there are no sufficiently complex algebras without it. So here the uncertainty is exactly zero.

    When we pass to science, we can still test for universal properties. Either trivially by definitions, say that massive objects all have mass, so none are without it. Or by theory, for example that all matter reacts to probing (by way of Newton’s third law, if not else), so none doesn’t react. Here we are left with uncertainty, but still know this “beyond reasonable doubt”.

    I’m pretty sure that this is trying to refer to sets of more or less realistic objects, where the demand is to count them all despite the fact that there are uncountable sets. But such sets are handled by folding them into a larger theory (in math by adding axioms, in physics by folding into an empirical theory).

    This type of equivocation seems pointless. But I have learned that it may be a sign of apologist theology reused as bad philosophy on purpose, in the same vein as the useless definitions of “methodological” and “metaphysical” naturalism are. If anyone knows where it comes from, I would be thankful for pointers.

    But when it comes to the existence of God, it obviously cannot be disproven. It can only at best be shown that the vast overwhelming majority of claims of evidence for God’s existence by believers is incorrect. In the real world, you might be able to consider that ample proof of the nonexistence of a deity, or at least realistically live your life as if that has been proven, but in a more theoretical sense you always have to leave the door open a crack.

    Well, either it is an equivocation between prove and test, or it is an equivocation on the definition of gods. As you imply, there are many and contradictory claims on gods, so it is also trivial that one can’t meaningfully test them all.

    As for “the gods of the gaps” crack, I think it is debunked by diminishing returns. Or in a theoretical sense the limit of the sequence of the measure* of diminishing sets of apologetic claims is exactly zero. There isn’t any theoretical hinder for taking such a limit.

    * Any appropriate measure on size, say area of claim.

  253. nanibold

    ‘Me’ said:
    “Can you prove scientifically that a feeling like love exists, and explain how it feels, without experiencing it yourself? Some things you simply have to experience in order to understand.”

    Okay, I’ll break it down here. Love, being an extremely subjective thing, is obviously not well suited for scientific study. I wouldn’t exactly be a ‘scientific’ experiment, but I am sure it wouldn’t be hard to ‘prove’ that love exists – just write down your criteria or qualifications for “love” status, and then ask a bunch of people if they’ve ever experienced those symptoms or criteria before in their lives. Most will know exactly what you’re talking about and say yes. That’s proof enough. This of course aside from the fact that we all can personally vouch for the legitimacy of love, based on our own experiences.

    “explain how it feels, without experiencing it yourself?”
    Certainly not. Love is by definition a feeling.

    “Some things you simply have to experience in order to understand.”
    Well, sure. We can all agree on seeing love that way. Are you making the point that the existence of god is the same kind of thing? I can go along with that. But what if I told you that I have shared in that experience quite fully and yet still reject all the stupid arguments people put forward to somehow ‘prove’ his existence?

    I’m pretty sure I’ve met the same god that you’re talking about, but most people don’t focus on their own ‘divine’ connection and instead bury themselves in the bible, or in the pope or the preacher… or whatever it was that their parents taught them to believe in. Most of it is crap. When people come out in opposition to things like evolutionary theory (or a spherical earth), I tend to assume that they’re just suffering from this pervasive sort of brainwashing thing, where they just haven’t figured it out yet and are slowed down by certain social pressures in their area…

  254. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    our PERCEIVED world is a matter of faith.

    Not for empirical methods, where we can actually acquire testable, repeatable knowledge. That tells us how we do perception, and also that it isn’t all there is.

    Oh, and what is the point of mentioning Xeno’s paradox? It is invalid.

    There are perfectly good scientific theories showing that the universe is space and time, the “Big Bang” which is poorly named is simply the inflation of space-time, and that “before” is a meaningless concept.

    There are others perfectly good scientific theories that embed our inflationary universe in a larger inflationary multiverse, for example chaotic inflation. There you can track worldlines through time, with no upper bound either way. (Though you will eventually hit singularities going back on any given worldline.)

    If those inflationary volumes with their semiclassical worldlines gives meaningful space-time as we know it, I dunno; I believe they are lorentz covariant though, and the physicists sure have theoretical photons crossing them as test particles in papers I’ve seen. But “a before” exists, always, somewhere. (Or possibly then “somewhere-sometime “. :-) )

    The church created science to prove the existance of God,

    I’m no study of the history of science, but couldn’t you as well say that Newton (especially) et al were the seminal discoverers of how to do “the scientific method”? Observation, theory, predictions, critique, repeat.

    The church OTOH taught scholastics based on aristotelian explanations; few if any observations, philosophy, no tests, no critique, no repeats.

  255. Daniel J. Andrews

    Nitpick. The tag on the picture says it is a beaver. It is a sea otter.

  256. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Why can’t science and religion exist together?

    Because religion persists in making unwarranted empirical claims. A religion would have to chuck omnipotence, teleology, creationism, prayer, apologetics, et cetera.

    In fact, there is at least one such religion. It is core buddhism as described on Wikipedia. Perfectly fine it seems to me if you let the sufficiently vague “rebirth” be a poetic description for heredity and let nirvana stand for extinction and death. No other pure empirical claims what I know of, no ultimately failing apologetics, only moral rules.

    Of course, even if core buddhism is actually practiced as described, a somewhat preposterous proposition, it is still silly bunkum; morality is largely what you do in practice in a population (besides the part of social traits that evolution has currently ingrained in us), not a set of universal ethical rules. But combined with religious freedom (i.e. de facto acknowledging other morality and secular law) it results in an outwards empirically sound structure however flawed the idea itself is.

    Conflict and criticism is then still possible over morality and its causes, in part an empirical question, but having religious freedom perhaps somewhat nitpicking.

  257. Jl solo

    From kuhnigget Says Kids don’t need to worry about doin’ that hard science stuff…god will ’splain it all for ‘em later!…..

