Book Review: What’s So Great About Christianity?

BUMP: I’m bumping this to the top for today’s interview with Dinesh D’Souza on Heading Right Radio. It has a great comment thread, and I hope our participants listen to the show live today at 2 pm CT!
Last week, I received Dinesh D’Souza’s newest book, What’s So Great About Christianity?, and found it immediately intriguing. The atheist movement has gained tremendous strength and intellectual vitality in the past few decades, and now features such luminaries as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins among its rhetorical front line apologists. The apologetics of Christianity have had fewer bright lights, and certainly none as intellectually prepared as D’Souza in this comprehensive refutation of the atheist argument.
It would be impossible to offer a comprehensive recapitulation of the entirety of D’Souza’s argument in this space. In fact, that’s what has kept me from reviewing this book until now; the sheer breadth of D’Souza’s argument goes well beyond a blogpost or a newspaper review. He draws from a wide variety of resources from the sciences, philosophy, and apologetics, and derives an argument so interdependent and so solid that taking it a portion at a time diminishes the whole.
Some of the basics can be addressed. D’Souza argues that the scientific argument for atheism simply doesn’t address the entire human experience. First, he reviews the history of science and argues that reason only takes one so far. It never answers the question of why, not even in the human experience. Physics can explain, for example, the motion of a glass of water when struck by a human hand and predict the outcome, but it can’t answer for why the hand struck the glass.
Similarly, one can explain the Big Bang’s physics, but no one can answer for the why, which creates a large problem for atheists. The Big Bang and the implications of Einsteinian physics show that the universe had a beginning. Something with a beginning has to have a causative event — but if the universe is all that is, what caused the Big Bang? What caused it, and what lies outside of the universe that could have sparked it? Physics can explain the universe, which acts in very precise and predictable ways, but it can’t explain the why.
D’Souza also addresses the difference between evolution and Darwinism, at least as he perceives it. Like the Catholic Church, he sees no conflict between evolution and Christianity. In fact, he argues that the Book of Genesis actually aligns itself well with the Big Bang theory, offering that Light came first (the Big Bang initiating event) and that Day and Night came later (the formation of the Sun and the Moon). He decries the Darwinist movement in science which has at its basis an explicit bias against religion, and which therefore rejects any evidence of God or a metaphysical reality, and has a compelling argument for this from the mouths of the scientists themselves. In doing so, they have rejected the scientific method itself, D’Souza insists, turning Darwinism into a religion rather than relying on evolution as an explanation limited to the physical reality of our universe.
In this, D’Souza attempts to point out the fact that while the physical sciences can explain the universe, it can only explain the universe. He relies heavily on Immanuel Kant in this area by reminding us that science remains bound by human perception. Humans experience the universe with their five senses, and scientific exploration — conducted through experimentation — has the same limits. We cannot perceive the why, and being physical creatures in the universe, cannot use our physical senses to perceive anything beyond it. These are the limits of reason and science — certainly nearly boundless in a vast physical universe, but not limitless.
The book makes a fascinating counterargument to atheism, perhaps the best from the secular world I’ve yet heard. D’Souza does not remain satisfied to argue on his own intellectual turf in terms of religious doctrine, but instead boldly uses science and philosophy outside of religious territory to take the argument to the opponents’ home field. D’Souza provides a breath of fresh air to the faithful, and an accessible if complex support for religious belief.
Dinesh D’Souza will be my guest on Monday’s Heading Right Radio show. Don’t miss it!

267 thoughts on “Book Review: What’s So Great About Christianity?”

  1. He also makes a very important assertion that popular atheists refute cartoon versions of Christianity because they’re totally unresearched in scholarly theology of as Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, Origen, or in our century Maritain, Gilson, Lonergan, etc. etc,
    Reading Dawkins & the others is like fingernails on a blackboard, reminding me of a talk radio comedy parody I once heard where a doped up caller whines, “yeah Dick, if there’s a God, why did he let President Kennedy, who was a Catholic, be assassinated?
    When a scholar sits down to write a critical review of existentialism, he actually reads the leading existentialists. He knows Sartre, Marcel, maybe Dostoevsky, Jaspers, etc. Why don’t atheists read the leading theology of our day?
    Because they’re not out to argue, they’re out to propagandize.

  2. I see a lot of holes in the arguments I’m reading here, but here’s the most glaring and immediate one… how is any of this specific to Christianity? Looking at all of the reasons given above for defending Christianity, I could just as easily worship Poseidon and throw offerings off the Bay Bridge.
    Second, who says there -is- a why? Can you accept that maybe there isn’t? And if you can’t, can you see how maybe all religion is just wish-fulfillment, that it’s got everything to do with making you -feel- better and nothing to do with reality?

  3. “The atheist movement has gained tremendous strength and intellectual vitality in the past few decades”
    Atheism has gained in cultural strength–in truth its arguments possess the same types of weaknesses that C. S. Lewis pointed out 50 years ago.
    I’m glad for DeSouza’s book but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that it retreads arguments that have appeared in J. P. Moreland’s “Scaling the Secular City” (1987) or scientist-turned-theologian Alister McGrath’s “The Twilight of Atheism” (2003), among others.
    The Christian mind is alive and well, thanks in no small part to philosopher Alvin Plantinga.
    Hitchens is an engaging communicator and generally a good mind, but his arguments for atheism are rather simplistic (if I do say so myself).

  4. Say David, if believing there is a God is a wish fulfillment, one could also say that believing there is NO God is the fulfillment of a wish too.
    For example, a person bound to a wheel chair could have a dream wherein he walks, this is a fulfillment of the wish that he was not crippled.
    Similarly, atheists understandably wish that human nature was not flawed, but instead could be perfected by Reason, by building a Utopia that will cure all the murderers, and all the poverty, and all the racism, etc.
    Seems to me we religious folk are the reality based community, and atheists are psychologically stunted folk who try to escape from the basic facts of human nature through wish fulfillment.

  5. Just finished reading “The Faiths of Our Fathers: What America’s Founders Really Believed,” by Alf J. Mapp, Jr., Scholar Emeritus, Old Dominion University. Most of our Founders started out Episcopalian or Anglican, a Catholic and a Jew or two were also part of this troop of revolutionaries. Most of them, while young, in their 20’s or 30’s, were strong adherants to Reasoning, which at the time was the latest philosophical fad.
    As they grew older, and as they had major life events confront them, at the point of dying, most expresed genuinely religious views, acknowledging God, many quite deeply.
    One of my favorite political phrases over the years is:
    “If you are 18 and not a liberal, you have no heart. If you are 50 and not a Conservative, you have no brain.”
    I’d like to change that a bit, a propos to this thread:
    “If you are 20 and not an atheist, you have no brain. If you are 50 and are not a Believer, you have no heart.”
    A good Christian, a good Christian, will never stop questioning his/her faith and his/her place in God’s plan. It is in this questioning, searching for D’Souza’s “Why?,” that faith is daily reborn, made stronger, able to handle the deeper questions. Mother Theresa herself questioned her faith. So did John Paul the Great. So do many many many good Christians.
    On the other hand, in the manner of Nobel Laureate Al Gore, atheists never seem to be able to question their atheism. To them, it is settled science.
    One has to ask, are athiests really content in the knowledge that this is all there is?

  6. I am an atheist because rationally compelling evidence for the existence of God is still wanting.
    There is no serious disagreement about the existence of the Sun, or the planet Earth, or Venezuela.
    When the evidence for the existence of God is uncovered, I’ll be only to happy to believe it.
    If that is faith, I’m Billy Graham.

  7. My favorite question along these lines is: why is reproduction possible?
    After all, organisms do not choose to reproduce; it comes as part of the package. And yet, organism have it coded in their DNA to not only make more of themselves, but to do it in the most efficient fashion.
    Which means that, somehow, either someone was aware of the concept of time and prepared for it, or it’s sheer f***in luck that a combination of atoms formed various elements that, when put together, created life capable of reproducing itself.
    I guess this is what comes of too much pot as a teen.

  8. My copy arrived yesterday and this old man is reveling in it and its message. As to proof of God’s existance, pray tell me what you require? You say “When evidence for the existence of God is uncovered, you’ll believe.” What “evidence” will satisfy you? A personal visit from Him? But His visits to others over the centuries mean nothing? You are willing to believe what the media tells you, what bloggers tell you, without putting your hands into it, but you reject the reports of His servants. I’ve heard it said that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds . . . perhaps so, but I believe.

  9. I think books like D’Souza’s keep atheists on their toes and books like Dawkin’s keep believers on their toes.
    One needs to question atheists and one needs to question believers because both are capable of spouting nonsense.
    It is interesting to note that D’souza says he is not defending Christian “fundamentalism.” I wonder why, since many Christian fundamentalists will be happy to endorse his book.

  10. I was brought up Lutheran and had many unanswered questions so I studied other faiths. I still have a deep regard for my christian faith.
    Science has also given me questions about human creation and god.
    I still believe in God but different than when I was young.
    Today scientists are working with DNA and bio-engineering. We are altering plants and animals and it seems have the ability to alter their forms and functions.
    In Genesis of the Bible it talks about Gods in plural. There is also talk about the angels mating with the daughters of men.
    Also in my reading of ancient books there is talk about past civilizations that were more advanced than ours in medical practices.
    Could it be that sometime in ancient history man was a sub-human species that was genetically altered to become what we are today?
    In this respect creation and evolution could really be tied together.
    Just a thought.

  11. Like Randall, I too am an atheist. I can not rationally accept an irrational ‘why’ as proof that the ‘why’ is a rationally defensible fact–without “compelling evidence”.
    “The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.”

