God 0, Atheism 2: Hitchens Eats Another Religious Figure for Lunch

By Melissa Lafsky | September 23, 2008 1:42 pm

religionAre you there God, and if so, will you please provide an emissary that can go head-to-head with Christopher Hitchens without getting spectacularly flayed?

That was the pertinent issue during yesterday’s “Big Questions conversation” at the Pierre Hotel, hosted by On Faith and the John Templeton Foundation. The luncheon pitted Hitchens, the anti-theist poster child, against Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, a physicist, theologian, and author of God at the Ritz: Attraction to Infinity.

Given the pro-God squad’s spectacular failure the last time it staged a debate like this, the buzz among the predominantly male and heavily tweeded crowd was, “Will Albacete bring his A game against a man known for his periodic disembowling of religious delegates?”

The answer, unfortunately, was a resounding no. While the monsignor presented a charismatic and sympathetic figure—his Isaac Hayes-esque vocal resonance was worth the trip alone—his arguments, if one could call them that, didn’t make it past a freshmen theology class.

Albacete’s strategy seemed to be to dance around his opponent—never has “I agree with you completely” been so frequently uttered by a Catholic priest to a hardcore atheist—and rely on his ecclesiastical gravitas to give credence to his chief points: that science and religion can co-exist; that human beings are biological creatures defined by faith; that religion and faith are separate entities; and that science has not provided sufficient proof that God doesn’t exist to squelch the belief that He does.

All of which could be sound claims if argued effectively, with cogent reasoning and specific examples to counter the obvious holes that Hitchens wasted no time presenting: The burden of proof rests on deists, not atheists, to prove there is a God; no scientific evidence exists to support the assertion that Jesus Christ was the son of God, or even existed; and the tenets of organized religion are nothing more than the “delusions” of humankind needed to sustain our desire for pageantry and meaning.

Rather than hit these atheist talking points head on, the Monsignor sputtered and evaded his way through the hour, clinging to an agenda focused on capitulation short of outright renunciation of belief. Religion, he admitted, has done “a lot” of harm, but “science has been [just] as misused.” When Hitchens accused Albacete of flippancy concerning the pain Christianity has caused despite the total lack of existential evidence, the priest responded: “I have seen evidence in my experience that Jesus Christ existed.” Excellent! An original point! So what was this evidence? Too bad we never found out—either he had no answer, or was unwilling to share.

It’s unfortunate that Albacete brought so little from his distinguished career and thoughtful writings, which demonstrate a commitment to open-minded discussion of an issue that has brought humanity to an impasse. Instead he seemed intent on emerging from the Upper East Side with his dignity intact, as well as besting the king of one-liners in a soundbite contest. A few highlights:

“To me, faith is the problem…it’s like trying to explain to your uncomprehending family why you’ve fallen in love with so and so.”

“You could substitute for Christ the Great Lizard, for all I care.”

“When I was looking [to woo] my women, I did not send them equations.”

“As I try to live a decent life…something extraordinary enters my life and moves me the way nothing ever has before. Was it what I drank? Was it the pizza? Was it what I’d been smoking? Most of the time, it is!”

So there you have it: It might be God, or it might be bad pizza. Lets hope the next champion of God (an imam perhaps?) that battles Hitchens is armed with a slightly more compelling response.

This post has been appended to reflect that Hitchens is an anti-theist rather than an anti-deist.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Evolution, Science & Religion

Comments (394)

  1. No evidence; no god. It’s that simple.

    Nice job, Mr. Hitchens.

  2. “Lets hope the next champion of God (an imam perhaps?) that battles Hitchens is armed with a slightly more compelling response.”

    Or not. Seems pretty unlikely that there even is a more compelling response. But now we know your bias, Melissa Lafsky!

  3. This article contains an error: Hitchens is not an “anti-deist” but an anti-theist. If the author doesn’t know the difference between theism and deism I will provide rough definitions:
    DEISM: is a belief that a god created the universe, but after the creation it has not intervened in its operation.
    THEISM: is a belief that a god created the universe, and that ever since it has been intervening in its operation, e.g. answering prays, sending his son to Earth, etc.

  4. I love watching Hitchens butcher these morons.

    As a former Jew used to debating relatively liberal Jews, the Boteach debate was one of my favorite performance. Of course, the Sharpton debate is up there as well, if it can be called a debate, as well as the conversation with D’Souza.

  5. Stephanurus

    “…human beings are biological creatures defined by faith.” Not so. Human beings are defined by biology. Period. Not by culture. Not be religion. Biology. Of course there are those who claim otherwise, by assertion only.

  6. Matt

    “But now we know your bias, Melissa Lafsky!”

    Or maybe she’s just looking for a more interesting discussion. Don’t be an ass.

  7. Mike

    As much as I enjoy the debate and, of course, being on the winning side, it seems more or less pointless to continue. If you believe in magic, the card trick is marvelous, the whole performance memorable. If you don’t believe in magic, you smile & shake your head. But if, like Hitchens, you don’t believe and you know how all the tricks are done, there are no surprises and the game is up.

    I guess you keep hoping to open a few more minds but even that seems less and less likely.

  8. Jason

    Did they film this debate? I can’t seem to find a link anywhere on the On Faith site, nor in your article above, containing either video or an article :( Thanks.

  9. Soda

    Please tell me there’s video of this.

  10. If no one filmed this, that’s proof of a godless universe.

  11. “No evidence; no god. It’s that simple. “

    With all due respect, it’s not that simple.

    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    You like that old chestnut?

    “The argument from ignorance, also known as argumentum ad ignorantiam (“appeal to ignorance” [1]) or argument by lack of imagination, is a logical fallacy in which it is claimed that a premise is true only because it has not been proven false or is false only because it has not been proven true.

    The argument from personal incredulity, also known as argument from personal belief or argument from personal conviction, refers to an assertion that because one personally finds a premise unlikely or unbelievable, the premise can be assumed not to be true, or alternatively that another preferred but unproven premise is true instead.

    Both arguments commonly share this structure: a person regards the lack of evidence for one view as constituting proof that another view is true. The types of fallacies discussed in this article should not be confused with the reductio ad absurdum method of argument, in which a valid logical contradiction of the form “A and not A” is used to disprove a premise.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance

  12. Discover Webmaster

    Note: A video of the discussion was recorded by the John Templeton Foundation. We will post it as soon as it becomes available.

  13. John Farrell

    I look forward to the video. Given how modestly Hitchens did against Douglas Wilson in their long discussion, I’d like to see this one and not just rely on the cheer-leader’s summary.

  14. Archaneus

    @ Charlie Wagner

    You’re right, the phrasing on that statement was poor and as stated it is, in fact, not true. Absence of evidence is indeed not evidence of absence, however, what I believe was meant by that statement is a valid point. Perhaps I am wrong, but I believe the intention was to say, “If there is no evidence for god, there is no reason to assume he is there.” This is the correct position. The burden of proof lies with the one making the claim. To claim there is a god legitimately you must have evidence backing up that claim and in the entire history of humanity no such evidence has been forthcoming. This is not proof that god does not exist, it however shows there is not legitimate reason to think he does, and therefore the default position would fall to non-existence.

  15. Rich

    Interesting… If a lack of physical evidence is all that is required to disprove the existence of something and if belief (or faith) in something that has not been rigorously proven to exist is the practice of “morons”, then I demand to know why we hold in such high esteem the “morons” who are attempting to recreate the initial instant of the universe’s birth. For example, the most brilliant scientific minds of our time have used “inference” to describe the existence of the Higgs Boson and better yet: “dark matter”, a material that has never been seen or physically measured, yet we believe exists because our calculations of the way the universe should behave- based on what we can see and measure- does not agree with its actual behaviour. Since what we can see does not behave the way we expect it to, we must (by inference) describe (that’s a nice way of saying “have faith in”) the existence of something we believe exists but have never seen…Dark matter! What a wonderful scientific contrivence… if science can’t describe it…call it “dark”! Or perhaps I should use this tongue-in-cheek sentence: “You could substitute for Dark Matter the Great Lizard, for all I care.” Faith! What if the LHC does not provide the evidence needed to validate the theories supporting the Higgs Boson, dark matter and string theory?? Does that mean they do not exist? Or better yet does that mean that we do not exist since current theory hypothesizes that those things are the elemental building blocks of our existence? What are all of us practictioners of until we are able to grab onto something concrete? Faith. Faith that our calculations, assumptions and insights are correct. I fear the day when the human race gets to the point in its evolution where it’s arrogance out weighs its humilty and it believes that it’s knowledge of the universe actually defines the universe. Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you never lose the part of you that hungers for truth and allows faith to inspire you to search for what others say does not exist because THEY have never seen or experienced it (such as a new route to the West Indies, Bosons, Dark Matter or God). When we do evolve to that place we will not be worth the primordial goo we came from.
    Does God exist? Yes he does. I cant scientifically prove it right now but I can infer, by my experiences, that He most certainly does. He is the Dark Matter that holds this universe together! And we dont have to wait for the LHC to come up to full speed to prove or disprove that hypothesis… one day we will all have the opportunity to know for sure for our selves, one way…or another.

  16. Gustaf Sjöblom

    If there was a good argument for the existence of any deity we would have heard it over and over, there is none. As long as you accept the basic premise that without any evidence there is no reason to accept ANY notion, non-theism is the only reasonable position regarding deities.

  17. Joel

    That was a little …weak. A lot of animosity and not a lot of substance. I get that the author doesn’t like God. OK. Thanks. But that’s not really helpful. I enjoy Discover because it tends toward scientific. I do not think using “God squad” as a pejorative term is a very scientific use of words.

    I have no problem with people who don’t believe in God. And God has no problem with science. Even the Pope admits this.

    Yes, people have caused harm in the ‘name’ of religions. But people have been causing eachother harm for years for whatever reason they could come up with. The entire Cold War (and a number of smaller hot ones) was fought because of a difference in economics.

    But again: beside the point. If you believe that religion has caused more harm then good for humanity that doesn’t make God more or less real. God being real or not doesn’t make scientific method more or less real.

    and arguing that Christ didn’t exist is a little tenuous. Whether he was God or not is a different subject but he’s mentioned in the pre-Christian church histories. So you’ll have to talk to Josephus about that.

    And again: not the point: the point is Discover magazine is supposed something this article isn’t. This just one angry author being as mean as he can be to Christians. If you don’t believe in God, really I’m ok with that. It doesn’t hurt my feelings, at all. But to publish this is a little offensive. If he had a greater scientific point (other then “isn’t this God guy dumb”) I’d be ok with it. But the author doesn’t even try to discuss anything other then ‘Christians are dumb’.

    …which is dumb. If we are going to have a debate (an honest real debate) we have to treat eachother with at least a little respect. I’m not saying you have to talk to people who don’t believe in Dinosaurs …those people are just nuts. But if someone with training in and respect for the scientific method believes in God: I don’t see why anyone would feel the need to be offended by that. I know the “there are no Dinosaur” people want to cut science funding and teach creationism in school: and that does hurt everyone. But these are crazy people who happen to be crazy. Don’t stereotype all Christians by these people (because stereotyping doesn’t work). Fight that with facts and science. Don’t fight it by saying “God is dumb”. Not only will that never work: it’s mean.