    Come on now Albert… it was back in the day that some one could hold all of the knowledge in the world at one time have not you read Steven hawking book…..
    We will never know everything there is too know about science in ones life time you can study and be great that’s what makes science an interesting to learn but you my friend imply that I am saying we should just wait till we die For answers. I have questions and got answers and theory’s from science now But when I die I Believe i will get more knowledge and that lets me sleep at night…When you die and just disappear you don’t care about nothing cause you wont feel nothing and that’s what you will get….Let me believe ill get answers and ill let you believe you’ll just disappear..GOD has given you a brain for a reason and its good too see you are using your entire 9 percent…….or 100 what ever it is science says we use.. Study kids learn and be what you want make your choices how you want;{

  258. manolo

    I am Greek, I don’t want to blow own horn on how Greeks were (at least back then) highly logical and critical thinkers. But many centuries ago a man named Epicurus commented on God:

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?

    Then he is not omnipotent.

    Is he able, but not willing?

    Then he is malevolent.

    Is he both able and willing?

    Then whence cometh evil?

    Is he neither able nor willing?

    Then why call him God?

    What more is there to say ? why do we have to keep going in circles over this.

    This train of thought beyond all doubt shows that our concept of God is flawed at least.

  259. Haruchai

    From Torbjörn Larsson post above:

    ‘“a before” exists, always, somewhere’

    In many Big Bang theories this is simply wrong.

    Before implies “time”. I know it is extremely difficult for us to separate our perceptions of local reality from the simple relativistic mathematics that describe the universe and to have a true understanding of the theories like the theory of relativity, but there are theories describing the big bang where space time is closed and simply turns back on itself like the bottom of a bag. It is closed in both space and time, which are really the same thing and are interchangeable depending on the observer. True there are some theories of the big bang where our inflationary space time is just a local inflationary bubble in a larger space-time, but I think most of those were invented because we are uncomfortable with a closed space time and a Big Bang with no “before” except our own universe if you followed the world lines all the way back to the closure and around the bottom of the “bag”.

    Trying to understand space time as described by Einstein is very hard and non-intuitive. When we view “space-time” as a single entity, it quickly becomes apparent that everything in the universe moves at one speed – the speed of light. Objects including ourselves that appear to be stationary in our frame of reference are actually moving at the speed of light in the time like or “ict” direction. In one second we move ic x 1 second = i186,000 miles in the observer’s perceived time like dimension. When an object appears to move relative to the observer, they simply change their velocity vector – the speed in the “ict” direction slows while the speed in the x , y , and z spatial coordinate system starts to increase. But in the space time coordinate system [x, y, z, ict], velocity is constant at the speed of light. The velocity vector of the object simply changes direction so there are components of the velocity in the space like dimensions and a smaller component of the velocity in the time like dimension as spatial velocity (to a stationary observer) starts to increase. That is why time appears to slow as velocity increases.

    Einstein’s Theory of Relativity just says the perception of the space time coordinate system adjusts for the observer “A” who is in motion relative to observer “B”. The coordinates change so that all of the motion for the observer “A” is still in the ict direction – the moves through time at the speed of light while he has zero velocity in the space like coordinates. Observer “B” sees “A” moving at less than the speed of light in “A”s own time like direction ict while gaining speed in the x, y, z space like directions, but both observers still move at a constant speed of light through space-time and they both agree on their constant space time velocity. The coordinate systems are just different so they disagree on which components of their space time constant velocity are in the time-like vs. space like dimensions.

    Looking back at the Big Bang, the time like dimension of the observer who looks back through time at the big bang gradually becomes more space like until it curves all the way around and becomes time-like but in the reverse direction. The universe is closed – there is nothing “before” the big bang since before is a time-like relative measure that is dependent on the observer. From the point of view of an observer who looks back at the big bang, in his space-time coordinate system it would look like the universe is also “before” the big bang if we need some way to visualize the closed universe and the “Big Bang” closed space time surface.

    Inflation does not require a creation event – it simply means that space time is closed and there is no space or time outside of the universe. This is hard to imagine, but this is what the standard big bang theories actually mean. There is no before.

  260. Escuerd

    “The greatest mysteries of today are undergraduate homework problems in 20 years. That’s the strength of science.”

    That is one very quotable quote. You are awesome, Phil.

  261. badsponge

    The only conflicts between science and God exist in our minds as the result of misunderstanding both of them. As we will never be able to completely understand both, the science vs. God debate will never cease.

    The religious zealot is a fool for using God to discredit science, and the intellectual atheist is a fool for using science to discredit God.

  262. Bill Glaholt

    @Helio Sequence:

    “Could someone please tell me (that has no faith in any god b/c it is all validated by science) why you have purpose and a drive to live your life at all? I would love to hear how you comfort yourself on a daily basis and turn a blind eye to the fact that your life is heading towards the ultimate end that everyone else has…a crappy form of death and joining the dust of the earth.”

    Happily.
    Because although I may be long gone and unaware of what happens after my sense of self is extinguished, people will remember me and my memory for my actions, for my kindness to others, for my helping others to find themselves, for their bright-eyed understanding of the world around them that I and other scientists have put there, for the happiness that my music has created in their world, for teaching their children a sense of right and wrong, for establishing a sense of teammanship within our community that we’re all in this together (and thus by not DIVIDING FOLKS BETWEEN “US” AND “THEM”), and making the world a better place for my having been here. And I will do that without the religion-crutch that you are describing. Because I do fathom a world of right and wrong and understand that the beauty of human civilization and culture is in fact based on togetherness and a collective sense of purpose.

  263. John Hubertz

    You see, the only thing a tolerant person cannot tolerate is intolerance.

    The Hindi have a word – “namaste” – essentially that all living things that perceive represent a universe – a totality, unto themselves.

    From this spring fountains their respect for all that lives – even what we consider “lesser” species, even us!