  12. This modern debate between “religionists” and atheists has been raging back and forth since the beginning of the 20th Century. For those interested in arguments in favor of religious faith the two giants are the ex-atheists C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy” is a tour de force from a writer whose depth and range of intellect is unmatched in the present day. Two related books, “The Question of God” by Armand Nicholi, which compares and contrasts Freud’s atheism with Lewis’ theism, and “The Clash of Orthodoxies” by Robert George, which makes a strong case for the rational superiority of Judeo-Christian teachings on controversial moral issues to secular “rationalism,” are both worth reading. “Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian” – G.K. Chesterton.

  13. Randal
    The whole idea behind faith is that there is little direct evidence available to you yet you still can arrive at a conclusion. You believe something because it makes sense to you.
    A good example of this is the belief that life started spontaneously. Just about every scientist believes that life started from random combinations of inert chemicals, yet there is no real proof to this theory. No one has been able to create a cell from scratch in a laboratory. No brand new lifeforms have spontaneously appeared in all of recorded history. And not one single example of life has been found outside of Earth’s environment. Despite a complete lack of “rationally compelling evidence” (proof), this theory of the spontaneous generation of life exists and is widely accepted by many people. Why is this? It’s because the people believe that the current theories make a lot of sense. It’s a form of faith.
    Science and religion doesn’t have to be an ether/or situation. Science is just a means we use to discover and explain the processes that govern the observable universe. It is an attempt to answer the question of how things react. Religion (or philosophy), on the other hand, is a means to discover and explain the process of that which we can’t observe. It is an attempt to answer the question of why things react. The two are not incompatible. Knowledge is never complete until we understand both the how and the why.

  14. Why? Why? This is merely warmed over Aristotle. He said that if you drop a rock, it falls because its nature is that it wants to be closer to other rocks. TheOnion recast this as the Theory of Intelligent Falling. Once you frame things in terms of “why” you can create your own theory of everything on the back of a stamp. Aristotle had literally all the answers because he used “why” as his starting point. It took another 1500 years before people realized he was wrong about most things.
    Oh, and Aristotle was a polytheistic pagan, so if you want to use this line of reasoning, it may be a better justification of Paganism than Christianity.

  15. “The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.” ~ Gary
    Well, this Gary has a few questions for you:
    Do you believe in radio waves?
    Do you believe in air?
    Do you believe in sound?
    Simple questions, Yes, but then that statement about the ‘invisible’ is pretty Damned Simple to begin with. I hope no deep thinker came up with that one.
    All I have time for tonight, this Believing Catholic with a degree in Geology must be moving on.

  16. The basic flaw in the Darwinist/Athiest argument is that biological evolution is what physicists call a background dependent theory. It takes the origin of life as separate event from the origin of the universe. From this perspective life does look like a fortuitous accident. However, you cannot separate the evolution of life from the origins of the physical universe because the processes that led to the origin of life are implicit in the creation of the universe. You don’t have to believe in “intelligent design” theory to accept this. The atheists can still be correct in that there was no spirit that caused the universe to become into being but even if it is merely a physical process the conditions for life are still traceable to the origins of the universe.
    Physics in a state of crisis. The profession has become enamored with string theory which is no more scientific then the bible. It replaces the scripture of the ancients with a new scripture of a set of non-provable mathematical relationships. Unlike the old scriptures the new scripture of string theory is only accessible by an elite priesthood. No less a believer then Stephen Weinberg, the Nobel Laureate who discovered remnants of the Big Bang, has said that we need to look a science in a new way that ends the necessity of empirical proof. The dominance of string theory has left physics at the same point that it was 30 years ago. An unprecedented event at least since Newton. I recommend a book by Professor Lee Smolin called “The Trouble with Physics.
    The general public believes that science has the answer to all the mysteries of life and if we don’t know something now then we eventually get the answer. This is false at the very heart of the physical universe. Cosmologists admit that they can only know the properties of the universe down to the size of a golf ball. Knowledge of a universe smaller then that is unknowable. As Weinberg says in his book “The First Three Minutes” is that the initial conditions were destroyed in the creation of the universe. Incompleteness is therefore a fundamental property of the universe. Complete knowledge is inaccessible as practical matter. Ultimately belief or non-belief is a faith statement. You can neither prove nor disprove the existence of a Supreme Being. The only thing you can say that is true is that we are all creationists now. The universe was created by God(s), beings or forces both unknown and unknowable. Anybody who says he “knows” rather then believes more then this is either a fool or a charlatan.

  17. Physics in a state of crisis. The profession has become enamored with string theory which is no more scientific then the bible.
    Don’t forget quantum mechanics. This is perfectly scientific, but it says many things which the believers in scientism would recoil at, such as that particles of matter spontaneously spring into existence from nothing. It even says that you can walk through a wall, in a process called quantum tunneling.

  18. Capt Ed: “Physics can explain, for example, the motion of a glass of water when struck by a human hand and predict the outcome, but it can’t answer for why the hand struck the glass.”
    Yes it can answer that question (well science can anyway)- What it cannot answer is: What exactly made the person whose hand we are talking about want to or decide to move the hand so that it strikes the water. We can answer the immediate reason (he was thirsty), but that is not the whole of the answer. The whole of the answer is to watch the chain of events that led up to that moment in time. This cannot be accomplished at this stage of humanity. But that’s not to say it can never be accomplished. And I believe one day science will be able to answer that question. I also don’t think science conflicts with theology, even if an individual scientist is an atheist or whatnot. You can always say god created the principles of physics etc.
    I suggest the notion of PSR (principle of sufficient reason) as a starting point for an argument for God. Religious philosophy has never been able to come to a legitimate conclusion that there MUST be a God unless they use assumptions such as PSR. The catch 22 is that they cannot prove there is no God either.
    I think David makes a great point too… He says these arguments are not christian specific. He’s right. Even if we do want to assume there is a god (which is all we are doing at this point), we can’t presume to know which religion is favored, if any. Especially when you consider that most religions do believe in 1 god, it seems to make little sense to attribute religious philosophy with 1 religion.
    ——
    Ed/D’Souza says that something with a beginning has to have a causative event. That’s not entirely true. It’s true in what we see everyday, but we cannot be sure this holds true throughout the universe. In fact you argue that very point when you reference Kant. What we know is limited to…what we know…i.e our perceptions. So for you or D’Souza to try and argue that it must be a certain way (based solely on only what we know at this point) is completely contrary to the point he uses to make his point.
    And lastly – Kant argued that we really can’t know anything based on the fact that we are limited to our perceptions. How can you argue the existence of a caring God, partially using Kant, when he stated the exact opposite? Sure, he said it’s fine to live your life thinking there is a caring god, if that makes you happy… But you can’t use logic to persuade someone, because there really is no true universal logic behind it.
    Why read D’Souza? Read the actual religious philosophers! You’ll come to understand that you can’t be convinced one way or the other. All the arguments have flaws in them! I suppose that’s why religions so often tell their followers that they MUST have faith. There is no logical way to explain it.

  19. God can never be proved as such. However if for the sake of discussion we ascribe to a god transcendence over time, making him four dimensional, we can no longer describe his qualities with our three dimensional language, thinking and comprehension. This is same dilemma faced by a two dimensional being describing us.
    Yes, you are right I stole that from “Flatland” the great 1884 novel of a two dimensional being running into a three dimensional one. Akin to our running into a Jesus Christ type–we immediately describe them with our limited view of god. On occassion, to mess with us, they rise from the dead–it’s that time thing again!

  20. Having been born and raised Catholic, I reached a point in my late teens where I realized that I had fundamental questions to which those whose advice I sought within my faith could only answer: “You just have to take it on faith.” That was four decades ago. It was the catalyst that sent me on a lifelong quest searching for the answers to “why”.
    Like Conrad, I studied numerous other belief systems. And I discovered that we are a very complex global community, filled with a multitude of cultures whose history is interwoven with a cornucopia of organized belief systems, including: Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islamism, Gnosticism, Deism, Native American and other Aboriginal Beliefs, Scientology, Wiccanism, Satanism, Atheism, Paganism, and others.
    Within Christianity alone there are numerous denominations including: Roman Catholics, Protestants, Charismatics, Methodists, Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Presbyterians, Quakers, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Eastern Orthodoxy, Evangelicals, Anabaptists, Pentecostals, Seventh-day Adventists, and others.
    And within each organized religion, belief system, denomination, sect, faction, etc., many were created as a result of a claimed direct visitation or directive, “Word” of God (as “God” is perceived by that spiritual institution). In most cases, its followers are devout believers in that faith being the one true faith.
    Is it any wonder at all that there is confusion about which one of the multitude of organized belief systems might actually be the “One True” faith, or, conversely, that faith, or any organized belief system, is a man-made creation to provide answers for the, as yet, unknowable and perhaps unprovable?
    Like Conrad, I’ve read countless books in my quest for the answers to the “why” of human existence. Thanks to Captain Ed’s excellent book review, it seems to me that, for me, the next logical book to read will be Dinesh D’Souza’s newest book, “What’s So Great About Christianity?”.
    Surprisingly, throughout this quest I’ve found the answers to many questions that I’d been initially told would have to be taken on faith. Yet as an intelligent, thinking and reasoning human being, I’ll probably be questing until the day I die. Like politics and government, it’s become a passion that I’ve come to enjoy greatly as more than just a hobby.

  21. Speaking from a Hindu point of view, I agree with the Captain’s assertion that science explains what/how things are and not the why. Science and faith can and do coexist. That is the beauty of what God has created. Science could be thought of as a system for deciphering what God has created. As to why God created the Universe and why did He devised the cyclical nature of the Universe (according to Hinduism) is a mystery.
    I agree that belief in God is of course faith. By definition there is only God. There can not be gods. God was not created and therefore can not end. God just *is*.
    This (my) faith does not deny other ways of worship or even non-worship (atheism). If one believes in science and not God, that is ok. The atheist scientist is still helping unravel (as much as can be possible) God’s Universe.