    Just like I wouldn’t recommend having a debate with someone who says science proves that one race is inferior or superior, or that cigarettes don’t cause cancer. These people are nuts. But if someone doesn’t believe in God: why should I not treat you with respect? Why should we not be able get along?

    So be nice. That’s all I wanted to say. Just try to be nice to everyone.

  18. theinquisitor

    Rich, there’s plenty of evidence for dark matter. Gravitational lensing for example. There’s something there that’s creating gravitational fields that bend light, and it cannot be normal matter. These are real repeatable empirical observations. You should check up on these things before you embarass yourself.

    Infer from your experiences? Do you really think this compares to the way science works? I had an imaginary friend when I was child, I guess it’s reasonable to infer his existence too.

  19. K. Signal Eingang

    Er, we have observed dark matter. Great freaking clouds of it. It’s not directly observable because it doesn’t radiate, but you can see it as plain as your shadow on a sunny day when there’s a radiation source behind it.

    Here’s an example: http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap070820.html

    I think you may be confused by the difference between “inferring” something and “really really wanting to believe” it.

  20. K. Signal Eingang

    As long as I’m correcting weird claims – Joel, no reputable historian on earth thinks Josephus actually wrote a thing about Jesus. There is a passage mentioning him but it’s rather clearly a later addition by some helpful and no doubt devout editor.

  21. stephanie

    actually rich, many scientists do argue that string theory is all talk and no evidence and will eventually be discarded entirely. however, this theism foolishness has seen the same identical and tired arguments fail for millenia (arguments mind you, and not a scrap of good evidence) and the losers still won’t let it die.

  22. G

    To Charlie Wagner, et. al.

    Absense of evidence *is* evidence of absence. See link:

    http://www.overcomingbias.com/2007/08/absence-of-evid.html

  23. G

    Grr, missed that typo…

  24. Alexander

    if science can’t describe it…call it “dark”!

    Well, we have X-rays. We didn’t know what they were at first but later we found out. That is science, looking for answers to questions, without that activity we wouldn’t have science. Science is research, searching for explanations, not unwrapping them from mostly stupid and outdated scriptures written by stupid men in the past.

  25. Mark

    Let’s see now. There’s no evidence of Charlie Wagner’s mother being in the room with me right now, so I conclude she is absent. Yet Chaz disagrees. How odd.

  26. Sasha

    Rich…
    Bosons may or may not exist, it just that the Standard Model used in physics predicts it does. No one is 100% sure yet, which is why LHC was built. Dark matter certainty exists as we can detect it’s gravity.

    However, nothing in physics, not even the Standard Model, predicts God, and whereas we can detect the direct gravity emitted from dark matter, we have yet to detect the detect gravity emitted from God.

    It’s not just lack of PHYSICAL evidence, it’s lack of ANY evidence what-so-ever.

    No evidence, no belief in God, elves, Santa, Zeus, Odin, and the Easter bunny. It’s that simple.

  27. Kim

    Ms. Lafsky must have gone to a different debate yesterday. I was there. Albacete hardly danced around his “opponent” if you will. Clearly, Hitchens was flustered and unprepared for what Albacete gave him. Hitchens expected a boxing match. I can’t blame him, since that is probably what he’s gotten a lot of in the past.Instead, he got someone validating many of the concerns he has about religion. This is quite a reasonable approach. Albacete was using reason and not some narrow vision of the world. Some here say that only biology defines a human being. While this is biologically correct, it is limiting. Our experiences and our desires define us; they define how we will be as human beings. This is the point Albacete was trying to make yesterday.

  28. Trykt

    Rich, you are not a very good troll.

    You suggest that somehow hypothesizing and experimentation are faith based initiatives, when in fact they are the tenets of the scientific method.

    Your own failure to understand scientific observations regarding Dark Matter does not in any way belittle them. Mislabeling unknown factors as examples of “faith” isn’t even a very good straw man argument – it’s just plain dishonest. Just because an idea is incomplete doesn’t mean it’s invalid. It similarly does not get a free pass just because the gaps can’t currently be filled – further investigation is required (this does not mean you get to say “God did it”, either).

    Faith in calculations and observations? You hold it to be a matter of faith that 2 plus 2 will always equal 4 (a calculation and an observation)? We know things to be true because we’ve observed them. For all we’ve observed, 2 plus 2 will always equal 4, but perhaps something in the universe could change or be revealed to trump that knowledge (2 plus 2 equals 5 for very large values of 2). Perhaps scientific and mathematical models will have to adapt for this information, but they certainly would.

    Could you say the same of any idea that is propped up by faith? Could that change to accommodate new information? By definition, it cannot, for that would call its truth and the reason for holding faith in it to be cast into doubt. Faith is not falsifiable whereas observations made via the scientific method are.

    When you hold that your ideas are unquestionable, the opposite is certainly true. Anyone that does so is certainly not interested in the truth.

  29. Gustaf Sjöblom

    To Rich:

    What is required is not physical evidence, but ANY evidence. That evidence might be physical OR theoretical evidence in the form of reasoned argumentation BASED on observable evidence.

    The LHC might produce a Higgs Boson. Many “think” it will based on reasoned arguments based on what we have learned about the workings of elementary particles. But we do not know, and we do not “believe” in the religious use of the word. The reason we “think” it exists is because it is part of a model that seems to well describe how the universe works. The LHC is partly built to see if it is there or if it isn’t, its testable! Within a few years we will be much better equipped to answer if it truly exists or not.

    The existence of God isn’t testable at all. No good reasoned argument indicates any God. There certainly isn’t any evidence for a God. This is why we reject the notion that any God exists. And no, “what if you are wrong about our God in particular?” scare tactics do not help unless there is any evidence for that God in the first place.

  30. Bill Ockham

    Rich said, “I fear the day when the human race gets to the point in its evolution where it’s arrogance out weighs its humilty (sic)….”

    Sorry, but we’re way beyond that point. Look at the leaders panicking over the economy, it will only take a trillion dollars to fix, including what they already spent. Trust them, they’re religious.

  31. Joel: I think you can be nice and still tell people that you think they are wrong.

  32. Culprit

    The real difference between science and theism is the ability to test theories and adapt understanding to those results. When anything is taken on faith, no test is necessary or wanted. This is why most activities that test belief are made into taboos by scripture.

    It is true that dominant religions have had to cede to reality because of scientific discoveries, but this is always hard fought. I think religions should start peer-reviewing dogma between faiths so that they can stop trying to put faith over testable reality.

  33. chuko

    I think it’s kind of funny all of the different viewpoints people are ascribing to the author. The only viewpoint in the article about her personal beliefs is that she seems to like a good debate.

    I love how she writes about the debate like the sport it is. Great article.

  34. Nick Kanellos

    Rich Says: “What if the LHC does not provide the evidence needed to validate the theories supporting the Higgs Boson”

    At least, Rich, you’ve acknowledged that scientists didn’t just posit the existence of the the Higgs boson and then say, “OK, now we’re done. What’s next”. In fact, sir, they had absolutely no faith that it actually does exist. Hence the 13 billion dollar LHC. They needed to prove it. Until then it’s just a hypothesis, subject to being discarded or modified. And if it’s not observed, they will surmise that they have been wrong all these years, and they will go back to the drawing board.

    When will we see the same from you?

  35. JimC

    Whether he was God or not is a different subject but he’s mentioned in the pre-Christian church histories. So you’ll have to talk to Josephus about that.

    Good grief, Josephus, the fellow with the line added to his work that is agreed upon by virtually all scholars. Yet this fellow still trots it out there.

  36. Joel

    @ jtradke: absolutely. I just don’t think that happens very often and it certainly isn’t happening in this article. The author is just kind of spiteful and mean. The article doesn’t advance the discussion and judging form the comments here it incites a lot of yelling and not a lot of discussion about either science or religion.
    I understand the sentiments on both sides. Religious people feel hurt when they are accused of being blind sheep (an accusation that is accurate only for the same percentage of Christians as it is for atheists (it’s just unfortunately many of them are on TV))
    And I very much understand why someone would be offended when they are told that science shouldn’t be taught in schools because of a (gross) misinterpretation of the bible. Many scientists put their life into studying something and to have your life’s work destoryed because someone is afraid it might hurt God (which is beyond silly, God isn’t so easily offended) it’s understandable why they’d be upset.
    But you’ll never convert anyone by denying the existence of evolution and you’ll never get someone to stop going to church by proving it.
    Evolution exists. This doesn’t make God more or less real. And it doesn’t make it more or less important to be kind.
    It’s just very frustrating when two communities I associate myself with very closely argue over something that doesn’t exist. And then the argument turns into name calling and anger and that leads to fear which leads to hate and we all know where that leads. I just feel like “Ok” should be an acceptable answer to “I [don’t or do] believe in God”.
    This is just what I think. I just want people to be nice to eachother. Maybe just a little.

  37. Johnnyjoe in KC

    Not everyone who was at the “debate” came away with the same impressions as this author.

    http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=ZGVlMjY3MzQxZDU3MDZkMjVkNTZmODJkMjI5NTdmZmM=

  38. “To claim there is a god legitimately you must have evidence backing up that claim and in the entire history of humanity no such evidence has been forthcoming. This is not proof that god does not exist, it however shows there is not legitimate reason to think he does, and therefore the default position would fall to non-existence.

    There may not be evidence for “god” (whatever that means) but there is evidence for intelligent design. There is a significant difference between intelligently designed systems and those systems which are the result of random processes. Randomly generated systems do not adapt means to ends, they do not adapt structure and process to function and they do not self-organize. And one must be careful not to confuse organization with order. There’s a lot of talk about ordered systems in the non-living world, snowflakes, tornadoes, etc. but this is not the issue. Intelligently designed systems are beyond order, which is simply a condition of logical or comprehensible arrangement among the separate elements of a group. Like putting files in alphabetical order or using a sieve to separate items by size. Organization is a much different structure in which something is made up of elements with varied functions that contribute to the whole and to collective functions, such as exist in living organisms. Ordered systems can result from non-intelligent processes, as has been seen many times and cited by many examples . But organized systems require intelligent guidance. They need to be put together with intent and their assembly requires insight. They need to be the product of intelligence because it is necessary to determine if they are functioning properly and that can only be achieved by insight. Since living systems display organization, they display means adapted to ends and structures and processes assembled to perform specific functions, it becomes self-evident that they are the product of a higher intelligence.
    There is, however no empirical evidence, either observational or experimental that there is no “god”. The preponderance of available evidence points to an intelligent dsigner, call it what you will. Therefore the default position is “we don’t know”.

  39. “Let’s see now. There’s no evidence of Charlie Wagner’s mother being in the room with me right now, so I conclude she is absent. Yet Chaz disagrees. How odd.”

    This analogy is not valid. You have evidence that she is absent: your observations.
    (BTW, my mother is dead so the analogy is moot)

    As comforting as it may seem, it’s still a logical fallacy. She may be hiding!

  40. Wow, Rich. Yours is a great perspective; any hope of getting you to debate Hitchens? I’d pay to see that!

  41. Matt

    Charlie Wagner
    Why would you make the claim that organized systems require guidance to become that way? Are you saying that an infinite number of attemps would never accomplish same results as intelligent design?