    I must again say this – God, Jehovah, Om Baba, Ra – the thousand words and philosophies used to describe the infinite and many many many claimed and very well documented direct interactions with this infinite centrality of concious thought and positive encouraging human representatives who did IMPOSSIBLE THINGS but can’t quite be put aside… except by the “I wasn’t there” arguments of scientists… BUT

    What about the current truths of the changing shape of supposedly random ice crystal formation when they are formed on identical objects that are labeled (in Japanese interestingly) in positive or negative ways? VERY easy to replicate – I have done it, using English.

    You see, this chi/soul/miracle/karma/great spirit/ma0maa or whatever you wish to call the “outside the ordinary” events that occur and can be studied – is quite real.

    I’m an engineer, and an agnostic. Stop over and I’ll be happy to demonstrate – and you can do the experiment yourself at home and I guarantee a measurable result.

    Interesting… consistent with faith, but not “book worship” truth – the shared truth and message of the Jesus/Gandhi/Buddha etc etc etc that all say the same thing.

    Be cool – be nice to each other, and never ever think yourself better then one another.

    Not exactly a Judeo-Christian ethic, but hey, who said Jesus was a Christian? Seems to me he was an advanced soul – and asked for apostles, not worship.

    Hmmmmm

  264. John Hubertz

    Oh PS: Direct quote from the Nag Hammadi “Gospel of Truth” supposedly dictated BY Jesus -

    “Heaven is of the moment, it fills and surrounds all who simply are aware of the truth.”

    “Never build an institution or structure in my name. Create your own inner altar of truth and share it with all as I do.”

    “Mary Magdalene and Thomas are to carry on and lead you in walking the path of truth.”

    (Interesting – as Peter (possibly nicknamed “blockhead?” and Paul the woman-despising letter writer…. usurped and suppressed Mary as defiled and evil due to her status – as a female).

    I ask again – why do professed Christians and fundamentalist believers in the WORDS of the Bible NEVER seem to study or reference the ORIGINAL UNEDITED DEAD SEA NAG HAMMADI TEXTS DISCOVERED IN 1926 and VERY WELL VERIFIED AS IDENTICAL TO THE FRAGMENTS OF THE SUPPRESSED AND DESTROYED ORIGINALS DURING THE AUTHORSHIP OF THE BIBLE BY THE GOVERNMENT/CHURCH CORPORATION THAT BECAME ROMAN CATHOLICISM?

    And btw – I’m a Roman Catholic – and a published person on topics of faith and ethics in a few obscure places, including “The Grace of Hatred (modern interpretive rewrite) by Louis Lavelle” – look up that essay and tell me I have no foundation upon which to make these claims.

    John Hubertz
    Fort Wayne, Indiana

    BA Purdue
    MS Miami (Ohio)

    Patriot

  265. Hi Phil

    Sorry that someone was calling you an idiot who supports design and the notion of a Creator. I note that you claim that one has to ask who created God if we ask who created the Big Bang. But you see with origin theories of our universe is the beginning of space, time, matter and energy e.g. Big Bang theory. So whatever caused the origin of our universe must be outside of space, time, matter and energy. Therefore there is no before or after for that being. Therefore it is possible for that being to have existed forever. Yes it’s hard for our puny minds to grasp it. But that’s what philosophy and theology are for. To explore the wonderful mysteries of our universe as well as the nature of our Creator. It’s fascinating that such philosphers such as Dr. Antony Flew have converted from atheism to deism.

    God bless

    Brendan

  266. @ Jl solo:

    I have questions and got answers and theory’s from science now But when I die I Believe i will get more knowledge and that lets me sleep at night…

    Yes indeed, many people are comforted by the belief that someone bigger than themselves is watching out for them and will chase away all the scary shadows.

    When you die and just disappear you don’t care about nothing cause you wont feel nothing and that’s what you will get….

    When I die I will cease to be, therefore the concept of feeling is meaningless. This does not bother me in the least and I sleep just fine. It also inspires me to make the most of this life, because it is short, and treat others with respect* and kindness, because their lives are short, too.

    *Caveat: knucklewalkers who hate, preach intolerance and encourage stupidity, and/or encourage violence are exempt.

  267. Knucklewalkers who can’t close html tags properly are also exempt. The second paragraph above is my own.

  268. @ Brendan:

    Your logic works both ways. If God (why only one?) can exist outside of time and be eternal, why can’t the universe itself?

    And if that’s the case, isn’t it more likely that the theory with more evidence backing it up is the more probable approximation of reality? There is a whole lot of evidence for the big bang. There is….what is it now?…oh yes, no evidence for any gods.

    Not stacking up too well, there.

  269. jrogers

    Phil,

    I think this is a little unfair, because I think it is reasonable to assume that the arbitrary question “who created God then?” has been put to theist before the equally arbitrary question “well, then what was before the Big Bang then?” considering Atheism is older than the Big Bang theory. So again, I think it is unfair to target theist for asking a dumb question which is essentially the same as the older one. This piece gives the impression that they started it when they probably didn’t.

    And yes, the person was being a jerk about it. I think we live in a unique time where people are moving from religion to science, at least in the west, and what I have observed is that we are all still buttholes.

    To go outside the subject, one thing that personally makes me think there is a God is that I have hard time not thinking the universe and existence itself is peculiar. I know science doesn’t allow for this. That the universe is, therefore it makes perfect sense it is the way it is, or something along those lines. I guess I’m not smart enough to where that makes sense to me, but I always reflect on it and other things the best I can.

    -My Best

  270. John Hubertz

    Indeed – the evidence of creation is reality – but a deity that we can correspond with blows my mind, yet I have seen a few very interesting and verifiable paranormal events in my 49 years.

    Obviously, what we perceive has elements that we cannot yet understand – and perception itself may BE the “one”… some sort of universal and energetic conciousness.