  22. God could have been created – Our God could just be another part of the series. We don’t know.
    And again, I would like to reiterate that D’Souza probably isn’t the best source for this information. He’s taking it from other religious philosophers, so why not actually read those philosophers?
    There is no answer at present. God could or could not exist. It comes down to what makes you comfortable. Most people find some form of religion comfortable. If we lived 1000 years, I wonder how many people would be religious for their first 900, and how many would become religious in their last 100? We die, and that’s the basis of religion as we know it. Obviously it isn’t about what Jesus taught, or I don’t think we would be in as many wars as we have been in. So I’m pretty sure religion is primarily based on death – which is a bit of a downer…

  23. ck ~
    “I would like to reiterate that D’Souza probably isn’t the best source for this information. He’s taking it from other religious philosophers, so why not actually read those philosophers? ”
    Every generation needs it’s rehash and reformulation of the previous generation’s “originals”. Sometimes, it merely makes it more accessable to the masses, like a remake of an old movie. In this case, I agree, the originals are often, but not always better. Sometimes, something “new” emerges. I haven’t read the book but put it on my Christmas wish list…I look forward to seeing if it moves the discussion forward. I’ll even be happy if it serves as a Cliff’s Notes to several of the old philosophers and makes me think.
    I think it was Picasso, while viewed as such an original, pointed out that there is nothing original…something along the lines of “we all steal. I just steal from the best”. Hopefully, D’Souza is a good thief.

  24. Evidence….
    Not *proof*, but evidence sufficient to convince a skeptic in the absence of proof. Proof eliminates doubt. (It also eliminates faith). Evidence reduces it below the “reasonable” threshold.
    Proof requires no further explanation, by definition. Evidence, on the other hand, demands an explanation.
    The evidence is overwhelming that within a few years of the alleged event, large numbers of people believed that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead. That historical event is at the heart of Christianity.
    But *why* did they believe? After many years of investigation into the alternative explanations, this former atheist and skeptic became convinced that the leat unlikely explanation was that it really happened.
    Of the alternatives, that explanation required the smallest leap of faith.

  25. Today’s “atheists” aren’t atheists: they’re antitheists. This is a philosophy just as fundamentalist as that of those they call “fundamentalists”. They’re just as sure — on faith alone — that there is no God, as sure as any evangelical is sure that there is.
    My position is a humble one: that I cannot know what I am not given to know, or cannot discover on my own. Believing is a dangerous position: millions have lived their entire lives believing things that are completely wrong.
    Example: millions have lived believing that the earth is flat. But looking — and really seeing — a large body of water reveals the truth. Just hold up a straightedged object at arm’s length: line up the ends with the horizon. Then look in the middle: there’s a big bulge. Simple reason does the rest. I think it was Ptolemy who used this observation to make a reasonable guess at the circumference a whole lotta years ago. Yet for centuries after that, millions still believed: flat.
    I think my years at a Methodist seminary left me at graduation with a good understanding of the methods and limitations of science. And a healthy aversion to hubris.
    Oh, and for those who disavow quantum mechanics, you might want to check the schematics on your own computer for any Josephson Junction devices, or Schottky amplifiers. Without quantum tunneling, they wouldn’t work. Sure, there’s “spooky actions at a distance” as Einstein said, but these are things we can know, and as time goes by we’ll understand more and more of it.
    As for the so-called “Darwinists”, they need to actually read Darwin, and understand his observations, and how circumscribed his conclusions really were. Then perhaps they could limit their extensions from there, unless supported by further observation. Science is simply a process of observing and generalizing, after all.

  26. “Example: millions have lived believing that the earth is flat. But looking — and really seeing — a large body of water reveals the truth. Just hold up a straightedged object at arm’s length: line up the ends with the horizon.”
    Uh–that wouldn’t work. The horizon is the top of the bulge.
    The inference that helped establish the spheroid nature of the earth came more from the appearance of a ship’s mast. That placed the hull of the ship beyond the horizon (the bulge you talked about).

  27. Referring to the Big Bang for supposed justification of any religious view is a mistake, and typical of a petty vulgarization of science – and quite likely to backfire on someone trying to exploit it in D’Souza’s manner.
    Big Bang theory remains a theory (and there are numerous competing versions of the theory). It has NOT been proven: What has occurred is that certain experiments have verified certain predictions made according on the basis of the same ideas that produced Big Bang theory, but alternative views of the universe can also be derived from those ideas.
    There are many implications of Big Bang theory that would surprise people who think, along with D’Souza, that it simply implies a single universe with a single unexplained and inexplicable beginning point. For reasons far too complex to go into here, it may in fact be impossible to sustain Big Bang theory without referring to the idea of a multiverse – meaning that “our” universe would have to be one of unimaginably many universes.
    There is another attractive theory currently making a serious bid to replace Big Bang theory. Much of the universe picture, at least for this universe, remains unaltered, except that one key implication is that this universe itself need not have had any beginning at all. The events that correspond to the Big Bang would be a kind of repeatable rupture in space-time that would occur when this universe – already at least trillions of years old, possibly infinitely old – came into contact with neighboring parallel universe (as explicable in one derivation of string theory).
    Over the next few years, a big face-off between Big Bang and Cyclical Universe theories may be decided. Or it may turn out that both theories are disproved. For people interested in cosmology and physics, it’s one of the most exciting things about being alive today – that we have the tools to test out answers to these truly fundamental questions.
    For a comprehensible-to-the-layperson exploration of the alternative Cyclical Universe theory, including an expansive view of Big Bang theory in its contemporary versions (not the vulgar one adduced by D’Souza), try ENDLESS UNIVERSE by Steinhardt & Turok.
    http://www.amazon.com/Endless-Universe-Beyond-Big-Bang/dp/0385509642/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/105-6351350-0741201?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1192858165&sr=8-1

  28. “What we know is limited to…what we know…i.e. our perceptions.”
    And we are capable of changing our perceptions. I have learned that my projections (judgements)determine my perceptions. If I change my learned judgement about a person, place or thing my perceptions change.
    I think today our ability to comprehend our existance goes beyond such recent philosophers as Kant, Hume, and leibniz.
    Science has opened up our minds to the possibility of a comprehension of God in our own being, because it is now bordering on metaphysics to explain the mechanics of the universe.
    God to me is not a father figure like I thought in my youth. God to me is much more than that, yet with my human thinking I cannot explain it.
    I have found in my search that my body has it’s own reasoning in desires, my brain has it’s own reasoning from what it has learned, my heart has it’s own desires apart from my body and brain, so what am I observing all this from?
    My inability to explain what is observing all this activity in the functions of myself is equal to my inability to explain god, except that, for myself, I know something is there.
    We know very little human history. Our records only date back a few thousand years.
    It appears from the monuments and manuscripts that we do have from the past, our current civilization did not spring up from the stone age.
    Something happened in history to cut us off from our past – perhaps the great flood that is talked about by all cultures?
    I do not read the bible literally. I am not interested anymore in what others in the past had to say about god. I am searching for my own truth about god.
    In my own opinion, I think humanity is on the verge of finding the truth.

  29. Bryan:
    You haven’t actually done it, I can tell. Go to a big body of water (it was the Atlantic Ocean for me), hold up a straightedge, and tell us what you see. Then tell us what conclusion you can draw from that. You don’t need ships and masts and such. The simplest most direct observation is usually the best.
    Don’t overthink it, don’t outsmart yourself. Just take what the real world gives you, and actually look at it. I got this one when I was 10.
    Just take your your own measurements and crank your own numbers. You’ll probably do better then Ptolomy did.

  30. While i dont regard myself as an athiest, since i believe we have seen way too little of the universe to state our certainty that there is no god(s) in it,let alone outside it. That being said, i dont see how any rational person can adere to any of the existing faith on earth solely on account of the statements they make…many of them are outright laughable the biggest joke being the silly idea that god(s) sit in judgment of creation. if the universe was created by an all powerfull God then everything in the universe MUST be precisely as the allpowerfull God wants it to be and judgment occured AT THE MOMENT OF CREATION…essentially,everything God liked was created and everything God didnt like Wasn’t…seems pretty self evident to me.

  31. Well, if I understand the argument(s) that have been given, many atheists don’t believe in God because God is not seen. Yet, don’t both areas of belief rely on Faith?
    The Christian has faith (as do many other religions) as he/she believes in something that can not be proven. The Atheist also has faith, in that he/she believes in something that can not be proven. Is Atheism a religion (just like Evolution)?
    If there is no God, what have I lost in the process if I believe there is one?
    If there is a God, what have the atheists lost in the process if there is one?
    Who is the one that has lost the most? It sure is not me.