  42. David Cognito

    Joel: “and arguing that Christ didn’t exist is a little tenuous. … he’s mentioned in the pre-Christian church histories. So you’ll have to talk to Josephus about that.”

    The writings of Josephus were tampered with by later Xian scholars to make Jesus’ alleged existence seem more real. Modern Xian scholars readily admit this fact.

    Also, Josephus’ writings are from decades after the supposed death of the supposed Jesus – just like every other document that describes him. There is no contemporary evidence or historically reliable first-hand account of the existence of Jesus. It’s all hearsay and embellishment by subsequent Xians who openly admitted that lying to further the Xian cult was AOK.

    Xianity is no better than Scientology – it’s fabric of lies used to control people and extract maximum $ out of the gullible and unwary.

  43. David Cognito

    Also, Joel, your call for every one to be nice is essentially a call to stop criticism of Xian beliefs and claims. No dice.

    When the religious stop attempting to push their bronze age morality and stupidity in to the public square, then we can all be nice. Until then we need more people like Hitchens and Lafsky pointing out how ludicrous and offensive all the religious cults are.

  44. genesgalore

    god can only whisper in the ears of old men. you’d think he’d send out an email or two so everyone would get the correct message.

  45. Dustin

    You have evidence that she is absent: your observations.

    Let’s see if I’ve got this straight. Looking around and failing to find any trace of a person is evidence of their absence. Looking around and failing to find any absence of God is absence of evidence.

    Are there any other mythical creatures which deserve special exceptions in your malfunctioning logic, Charlie? Pink Unicorns? Dragons? Thor? Apollo? If not, then what is the difference between Thor, for example, and Yahweh which grants Yahweh an exception which Thor, evidently, does not deserve?

  46. llewelly

    Charlie Wagner Says:

    [quoting wikipedia]
    “The argument from ignorance, also known as argumentum ad ignorantiam (”appeal to ignorance” [1]) or argument by lack of imagination, is a logical fallacy in which it is claimed that a premise is true only because it has not been proven false or is false only because it has not been proven true.

    Come on, Charlie, where’s your Immanuel Velikovsky quote about Homo Ignoramus ?

  47. Russ

    Charlie,

    The notion of intelligent design is predicated on a lie. In order to substantiate the claim that nature manifests an intelligent design, one must know, first of all, that the patterns, regularities and uniformities we observe in nature are impossible to produce through completely natural means. Put another way, Charlie, to knowledgeably conclude that what we see in the natural world can only be the result of intelligent design, we must know all things that nature is capable of – suggesting, of course, that we must also know that we know it – and we must know that there exists no combination of these capabilities of nature’s that could lead to the cosmos we observe.

    Think about that, Charlie. We must know everything that nature can do, know that we know it all – we didn’t miss anything, and we must know the end result of combining and mixing every factor with every other combination of factors, and we must know that each and every one cannot possibly give rise to the natural world we live in.

    From the accelerating pace of discovery, I know that we are not even close to a full understanding of nature. Do you think we possess such an exhaustive understanding that we know everything, every jot and tittle, that nature is capable or incapable of? If not, you must realize that we aren’t in a position to conclude that our observed universe is the handiwork of some intelligent designer.

    If someone supports intelligent design they are embracing the lie that mankind is now in possession of a complete understanding of nature and from its observed deficiencies the only conclusion we are lead to is that the universe was intelligently designed.

  48. Piotr

    When, oh when, will people stop being that passive, that yielding, and start using more arguments than “no evidence”? Really, that starts to be boring. If the only argument was lack of evidence, I would never become an atheist, really.

    First, please realize that religion is not about something concrete, that “truly exists” or “does not exist”. That would be a child-talk. Religion is about INTERPRETATION. No matter which world you are in, you would never be able to call an object “God”. It is not something physical, it is not something temporal or spacial, it is not something finite, imperfect, changing, with unsatisfied will, something becoming, something acting… it is not even changing, excitable — how could you say its “alive”?

    Therefore, God is only a word used in combination with certain events. It has no empirical reality supporting it; but not in the sense of lack of evidence, evidence is simply impossible, because IT DOES NOT TOUCH REALITY… There are beliefs which are productive: like Kantian space, time, causality; or our inborn “belief” in laws of nature, which shapes our world and perspective. But no empiria follows from belief in God. Therefore, it can only interpret other empiria. Therefore, it is in itself neither “true” or “false”, it is not that God “truly exists” or “does not exist”, because it’s a point of view and nothing more…

    We assign grammatical subjects to actions (“I”, “God”, “devil”), but all that is real is actions. Subjects are superfluous and hold no truth — using the word “God” is just a lingual habit. How could you disprove habits?

    My points are following:

    1. The word god, in its most generic sense, means “something men worship (under this name)”. “There is no God” means “it is not my perspective”, I don’t worship anything with the name “God”. To put it otherwise: God exists for certain people, and doesn’t exist for others, but it is not that “he (it!) is truly there” or so, these are just childish imaginations.

    2. The word god, if taken as a “being”, means nothing: “there is a being”, “there exists existence” — man, please be serious… But religions assign some attributes to God. And I could argue that all theological attributes of God are attributes of non-being: this is how we define non-being, *nothingness*… God is beyond time: nothing chases him, he is not slower than anything, he actually cannot be time-measured with anything… Nothing changes him (time neither), he will always what he wanted to will. His will is always fulfilled. What does he do? Becomes more perfect? More knowing? Is God ruled by anything or is he a master over the whole? But there is nothing outside the whole… Sorry, this God is just not personal, he (it!) is not even alive, not even an entity.

    3. Belief in God makes sense only if it is connected with a religion — otherwise it is unnecessary sharing words with the mob. Of what use is God which doesn’t involve any morality? That he created the world when he was 80-year-old perhaps? And we all know how improbable it is that world was created… It is like taking a number with 10^120 digits (not just 120… 120th power of 10, and this is the number of digits!), and then trying to present it as an integer power (big exponent) of an integer… Good luck! This is about the probability that the world, along with us, all species, all beliefs, all theology, comes from simple laws of nature (taken to the N-th power throughout billions of years) — and still is planned. Sorry, this is just astronomically unprobable: and still, the idea of old bored God eventually creating the world seems silly to me. Other attributes of God — like that he made a revelation, or that at some moment of evolution, after millions of years, he got to think that he actually doesn’t like our behaviour, and therefore he needs to corrupt us with some chaos (so that we become indeterministic) — are just as silly, I have no words to repeat it N times. Evolution is prone to chances. Evolution makes evil more and more perfect.

    As I already explained that the word “God” makes no sense beyond religion, we can now think if science disproves God — so, actually, if it disproves religion. The answer is YES. Everything around us falsifies the doctrines of religion: e.g. man being substantially different than animal, man having a soul (let’s try callosotomy, i.e. brain splitting), sky containing some kingdom (not “in the beyond”! this word had concrete meaning: above us! Babel tower…), Adam&Eve actually existing and being 42th predecessor of Jesus (as specified in New Testament with full genealogy!), Adam&Eve being the authors of evil (oh yeah… who killed all mammoths?).

    I would encourage everyone to search for the text “Four Great Errors”: it explains how religion is based on anti-science errors.

    Philology is also science. What does philology say about the Bible? If from “God is truth” follows that everything in the word of God (the Bible) is truth, then why the hell are these stories full of errors and self-contradictions? Jesus was born 7 B.C.? Or 4 A.C.? Paul, when getting converted, saw the light while everyone heard the voice — or the opposite, Paul heard the voice and everyone saw the light? Jesus was teaching the blessings on a mountain or on flat area? Religion is interpretation, but this Bible really doesn’t say the truth, as long as we assume truth is one.

    Whether moral God exists it’s another story. There are philosophical arguments, which I call proofs, which show that the idea of morality having an external sanction is just false. These arguments can come from pure reason, but not only. If we have a look at the world, we see that there is no inherent moral order in it; unless you want to say that everything successful is automatically liked by God, you must notice that there are things unliked by God and nevertheless successful, at least for a time (whereas what is liked by God is never successful, because of nihilism and lack of will to power). Science doesn’t confirm the world is automatically ruled by morality, it actually shows the opposite. Please don’t confuse cause & effect with reward & punishment, for we can use our knowledge of causes and effects (our science) for both good and evil: these causes-and-effects are by no way morally oriented… (It is understandable. If we agree good comes from serving, pity, love of others etc., then the most serving certainly aren’t those who rule.)

    Science also shows that things Jesus believed in were false (imagine, he came to revert the sin of Adam; he also believed the Jewish temple would stay until the end of the world). What is still needed?

  49. Random Chimp

    @ Charlie Wagner

    If an “intelligent designer” is required to create “life, the universe, and everything” (to quote Douglas Adams), then doesn’t that intelligent designer require an intelligent designer and if so, doesn’t that intelligent designer require an intelligent designer, too. By that logic, you’ve just created an infinite regression.

    But, what would I know. I’m just the evolved descendant of a random chimp.

  50. Piotr

    What is most important to me is the lack of MORAL God — or the God of religions, for that matter. There are three presumptions on which this God is based:

    A) that there are moral (perhaps “non-egoistic”) deeds;
    B) that there is “freedom of will”;
    C) that there is an (automatic) moral order in the world.

    A is false because you can always find reasons to be unsatisfied with yourself, you are never perfect… B & C are mutually contradictory; B is false basing on empiria and on philosophy (it doesn’t even need determinism to be refuted); C is false likewise.

    There is no God who wants (“will of Father”) you to change laws of nature, and there is no God who wants you to change your destiny (because it is impossible by definition). Period. If you believe in chances (indeterminism), then add them to the latter (destiny).

    Moreover: everyone believes in something slightly different, so the word “God” is actually only a social factor for getting together, but no real identity. Everyone has his own god.

    Finally, if we agree that God the Father is actually not good if he puts us, against our deepest desires, in an evil world, is he still father? Can you imagine something less charitable than evolution? “God forgives always, man sometimes, nature never”. God opposed to nature? So whose will does nature fulfill?

    Subjective experience is no proof. You’re having some feelings, but that these feelings are from God is merely an interpretation habit. Please look for the text “Four Great Errors” for further explanation

  51. William

    Right on Piotr.

    Not only is there no evidence that God exists,

    there is solid evidence (in the laws of thermodynamics) that he does not exist as an active agent in this universe.