    I am unwilling to deny the threads of common doctrine that flow through all forms of spiritual practice, and unwilling to accept ANYTHING that might be to the exclusion of other opinions or the potential that other perceptions MAY not be of the same reality.

    I work with mentally ill people – and schizophrenics frequently have VERY consistent and tangible long-term perceptions, that are quite radically different from the more common theme.

    Yet, I have also seen two – and once four of them, experience the same phenomena simultaneously, and then report independently in a well-disciplined study of the event (when isolated AND observed) the same perceptive flow.

    Interesting. I remain curious, and skeptical – and convinced that the truth is the key – FAITH be damned.

    Purdue University educated I am, and by profession I was a type of engineer (although my degrees are in “soft” science). Also, my family is academic, and I apply a rigorous if informal scientific method to odd claims….

    And frankly, the Japanese “words influence fractal patterns in ice crystalization” (not sure of spelling on that last) experiment is a fabulous and easily replicated home study of the influence of positive energies caused by thought and/or words (are they different? the safir-whorf hypothesis says no) having a tangible and measurable effect on matter.

    Wild, yes?

  271. timeOut

    “The greatest mysteries of today are undergraduate homework problems in 20 years. That’s the strength of science.”

    Oh yeah?

    Then answer this astronomy-guy; what d0 women want?

    Do you really think 20 years is long enough for an answer to that?

  272. Colin

    To be blunt, the argument which was made by the authour was no more nor less specious than that of his opponent. What was preached was not science — the sort of openness, wonder, and inquisitiveness as to the whole and its parts which was first discovered and expressed in the West by the Greeks — it is positivism, which is nothing more than secular dogma tied to a misplaced faith in humanity’s ability to know everything through it’s untrammeled ability to control reality and make it the object of experimentation.

    The authour is correct in suggesting that dogma is a pernicious obstacle to reason and understanding. He is quite mistaken in thinking that it is an intrinsic feature of Christian religious reasoning, rather than recognizing that it is an ever-present danger for any sort of reasoning engaged-in by human beings. Dogmas eventually infect every institutionalized form of reason, be it religious (i.e. fundamentalism), philosophic (i.e. neo-Platonism, Hegelianism), or “scientific” (i.e. positivism, Marxism, continental empiricism, neo-positivism, etcetera). Science and logic are not panceas for the universe’s ills, for they are just as subject to degeneration from openness to dogmatism as any other style of thinking. All that differs religious from scientific dogmas are the symptoms which their influence exerts in the world — witch-hunts in one case, blinkered detachment from the consequences of one’s “research” in the other.

    Science is not in any way fated to make the world a better place, or to steadily improve or “learn” as the writer suggested. That is a statement of faith in progress which is no less ridiculous than the variation subscribed to by the Puritans, or other hard-headed, literalist sects. It is no less of an attempt to escape the reality of the limitedness of human nature than was theirs, and no less of an attempt to forbid heterodox questions. “Why something and not nothing?”; both authour and opponent would seem to prefer to forbid us from asking such “stupid” questions.

  273. Darth Robo

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster didit.

    Prove me wrong.

    Ramen.

    And no, it’s not particularly interesting that Dr Anthony Flew stopped being an atheist. What does it prove? That fundies love to say “Ooh, look, someone converted to OUR side! That means we MUST be RIGHT!”

    ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  274. James

    Given x – y = 10
    Prove x does not equal y.

    Assume x = y
    x – y = 10
    x – (x) = 10
    0 = 10

    0 does not equal 10, therefore x does not equal y.

  275. Brandon

    haha this reminds me of the time when this guy on forums went
    “how do i know god existed? because the bible said so! ”

    lawl.

  276. Bernd

    For me, the main reason against the existence of an Intelligent Designer is the existence of people who believe in Intelligent Design: How stupid must the designer (have) be(en) to create such a stupid bunch of people?
    Just my 2 cents ;-)

  277. Flying sardines

    , by examining the propoerties of sardines, one can prove beyond reasonable doubt that they are incapable of flying to the moon. But this is not an absolute proof of the statement that sardines never fly to the moon.

    Did the Apollo astronauts (the dozen or so who landed on the moon – oh & the one’s who flew around it too.) take any tinned sardines with them?
    ;-)

  278. Flying sardines

    Would that make them de facto flying fish? ;-)

  279. Flying sardines

    But then again the entire Apollo program – complete with its thousands of people, twenty plus actual astronauts and lots & lots of returned and carefully studied rock samples) was all a hoax after all wasn’t it ..??? :roll:

    PS. Poe. Oh Poe. Still its better than YEC creationists ain’t it? Sigh.

  280. Jl solo

    kuhnigget Says:
    When I die I will cease to be, therefore the concept of feeling is meaningless. This does not bother me in the least and I sleep just fine. It also inspires me to make the most of this life, because it is short,
    you are right you reap what you sow ill make the most out of my life with my Lord and you make the best out of this life with>>>>????? books and what people with extensive knowledge have taught you son….Its not good for the sake of people that there are arguement just do you and praise be the the one God

  281. Bill Glaholt

    @JL Solo — That hurts my head just to try and read. I *think* what you’re trying to say, is that anyone who “doesn’t make their life with the lord” is somehow less able to live a kind, supportive, loving life.

    How sad for you if you feel that way. I am a skeptic deist (borderline agnostic). I have a ton of friends, all loving and educated individuals from both the very religious and completely non-religious, and we are all good folks with strong family support and encouragement. We all have donated time and effort to worthy causes, whether to Loaves and Fishes, or to educational facilities abroad and at home. We respect our fellow human beings, we sing together, we support local causes, teach our children right and wrong, and help our communities and their citizens to be all they can be.

    All of us. Each of us. Whether theistic, deistic, or atheistic. To suggest we cannot do these things because we choose not to read the same books as you is nothing short of deluded myopia.

  282. @ Bill Glaholt:

    Nicely said.

    I will indeed make the most of my life with “>>>>?????”