  32. I really have no description of what I see in the interconnection and cross-connection of things. It is described by no religion, and, yes, I have looked at quite some few of the major ones, major branches and off-shoots. I cannot properly describe it as the process by which I look at things appears very different than that of my fellow humans here on Rock 3 from the Star Sol.
    Science tries to explain what is seen. Give the universe a question and it answers truthfully, although our measurements may not measure that entire truth, we do try to limit the external variables. Science, itself, has grown very complex to look at the wide variety of things about us. That test of expirementation yields results: sometimes understandable, sometimes cloudy, sometimes incomprehensible. Often the wrong question was asked and so, as the computer sciences would put it, ‘Garbage In, Garbage Out’. The need, then, is to ask better questions, not argue over poor results save to refine the questions to its simplest form. That is why particle physics looks at particles and examines where they rest in the greater knowledge of physics and mathematics.
    Science is a *process* and more than ready to invalidate previous views based on evidence not explained by existing views. From geology there is a sociological view of that: we have to wait for the fossils to die off in academia before new views are given wider examination. I am amazed at how many argue about darwinian evolution, when anyone looking at evolutionary theory and how the evidence plays out will tell you he got large sections of it wrong. That does not invalidate the concept as a whole, but led to greater examination of the world because what he theorized did not fit with what was observed. The Darwinian method of inheritance was wrong and that led to testing of populations, study of plants and that would lead, haltingly, to genetics. Mind you the chemists and biochemists played a huge role, as did particle phsyicists and those building technology for all of those realms. Darwin’s method of inheriting features was discarded as genetic theory fit far, far better and still *does*. Genetic research is a leading area of evolutionary research due to that, and studies of populations are giving insight to how the genome changes under stress conditions in populations.
    That does not tell you *why* the conditions changed, but it examines the aftermath of those changes. You do not come up with exact answers as climate, sea level, and starting genome all play their parts and their interaction is unpredictable with exacting specificity. The changes are not exactingly predictable, due to the variables at each of those levels. The KT extinction event saw a wide and diverging population of single celled foraminifera: a plethora of shell shape, size and construction. Only one species of the uncounted large number of species made it through that event and its still existing descendants tell us one thing that may have been crucial to their survival: they could go into hibernation and sink in the water column until conditions changed to awaken them… they were polar forams.
    To me it is astounding that so much pseudo-science is pressed forward when the actual tools to do science are so cheap. Humans love a mystery, but we love it even more when we can explain something and have *new* mysteries to explain. As an example things like hauntings and poltergeist are a staple of horror fiction and other fiction, with only a poorly recorded and examined case here or there. We gain assertions that a place is, indeed, haunted, and yet sub-par tools are brought to the task. By recording limited evidence and asking poor questions we do not get reasonable results. Yet, today, wireless microphones and videocams (even IR ones!) are relatively inexpensive, as is data storage and computing power. Analysis software for reconstructing sound placement and image placement in 3D is available and the cost for such a rig to cover an entire family home no more than $30,000 with that price dropping year on year. No longer are reel-to-reel tape players and unsteadily held cameras needed: put down wireless ones with GPS positions and you now have limited fuzziness in data capture. The questions to be asked are basic: how much energy budget does this phenomena expend in a given known location? To make sound you need to excite air molecules and that takes energy. To change air temperature by a number of degrees from surrounding ambient you need energy. Energy is neither created or destroyed as we are taught in the laws of thermodynamics. So what, exactly, *is* the energy budget at a haunted or poltergeisted site? We know sunlight and insolation, available other energy sources from thermal conditions and rock structure conditions. We are now in an era where we can start limiting the unknown, concentrate on fundamentals and get to the bottom of this.
    Yet, in doing so, you tread into religious ground, do you not? Mind you, you are not asking questions of after-life or not, you are examining phenomena which may or may not lead you to traditional views on it. We may not be able to pin down the global ‘why’, but we can, most certainly, pin down the local phenomena and give it measurement and analysis. Settle for the resultant mystery and its spooky implications and you refuse to step into the unknown. Step into the unknown and you get some view of the original phenomena, removing of possibilities and examining of the phenomena with other parts of our knowledge. We don’t know what the result will be once investigation starts: you start with fundamentals and work your way up to something that gives coherent results. To do that you need basic data and knowledge.
    While holding no religion is it not true that we, as humans, love to explore and explain? While holding many different religions, cannot we agree that this universe is here and worth knowing in all of its mysteries and the glory of how it works, and let each other decide on the deeper implications of that? Our founders, seeing the wisdom of Westphalia, to let every man decide on religion for himself, put forward that all people in the Nation must come forward to ‘form a more perfect Union’. If we cannot agree on what is common between us and understand that on final issues differing religions give different answers, then how are we to have a commonality within the Nation? I give high honor to those that have found meaning in their religious views, but mine are not yours and we must, as citizens, do our duty to reconcile ourselves that others see things differently than we do. Because if we cannot do *that* then we have betrayed the very essence of what brings us together in this Nation for the duty to make ‘a more perfect Union’ is not that of government to do it for us, but for We the People to use all avenues beyond and including government to do it for ourselves.
    That is what is betrayed by absolutists and is the enemy of this fine Nation and its People. We are mortal and frail and cannot make things perfect.
    But ‘more Perfect’?
    Surely that is within our grasp and leave that to be built upon by those that follow, should we be so lucky to keep the compact between all of Us.

  33. Ludwig wrote:
    “if the universe was created by an all powerfull God then everything in the universe MUST be precisely as the allpowerfull God wants it to be and judgment occured AT THE MOMENT OF CREATION”
    That doesn’t follow, though it does represent the teachings of some Christians, including some Calvinist groups.
    Once you allow that omnipotence and omniscience require self-consistent descriptions before being employed in argument, you realize that a universe that includes free will cannot be planned in advance even if it were known (and it can only be known as fact in advance if its future reality is assured).
    These are the types of spurious arguments on which atheists have long relied–people like Dawkins and Hitchen simply keep that tradition going.

  34. Niccolo,
    Your method would work–I misinterpreted what you had suggested.
    It’s not that important a point in the first place, though, since knowledge of shape of the earth is ancient and widespread.

  35. True Christianity is the belief of a Triune Godhead who existed in eternity past, time and eternity future. To me this is a personal belief rooted in Bible teaching and faith and not a function of ‘religion’. You can’t see God – that would defeat the whole purpose of faith – to believe in something that is not seen. Anyone who observes nature and cannot see the hand of God has no faith.
    You don’t want to believe in God – that’s up to you! Just think about this – the Bible teaches that EVERYONE will live forever in eternity. The only thing that is up for grabs is – you want to spend forever in Heaven or Hell? Your choice!

  36. There is another attractive theory currently making a serious bid to replace Big Bang theory. Much of the universe picture, at least for this universe, remains unaltered, except that one key implication is that this universe itself need not have had any beginning at all. The events that correspond to the Big Bang would be a kind of repeatable rupture in space-time that would occur when this universe – already at least trillions of years old, possibly infinitely old – came into contact with neighboring parallel universe (as explicable in one derivation of string theory).
    One of the things De Souza will assuredly have included in his book is some form of the Kalaam Cosmological Argument, which casts radically serious doubt on the possibility of an infinitely old universe.
    In brief, the notion of infinite age carries with it the implication of a series of events. If one supposes an infinite series of event that stretch endlessly into the past, then an infinite series of events would have to take place before our present could exist.
    To illustrate, suppose you were allowed to drink a glass of water after you performed a specific duty. All you have to do it is deal out an infinite number of playing cards. Deal them out as quickly as you like (a trillionth of a second or faster) but you’ll never sip that glass of water.

  37. “God exists.” “God exists not exist.” Observe that all the pro and con arguments are from HUMAN BEINGS. GOD could very easily put this debate to rest. But there is only that empty silence from Him. I rest my case: God is and He is a Silent God.

  38. Science answers a particular class of questions, and it’s important to know what it can and can not do. The great chemist-philosopher Michael Polanyi described it roughly as follows:
    In the best possible case, in principle, one could measure every atomic element in the universe, its position and velocity, and solve the proper equations to know the position and velocity of those elements a year from now.
    In other words, it is possible in principle to obtain a complete description of the atomic facts of the world at some time in the future.
    But that description does not and cannot answer questions like “will this particular rose bush blossom next year?” “will my dog still be alive?” or “will there be religion in 50 years?” or “will I be in love 10 years from now?” or “will the United States exist 5 years from now?”
    If you ask a scientist to show you the answers to these questions in the mathematical solution, he’ll shrug his shoulders and tell you he has no idea. He’ll know the position and velocity of every atomic element, but will completely lack the ability to answer the questions you would most hope he could answer.
    Science describes physical facts according to material laws. It has no knowledge of what those facts mean, or their significance.

  39. I’ve read all the comments and have one indelible conclusion. I suspect that Capt Ed, as a father and grandfather would agree with me that despite all the blathering here about science and of worlds outside of and beyond this one, D’Souza’s most meaningful contribution to our society as we plough on in the 21st century is his reminder on the Greatness of Christianity as emphasizing the need of parents to rescue children from the control of the antitheists and the mechanics of the state (Part I Chapter 4); on its Greatness as the Origin of Human Dignity (Part II Chapter 7). D’Souza’s notes about the proper place of women and the respect which Christianity brought to them (p. 69-70) despite the efforts of the brights of ancient as well as of modern times to treat them as no differnt than hogs in a farrowing pen, honor his efforts.
    I could not, as I read, avoid comparing the candidates and their “families” (and I use the word loosely) who want to occupy Casablanca next year. Does a believing and faithful Christian throw rocks at their neighbor? That’s a strange way to respect the commandment of Christianity to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. Such actions and others may bespeak one’s reflection of their own unworthiness of respect and honor.
    What of candidates who treat women as toys for self-satisfaction and treat the offspring of their play as unwelcome “things” to be thrown away? Or returned to their land of origin as “having too much lead.” What of candidates who pretend that their private lives are no reflection of their inner rules of honesty, integrity, virtue and loyalty? Are we composed of two or more ids to be displayed as we perceive the needs of our audience?
    D’Souza says (and I jump ahead) “Christianity enables us to become the better persons we want to be. The decent and honorable things we do are no longer a matter of thankless routine. This isn’t just morality we made up for ourselves. Rather, we are pursuig our higher dignity as human beings. We are becoming what we were meant to be. Christianity not only makes us aspire to be better, but it also shows us how to be better. In marriage for example, Chistianity teaches that marriage is not merely a contract.” (p. 302) That is not a mere rehash of Socrates nor of any of those brights who followed him. We need help and D’Sousa suggests where we can get it.

  40. “In the best possible case, in principle, one could measure every atomic element in the universe, its position and velocity, and solve the proper equations to know the position and velocity of those elements a year from now.
    In other words, it is possible in principle to obtain a complete description of the atomic facts of the world at some time in the future.
    But that description does not and cannot answer questions like “will this particular rose bush blossom next year?” “will my dog still be alive?” or “will there be religion in 50 years?” or “will I be in love 10 years from now?” or “will the United States exist 5 years from now?”