  52. Rich

    Wow! This exchange has generated the type of stimulating dialogue that I hope this blogosphere was (intelligently) designed for.
    I want to touch on just a couple of points quickly and then end my involvement in agreement with what was stated earlier, that regardless of what is said here, we will all walk away with the same beliefs (or lack thereof) that we started off with.
    I would like to start by addressing Nick Kanellos’ comment that either God does not want His existence tested or His believers do not have the heart to submit their faith in God to the type of testing which could either prove or disprove God’s existence. To this I say, Mr.Kanellos you err because you do not know the God described in Judeo-Christian scripture. In scripture (specifically Malachi 3:10) God speaks to His people and challenges them to test Him and His ability to keep His promises to them. God is NOT afraid of our ignorance, disbelief or challenges to His existence. He is the self existant one. Though He desires our faith in Him (faith is necessary because we can not physically sense Him), His existence is NOT dependant upon our belief in the truth of His existence. Did black holes exist before Einstein theorized their existence? I hope we all agree that the correct answer is a resounding YES.
    Along the same lines, my closing point is on the ability of the community at large to effectively “test” God’s existence. I need not belabour the importance of testing for the purpose of achieving results that will provide the data necessary to arrive at an irrefutable (and correct) conclusion. In order to do that though, we, the experimenters, must be willing to fully immerse ourseves in the experiment as both the experimenter and the lab rat. God challenges us in Malachi to test Him but He also lets us know that in order to get useful data from any experiment He is a part of, the experimenter must also be a willing participant. That being said, no ammeter, x-ray telescope or scanning electron microscope will ever be able to detect God because He exists on a plane not accessible by physical devices. “That’s ridiculous!” you hrrumph! Is it? I’ve seen startling pictures taken of galaxies in one area of the em spectrum (for instance x-ray) while that same galaxy was invisible from the infra-red or visible regions. What am I saying here? Simply that you will never see God as long as you use the wrong equipment by confining your search to the physical plane. The reason you fail to recognize God’s existence is not because He does not exist but because you are not looking in the right place. God’s desire is for relationship with man so flipping on a spectrometer or atomic scale is not going to get you the results you were hoping for! Jesus said “God is a spirit and they who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth.” If you want to know a spiritual being, you must be willing to access the spiritual plane. As long as you close that region off from yourself you will never see what is inside of it. Although quarks exist I can not see them with the tools readily available to me (meaning my eyes, ears, hands, nose and tongue). In the right laboratory however, with the right equipment, the proper mindset and goals in mind, I can know whatever I want to know… the truth. If you really want to know if God exists, you first must be willing to make the sacrifice necessary (as was done to build the LHC) to test the hyphothesis. In this case the first step in successfully “seeing” God is opening yourself or unbiasing yourself to His existance and being willing to go where you have never gone before because that is the only way to see what you have never seen before.

  53. Joel, I hope I can shed some light on where this animosity comes from. As a life long atheist, I have felt very acute hatred and discrimination caused from my lack of belief. Speaking with other atheists, it seems to be a common theme here in the USA.

    That being said, atheists have suffered for centuries. There was a reprieve in the time just past the ’60’s, where alternative religions, and outright disbelief was accepted all over the country. The country seemed to be more secular and accepting. Then came Reagan. The first clash of the culture wars left many scars. Then Bush Sr., who so loved his fellow man, he was quoted as saying that I shouldn’t be considered a patriot, nor even a citizen. Now, we have to suffer through a war that Bush Jr. claims was inspired by his belief.

    Next, throw in our new mascots. Hitchens, Dawkins, PZ, Harris.. we finally have people that are willing to stand up and give us a voice. So by the broken bodies of Hypatia of Alexandria, and Giordano Bruno, I say were tired of being told to sit down and be quiet. Its time to call religions what they are, fairy tales.

    Piotr, I like what your saying. I do have one nagging question. When you type
    “C) that there is an (automatic) moral order in the world.”
    shouldn’t that be an ‘a’, instead of an ‘an’? Since the word ‘automatic’ is in parenthesis, wouldn’t it be ignored by the rules governing the use of a/an? I’m no grammar nazi, and Darwin knows I make more than my fair share of mistakes, I’m just asking as a point of debate :)

  54. Michael H

    Charlie Wagner,
    “There is a significant difference between intelligently designed systems and those systems which are the result of random processes. Randomly generated systems do not adapt means to ends, they do not adapt structure and process to function and they do not self-organize.”

    You’re completely correct except for that last point (there are basic chemical reactions that self-organize – crystals are a simple example, but we know of many classes of complex chemicals NOT generated by life that organize in ways that can be worked on by evolutionary processes).

    As for the rest, you’re exactly correct. And what you’re utterly wrong about is that those are things we see in biology.

    There ARE significant differences between designed and non-designed processes. We don’t see ANY designed processes in biology. Even on a superficial level, the complication of all the molecular workings are so twisted and interdependent, any programmer would assume it was written by monkeys on typewriters. In fact, programs developed by sexual combination, randomization, and selection bear many of the hallmarks of genetics.

    LIFE does not adapt means to ends, nor does it adapt structure and process to function. In all cases we’ve ever found, means, structure, and process all vary randomly with no intent or goal. These changes affect the fitness of an individual based purely and simply on their environment. The simple point that you’re missing is SELECTION. Every aspect of biology exists not to fit a problem, but because some random changes that did help led to creatures that out-bred their rivals. The road to where we are now has hundreds of billions of dead ends leading off of it. It’s myopic to think that Humankind just popped into existence, and explains pretty much nothing of why we are the way we are, with out poor eyes, misbegotten spines, dental traumas, susceptability to disease, and similarity to all other creatures on earth.

    And your appeal to the argument from ignorance would be nice if the argument were based on unprovability, but unforunately there’s that massive lack of any evidence whatsoever, on top of better explanations for the existence of religion in secular human psychology.

  55. joel

    Bart Mitchell,
    I understand why you’re angry. Bush and his ilk are …well they’re bad people. They’re bad people who happen to be Christian so I understand where you are coming from. These people (fundamentalists) upset me too (probably more then you).
    I just wish we (humanity) didn’t feel the need to be mean all the time. Sigh, I just long for a world where you can say “Joel, I don’t believe in your God …but have you seen my new particle accelerator?!” and I can reply “That’s ok God loves you anyway. ..particle accelerator?! Is it the one that comes with the free higgs boson?”
    and then we can talk about either God or Particle Accelerators. I just don’t see why we have to talk about the one when we talk about the other. You know what I mean?
    anyway I hope you do. And for all the people who claim my religion who are mean to you: I’m sorry. I’ve read the bible, they’re not supposed to do that. Please be patient with them though. They’re idiots but they are trying …in their own idiotic way.

  56. Steve in MI

    Joel,

    I understand your Lennonesque hope for the peaceful coexistence of religion and reason. Unfortunately, there are religious adherents who go out of their way to make it impossible. “Evidence suggests that the Universe is 13.7 billion years old”, says the scientist. “Impossible! The Universe was created in seven days!”, says the fundamentalist. “Sorry, but multiple lines of repeatable evidence point to that conclusion”, says the scientist. “Heathen! Blasphemer! You’re going to hell for lying to our children. Where’s that school board so we can get some REAL, Bible-based science taught to these impressionable young minds!”, says the fundamentalist. Repeat for any number of social issues, making sure to pay little if any mind to any religious beliefs other than your own.

    Now, imagine no religion….

  57. I’ve read the bible too, and there are plenty of references to killing unbelievers. Plus other passages that tell you to turn the other cheek. Thats the whole problem with Christianity. It can be interpreted to be anything you want. Even if we were to make an entire generation accept the bible in your literal view, I’m betting that it wouldn’t be more than 2 generations before fundamentalism pops up its ugly head again.

    If we removed all the fundamentalists from Christianity, it would be a tiny religion with few adherents. Even Catholicism, with its acceptance of evolution, heliocentrism, etc, has many of its world members who vehemently denounce those theories. Your faith is carried on the shoulders of people who want to burn witches, gays, and are waiting with baited breath for the rapture.

    Lastly, as I mentioned, I studied the bible. I simply don’t understand how a rational, thinking person can buy into it. Jesus clearly supported the Law “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”Mat 5-20. Now go look at that law. Its full of nut crazy stuff, and it has that famous passage about killing gays because they are unclean. Plus, if you accept Jesus, you have to accept that demons get into peoples bodies, and need to be exorcised. (Mat 8-24), and don’t forget that of the people who heard his words, some would see the end of the world.

    Joel, do you believe in Demons getting into peoples bodies? Should gays be killed because they are unclean? Should we throw stones at men who eat shellfish, or trim the corners of their beards? If you deny the law, then you deny Jesus. Or have you so watered down your faith that it has little meaning beyond ‘The Golden Rule’ which is both ambiguous, and ubiquitous amongst the cultures of the world.

  58. “Are you saying that an infinite number of attemps would never accomplish same results as intelligent design?”

    We don’t have infinite time. The universe is probably around 13.7 x 10^9 years old and the solar system much less.

    The probability of life appearing spontaneously on Earth is so small that it is very
    difficult to grasp without comparing it with something more familiar. Imagine a
    blindfolded person trying to solve the Rubik cube. Since he can’t see
    the results of his moves, they must all be at random. He has no way of knowing whether
    he is getting nearer the solution or whether he is scrambling the cube still further. One
    would be inclined to say that moving the faces at random would “never” achieve a
    solution. Strictly speaking, “never” is wrong, however. If our blindfolded subject were to
    make one random move every second, it would take him on average three hundred times
    the age of the Earth, 1.3750 billion years, to solve the cube. The chance against each move
    producing perfect color matching for all the cube’s faces is about
    50,000,000,000,000,000,000 to 1.
    These odds are roughly the same as you could give to the idea of just one of our body’s
    proteins having evolved randomly, by chance. However, we use about 200,000 types of
    protein in our cells. If the odds against the random creation of one protein are the same as
    those against a random solution of the Rubik cube, then the odds against the random
    creation of all 200,000 are almost unimaginably vast.

  59. Nick Kanellos

    Hi Rich

    You’re begging the question when you say God wants us to test his existence. You’ve already concluded He exists. Furthermore, you are describing an agent that has real concrete properties: he has desires. He “wants” us to believe in him, and He’s amenable to having his existence tested. But anyway, for the sake of argument let’s go for it. Let’s join Him in the experiment. We have to be objective here. The possibility that He doesn’t exist has to be real in our minds. What would it take to arrive at the conclusion that He doesn’t exist?

    Not everything that can be imagined to exist does exist. Your analogy with Higgs Bosons and Black Holes is specious. We did not arrive ex nihilo at the hypothesis that black holes exist. That hypothesis is the outcome of general relativity which itself is predicated on observed phenomena. A similar argument holds for Higgs particles.

    Nick

  60. “Let’s see if I’ve got this straight. Looking around and failing to find any trace of a person is evidence of their absence. Looking around and failing to find any absence of God is absence of evidence.

    Are there any other mythical creatures which deserve special exceptions in your malfunctioning logic, Charlie? Pink Unicorns? Dragons? Thor? Apollo? If not, then what is the difference between Thor, for example, and Yahweh which grants Yahweh an exception which Thor, evidently, does not deserve?”

    I don’t understand the first paragraph. Especially the third sentence.
    Don’t forget, the room is a finite space. If a thorough inspection of this space fails to provide evidence for the presence of an individual it is clear that this is empirical evidence for their absence.
    If a thorough search of the “space” that is the entire earth fails to reveal any unicorns, we may legitimately conclude that they do not exist on earth.

    Personally, I like purple ducks…

  61. Do you think we possess such an exhaustive understanding that we know everything, every jot and tittle, that nature is capable or incapable of? If not, you must realize that we aren’t in a position to conclude that our observed universe is the handiwork of some intelligent designer.

    If someone supports intelligent design they are embracing the lie that mankind is now in possession of a complete understanding of nature and from its observed deficiencies the only conclusion we are lead to is that the universe was intelligently designed.