    And if some Levantine superdaddy has a problem with that, then I’ll just have to set him straight.

  283. Bill Glaholt

    Agreed, kuhnigget (love the Python reference, btw!)

    My life’s actions will stand on their own. I fully believe that if what I’ve done in my life is not “good enough” for Heaven; and if in fact there is an afterworld and the “filter” for entry is indeed based on knowledge of one book or another, then it’s not a place I’d want to be anyway.

  284. Daniel Rosenthal

    It is not possible to disprove–or prove–the existance of a Higher Power
    –a.k.a. God–in the universe. But it IS possible to disprove the claims
    made by Creationists, and, especially, young Earth/young Universe
    creationists such as Gish, Morris, Ham, Hovind, Baugh, Safrati, etc.
    1. The Universe is only 6000 years old. Then, why can see the light from
    stars and galaxies millions of light years away?
    2. The Earth is only 6000 years old. Please explain the potassium-argon
    dates for various rock formations.
    3. There was a world wide flood and the only survivors were on board
    Noah’s ark. Please explain (a.) where all the water came from; (b.) where
    it went to; (3) How Noah and his family were able to care for MILLIONS of
    animals; and (4.) Where did all of their poopy go to.
    4. There are no transitional fossils. Archaeopteryx? Cynododont mammal-
    like reptiles? Basilosaurus (a transition between land animals and whales)?
    Australopithecus? Please explain these.

    And concerning Intellegent Design. There is no Intellegent Design model;
    every advocate of intellegent design has a different definition of how it
    workds. Michael Behe, for example, advocates a form of theistic evolution
    where God had to continually “tweak” the evolutionary process to produce a
    desired result–but he accepts that the Universe/Earth are billions of years
    old and that men and (living) apes share a common ancestry. Other ID
    advocates are progressive creationists, day-age creationists, or young earth
    creationists. How are schools supposed to teach something its own
    proponents’ can’t agree on?

  285. Joshua

    I love the conversations being posted on this page, BTW you should check out the movie Religulous! Its an agnostic dream.

  286. St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) has an answer to the question of why we don’t need to explain the origin of God, and it is not that he always existed. Indeed, Aquinas thought it possible, at least on philosophical grounds, that the universe had always existed (he did not know about evidence for the Big Bang of course). I recommend _On Being and Essence_ for an explanation. [http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/aquinas-esse.html]

    Also, regarding your title, “Science Learns. Does God?”, it is not a proper comparison, is it? Science is a discipline that studies the operation of the universe. In this case, the object of study is the universe. Science “learns” as the collective body of human scientists advance in their knowledge.

    God created the universe, which came from his mind. He knew all about it before it ever existed. But the knowledge that God has does not fit into the discussion because it is not directly accessible to us. When it comes to the things of God, the proper thing to compare to science would be theology, which is the discipline that studies what God has revealed of himself. So if you ask the question, “Science Learns. Does Theology?”, the answer is yes. A good example of this is _An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine_ by Cardinal John Henry Newman [http://www.newmanreader.org/works/development/] and _Dei Verbum_ by the Second Vatican Council [http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html].

  287. Lola

    Never better said. I just came across your blog from a Youtube video, got curious and have been reading many of your articles only to become so happy to have found an interesting blog to read with so much to learn from.

    Thanks very much!

  288. Jl solo

    @ Bill Glaholt:
    Nicely said.

    Well haha what Have i Learned surrounded by nothing but snakes and worms…..
    Just to believe in my Lord not what you have learned on this internet….have a proper life
    I’m doing Great and to him whom the words not align in order than you will of course have a hard time making any sense of what we are trying to relay am I right…..Yes…. Proved my point buddy.

  289. Jeni Kumaric

    I am currently in my own personal quest for proof of God, and what you are searching for, evidence of design, can be found in our DNA. There is a book called “The Case For Faith,” by Lee Stroebel, which discusses the complexity of DNA. A Mr. Walter L. Bradley, a doctor in materials science , a professor of mechanical engineering, and an expert on polymers and thermodynamics, and the director of the Polymer Technology Center at Texas A & M, etc. said…”In living systems, the guidance that is needed to assemble everything comes from DNA. Every cell of every plant and animal has to have a DNA molecule. Think of it as a little microprocessor that regulates everything. DNA works hand in glove with RNA to direct the correct sequencing of amino acids. It’s able to do this through biochemical instructions that are encoded on the DNA. The making of DNA and RNA would be an even greater problem than creating protein. These are much more complex, and there are a host of practical problems. For instance, the synthesis of key building blocks for DNA and RNA has never been successfully done except under highly implausible conditions without any resemblance to those of the early earth. Klaus Dose of the Institute for Biochemistry in Mainz, Germany, admitted that the difficulties in synthesizing DNA and RNA are at present beyond our imagination. The origin of such a sophisticated system that is both rich in information and capable of reproducing itself has absolutely stymied origin of life scientists. As the nobel prize winner Sir Francis Crick said, “The origin of life appears to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to be satisfied too get it going.”

    You should read about the assembly of a cell and the creation of a proteins, the building blocks of life. Bradley mentions that amino acids have to be put together in just the right manner to make a protein molecule. Then you have to bring together a collection of protein molecules, maybe 200 of them, with just the right functions to get a typical living cell.

    I personally find it hard to believe that life began coincidentally, even if there were billions of years, for it to happen in some prebiotic soup that was our earth. The chance that the biochemical instructions that are encoded on our DNA, and those of the trillions of plants and animals on our earth, happened by coincidence, is a stretch for me.

  290. Martin

    Dear Phil,

    With all due respect, I must say that there seem to be some errors in your understanding of how theology works.