    Actually, all these questions could in principle be answered by the first. But in practice it can’t, since it would require more computing power and more accuracy than is possible (a ridiculous amount of computing power and accuracy, in fact).

  41. Ich Dien,
    I agree. I also see a lot of people assuming arguments from D’Souza and prejudging them to be a “rehash”, rather than reading the book and finding out for themselves. I warned people that I could not possibly cover the breadth and depth of D’Souza’s work in this review.
    Fortunately, we’ll hear from the author himself on Monday. Don’t miss the Heading Right Radio show at 2 pm CT, and call in with your questions and counterarguments. I’m sure Dinesh will welcome them.

  42. I would contend that the scope of science is quite a bit broader than some circumscribed, reigned in school of philosophy.
    What do we mean when we say something exists? If something did not affect the universe in any way, was not coupled with any of its state variables, we would have no reason to believe in its existence. If, on the other hand, something did effect the universe, then the information of its effect would propogate. Careful observation of the effects can be traced to the cause and the nature of the cause can be sounded out with repeated experiments. This goes for everything that exists for any meaningful definition of the word exist.

  43. The use of science and other non-religious arguments to support Christianity sounds like an interesting read. However, it is exactly the wrong way to defend the Christian faith. It assumes the unbeliever is capable and willing to engage in objective, rational thought on the merits of the Christian faith.
    Aside from the problem of misjudging the unbelieving audience, it also makes incorrect assumptions about the Christian believer: Paul gives defense of the Christian faith as a duty for all Christians, regardless of their level of education. Most Christians throughout the ages could not answer the latest scholarly sceptic’s arguments drawing only from the sceptic’s field of expertise.
    Even Captain Ed noted that the arguments in Dinesh D’Souza’s book are too complicated to summarize in a book review.
    Compare that to various transcendental arguments that even children can master:
    The Christian world view has explanations for how people actually live, and atheists (and other non-Christian religions) fail in this area.
    Those who deny moral absolutes will cry out for justice when they are wronged. Those who say truth is relative know they cannot go to the bank and write large checks because they feel like they are worth millions, and have the bank cash the checks.
    Those who assert a random universe cannot explain why they feel a need to argue logically in that kind of universe. Those who insist on evolution cannot explain how their thoughts are more than chemical reactions, and how a debate between two people just two “weeds” doing what their chemicals determine (like the odd idea of talking about the truth of their opinion).
    Atheists cannot even properly ask the “Problem of Evil” because without moral absolutes, they are left with “If God is all powerful and could prevent evil (things that are unpopular and most people do not approve of, like murdering innocents) then why do these unpopular things happen?” This is a very weak statement, and hardly a logical contradiction – unless you can support moral absolutes while also denying God.
    I recommend the transcendental arguments of Van Til, instead of D’Souza’s approach for dealing with these questions with people you will actually meet. Otherwise, the unbeliever is treated as if the Christian faith has to satisfy all his objections before it is worth believing.

  44. “That doesn’t follow, though it does represent the teachings of some Christians, including some Calvinist groups.”
    Not really no. Calvinists believe that some people were created for the purposed of being damned and that nothing will ever change that. This is not at all what i m saying. I dont believe that there is an ongoing judgement of creation to begin with.
    “Once you allow that omnipotence and omniscience require self-consistent descriptions before being employed in argument, you realize that a universe that includes free will cannot be planned in advance even if it were known (and it can only be known as fact in advance if its future reality is assured).”
    That argument makes absolutely no sense at all. Free will is only the ability to choose between all the available options, all of which were purposefully created by God. And those choice we make are driven by whatever impulses traverses our minds at the moment of choosing,all of which were also purposefully created by God. And those choices are directed by the environement we occupy,all of which was also purposefully created by God. So therefore there can be no independance from God in what we choose to do,why we choose to do it and where teh choice occurs…just the ILLUSION of independance…because our perspective is limited to linear time…God’s would not be. God would not even be part of linear time,making our past,present and futur available to his perspective as if they were all the same instant…in other words,from our perspective,God created the universe 6000 years or 14 billion years ago,depending on whom you ask whereas from the perspective of God,he would be creating all of it RIGHT NOW.
    “These are the types of spurious arguments on which atheists have long relied–people like Dawkins and Hitchen simply keep that tradition going.”
    Not at all…athiest dont believe there is a God to begin with. on the other hand,the “free will” argument is typical christian self deception when it comes to the nature of reality because christians,like many other humans,like to believe that we are the cornerstone of creation and place themselves as the agency that all of us supposadly “need” to avoid the consequences of our so called damned status in what they call the judgement of God. the entire philosophy of independant free will arguments is 100% self serving and does not wistand an objective examination when compared to the available facts.

  45. Well, here’s another example, then: can physics and nature in itself explain the concept of trust?
    A man and a woman get married. The wife goes off to work each day and leaves the husband at home at his own business. She trusts him to refrain from sexual encounters during her absence. Why? Where does the concept of trust come from? It can’t be from experience alone, since the trust precedes her absences. And even if she left him alone for 10,000 days in a row, it’s not a conclusive indicator that he wouldn’t have a nooner on Day 10,001 with the next-door neighbor.
    In truth, humans operate on faith every day, faith that has no real basis in reason and rationality. We send our children to school with faith that they will return safe. We leave our spouses to themselves with faith that they will not leave us or cheat on us. In fact, those who do not act with that kind of faith — and who act to control their families to keep them from being injured or unfaithful — begin acting in ways that most consider quite irrational.
    Faith is a necessary component of rational behavior. It cannot be explained in physics or nature, or even reason as defined by the “Darwinists”, to use Dinesh’s terms. It exists separately from those scientific arenas and yet is essential to the human experience. How can this be, in terms of what Dawkins and Hitchens argue?
    (This argument does not appear in the book; it’s one I used to describe faith to a confirmation candidate a few years ago.)

  46. Oh come on!
    Faith is by definition irrational behaviour. To take your exemple about the wife who “lets” her husband off to work without installing a GPS in his penis to review where its been during the day when he gets back home,its not faith….its about knowing her husband…knowing the kind of man he is and that knowledge comes from experience…if she knew him to be a remorseless philanderer,there would be no doubt in her mind that his reason for being late tonight had nothing to do with “getting that important shippement out the door for tomorrows deadline”. On the other hand,if all her experiences with her husbad shown him to be a loving dedicated life partner who would never do such a thing to her,then the idea that he might cheat on her today would actually be quite irrational and unreasonable…..faith as a rational response….please…

  47. Bryan:
    You quote “…possibly infinitely old – came into contact with neighboring parallel universe (as explicable in one derivation of string theory).”
    As Lee Smollin points out there is no such thing as Sting Theory. There is merely a family of mathematical forumlation of string theory. In fact there may be an infinte number of string theories. String theory is not science. It is little more then mathematical masterbation that has lead physics on road that ends with no outlet.
    By the way Hawkings gave a paper last year that pretty much shoots down the infinte universe theory. It was the result of an error which he has since corrected

  48. You haven’t answered the question. Faith exists, whether you think of it as irrational or not, and not just in terms of religion. Please explain why humans have trust and faith as a consequence of physics and nature. You’ve already asserted that it’s counterproductive, so why would it not have been weeded out of the human instinct through evolution?
    This gets to the heart of D’Souza’s efforts to show the benefits but limits of science and reason to explain the totality of existence.

  49. MRM, I don’t disagree with a word of what you said except you ought to follow your statement to its conclusion. When you said it is possible in principle for a computer to answer the questions that science can’t answer, but practically impossible, I couldn’t agree more. But why is that so?
    If you had all the atomic facts from the relevant equations (Laplace’s vision), and someone says “is Captain Ed still writing his blog 10 years from now?” You have to admit the equations don’t tell you.
    What’s needed to answer to the question is a method for recognizing the pattern that is Captain Ed.
    But notice we’ve slipped out of pure mathematics into psychology, we’re talking about the act of recognition. Of course there is artificial intelligence, and again the fact we’re slipping into psychological language here shows we’re treading on thin ice.
    I’m actually in that field, and I can tell you point blank that you can make a computer appear to think, to grasp an insight, to recognize, but it’s still only an appearance. IBM’s big blue didn’t beat Kasparov, a large team of computer programmers, working feverishly behind the curtain and learning Kasparov’s strategies, beat him. Real human cognition can’t be modelled by closed systems of equations. I think Godel’s theorem had something relevant to say on that score.
    I believe the pop-atheists take advantage the fact that many folks believe science can address ultimate issues, the questions we’re really interested in, as scientific hypotheses, but fortunately many pretty smart folks know this is nonsense.

  50. I do agree that Faith exists but not that its a rational response to anything….rational thinking relies of evidence…faith relies on ABSENSE of evidence. And what you call faith is actually a combination of transmited knowledge with experience and the realisation that its useless to worry about thing you cant control…that why people can go about their daily business without being scared of their own shadow…now as to your question concerning why faith has not been weeded out YET bu the evolutionary process…give it time…we re still a work in progress…:)

  51. Ludwig, a scientist, qua scientist, uses unproven facts every minute of his day.
    Every time you test a theory, there are literally thousands of tacit links in the deductive chain, what we call background knowledge, or auxiliary assumptions like measurement models, that you are forced to accept as given. You can’t even get off the ground unless you’re willing to put a stake in the ground, and say “given X is true.”
    Those are faith words, dude.

  52. Randall: You posted yesterday late in the afternoon, and said, inter alia, “When the evidence for the existence of God is uncovered, I’ll be only to happy to believe it.”
    I tried to ask what “the evidence” for the existence of God was, that you would accept. If you answered, I missed it. Can you tell us, please, what would make you happy? Thanks.