    Agreed. But I wouldn’t call it a lie. I would say that it seems to be the most likely cause. And that is, what Feynman says is the goal of science. Not to “prove” things but to say what is most likely.

  62. blockquote>If an “intelligent designer” is required to create “life, the universe, and everything” (to quote Douglas Adams), then doesn’t that intelligent designer require an intelligent designer and if so, doesn’t that intelligent designer require an intelligent designer, too. By that logic, you’ve just created an infinite regression.

    Evolution is an infinite regression also. All species are descended from pre-existing species.

    “There is no rational reason to doubt that the universe has existed indefinitely, for an infinite time. It is only myth that attempts to say how the universe came to be, either four thousand or twenty billion years ago.”
    — Hannes Alfven

  63. “We don’t see ANY designed processes in biology.

    We can’t prove that they’re designed but they sure look like they are.
    Look at the motor proteins like myosin, kinesin, dyneine and dynamin.
    Look at DNA and RNA polymerases. look at actin polymerases. Look at mitochondria.
    Look (closely) at the bacterial flagellum.

    “there are basic chemical reactions that self-organize – crystals are a simple example, but we know of many classes of complex chemicals NOT generated by life that organize in ways that can be worked on by evolutionary processes”

    They do not adapt means to ends, they do not adapt structure and process to function. They “self-order”, the do not “self-organize”.

    “LIFE does not adapt means to ends, nor does it adapt structure and process to function. In all cases we’ve ever found, means, structure, and process all vary randomly with no intent or goal.”

    With all due respect, you are completely wrong. Just look at a chloroplast or a mitochondrion. Or the cell itself, for that matter.

  64. “The Higgs Boson”

    I thought this story might be interesting…

    In the mid eighties, I was a U.S. Customs Inspector at JFK airport in NYC.

    A man approached my station and handed me his passport.

    Carlo Rubbia! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlo_Rubbia)

    I didn’t let on that I knew who he was. I asked the usual questions:
    “Where are you coming from?” (Geneva)
    “What is your business?” (Scientist)
    “Are you bringing back anything that you acquired in Geneva (No)

    I said to him “are you sure there’s nothing in your luggage to declare?. (No, No!)

    I said to him ” I bet if I looked hard enough I could find a Higgs Boson.”

    He looked at me stunned. Then he broke out in a roaring laugh. “What do you know about these things?”
    I told him I was a Physics teacher on summer vacation.

    We spent a few minutes talking about Bosons and then I asked him for his autograph. In ten summers at JFK, his was the only autograph I ever requested. Not even “the Boss”.

  65. joel

    sigh, this is actually what I wanted to avoid.
    “religious adherents who go out of their way to make it impossible”: and equally there are atheists who go out of their way to make sure Christians know how dumb they are. “You believe in space daddy!? you’re an idiot!” But as I’ve stated before: these people (both extremes) are not representative of the norm. also they’re jerks. …and idiots. And NOT HELPING. Saying “yeah but he started it” doesn’t work. As my father loved to say about my siblings when we’d fight: I’m not talking about him. He may be wrong, that doesn’t make you right. Be nice. Don’t worry about what he did or is doing.
    And stop talking to these people (extremists, both sides) Especially the ones you agree with. If someone says Dinosaurs didn’t’ exist or they were only around 4000 years ago just say “it’s ok; God forgives you and so do I.” then walk away. and if someone says “Christians are stupid blind sheep.” say “no, some people are stupid blind sheep and some of them happen to be Christian and loud. To stereotype a group based on the actions of a portion of that group would be wrong.”

    “That’s the whole problem with Christianity. It can be interpreted to be anything you want.”: err sort of. Unless you read through to the end. Where Christ says “here is what you were supposed to get out of the old testament: Love God, Love neighbor” and “here is what you’re supposed to get out of the new testament: love eachother” So yes you can certainly interpret passages anyway you like but considering that God said “this is what it means” pretty clearly; it’d be a weak argument. Unless you can show me a different way to interpret what Christ said there?

    Also and still: allll beside the point. I never said Christianity was right. or Christians were right. Or Good or bad or smart or dumb or anything. All I said was Everyone is a person. You should be nice to everyone. You should be patient with Everyone. You should be as Kind as you can be Always. That’s it. Please don’t respond to this with arguments that are aimed at anything but the this paragraph. This is what matters and what we should be talking about.

    If you would like to know more about Christianity and what Christians (who aren’t on TV) believe I would be glad to answer any questions. I can only answer them as a Lutheran in CA so I don’t promise to speak for Catholics in Africa or Baptists in Florida. But no more “yeah but you guys did this” or “I’m tired of you guys doing this” etc. If you have a question ask.
    And of course homosexuals shouldn’t be killed. If you’d really read the whole bible you would have gotten past that one line in Leviticus to the part where St. Paul off handily mentions (about 100 times) that the old testament rules are for the old deal. The new deal/testament is Christ. Christ gave three commandments. (listed above). But this is exactly the kind of thing that’s not helping. Instead of saying “Joel, how do you reconcile the old testament Levitical rules with the new testament message of love?” you said “do you think we should kill gay because you think they’re evil?” That’s not a question, it’s an accusation. It’s not going to get a reasoned answer; it’s going to upset people. I would go so far as to say it’s designed to upset people. Feel free to ask anything you want about my religion. But please only in questions. Don’t accuse me of plotting to murder my gay friends and then sit back and say “see?! he doesn’t have an answer to That! What a horrible blind tool.”
    I have an answer: I’m sorry. I’m sorry Christians have failed so miserably to have made you so angry. I’m sorry people have hurt you. They didn’t mean to. I know that doesn’t help but they didn’t. They screwed up, clearly. All I can do is give you this: if you let go, if you forgive them; you will be happier. Christ believed it, MLK believed it, Yoda believed it.

  66. Charlie Wagner, I have to bite on your rubiks cube analogy. If were to compare it with evolution honestly, you would have to add a natural selection component, as evolution is not completely random.

    If you were to take your blindfolded man, and give him a bite of chocolate every time he made progress, and a smack on the wrist every time he made an error, I would bet that the time to solution would drop dramatically.

    Your probability numbers are just wrong. They assume that the current form of ‘life’ was the goal from day 1 of abiogenesis. There are a massive amount of probable outcomes for what life can become, and the earths current diversity of life is a testament to that.

    I just don’t see what your arguing for. Do you support an entire evolutionary tree guided by god, spanning billions of years, with multiple catastrophic die offs, all just to create humans? You seem to accept the evidence of an ancient Earth, I just don’t understand how someone can reconcile that knowledge with the belief that Yahweh made the earth for humans, kicked us around and killed us for a while, then sent his son to get tortured so we could all be forgiven, as long as we accept it. The two world views seem to conflict each other. In confession, I’ve never had a religious belief, so this is truly a stranger in a strange land for me.

  67. Sorry for double post, but I just knoticed Joels reply.

    I hope you didn’t take my post as angry, or upset. I wasn’t either. I’ve always taken the point in discussions about religion and politics to always respect people, but never respect ideas. Any idea that cannot survive heavy abuse needs to be abandoned. I also don’t consider believers to be ‘sheep’, nor ever questioned their intelligence. From looking at societies around the world, I think that humanity is in a period of awakening. We are taking our first real steps out of the primitive. Carl Sagan made a beautiful remark in his book ‘Pale Blue Dot’, where he called it ‘mankinds great demotions’. We aren’t at the center of the solar system, were not at the center of the universe, we weren’t created special from other animals, soon we’re likely to discover this isn’t the only planet that spawned life. The only thing that makes us special is how we respect and care for each other.

    I have read the whole bible, and I quote Jesus directly in reference to the Law. I had very specific questions concerning your faith, so instead of retyping them, Id just ask you to re-read my last post with the previous paragraph in mind. There is a very good (theological) argument for Jesus believing that the Mosaic Law applied to anyone who was a follower of him. I’m asking why you choose to ignore those directives of Jesus, and follow others. It seems to me that all christians arbitrarily choose to follow only portions of the text, and ignore others. The evidence for this is clear when you look at all the schisms in the different branches of christianity as a whole. Mapping it all out looks more like a bush than a tree.

  68. Joe C

    Well, easy way out of this folks. Lets treat God as scientific theory same as any other, eg gravity. We’ve had a couple of thousand years of observation on gravity. we can see it occur, which helps but doesnt explain much. We postulated that it has wider implications and then found it to be relative to things sticking to a continually moving round planet. Its effects are not in questi0n by anyone ‘on this planet’ so to speak. We are now investigating with the help of the LHC the unknown limits of this theory that might one day open our eyes to the unimaginable.
    Now, god. erm… theory, yes, in that we imagined it. We also have had a couple of thousand years of this. Observation… no, other than coincidences and charlatans, nothing repeatable or measurable. future observation or experimentation… forcing creationism into science classes?

    Right, done with that one. Next?

    We all have ‘feelings’ and religion has provided a platform for these but it is nothing more than just that. I dream things at night as we all do. I harp back to childhood when everything was simple and my imaginary best friend was my soul mate. But it’s only my imagination, it’s not reality. This is religion and what it does. Grow up humans, please!

  69. joel

    It’s not as arbitrary as it sounds. Jesus was a proponent of Moses true. But Leviticus isn’t Mosaic law. Also there’s St. Peter’s clear call that the Levitical laws were no longer controlling. So yes Jesus believed the ‘commandments’ should be followed but he also told us how to interpret them (Love, Love and Love). So I don’t think it’s an arbitrary choice.
    Most of the theological differences between Christan secs are pretty minor (and a good portion of them had nothing to do with religion). The orthodox and catholic churches split over where the Pope would live. The catholic church has at this point stated that Luther was right; the only real difference between the churches now is who runs things, how confession works and Mary. Calvin split over adult baptisms and predestination. And Henry 8 …was crazy. That’s why the branches look so intertwined, most of the differences are in administration not faith issues.
    As for why some Christians adhere so strictly to the gay thing and not say the gossip thing: has nothing to do with Christianity. Somewhere along the line a politician realized that if you blame a small portion of a population for the problems of a larger portion you can get the focus off the problems (probably caused by said politician) and maintain power even after you screw up. Unfortunately this has been used against every minority group since the first two cavemen argued over who would run the cave. (Metaphor only: there was no science in the previous sentence). It’s not a interpretation of the bible: it’s a misuse of it. (This all ignores the fact that it doesn’t matter. Even if the bible said “And homosexuality should be illegal” at the end of every page, it wouldn’t change the constitution. (oh my, but that’s a whole different subject.)
    Long story short: get one of those little orange Gideon Pocket Testaments and when someone says something stupid about gay people just ask them to show you where it says that in the book. Then turn to the page where Christ says “This is the whole point of the book: Love eachother.” tell them to do that and walk away. Problem solved.
    yay!

  70. Archaneus

    Right, and then point out the, I believe it’s three different passages, two in the old testament and one in the new, that all condone killing gay people. And then point out where Jesus tells people to kill those who refuse to accept him as their king. While you are at it, point out where slavery is condoned, even in the new testament. Because, you know, the Bible doesn’t actually say anything about gays, what all these passages really mean is simply to love each other. That is, if love means murder. The Bible is just about the worst book you could ever use to base your morality on, and if you think otherwise, please go far far away from me because you scare me.