    1. You seem to be limiting God to the spacio-temporal world. Anybody who’s studied theology will tell you that God CANNOT be limited in such a manner. If God exists, it’s HE who established science. Not the other way around. So limiting God to a scientific study will basically get you nowhere, whether you’re attempting to prove or disprove Him. Because pretty much everything we take for granted in science is the result of His work (provided, of course, that He exists). This, I think, is also why your claim about “allowing a crack for God” is fundamentally flawed. Either there’s a greater power that made everything in existence possible, or everything just “exists” without a greater cause. Claims like that make it seem like God is literally supposed to be some guy in the clouds with a long white beard and robe. But any theologically-versed Christian (or, for that matter, Jew, Muslim, etc.) will tell you He isn’t.

    2. Because of the less scientific nature of God, the question of what constitutes as “evidence” for God’s existence becomes a bit sticky since, if God created the spacio-temporal universe, then EVERYTHING IN EXISTENCE could be seen as “evidence” of God’s existence (yes, I know this is a circular argument, but it’s nonetheless an important thing to ponder). More importantly, the nature of “evidence” isn’t quite as objective as you make it out to be. If somebody did, in fact, have a personal revelation; that may very well be evidence to the individual of God’s existence. It may not be evidence to you, but as long as you can’t disprove his view, it’s completely reasonable for him to see it as evidence (this could perhaps be retorted with the “celestial teapot” anology, but let’s not get into that right now). Coming up with a “scientific explanation” for a religious belief doesn’t really do anything to discredit the religious belief, because there’s always the question of whether or not there’s also an underlying spiritual explanation for the belief. If God exists, then there will be both scientific and spiritual explanations for such phenomena. If He doesn’t (btw, yes, I am a believer – Catholic, to be precise), then there’s only the scientific explanation (one would think). I believe there are plenty of compelling reasons to believe in God. And while I think a skeptic is completely justified in his skepticism, I think he then needs to be a little skeptical of his own skepticism. :)

    3. On the topic of intercessory prayer, I think your claim about “study after study showing it doesn’t work” is a bit of an exaggeration. Some studies have suggested it doesn’t. But there have been others suggesting that patients under IP DID in fact live longer and healthier lives than people who weren’t under IP. Scientific studies like these are always quite fickle, so perhaps it isn’t wise to put so much faith into them. Not to mention that there’s controversy over doing scientific studies for something like intercessory prayer, because many suggest that “scripting” such prayer (which you would need to do for such a study) diminishes its effectiveness.

    That said, I don’t mean any disrespect as I typically enjoy reading your blog. And I agree that the comment you rebutted was DEFINITELY worthy of criticism (from both a scientific and theological standpoint). Nonetheless, even if you’re a non-believer, I do think theology should be taken more seriously than you seem to suggest in that article. After all, there’s a reason why belief in God has lasted so long. That being the case, there must be SOMETHING to it. :)

  291. Chuck

    “When a person like this is asked who or what created God, the standard answer is that God always existed.”

    I agree with the gentleman with the Mark Twain passage, but Aquinas’ argument (which Aquinas would even agree with) actually goes back to Aristotle, who would argue that since something can’t come from nothing, there has to be a First Source.

    The intriguing thing about this debate is that, even in science, there’s a requirement of faith to accept someone else’s extrapolations as fact. Case in point, back in the 19th Century, scientists were beginning to believe that man evolved from more primitive species, and that man directly descended from Neanderthal man. Now, up until ten years ago, that was the widely held scientific view until a group of Germans tested the DNA and found too many variances between Neanderthal and modern humans. Yet, up until that point the scientific community kept its faith in a Neanderthal progenitor of the human race. Heck, I still have atheist friends who still believes that modern man directly descended from Neanderthal despite the contradictory and compelling evidence.

    So, to those, and the rest of you, who hold the old line that we evolved from the Neanderthal creature, how did we get here if the DNA evidence says otherwise? I personally would argue that evolution as we know it doesn’t come from random mutation, but through a concept in the computing world known as class inheritance, where a programmer (in this case, a Divine Entity) builds more complex structures out of simpler structures. This explanation makes far more sense to me than modern evolutionary theory — which looks more like a collage than even scientific conjecture.

    Of course, as time elapses and we learn more about the universe we live in, the pendulum of course will continue to swing.

  292. Very interesting discussion and it stimulates a lot of thought. I just wanted to add my testimony. I am believer God and His sending Jesus Christ take on the wrath that will one day soon be poured out on the earth. My evidence of God is the change He made in my life once I surrendered over to Him. Many people attribute this change in my life to other factors. But my life being on a better path I attribute to His having come into my life. Let me share a topic that is not popular at all. The issue of divine justice. Just for a moment consider the issue of eternal damnation.

    Eternal Damnation – Is it really a far fetched idea?

    The thought of a person burning in torment throughout eternal without a second of rest is a little hard to believe. It is hard to believe especially when this torment is due to their not being perfect on earth. For we think that it is impossible for any of us to be perfect here on earth. How can we be perfect, when we are but only human? Even if man did naughty things on earth, but how could a loving God ever send such a person to burn without mercy, without end, with no hope of ever escaping. What could a mere human being do that could demand such a response from God? Unless the person committed the atrocities of Hitler they simply do not deserve such a conclusion.

    Such way of thinking is the result of man making himself the judge. In his limited understanding without all of the facts he has determined what is just and what is not just.
    Is it impossible for God to create all things perfect and in agreement with Him? Can God give His intelligent living beings the option not to serve Him? Serving God by choice they are forewarned of the consequence of not serving Him. Is this idea an impossibility?
    God in His Word tells us that He created all things in perfect harmony with Him. Some intelligent living beings willfully rebel against Him. God made a way of escape for man but man must chose to accept the way of escape.

    The law of God is in effect for eternity. When a sin is committed it is in violation of the law until the penalty is for the sin is paid. If man does not place his sins on Jesus Christ then his sins are never forgiven. For eternity the sins are in violation with the law and for eternity they will be served justice.