  53. “Today’s “atheists” aren’t atheists: they’re antitheists.” –Niccolo: Oct 20, 2007 12:19 AM
    Speaking only for myself, I am an atheist so long as I remain unconvinced. No amount of argument can replace indisputable evidence.
    And besides, several of by best friends are theists. *wink*
    “Please explain why humans have trust and faith as a consequence of physics and nature.” –Captain Ed: Oct.20, 2007 11:18 AM
    I trust and have faith in the largely Christian servicemen and servicewomen of the U.S. Armed Forces to protect me and my family from harm. My atheism does not prevent me from appreciating the benefits of close association with people of theistic faith whose behavior is trustworthy for being predictably benign to an atheist in their midst.

  54. Well, this thing has gotten long and cumbersome, so I’ll try to synopsize responses to arguments sent my way.
    With regard to whether or not I believe in “prescriptive morality,” and if so, does this not invalidate my suggestion that God’s “invisibility” is a good reason to doubt His existence:
    This is a bit of a tar pit, but I’ll wander in. “Prescriptive Morality” is a code of behavior that serves the purpose of stabilizing and strengthening a society. It exists in the same sense that “Freedom” or “Love” or “Friendship” exist. It is an IDEA, or more properly a collection of ideas that take root in a human mind like a seed in a field, and grow.
    Similarly, I think “God” can be thought of as a concept that serves a social function, but not as any more real, live an entity than the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny.
    Also, the idea that the spontaneity of the origin of life is comparable to belief in God is also false.
    I believe life originated spontaneously because that is what scientists believe/suspect/hypothosize – provisionally – at this time.
    However, should the evidence lead away from the suspicion that life originated spontaneously, scientists will follow it.
    This is what separates scientifically informed speculation from belief in God.

  55. It’s still not answering the question. If science explains everything, it has to have an explanation for faith — which is supposedly antithetical to science, according to Dawkins, Hitchens, and others who do not allow for the existence of both God and science. Faith is an essential component of the human experience, and it is primarily non-rational. As you note, even atheists operate on the basis of faith every day.
    Now, if faith exists apart from rationality, logic, and science, why can’t God? And since science hasn’t disproven God, isn’t atheism itself a faith (as opposed to agnosticism)? Dawkins and Hitchens operate on the fundamental *belief* that God does not exist, not on any proof derived through the scientific method. They only propose than an absence of evidence equates to evidence of absence, a logical fallacy — especially since, as Kant notes and D’Souza points out, the limit of scientific method ends at our own powers of physical observation of our physical universe.

  56. Randall,
    Perhaps you should read the book. D’Souza notes several of these scientists have publicly stated that one of their primary motivations is to disprove religion. It’s an inherent bias in modern science, and one that has only been introduced in the last several decades. Scientists actively work around anything that indicates purpose in the establishment of the universe and the origin of life.

  57. Ray in Mpls:
    “Science and religion doesn’t have to be an ether/or situation”
    I don’t know if that’s a typo, but if not, congratulations. That’s funny enough I will appropriate it for myself.

  58. Randall was game:
    This is a bit of a tar pit, but I’ll wander in.
    “Prescriptive Morality” is a code of behavior that serves the purpose of stabilizing and strengthening a society.[/quote]
    It’s more than that, actually. A descriptive morality can serve the purpose of stabilizing and strengthening a society.
    One doesn’t ask if a descriptive morality is truly right or truly wrong. That question only makes sense of a prescriptive morality. The way you address the question, Randall, implies that it doesn’t matter whether or not the prescriptive morality is true (real) if it accomplishes the purpose of stabilizing and strengthening society.
    It exists in the same sense that “Freedom” or “Love” or “Friendship” exist. It is an IDEA, or more properly a collection of ideas that take root in a human mind like a seed in a field, and grow.
    Do freedom, love, or friendship come in descriptive vs. prescriptive forms? The analogy is stretching a bit too far for me to follow at the moment.
    Similarly, I think “God” can be thought of as a concept that serves a social function, but not as any more real, live an entity than the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny.
    If I’m following you correctly, you just told me that morality is just a social construct. So, why would you behave morally (as if it were a duty) any more than you would believe in the Tooth Fairy?

  59. ich dien, thank you for your comment. I will have to read the book.
    In regard to free will, I question the notion that we as humans really exercise much free will. We seem to operate as a machine responding to outside influences.
    In observing myself I have noticed that I have many automatic responses to outside influences. If I can catch myself to hold my automatic response then the possibility of free will exists.
    And where does the word “GOD” come from? I do not think it descends from any one religion but rather originating in antquity – is a symbol of contemplation for each individual to interpret according to one’s mental, moral, religious, and scientific cultivation.
    The fact those individual religions assign attibutes and qualities to this word God only augments the universal nature of this word so that human understanding can have something to grasp. For myself, the concept of God is beyond my intellectual capacity to comprehend, so the notion of God is left for this observer in me to decipher.
    A great historian of the past wrote, “We are a mystery encompassed in mysteries.” If we take the time to reflect on the common workings of nature and human nature we see the mystery of generation, maturity, death, and regeneration of life around us. We know of the centripetal & centrifugal forces that keep our solar system intact and make use of electricity and magnetism to power the machines that support our civilized life. We know the effects of all these forces but their causes are beyond our comprehension. We are left to acknowledge something greater than ourselves responsible for the order of our universe.
    Qualities emanating out of human consciousness such as trust, faith, hope, love, justice, mercy, and toleration that build character in a person and a nation and dissolve the destructive impulses in human nature, such as, vain ambition, greed, envy, hatred, and lust are qualities that are inspired by something greater than ourselves. This something I call God weather I claim to be religious or not.
    In my understanding, religion has no monopoly on God but it can be said that a particular religion contains its perceived truth of God.
    Separation of church and state as it is applied to our Constitutional government protects the people from having to accept one form only in the worship of god. It does not imply that there is no God nor that we formulate our laws without the qualities mentioned. There is no meaning in our laws or our “rights” if we do not acknowledge a higher principal than ourselves in justice and order in this mysterious universe.

  60. “If I’m following you correctly, you just told me that morality is just a social construct. So, why would you behave morally (as if it were a duty) any more than you would believe in the Tooth Fairy?”
    The law is also just a social construct. Democratic government is a social construct. Banks are social constructs, as are investments, agreements, and contracts. It doesn’t mean that just any social behavior will result in the same advantages as moral behavior will. But morality is also something that doesn’t exist indepenent of the men who practice that code of morality.
    I’m pretty sure that is what he’s saying. Saying something is an invention of man doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter.

  61. As Lee Smollin points out there is no such thing as St[r]ing Theory. There is merely a family of mathematical forumlation of string theory. In fact there may be an infinte number of string theories. String theory is not science. It is little more then mathematical masterbation that has lead physics on road that ends with no outlet.
    By the way Hawkings gave a paper last year that pretty much shoots down the infinte universe theory. It was the result of an error which he has since corrected.

    No, you are mis-characterizing Hawkings’ paper and its admission of error – which had nothing directly to do with Cyclic Universe theory, and more to do with Hawking’ particular contributions to one area of questions within Big Bang theory. Smolin’s problems with string theory and its proponents are also only indirectly relevant, if at all, to the cosmological question as currently being argued and, more important, actually being tested experimentally.
    I don’t pretend for a moment to be able to argue with Smolin or anyone else about cosmic strings and n-dimensional universes. All the same, referring to the whole of string theory as “mathematical [sic] masterbation” reflects the same misunderstanding of how physics and this particular area of physics develop as D’Souza’s misuse and dumbing-down of the Big Bang.
    Again, I refer you to the book I linked in my original post – prior to the one that you lifted – for a cogent exploration and explanation of Big Bang and competing models of the universe. Strings and Hawkings each make contributions, but none of the models rests entirely on some notional entirety of String Theory or entirety of Hawkings’ works and speculations.

  62. And about morality in general:
    Do we, as Americans, allow each other rights and behave morally only because we desire heaven and fear hell as unrelated carrots and sticks in the afterlife?
    Or do we behave accordingly because we desire a free and just society and would want to be treated the same way by our fellow citizens? To secure the blessings of liberty, and all that jazz.
    The probelm with carrots and sticks is that they can be used to justify any arbitrary code of morality, even backwards and twisted ones, and have been used to do so historically.

  63. MRM chimed in:
    The law is also just a social construct.
    Correct, and if that’s what it is then were the Nuremberg Trials legitimate? Germans followed their laws but were tried according to the laws of foreigners. Is that OK?
    But morality is also something that doesn’t exist indepen(d)ent of the men who practice that code of morality.
    So what would make one morality made by men better or worse than another morality made by men? Numbers? Power? Flowery language?
    I’m pretty sure that is what he’s saying. Saying something is an invention of man doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter.
    Well, not so fast. Why should morality X made by men matter to me when I’ve got morality Y made by Yours Truly? Maybe I like morality Y better (or maybe I composed it using flowery language!).

  64. “Ludwig, a scientist, qua scientist, uses unproven facts every minute of his day.”
    science is not in the business of “proving” anything but rather of explaining how the world works. there is no such thing as a proven fact.
    “Every time you test a theory, there are literally thousands of tacit links in the deductive chain, what we call background knowledge, or auxiliary assumptions like measurement models, that you are forced to accept as given. You can’t even get off the ground unless you’re willing to put a stake in the ground, and say “given X is true.””
    thats right but when a scientist says “assuming X is true then…” x in this case is a fact that has yelded enough predictability in the past that it can be relied upon as being true until shown otherwise. thats not faith…thats either knowledge or experience. Scientist dont go around forming theories based on facts they really know nothing about or cant predict with any reasonable reliability…at least not the competent ones.
    “Those are faith words, dude.”
    incorrect,dude…thats experience talking.