  71. “Charlie Wagner, I have to bite on your rubiks cube analogy. If were to compare it with evolution honestly, you would have to add a natural selection component, as evolution is not completely random.”

    Who or what decides on a chocolate or a slap? An intelligent observer, of course, who knows the expected outcome. Would you attribute this type of insight to natural selection? I certainly would not.

    “In confession, I’ve never had a religious belief, so this is truly a stranger in a strange land for me.”

    I was born a catholic, but have been an agnostic for 48 years.

  72. joel

    sigh, Archaneus: where does the Bible say that? Once in Leviticus it says “when a man lays with another man this makes God unhappy” and once in the new testament it’s listed along with a number of other sins as sins. The bible never says to kill gay people (which is odd because the Levitical Laws are very pro stoning).
    Nor is slavery condoned. The bible says “slaves be loyal to your masters” but 2000 years ago slave and employee were the same word. In modern law employees have a duty of loyalty.
    You are wrong. I understand your frustration, I really do, but you are wrong. As I have pointed out Christ says all of the old testament can be summed up in “Love God and Love eachother.” I’m not sure why you feel this is a bad thing to base your morality on. Why would it scare you? Certainly what you have laid out is frighting but as I have shown that is not a Christian tenant. Since the Bible does not say the things you said it does; does this mean you are no longer afraid?

  73. Archaneus

    No, I’m still quite afraid, and perhaps a bit more so, since you are blatantly lying. This verse in Leviticus that says god is unhappy when a man lies with another man, what it actually says is “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” That’s Leviticus 20:13, word for word, now you want to try to spin that into, oh, but god doesn’t REALLY want you to kill them, good luck. As for your comments about slavery, that’s nonsense. That is merely an apologetic that is made up out of whole cloth. As a matter of fact, the word there is not ambiguous, scholars know that the word for slave and employee are not the same word, but let’s assume for a moment they are the same word. Why is it then moral to obey your employer? The answer is, it’s not. If your employer tells you to do something you don’t agree with, such as altering the records of the company’s finances to improve the quarterly profits and drive up stock prices, you should indeed not obey them and instead expose them. So clearly this is bad and immoral advice even granted your premise. If you think that is the only part that talks about slavery, though, you are way off. Forgive me, but I don’t know the exact location of the section I am referring to, perhaps it’s in Leviticus as well, but it lays out exactly how you should treat your slaves. It says you can beat them until the point of death, just make sure not to kill them. Wow, isn’t that generous? It also says that if you give an endentured servant a wife, at the end of his period of service(which lasts 7 years), if he wishes to keep that wife, he is now your slave until one of you dies, and you are to put his ear against a doorframe and drive a spike through it to mark him as your property. Please, explain that wonderfully moral message. If you really think God’s message simply, “Love God and love each other,” I think you need to go revisit your Bible, because you missed about 99% of it’s contents. Where’s the “loving each other” when God commands genocides, hmm? I am glad your personal philosophy is to love other people, but your Bible does not endorse that and if you are going to pretend it does, well, you deserve to told you are deluded.

  74. joel

    I’d love to try and ‘spin’ it for you :) You’re quoting King James. The King James version of the bible is unfortunately inaccurate. Check out some of the more modern translations.
    And it’s not immoral to disobey your employer if they tell you to do something wrong. It is illegal (in America right now) to be disloyal. Most states have a duty of loyalty; meaning you can’t steal trade secrets etc or do things that would hurt your employer. I never said you should lie cheat or steal for them; I said the law says you should be loyal and honest. The law also says if they’re doing something illegal you need to report. I apologize if I was unclear.
    The part about beating slaves is Leviticus (good guess) But again that misses the larger point of the overturning of Levitical law by the crucifixion.
    I am sad you think I’m deluded. I think you are relying on a lot of old scholarship that has been debunked for years (by all but the crazy people. But I have already openly admitted that the “there were no dinosaurs’ crowd exists and is crazy and is not representative of Christianity.)
    If you are intent on hating Christians I cannot stop you (though I will try). But you are quoting people who though they say they are Christian have very little understanding of their own religion. I am very willing to debate religion or science with you. Or answer questions if you would like me to. But you may not like the answers. Most of them will be quoting Christ saying things like “love eachother” as opposed to quoting Pharisees saying “God says to kill everyone but the virgins” Especially in post crucifixion philosophy. If you would like to have a debate on the merits of Levitical law I would recommend a debate with a rabbi as Christians will tend to keep coming back to the pre/post Christ differences in philosophy.

  75. Archaneus

    Well, I am growing rather tired of the back and forth but I have to say you are not actually explaining anything, you are rationalizing problems away. This is very sad because it shows you are so indoctrinated you are incapable of seeing the holes in your own beliefs. King James is not mistranslated. Actually, if you listen to any Biblical scholars worth your time, they will tell you that King James is the more accurate version of the Bible as compared to the newer ones. The newer translations put their own spin on it and twist the words around to fit the modern secular morality that has tempered and whittled down some of the more strict Christian traditions. The NIV, for example, when compared side by side with the original texts we have, is pure rubbish. If you care at all about your beliefs actually being true, you can look up the claims you are making for yourself and the only people who will support the position you are taking on the translations of the Bible will be Christians who’s objectivity is in question, if there even are any at all. I think I’ll stop there because there are a bunch of other things I could pick apart in your statements but I just don’t have the patience for this back and forth anymore.

  76. Mbee

    Rich said on Sept 23rd. “one day we will all have the opportunity to know for sure for our selves, one way…or another.”

    I have to disagree.
    If you believe in God when you die you will know for sure, (assuming that ‘your’ religion is correct), but if you believe in God and there is nothing when you die you will not know that you have lived your life being wrong!

    On the other hand if you’re an atheist when you die and there is nothing you will have been correct, but if there ‘is’ something you will know that you were wrong (assuming that religion is correct).

    There is of course also the remote possibility that there is something following death, but nobody knows what it is! Evidence anyone?

  77. Big Delish

    I would like to respond to the beginning….

    “Are you there God, and if so, will you please provide an emissary that can go head-to-head with Christopher Hitchens without getting spectacularly flayed?”

    Has anyone ever seen Hitchens debate Dinesh Dsouza? Dinesh has not only eaten his lunch but made Hitchens pay the bill. These are all on youtube. Mr. Hitchens is not infalliable, he has been beaten many times. Even the recent debate at VCU, Hitchens debated Frank Turek and lost. Not impressed quite honestly with ol’ C Hitch.

  78. joel

    I applogize for any confusion: I thought I was addressing yoru concerns. Let me try again.
    You say I am not using accurate translation: I was relying on the Greek originals (or as original as the copies we have are) However I have never heard anyone say that King James accurate. It was based on copies of copies of the Greek texts and King James commissioned it to be “beautiful” not accurate. The NIV was written to be accurate. Have you read it side by side with the greek? I feel like I am addressing your concern of accuracy in translation and not explaining away or ignoring it.
    You said: I was supporting immoral behavior by saying there was a duty to be loyal to employers. I discussed US agency law which requires a duty of loyalty. Not a duty to help with illegal or immoral activities. I was trying to show that the Biblical support for ‘slaves’ being loyal had modern equivalents.
    I feel like I am addressing your concerns with information and rebuttal: however I feel that you are insistent on being angry. I am sorry you believe so deeply the information you have. I feel it is ironic that you are holding to these beliefs despite evidence to the contrary. I’m not sure where you are getting your info but I have never heard of anyone (other then the ‘no dinosaur’ people) who advocate what you are saying “all Christians” advocate. This is especially troubling in the light of Vatican II in which the Catholic church (by far the largest percentage of Christians) declared the Catholic Church holds true what I am espousing.
    Your main problems seem to be with the “incompatibility” of the old and new testaments. I can understand why this would seem incompatable However the New Covenant of the new Testament over rides the old (the law will no longer be written on stone but on their hearts -God). So the seeming inconsistency is …well an inconsistency. The Levits wrote their rules and God said “no no no no you got it wrong” Perhaps that is where we are finding a hang up.

  79. Archaneus

    I’m agitated with your statements, not with you. You seem like you are probably a very nice man, of course, that might just be you trying to play up your calmness as proof of your position, who knows? As far as what you are saying, well, it’s just demonstrably untrue. I have seen comparative Bibles and I have heard scholars discuss the issue of modern translations. I believe the number was something like 2000+ errors in the NIV that are not present in the KJV. As for your statement about the meaning of the passage about obedience, well you are twisting it to fit your own moral standards. The passage does not say, be loyal to your employers, as long as they aren’t doing something illegal and only to the limits of morality. Well, frankly, that’s just inane spin. Regardless, obedience is never moral. It might be pragmatic sometimes, but it’s not moral and to even imply obedience is moral is the Bible supporting something that causes all kinds of problems in society and government. As for your statement that I am holding beliefs contrary to evidence, well that’s just a lie. Every statement you have made is either entirely your subjective view quite despite the context and clear meanings of passages or false evidence that you could disprove yourself in 5 minutes of looking. Now to your final point, what you are saying completely contradicts the Bible itself. Jesus said he did not come to abolish the law. He also said, “One jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law,” Matthew 5:18. The Bible is not ambiguous about this, the old law still applies. However, as interesting as this all has been, and despite that I implied I wasn’t going to post another reply, this really is my last one. You continue to assert things that are just demonstrably untrue and while you may be very nice and sweet while stating them, it doesn’t make them any less false. I think you should take a few minutes and go look up the scholarship on the translations, and do yourself a favor in avoiding apologetics sites when to find the answer. Look at actual legitimate scholars in the field, not biased individuals trying to justify their myths.

    As one final note, here’s a list of Leviticus 20:13 in many different translations, including your favorite that supposedly says homosexuality just makes god sad,

    “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” -NIV

    “And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” -ASV

    “The penalty for homosexual acts is death to both parties. They have committed a detestable act, and are guilty of a capital offense.” -NLT

    And there are many many more that paraphrase or exactly echo the same sentiment. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t find one that express your understanding of that verse. Goodbye, and I hope you actually think about these things.

  80. joel

    The law is the mosaic law: not the Levitical interpritation. The Levites interpreted the law: they did not create it. Jesus expressly over threw the levitical interpretation (a number of places: When he’s asked what is the most important commandment, when he gives the “lusted in your heart” line)
    None of my bibles say that Greek, NIV, NEV, NJ (except for King James)
    But again this is Levitical: which St. Paul says is over run by the new understanding of the commandments.
    I’m going to go now. Feel better. Breath deep: it’s not as bad as you think it is. I promise. God bless.

  81. Ill take one more shot too Joel. I still think you haven’t answered any of my questions. You did look at some minutia in the details, but the larger questions still went unanswered. Ill number them, so we can keep the answers clear. In your other discussion with Archaneus, you quote the bible to counter his bible quotes, but without offering the passages. Please, if you have a bible quote supporting your position, list the chapter and verse.

    1. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”Mat 5-20. The Pharisees followed the Levitical law near the year 0CE. How do you interpret this passage?