    The essence of eternal damnation is that the justice of God demands that all which is contrary to His law be served justice. His mercy allows man a chance to place his sins at the cross. Once man leaves earth there is no plan of salvation in the next life. If man dies in his sins there is no divinely ordained method nor possibility of escape. Ever.

    Have your sins been forgiven?

  293. keithschricker

    Is it not more plausable that we were created.Look at your hand and consider the other options out there, a tenticle, a crab’s claw, would notthese things be just as effective as your own hand?
    Most scientists can not fathom the Darwinian explanation they simply do not calculate the infathomable odds against the cosmic mistake argument.

    If you actually research the theory you find that Darwin saw it as a tool of God. It was Huxley who wanted to make it into an alternative religion so as to eliminate the fact that there are places in the bible where homosexual relations with children are against the laws of the old testament

  294. friedegg

    The fundamental tenet of God that seems lost in many of us is that there is no separation of God and Science.
    The reason some can read the signs, is that they are simply reading the fractals of creative energy that exist within a framework of atomic particles in both harmony and disharmony creating a balanced equation that is life.
    So if you ask me if God exists, prove it…I say look around you.
    And if someone asks that God doesn’t exist, where is he, I say look around you.
    The faith is an integral component of the scientific nature of our surroundings.
    The problem with considering the Big Bang as truth and saying that God created the Big Bang or even that there exists a metaverse outside is as ridiculous as saying that there is a a shadow photon.
    A shadow photon is defined to explain the unexplainable.
    And time is meaningless in our definitions so don’t muddle the argument with time paradox.
    God is not defineable in our terms for those who have faith.
    Those who don’t simply can’t comprehend a greater power, well, there opinion is biased and should truly be considered sampling error due to observer bias (or blinded).
    The same can be true for those with faith who have nothing better to do than to berate the unbelievers or those of other faiths. Hello?…who made you God?

    The facts are facts and the faith is faith.
    One day all will be revealed in both science and faith and the facts will be plain for all to see.

    Science = Faith
    Disprove that!

  295. fried egg (#309): That’s easy. Read this: Science is not faith-based.

    Next!

  296. friedegg

    The fundamental tenet of God that seems lost in many of us is that there is no separation of God and Science.
    The reason some can read the signs, is that they are simply reading the fractals of creative energy that exist within a framework of atomic particles in both harmony and disharmony creating a balanced equation that is life.
    So if you ask me if God exists, prove it…I say look around you.
    And if someone says that God exists but I can’t prove it, I say you just did (consciousness).
    The faith is an integral component of the scientific nature of our surroundings.
    The problem with considering the Big Bang as truth and saying that God created the Big Bang or even that there exists a metaverse outside is as ridiculous as saying that there is a a shadow photon.
    A shadow photon is defined to explain the unexplainable.
    And time is meaningless in our definitions so don’t muddle the argument with time paradox.
    God is not defineable in our terms for those who have faith.
    Those who don’t simply can’t comprehend a greater power, and well, there opinion is biased and should truly be considered sampling error due to observer bias (or blinded).
    The same can be true for those with faith who have nothing better to do than to berate the unbelievers or those of other faiths. Hello?…who made you God? Science allows for mutiplicity of genomic phenomena; so why not religion?

    The facts are facts and the faith is faith.
    One day all will be revealed in both science and faith and the facts will be plain for all to see.

    Science = Faith
    Disprove that!
    Or better yet, don’t and simply end this argument and just be happy to live your lives with a loving family and make peace with your neighbour.
    That is the scientific reality of faith.
    1 good deed x Y = Z.
    Conjugate that and rest happy that you are all faithful.

  297. friedegg

    To Phil:

    I guess you believe everything you read.
    Substantiate your faith with science not more trivia.

  298. ras

    well..
    i don’t ever think whether God exit or not…

    but i love YOUR sentence “why can’t you ask the same thing of God?”

    & .. “”"science learns.”"”"

    may be d god is phenomenon which comes under d science of mind…

    its hard to explain people when they see god n science on opposite sides… basically.. may be science n religion are opponent!!!!!!!
    :) :)

  299. Dale701

    Great blog!
    I DO NOT believe any god created the universe.
    I DO believe that life exists elsewhere, if Bruno would not recant and get burnt at the stake for believing this without the evidence we have today, I am good with that.

    I do believe in cognitive dissonance, science and theist.

    I do NOT believe the earth is the center of the universe.
    All measurements taken from earth, with galaxies more distant, moving away at greater speeds. This makes the earth the center of the big bang!
    The Big Bang being proposed by a priest I might add.
    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/1945606/posts

    This area should be a great empty place, with matter forming on the outer edge of the expansion of space time.
    This is why I do not believe in the big bang theory, among many other problems.
    If the theory was true, then if you looked in the direction of the big bang, the red shift would be less than in the direction away from the big bang.

    This leads me to believe, the universe is much much older and bigger, maybe even infinite in nature.

  300. Bradley Kisia

    I agree with most of what has been written in this document in regards to proof and science. However, I believe in God… I would take it further, but it is of no consequence in this discourse.

    I agree that science has its scope of operation and faith has its own – that is total. It is consequently a bit foolhardy to look at gaps in nature that science cannot currently answer and then claim that God has provided an answer for this in the bible, or Quran, or whatever; likewise, it is a bit the same looking at nature as it currently is and show that it has been shown to be so in the bible. I refuse to believe that the bible (at least that is what I know) is a book of science and the mistake of assuming this to be true was the cause of a lot of problems to some of the founds of modern science – including Galileo and Copernicus. Science must get its evidence from observation and should be able to predict scientific knowledge currently unknown. Science is principally based on models that are more and more able to answer more and more questions that science poses (while at the same time posing new ones – that is the joy of the sciences). It is wrong – for example – to state that the bible does not agree with the theory of evolution so consequently science is wrong. It could be wrong, but science is correctable – it self corrects – case in point is the theory of relativity and classical physics as was put out by Newton.