  65. Do we, as Americans, allow each other rights and behave morally only because we desire heaven and fear hell as unrelated carrots and sticks in the afterlife?
    Or, alternatively, according to the carrots and sticks of this life?
    Or do we behave accordingly because we desire a free and just society and would want to be treated the same way by our fellow citizens?
    What is a “just” society if morality is an invention of men? Anything we say it is?
    To secure the blessings of liberty, and all that jazz.
    “We hold these truths to be self-evident …”
    The probelm with carrots and sticks is that they can be used to justify any arbitrary code of morality, even backwards and twisted ones, and have been used to do so historically.
    That’s not just a problem with theistic systems (recall the existence of the U.S.S.R., or contemporary China).

  66. “Why should morality X made by men matter to me when I’ve got morality Y made by Yours Truly?”
    What happens if morality Y results in a backwards, corrupt, obscurantist life-denying hellhole and morality X results in a free society with human dignity. Would it matter where either came from?
    If you believe God told you to kill all unbelievers, or that the world’s people are your slaves and concubines?

  67. And before you claim that Christian morality is some glorious exception, the high-tide of Christianity’s power over society can be placed in the high middle ages (or the dark ages, if you’re less charitable), and it was no golden age. All throughout, people were butchering each other over trifling theological disagreements, and fraud and charlatainism were rampant.
    A great chain of being with kings and priests at the top and productive men scraping by at the bottom was their theory of government. Merchants were reviled, banking was sinful “ursury”, and inventors and scientists were dangerous men (dangerous to the priests’ prentensions to knowledge, that is) who were killed and jailed.

  68. What happens if morality Y results in a backwards, corrupt, obscurantist life-denying hellhole and morality X results in a free society with human dignity. Would it matter where either came from?
    Are you trying to judge two moral systems that are human constructs based on a higher standard or what?
    If we suppose that morality is constructed by humanity and that’s it, then your appeal is ridiculous.
    If you believe God told you to kill all unbelievers, or that the world’s people are your slaves and concubines?
    That rather depends on whether or not my perception was accurate, among other things. But here’s the thing: Randall said that morality is a human construct. So as a human I could come up with a morality that makes it OK for me to kill all unbelievers (with me deciding what is and what isn’t an unbeliever) and make all the world’s people my slaves and concubines. And if morality is a construct of man, then what would be wrong with my morality?

  69. And before you claim that Christian morality is some glorious exception, the high-tide of Christianity’s power over society can be placed in the high middle ages (or the dark ages, if you’re less charitable), and it was no golden age. All throughout, people were butchering each other over trifling theological disagreements, and fraud and charlatainism were rampant.
    I figured I’d just stick with the original point, thanks, which is the difficulty atheist world views have in coming up with a coherent system of morality, let alone following it any better than Christians do.
    A great chain of being with kings and priests at the top and productive men scraping by at the bottom was their theory of government. Merchants were reviled, banking was sinful “ursury”, and inventors and scientists were dangerous men (dangerous to the priests’ prentensions to knowledge, that is) who were killed and jailed.
    Quite true. On the other hand, it was the (Christian) Reformation teaching that recognized the basic dignity of the common laborer. And again we can turn to China to see how an atheistic worldview treats the situation.
    You can only get so far by pointing out the warts on your opponent’s system when yours is the one at issue.

  70. “It’s still not answering the question. If science explains everything, it has to have an explanation for faith — which is supposedly antithetical to science, according to Dawkins, Hitchens, and others who do not allow for the existence of both God and science. Faith is an essential component of the human experience, and it is primarily non-rational. As you note, even atheists operate on the basis of faith every day.”
    If you want a scientific hypothesis to explain faith here goes…its part of what keeps us sane. Human beings are the only species of animals on earth that are able to observe and appreciate how their existance on earth is really a precarious one(that we know of)…just about any number of things could wipe the lot of us out,not the least of which is our own stupidity…faith is the means by which we manage to go on with our lives and essentially make ourselves oblivious the the myriads of dangers surrounding us that we can do nothing about…its not rational so much as instinctive. That being said,there is an enormous difference between that kind of bread “i hope i ll be allright” faith and its corrupted version known as religious faith. The dangers present in this world can be observed and analysed by the mind even as we push them to the back of our mind and pretend they re not really there…but there is no human mind that observes the danger of hell’s existance and weather or not some people will go there is they do this or dont do that…having faith that i wont go to hell if i “accept Jesus as my personal saviour” is like having faith i wont turn into goo the next time i go out if i keep a pair of unwashed socks under my bed at home…its an irrational fear of something that most likely doesnt even exist to begin with. A fear that was implanted in the collective superstitious and uninformed psyche long ago by unscrupulous individuals for the purpose of exploiting that fear in order to exact favors or servility. That fear has been passed down from generation to generation until it became so ingrained in society that most people now assume its a real thing,no matter how irrational,illogical or insane that ridiculous belief is. that kind of Faith is something humanity can do very well without.

  71. “That rather depends on whether or not my perception was accurate, among other things. ”
    Right. The problem is religion provides nothing but raw assertion, and insulates itself from all means of testing accuracy. So naturally the only real conversation that’s ever gone on between two religions has been swords, guns, and numbers of followers. There’s no reality common between them to discuss.
    “And if morality is a construct of man, then what would be wrong with my morality?”
    Just about the only people it would benifit would be you and your followers. Everyone on the “slaves and concubines” end of the deal who could would take up arms.
    If there existed a morality which benifited no one, on what grounds could it be said to be good? If there existed a morality which benifited everyone to the greatest extent possible, on what grounds could it be said to be evil?

  72. “Quite true. On the other hand, it was the (Christian) Reformation teaching that recognized the basic dignity of the common laborer. And again we can turn to China to see how an atheistic worldview treats the situation.”
    actually it was christian INDIVIDUALS who decided to interpret the teachings differently that they had been in the past…this sort of re-interpretation goes on all the time in religious thinking which essentially makes religion a scapegoat of whatever you think is “right” or “wrong” at any given moment in time…so as an objective guide of morality,its utterly useless. and by the way most chinese are some form of buddhists.

  73. “Are you trying to judge two moral systems that are human constructs based on a higher standard or what?”
    I’d say the best standard to judge anything by is what these two moral systems result in. Do they produce anything desirable or valuable, or do they produce misery and oppression? What they do is more important, IMO, than where they supposedly came from.

  74. “If science explains everything,…” –Captain Ed: October 20, 2007 12:18 PM
    Science is a process of sorting the explainable from the unexplainable. Science has had insufficent time to explain all things explainable. It seems unlikely that Science will have sufficient time to explain all things currently unexplainable–particularly things irreducibly unexplainable (aka tangibly intangible).
    “Now, if faith exists apart from rationality, logic, and science, why can’t God?”
    Faith arises from the function of the mind/brain–as do rationality, logic and the philosophy of Science behind Science Process. If faith, why not God?
    “And since science hasn’t disproven God,…”
    I am skeptical of the existence of Nothing even though Science hasn’t disproven it, too.
    “…isn’t atheism itself a faith (as opposed to agnosticism)?”
    Belief in the willing suspension of belief? Hmm.
    “…as Kant notes and D’Souza points out, the limit of scientific method ends at our own powers of physical observation of our physical universe.”
    Yes. Science is limted to the credible and has little it can say about the incredible. *wink*

  75. MRM keeps going:
    The problem is religion provides nothing but raw assertion, and insulates itself from all means of testing accuracy. So naturally the only real conversation that’s ever gone on between two religions has been swords, guns, and numbers of followers. There’s no reality common between them to discuss.
    So religion offers nothing but raw assertion. What do you offer, in contrast?
    Just about the only people it would ben(e)fit would be you and your followers. Everyone on the “slaves and concubines” end of the deal who could would take up arms.
    So what? You’re not answering my question. What’s wrong with the morality I constructed? Does their rebellion make me wrong even if I put a rider on my morality declaring their rebellion wrong?
    If there existed a morality which ben(e)fited no one, on what grounds could it be said to be good?
    Why isn’t my judgment of benefit good enough for everyone? Their proper place might be to be slaves and concubines (certainly my human-based morality seems to indicate as much).
    If there existed a morality which ben(e)fited everyone to the greatest extent possible, on what grounds could it be said to be evil?
    On what grounds do we judge the greatest benefit, and if it ends up being an entirely human construct then what makes that judgment of benefit better than the one I wish to impose via my human-based morality?

  76. MRM again:
    I’d say the best standard to judge anything by is what these two moral systems result in.
    I’d say that the best standard is the one I established that makes everyone my slaves and/or concubines.
    If our moral systems are human-based then what makes yours better than mine? Or have you subtly decided that it isn’t human-based after all?
    Do they produce anything desirable or valuable, or do they produce misery and oppression?
    Who are you to say that misery and oppression are not desirable or valuable if I both desire and value them?
    What they do is more important, IMO, than where they supposedly came from.
    Sounds like you’re prepared to invoke something beyond human preferences. I’d like to hear more.

  77. I didn’t say benifit and harm (good and evil on a personal level) were figments of our imaginations. Those are very tangible real things in many cases.
    Systems of morality are inventions of man, how we deal with one another to secure benifits and ward off harm.

  78. “Who are you to say that misery and oppression are not desirable or valuable if I both desire and value them?”
    I am me and I would say I don’t find it desirable or valuable at all. On my utility function, slavery would rate just a bit below death, and it would prompt me and all my like-minded friends to band together and get rid of delusional jerks who thought that way.