    2. Do demons get into peoples bodies, and control them? Can they be cast out by someone else?

    3. Why is the Genesis tale so wrong on so many points?

  82. Prof

    Charlie Wagner wrote: Who or what decides on a chocolate or a slap? An intelligent observer, of course, who knows the expected outcome. Would you attribute this type of insight to natural selection? I certainly would not.

    ———–

    Ah, someone who denies evolution who doesn’t understand natural selection. Not an unusual coincidence ;-)

    Tell me Charlie: When pathogens “evolve” or “adapt” over populations to new strains (e.g. making leaps from being able to live in one animal to being able to live in humans) and become resistant to our drugs…what do you think is happening?

    By what process does this adaptation occur?

    If you have any inkling as to how it actually occurs, you SHOULD be able to understand natural selection and see the flaw in your reflexive demand for Intelligent Guidance as an explanation for
    how organisms can evolve.

    Prof.

    (And let me cut off now what I would expect from experience to be the typical mis-direction in response from an evolution-denier: “Oh, yes, I don’t deny it happens at the micro level in things like bacteria, but it’s ridiculous to say this process can account for the diversity of life on earth or support Common Descent.” THAT answer would be to gloss past the very issue you brought up:
    Which is HOW EVOLUTION WORKS (e.g. Natural Selection being one mechanism). Your response – an your poor rubic’s cube analogy – had cast doubt on the VERY MECHANISM of Natural Selection (actually ignored it), and if you are going to do that, you are going to have to answer how, for example, diseases adapt/evolve drug resistance, or how successive populations change phenotype in order to invade new hosts etc…if not by a process of Natural Selection.

  83. Well said Prof. Looks like we chased out the theists. Ah well, till the next time mis-understanding rears its ugly head, I hope all goes well with you and yours.

  84. “Tell me Charlie: When pathogens “evolve” or “adapt” over populations to new strains (e.g. making leaps from being able to live in one animal to being able to live in humans) and become resistant to our drugs…what do you think is happening?”

    If you define evolution as “change over time” then they are clearly “evolving”

    “By what process does this adaptation occur?”

    Mutation and natural selection. The “mutations” are not necessarily random, however. They may be directed (adaptive) or they may be acquired or they may already be present in the genome in an inactive state.

    “Oh, yes, I don’t deny it happens at the micro level in things like bacteria, but it’s ridiculous to say this process can account for the diversity of life on earth or support Common Descent.”

    That would be part of my answer.

    * “When the public thinks about evolution, they think about the origin of wings and the invasion of the land,” says Graham Budd, a palaeobiologist at the University of Uppsala, Sweden. “But these are things that evolutionary theory has told us little about.”
    * Scott Gilbert, an evo-devo researcher at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania comments, “The modern synthesis is remarkably good at modelling the survival of the fittest, but not good at modelling the arrival of the fittest.”
    * Stuart Newman, a developmental biologist at New York Medical College, comments “You can’t deny the force of selection in genetic evolution, but in my view this is stabilizing and fine-tuning forms that originate due to other processes.”
    * To explain the sudden appearance of turtles, Scott Gilbert suggested, “all the genes are probably there already….”

  85. Prof

    Charlie Wagner,

    So (quibbles aside with some of what you wrote), your answer exposes the inconsistency of your replies and exposes how your appeal to a blind man doing Rubik cube was a FALSE analogy to evolution.

    As Bart Mitchell rightly pointed out, you portrayed evolution as entirely random insofar as your rubiks cube analogy ignored the role of Natural Selection in evolution theory. It’s NOT random – evolution is the opposite of random, due to natural selection.

    Bart Mitchell presented a more accurate analogy to evolution theory: wherein the blind man, representing populations reproducing over time in an environment that applies selection pressure FOR newer fitter variations and selection pressure AGAINST other variations. This represents the NON-RANDOM element of selection pressures, which nudge and influence the change of populations over time toward new phenotypes better suited to the environment.

    But you simply dismissed the point of the analogy, denying natural selection could work in such a way.

    But then, asked by me how pathogens evolve you appeal to EXACTLY THE PROCESS YOU IGNORED in your rubiks cube analogy and in your response to Bart Mitchell. You acknowledged the process of natural selection. Which explains the NON-RANDOM way in which adaptive mutations are selected for and change the phenotype of populations over time to new forms.

    And..btw…quote mining experts is a particularly low, unconvincing tactic. Try showing SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH that supports your case, not quote mining.

    Prof.

  86. Prof

    Moral of the story: to at least appear a credible critic, you should at least understand and be able to properly represent the theory you are attempting to criticise.

    Prof.

  87. “you portrayed evolution as entirely random insofar as your rubiks cube analogy ignored the role of Natural Selection in evolution theory. It’s NOT random – evolution is the opposite of random, due to natural selection.”

    It doesn’t matter if natural selection is random or not. This whole
    line of reasoning is a red herring. It was designed to answer the charge
    that darwinian evolution was a random process and that function cannot
    arise from a random process. So the claim was made that while mutation
    was indeed random, selection is not. But it’s irrelevant and draws
    attention away from the real issue. Natural selection is a trivial
    effect that has nowhere near the power vested in it by evolutionists.
    True, it can change the frequency of alleles in populations under
    selection pressure, but no evolutionist has ever demonstrated that these
    changes in gene frequency can ever lead to new processes, structures or
    organisms. This is simply a story, a leap of faith, with no evidenciary
    basis in reality. My contention is that natural selection, whether you
    believe it’s random or not, has no creative power. It cannot create new
    structures, new processes or new organisms. Until someone demonstrates
    that this is possible, it’s not right to ask people to believe it. They
    may as well believe that wooly mammoths live on Pluto, or that sitting
    by a drafty window causes colds.

    By the way, I DO enjoy the debate but you should know that in the past 14 years I have posted thousands of messages and answered thousands of questions, mostly on talk.origins. My body of work is enormous. Bottom line? I have an answer for everything!

  88. “And..btw…quote mining experts is a particularly low, unconvincing tactic. Try showing SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH that supports your case, not quote mining.”

    What’s wrong with quote mining?
    People are responsible for their own words and sometimes they have to eat them.

    Of course, if you deliberately change the meaning of the quote by removing it from its context then you are liable for this transgression. But a clear, unambiguous quote has value and should not be demonized.

  89. To Melissa Lafsky…

    I thought I recognized your name…

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/melissa-lafsky/sarah-palin-and-the-julia_b_126468.html

    Nice work !!!

    check out my website:

    http://www.charliewagner.com

    and my blog:

    enigma.charliewagner.com

    “Keep the faith, baby.” – Adam Clayton Powell

  90. Nick Kanellos

    Charlie said : “… [natural selection] can change the frequency of alleles in populations under
    selection pressure, but no evolutionist has ever demonstrated that these
    changes in gene frequency can ever lead to new processes, structures or
    organisms.

    Charlie, you must have to work really hard to stay that ignorant (not in the pejorative sense) on a subject you’ve debated, as you claim, for 14 years. Only this past summer we’ve seen evidence that natural selection has demonstrated precisely what you claim it hasn’t. In one case a new process (one of the things in your list) was demonstrated in a lab using E. coli bacteria. In another, a new structure (the second on your list) was demonstrated to have developed in two populations of lizard on islands in the Adriatic.

    see here for the first: http://www.pnas.org/content/105/23/7899.abstract

    see here for the second: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080417112433.htm

    And in an earlier post, you claim that natural selection is random and cannot yield anything meaningful. Heck, a simple genetic algorithm can be used to demonstrate precisely the opposite. Go here (http://www.cs.laurentian.ca/badams/evolution/EvolutionApplet102.html) to see how natural selection, equivalent to how it occurs in nature, can be used to demonstrate how quickly you can arrive at something meaningful. You should try it. It’s actually a fun little program. Computer scientists have been quick to catch on to the possibilities of employing genetic processes to arrive at solutions to problems that would be impossible or impractical to solve using overt human design.

    And please, spare me the noise about how no new information is generated with natural selection. We know for a fact that gene duplication occurs. You have no qualms about mutation (do you???). Then all it takes is for the duplicated genes to mutate and you have net new information at the genetic level. If those genes code for traits, then you have new phenotypes.

    Forgive me, but I think you are being trollishly obtuse.

  91. Prof

    Charlie Wagner wrote:

    By the way, I DO enjoy the debate but you should know that in the past 14 years I have posted thousands of messages and answered thousands of questions, mostly on talk.origins. My body of work is enormous. Bottom line? I have an answer for everything!

    ——————————-

    If you’ve interacted with people on talk.origins that long and still come up with incorrect analogies like a blind man playing rubik’s cube…I don’t see a fruitful conversation ahead. Therefore I’ll say goodbye, given your very representation of evolution theory has already been undermined…there isn’t much left to do.

    As for you having an “answer for everything,” having an answer is easy, a dime a dozen, it’s having GOOD ANSWERS that counts. Creationists share with christian apologists in general rather lax standards for answers, as if merely “having an answer” were good enough. Doesn’t matter if it’s a crap answer, or that it doesn’t make sense of a larger body of evidence, doesn’t cohere with other things they believe etc. Just “having an answer” is fine…no discretion between good answers and just “answers.” This is the problem with the types of “critiques” and replies you have been giving.
    They don’t come from any coherent stance in terms of making better sense of a wide body of evidence. You might want to begin adopting a more discretionary approach to answers.

    Cheers,

    Prof.

  92. “Only this past summer we’ve seen evidence that natural selection has demonstrated precisely what you claim it hasn’t. In one case a new process (one of the things in your list) was demonstrated in a lab using E. coli bacteria.”

    I read both papers. Thanks for the cites.

    These are not new processes or structures, the are variations on already existing processes or structures. How do we get from no flowering plants to flowering plants? Darwin offerd only a huge “leap of faith”.

    As stated before “The modern synthesis is remarkably good at modelling the survival of the fittest, but not good at modelling the arrival of the fittest.”

    These are not “new processes” they are fine-tuning forms that originate due to other processes.”
    There is not one shred of empirical evidence, either observational or experimental that establishes a plausible nexus, even a hypothetical one between RM+NS and the emergence of new structures, processes or systems.
    For example, in the Jurrasic period (206 to 144 Million Years Ago) there were no flowering plants. The structure of the flower and seed as well as their associated processes did not exist.
    The apparently sudden appearance of relatively modern flowers in the fossil record posed such a problem for the theory of evolution that it was called an “abominable mystery” by Charles Darwin.
    However, the fossil record has grown since the time of Darwin, and recently discovered angiosperm fossils such as Archaefructus, along with further discoveries of fossil gymnosperms, suggest how angiosperm characteristics may have been acquired in a series of steps. Several groups of extinct gymnosperms, particularly seed ferns, have been proposed as the ancestors of flowering plants but there is no continuous fossil evidence showing exactly how flowers evolved. Some older fossils, such as the upper Triassic Sanmiguelia, have been suggested. Based on current evidence, some propose that the ancestors of the angiosperms diverged from an unknown group of gymnosperms during the late Triassic (245-202 million years ago). The relationship of the earlier gigantopterids to flowering plants is still enigmatic.

    “Go here (http://www.cs.laurentian.ca/badams/evolution/EvolutionApplet102.html) to see how natural selection, equivalent to how it occurs in nature, can be used to demonstrate how quickly you can arrive at something meaningful. You should try it.”