    On the other hand faith must be reasonable but it is also personal. We may not agree with the bible as a historic record, but it provides some historical document of some happenings in the past – just like there are historical books on Alexander and the famous knot (I don’t remember the name). What we can at least tell is that Alexander did live; likewise we should have some picture that there was a man in Galilee called Jesus; one of the authors of the gospels says he knew him on a one-to-one basis; why should we doubt this report of an eye witness? We could refuse certain facts of it all, but the main fact (at least for those who are not Christian) is that there was a Jesus and his message seems to have been that he was the promised messiah.

    I believe that the Aquinas ‘proofs’ (which are not really proofs, but arguments for God’s existence) are sufficient FOR ME to have some certitude that there is a God. The attributes of this God would generally be dependent on arguments drawn from these arguments as well as on one’s religion. The cause and effect argument of Aquinas is especially valid for me because it states that we are a system of realities that receive existence and such a system cannot explain for itself. We could could assume the existence of multiverses and so forth, but the fact holds that to date; in this universe, we don’t know of anything that exists without having been brought to exist. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principal can be extended to provide for the possibility of such happening, but this is limited by the amount of time it exists (OK, here I am using science as some kind of gap – but the general principal is that we cannot find that thing that came to exist on its own). What Aquinas then says is that if there such a system that cannot explain itself and thus should not exist (even by accident because then it is caused), there is a need for a reality that explains for its own existence.

    This does not necessarily end up becoming justified by the big bang theory because there could be a better theory later that makes the big bang theory outdated; but it is a good argument for ME.

    It is true that dogma is unchanging; by its nature it has to be. However, I like the argument put forward and it has given me some material for thought; it has been put out generally well without being insulting to me. Good discourse man! Good discourse!

  301. Carver

    “…it’s not possible to prove God exists, and you certainly can’t prove a negative. ”

    Though it is not the thrust of your article it is my main contention with what you’ve said is that this is wrong, and in such an obvious way that I’m surprised people believe it. Yet people trot it out all the time. Why?

    First, why it is wrong:
    Here’s a negative I can prove: “The sun is not the center of the universe.” Here’s another one: “1 plus 1 does not equal 3.” You yourself offer a number of negative proofs: people do not see god in wood; the statue does not weep milk; prayers do not effect the outcome of events in the way people believe (god doesn’t respond to prayers and heal sickness and so on).

    In a posteriori proofs, we can prove a negative by showing that some alternative is true that excludes the negated assertion. In a priori proofs, we can prove a negative by showing that the logical conclusion of some premises is a contradiction, therefore, the premise is not true. Anyone who takes a course in logic ought to know this.

    Why do people use it then?
    I think people say that we can’t prove negatives because of Russell’s Tea Pot example, which is a great example, but we atheist skeptics have taken the wrong lesson from it if we think it shows you cannot prove a negative. It shows where the burden of proof lies: on the one making the claim and not on the one skeptical of it. It shows that one can insert excuses into almost any assertion to the point where it becomes practically impossible to disprove. It says nothing at all about what kind of claims are and are not falsifiable. Russell, as a philosopher very well versed in logic, most definitely knew that you can prove all sorts of negatives.

    Another possible reason is that people think “well, someone could always posit some other condition that would make the proof not DEFINITIVE, so we can never prove a negative period.” But this is just as true of positive claims; no (non-axiomatic) proof is ever going to be 100% irrefutable.

  302. patzo

    I agree you can’t prove god exist, & being asked to prove a negative is a not even an argument.

    the word “God” is too loaded with preconceptions for anyone remain subjective. I prefer the term IT. IT is not man, not woman, not emotional- , not vengeful, does not require worship, & does not condem those who do not worship IT.

    There are quite a few that have experienced god/IT directly-not as an abstract idea- myself included. IT exist in all things, & can be experienced directly, at a deeper level than surface appearances, where we begin to know that all is one. We are all a piece of IT. The experience of oneness of all things , of KNOWING IT & being one , is beyond what words can describe or any need to convice people it was experiencing the truth. Not any god of any religion I have read about.

    Each person is entitled to believe whatever they choose. IT cares not. Our history appears to us as matireal evolution, void of any god. The evolution of form, of consciousness, science, understanding do not prove nor disprove its existence. IT exist beyond time & the time iIT created, & of what is required to us for all evolution to take place. From IT’s “perspective” all time is happening in an eternal NOW where IT resides in its purer form.

    The entireity of IT is infinite, & precedes the existence of the entire manifest world we can see, quantify & measure. There are many things that exist, yet can never be package & quantified into neat little formulas.

    God does not exist in the same way that man holds his beliefs. IT does not exist within the same time & space IT created. The truth is, that we are all a tiny piece of IT, experiencing ITSELF,. Deep in the silence of our true eternal self, is the greater SELF of which we were all born & are a part of. This can be experienced directly, & is so real & so powerful no one who has this experience will doubt what they have experience is real. There is a level of knowing that is like a sense we never were aware of or knew we had. There is no middleman, no priest or Jesus as a go between.

    An unrelated interesting “belief” – modern physicist- for many decades, understand that ultimately atoms are not little solid particles, & can’t be isolated to exist at an exact place at a precise time. Called the Heisenberg principle- accepted by Einstein & many other great 20th century physicist. The “particles” can only accurately be said to have “tendencies to exist” at a certain place & time, in what is called a probility cloud. We are not solid as it seems, & can more accurately described as being formed out of energy patterns.
    Read the Tao of Physics. I find this understanding has deeply profound implications.

    Einstein’s belief in an undivided solid reality was clear to him, so much so that he completely rejected the separation we experience as the moment of now. He believed there is no true division between past and future, there is rather a single existence. His most descriptive testimony to this faith came when his lifelong friend Besso died.
    Einstein wrote a letter to Besso’s family, saying that although Besso had preceded him in death it was of no consequence, “…for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.”

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