    I have. I’d really like to talk about this some more but I’m kind of busy at the
    moment. Why don’t you give me a call? My phone number is ***-***-****.
    It shouldn’t take you too long to get me. Just start dialing randomly
    and sooner or later my phone will ring. Or, if you don’t want to wait
    that long, just dial any ten digits and discuss the matter with whomever
    answers the phone!
    I’d like to meet the guy who started that. “Genetic” algorithms have
    nothing at all to do with genetics or evolution. It sounds like they
    might, but they don’t. They aren’t used to model evolution and cannot be
    used to support any kind of evolutionary scenario. There is nothing
    random about using these algorithms. They only work because of the
    thoughtful and rigorous input provided by the investigator, and there is
    nothing haphazard or accidental about them.

    “We know for a fact that gene duplication occurs.”

    Gene duplication is not a significant contributing factor in
    evolution. Theorists would like to believe that gene duplication
    provides a significant amount of raw material for new evolutionary
    traits, but the evidence shows that these kinds of duplications almost
    always become quickly silenced by degenerative mutations, (what Lynch
    and Conery refer to as “nonfunctionalization). They are also unable to
    explain how the duplicate gene gets from being just an exact,
    redundant copy of the original gene to a stable entity in which both
    copies are maintained by natural selection. Lynch and Conery admit (Lynch, M. and Conery, J.S., 2000 (Nov. 10). The evolutionary fate and
    consequences of duplicate genes. Science, v.290, p.1151-1155. )
    that duplicate genes rarely evolve new functions and make the
    unsupportable suggestion that the stochastic silencing of these genes
    may play a significant role in the passive origin of new species. I
    think this is really stretching the imagination. There are also some
    significant defects in their interpretation and analysis of the data,
    not the least important being the fact that they readily admit that
    “we cannot be certain (in the absence of actual expresssion pattern
    data) that all of the genes that were included were functional.

  93. Daniel

    The end is near. Say whatever you want, the good works of God cannot be hindered.
    God will have the last laugh.

  94. Paola

    Say there is a source of all things…………..would that source be so insecure that it required worship? would it really care what we eat, drink or wear? Would such a thing really have expectation of blind faith from us? oh and punish us with damnation if we dont just believe. Sometimes i see God cross over to satan and visa versa.
    I think its a case of people wanting to believe its true. Nothing more.
    And Daniel, can you really imagine a laughing God? good one!

  95. Robert

    So what does this have to do with science? Oh right, nothing.

  96. Citizenfitz

    Hitchens “won” because Discovery says he won? I’m sure there are some who’ll take that for objective proof.

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    The elements of Reality that would be meaningless to one person could mean life to the next.
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    The process of Imagination to Manifestation I will always find amazing.
    simply speaking You water My seed by expressing your freedom to think something you’ve never thought – a sprout comes out and tickles your subconscious-
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    If the reality Code is not attained the subconscious my return without it, sometimes this leads to a loss of mental stability, sometimes people don’t bring there idea to life and there subconscious puts them in the ideas reality without it – some time both consciousnesses don’t achieve what they set out to and life remains as it was as does reality.
    Ok imagine you were me and you designed the functionality of the human psyche- you would know what actions triggered what chemicals which would result in multiple sensations of consciousness. In your design you had faith that eventually people would be guided through their own paths of personal trails to a Glorious state of mind.
    Creation of free will is to see what happens – to then give a load of regulations to live by is not my style, however we all have our internal rule book and if we follow it we feel good and progress to the final chapter knowing how and why we got there and perhaps would feel happiest teaching the lessons to the impressionable in our community so they don’t make the same mistakes we made that triggered such chemicals as “Remorse & Regret”
    People would do this and then eventually it would be written but it would be the word of Humanity for Humans.
    Before Lusifer fell out of good graces in Heaven his compassion for Humanity couldn’t be reveled by any of the other Angels.
    – After he witnessed the Hand in fury cause death he wanted Humans to life there life with guidance to protect them from stepping out of line and facing a “Quick End”.
    I think the reason for not giving us rules is that Humans have an inherent nature to break free from restrictions break rules — so if none are set there are no lines to cross there inherent praise to receive peace will prevail.
    Lucifer loving humanity was scared for them – he felt that he needed to go to there salvation and decided to directly guide Humanity to the path of righteousness no matter the consequence.

    His desire to save Humanity lead to his decision to fall in defiance.
    when he arrived he had not anticipated the reaction Humans to his universal knowledge, “tools” & even his silver cloud that he was seen getting in and out of going from place to place handing out his “Books” of guidelines
    He had told people of the “consequences” > things about God smites those that don’t live their life correctly.
    After some time men tried to war with him – out of envy – that he had taught them is a line not to cross in his guideline Books, he turned them to dust with his “tools”
    After this forced show of power – Humans then came to the conclusion the Lusifer was God because he was the one that smited the rule breakers – this was all causing tension in Heaven amongst some of his pears- because they felt envious that they to were not worshiped so others Angle headed to Earth in defiance.

    Where as Lucifers motivation was honorable and selfless to start with — the other motivation was to covet — it was just want want want — they were warned of the consequences but thought it better to reign then to serve
    At first there was a World wide Eutopia – but its didn’t last.
    Even though Humans worshiped Lucifer as a God he told them not to because he is one of Gods Children just like them. The others did the opposite and separated around the World and forced Humans to worship them as Gods.
    The other Angels and grew agree with Lucifer for not playing along, Lucifer was ganged up against by the other Angels.
    They killed him publicly and ritualistically, along with his followers.
    After destroying them – when about tainting his name and made if an object of disgust and made his worship punishable by death.

    I know this news is upsetting but due to the mass misleading that Humanity has been subject to the determined judgment is that everybody is going to Heaven upon the death of the Earthly body they reside in.

    — What the Angel first taught as commandment was against my permission however it was my ambition for Humanity to eventually live inline with them but of there own choosing.

    I Love you ALn and so you know I H0LY OVERLORD HOLY GOD ALnMIGHTY G0D GRAIL ZEAL Incarnted Man Charles Andrew Oyedele Ososami have surrendered the HOLY war. The HOLY War is over H0LY OVERLORD HOLY has surrendered for Christs sake.

  98. charles

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  99. Tim

    I would like to announce my conversion to Atheistic Evolution. You’re eloquent arguments have at last forced me to acquiesce. So now I’m established in the secular faith, I only ask for some consistency

    Over here in Sydney (Australia) we just had 4 dudes in a 4-wheel drive grab a 14 year old girl and rape her. In evolutionary philosophy (because the real issue is that evolution affects our psyche) we can conclude that they could be congratulated for their successful collusion and execution in gratifying their desires..they’re obviously fulfilling the prophecy of survival of the fittest..I’m sure chimps often regress to such anti-social behaviour too..

    Micheal Jackson used his skill-set to eventually lure and deprave little boys…a very elaborate evolutionary “dance”.

    Even though the bible says “.the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it…” and there is evidence to support this every night on TV and in our own hearts and actions..I now confess that Science is the new omniscient prophet, not some old soothsayer

    Can we all now accept that the proliferation of murder, rape, drugs, violence etc. is just evolutionary forces…I mean, we’ve been evolving to this point of such dignity and would never be so ignorant again as to accept a God who actually died for us out of total love, to uphold His Moral Law and to uphold the law of free-will

  100. Warren Hicks

    I am not surpised that a catholic priest would make such a mess of it. Religion like that of catholicism is not the science of finding God but the science of making him redundant. A debate between someone who doens’t believe in God’s and someone who doen’s know him is no more enlightening with regards the truth than hearing Hess argue with Hitler on the subject of Judaism.

  101. James

    I know I’m jumping in a bit late at this point, but I wanted to make a few points:

    1) Re: the “Rubik’s cube = evolution” analogy. Putting aside the entire conflation of selection with “random chance,” this shows one of the common misunderstandings of evolution–many critics of evolution give ridiculously large probabilities showing ridiculously small chances for a given thing to evolve. These all assume that exactly one creature is doing all the evolving.

    For the sake of argument, let’s say the blind cube-solver does have a 50,000,000,000,000,000,000 to 1 chance of solving it by pure chance. What if you give two people a cube, both arranged identically, and blindfold them? That drops it to 25,000,000,000,000,000,000 to 1 chance that one of them solves it, since each one independently has the 1 in 5×10^19 chance to get it right. If you give the same cube to 50 people, it’s only a 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 to 1 chance that it’s eventually solved, and so on–much more manageable, isn’t it? Organisms don’t evolve, populations do; claiming that one singular creature has to sit there trying out quadrillions of mutations until it hits the “right” one is specious reasoning, if you’ll pardon the pun.

    Likewise, with the flippant phone number remark, yes, it would be a pain to have to dial all 10^10 numbers yourself. However, if one were to involve a community of people–or even a huge number of computers–the task is more easily accomplished; if I were to walk into my high school of 2,000 students and ask each one of them to dial one number and tell me if they reach you, I’d cut down the number of necessary tries by over 3 orders of magnitude. To more directly compare this to selection, let’s say that everyone who calls a wrong number asks the person called if they know the right number. Even if only one person in the initial 2,000 called knows of the target person, a simple “Well, I don’t remember it, but I know his number starts with 3…” cuts down the search space considerably, and any dialer who is informed of this fact is better adapted to the task of finding the target number. In this way, it’s easy to see that larger populations and progressive adaptation serve to undermine the claims of extremely high improbability.

    2) Re: post #105’s discussion of evolution’s morality or lack thereof. Four males of the human species raped a female: yes, from the evolutionary perspective they’ve done wonderfully–their genes have been spread further and they have a better chance to pass them on. However, you’ll note that no one advocates teaching morality based on evolution (except perhaps as part of a straw man argument). This is because for the most part humanity has advanced past the point where natural selection is really an issue. In the wilds of Africa, any of our ancient ancestors who suffered from extreme nearsightedness was very likely to soon end up in no position to worry about it anymore; a nearby predator would remove him from the gene pool, and the likelihood of passing on his nearsightedness would decrease. Nowadays, if you’re nearsighted you can simply buy glasses or contacts, or solve the problem with laser surgery, and you no longer suffer such a disadvantage–and if you’re too proud to do any of that, you’re still likely to pass on your genes, because nothing’s going to kill you for nearsightedness except possibly an equally-nearsighted bus driver.

    Thus, the argument that humanity having evolved means we should let everyone indulge their instinctual urges is precisely backwards. Our present state allows us to effectively transcend selection and evolution, so becoming more moral as a people and as a species is the best thing to do, whether or not you believe there is a god around to give us these morals or if you simply do so because the desire for community and altruism is also an evolutionary advantage. Otherwise, you might as well advocate the dissolution of architecture and have all humans go back to living outside without modern conveniences, just because evolution made our ancestors better adapted to their environments. Well, guess what–we’ve adapted to our cozy man-made surroundings, and we’ve also somewhat adapted to our morality (law-breakers are sent to prison and are less likely to pass on their behavior, for instance). This adaptation being human-influenced rather than arising from natural selection, we can continue teaching moral habits (religiously-motivated or otherwise) just like biologists can engineer circumstances for “unnatural selection,” if you will, in E. coli–and rise above our evolutionary imperatives.

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