  79. More from MRM:
    Systems of morality are inventions of man, how we deal with one another to secure benifits and ward off harm.
    Apparently it hasn’t quite dawned on you yet that “benefit” and “harm” are terms loaded with morality.
    What you haven’t done, MRM, is explain how to judge between competing human moral systems without appealing to yet another apparently arbitrary human judgment.
    That’s a big problem for a moral system.
    But he wasn’t done:
    “Who are you to say that misery and oppression are not desirable or valuable if I both desire and value them?”
    I am me and I would say I don’t find it desirable or valuable at all.

    So, are both of our moral systems correct even though they conflict (contradict)? Or is one right based on something more than your say-so?
    On my utility function, slavery would rate just a bit below death, and it would prompt me and all my like-minded friends to band together and get rid of delusional jerks who thought that way.
    So apparently tolerance is a bit down on your scale. 😉
    But seriously, do you not see that you’re not addressing the issue? You’re begging the question with your answers.

  80. Capt Ed:
    As a father of five, grandfather of 23 and great grandfather of 6 (and more expected), I share many of your concerns. What am I to tell these loved ones to help them be more than mere ciphers tossing around in troubled times? As a descendant of one of the 19 women hung as witches in Salem more than 300 years ago, I share many of your concerns. My many times over great grandmother was told that if she “confessed” to being a witch she would be freed. Her answer, graphically portrayed in The Crucible, was to the effect that while she respected the judges before whom she stood, that she was going to soon meet one better than they. As one whose earliest ancestor on these shores arrived in the Plymouth Colony in 1623, I am concerned that our society is now losing – no, is giving away – some of the virtues and strengths that made us free. As one descended from some who revolted against the Puritans and moved to Rhode Island I worry that there are some who would impose, in the name of freedom, even more restrictions. As one who served a three year stretch in the Korean Conflict, as a Special Agent in the Army Counter-Intelligence Corps, I fear what some of our declared “Christians” in Congress are doing to take away our strength. As one who occasionally helped Gov. Ronald Reagan in his efforts to protect those unprotected and unserved by lawyers, I worry. As one nominated by Pres. Gerald Ford to serve on the board of the National Legal Services Corporation but ‘borked’ by the Senator Labor and Public Services Committee I am petrified as what is happening.
    May I “play” now at returning to court, as I often did in reality during my more than 40 years of practice as an attorney? The “witness” Randall voluntarily made a statement in which he declared among other things “When the evidence for the existence of God is uncovered, I’ll be only to happy to believe it.”
    Subsequently the witness said that he would respond, but he did not answer my question as to what evidence of the existence of God he would believe. I move to strike his answer and ask you to order him to answer.
    Your Honor. Why the fear of defining what the “witness” so bravely declared he would accept? Is this all just talk? Just words? Words twisted and turned?

  81. “What you haven’t done, MRM, is explain how to judge between competing human moral systems without appealing to yet another apparently arbitrary human judgment.”
    How do you judge between anything without appealing to your own judgement?
    The results of a set of actions, or a system of morality, or a theory of government are not arbitrary.

  82. Mr Maclead:
    I did not mischaracterize Hawkings admitted error. He had hypothesized that black holes are the connecting points between alternative universes. It appears that the energy in black holes is re-radiated to this universe. If physical space is a multi-verse we can never validate the existence of the alternatives because we can never observe the other worlds. I think it is as likely that we live in the “matrix” as there are other universes out there. If we do live in a computer simulation then for our purposes God does exist because the creators of the simulation have put him in there.
    Popular books on string theory ignore the mathematical intricacies of the theory. I have a strong background in mathematics and I find the actual mathematics to be opaque to my understanding. I do understand the concepts and can see that they have little to do with real world physics. String theorists have explicitly thrown out empirical tests because they admit string theory has none. See Steven Weinberg’s writings on string theory
    In the same way a theory of a cyclic universe can not be empirically validated since an observer in each iteration of the universe could never observe previous or future iterations. The cyclic universe theory is as much a matter of faith as the existence of God.

  83. How do you judge between anything without appealing to your own judgement?
    The word “arbitrary” seems to have disappeared for purposes of your response.
    There’s principled judgment and there is personal preference. Randall placed the foundation for morality at the human level. At first blush that looks like a system that places morality in the realm of personal preference. You haven’t given me any reason to think otherwise.
    The results of a set of actions, or a system of morality, or a theory of government are not arbitrary.
    You’re using as a premise the supposition that the set of actions, system of morality, or theory of government are not themselves arbitrary.
    Where any of the above is arbitrary, the results will pass on that same degree of arbitrariness.

  84. Let me try to explain a bit more explicitly:
    All humans have a set of things which benefit them and a set of things which harm them. Conditions which promote their life and wellbeing, and conditions which threaten and stifle it. We tend to like the former and dislike the latter, though there are some psychological disorders, ect.
    There are ways of dealing with each other that enable them all to get some of what they want and everyone to prosper. There are ways of dealing with each other that sacrifice some people to other’s goals, so that only a very small number of people end up benefitting from it. There are ways of acting which only madmen consider which end up harming everyone.
    Which state of affairs is more desirable to you (where your “arbitrary” judgement inevitably comes into play)?

  85. I’ll admit I haven’t read the book yet, and I’m relying on Ed’s capsule description of D’Souza’s argument. That being said, a comment:

    D’Souza also addresses the difference between evolution and Darwinism, at least as he perceives it. Like the Catholic Church, he sees no conflict between evolution and Christianity…
    …He decries the Darwinist movement in science which has at its basis an explicit bias against religion, and which therefore rejects any evidence of God or a metaphysical reality, and has a compelling argument for this from the mouths of the scientists themselves. In doing so, they have rejected the scientific method itself, D’Souza insists, turning Darwinism into a religion rather than relying on evolution as an explanation limited to the physical reality of our universe.

    I’m not sure there are as many “Darwinists” (as D’Souza describes them) as he may think.
    We need to be careful to distinguish between two kinds of materialism: methodological and philosophical.
    Methodological materialism is what science does. It relies only on material causes and effects, because non-material causes and effects are outside the rules of science.
    Otter, in his post of October 19, 2007 7:27 PM, offers what he thinks is a telling rebuttal:

    “The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.” ~ Gary
    Well, this Gary has a few questions for you:
    Do you believe in radio waves?
    Do you believe in air?
    Do you believe in sound?

    OK, let’s acknowledge his nitpick and change “invisible” to “undetectable”.
    Radio waves are invisible, can’t be heard, can’t be felt. But you can build a device capable of detecting them and extracting information from them. Devices that our theories say should produce radio waves seem to produce something that radio receivers can detect.
    And radio waves affect any number of other things in ways that are consistent with the existence of radio waves. (Including an elaborate chain of theories which make it possible to do MRI scans of people. If even one of the underlying theories were wrong, MRI wouldn’t work.)
    Sound and air are a lot easier to detect by their effects on the rest of the world. Ghosts, spirits, psychic energy, “orgone energy”, and divine will are a lot harder to detect, and experiments designed to detect them have been, at best, inconclusive. Furthermore, the methodological materialism of science has not yet had to call upon these in order to explain how things happen.
    One of the great red herrings I see in arguments about evolution deals with scientists who believe “all this just happened”.
    I don’t know any scientists who think anything “just happened”. Every scientist I know thinks things happen according to rules, and these rules can be discovered by scientists. Atom bombs, for example, don’t “just happen” to detonate. They operate by well-understood rules. (Indeed, nuclear engineers had better understand those rules very well, or the bomb might detonate when they don’t want it to.)
    Evolutionary science asserts that living things arose and came to be the way they are now in accord with known, or at least know-able, rules of physics and chemistry. Any biological phenomenon you care to examine either has been explained, or will be explained in terms of these rules. At no point will there ever be a need to draw on the chalkboard, “Step 2: Then a miracle occurred.”
    Now granted, this is ultimately a matter of faith. But given the track record of science solving things using the rules, and the track record of those who point to gaps in understanding as demanding something outside the rules, I put my money on science. I believe the rules that govern the universe are complete, and are capable of accounting for everything that happens in the universe.
    The sixty-four million dollar question then becomes: Did someone write the rules, or have the rules simply existed throughout eternity? I have a faith-based answer to that question, but I can’t imagine an experiment or observation that will answer it objectively, one way or the other.
    Do you?

  86. Let me try to explain a bit more explicitly:
    That would be wonderful! 😉
    All humans have a set of things which benefit them and a set of things which harm them.
    Who or what decides what is beneficial and what is harmful?
    Conditions which promote their life and wellbeing, and conditions which threaten and stifle it. We tend to like the former and dislike the latter, though there are some psychological disorders, ect.
    So, if we classify those whose preferences disagree with ours as possessing “psychological disorders” it makes our opinions correct and their opinions wrong?
    There are ways of dealing with each other that enable them all to get some of what they want and everyone to prosper.
    And is that a good thing?
    If so, who or what decided it was good?
    There are ways of dealing with each other that sacrifice some people to other’s goals, so that only a very small number of people end up benefiting from it.
    Is that wrong?
    If so, who or what decided it was wrong?
    There are ways of acting which only madmen consider which end up harming everyone.
    Why, in principle, would a madman’s perception of morality be any less reliable than yours? Do madmen need to be in the majority to get a fair shake?
    Which state of affairs is more desirable to you (where your “arbitrary” judgement inevitably comes into play)?
    I’m not going to let you hang onto the coattails of my morality. If you’re an atheist then you’re not entitled to borrow my theistic basis for morality. For you, it would be a stolen concept. You wouldn’t want to deliberately steal a concept, would you? 😉
    For the sake of this argument, my morality calls for the killing of unbelievers and making the rest my slaves and/or concubines. If you can’t think of a better principle to undermine that morality than to get me to condemn it then you’re in trouble.

  87. “I’m not going to let you hang onto the coattails of my morality. If you’re an atheist then you’re not entitled to borrow my theistic basis for morality. For you, it would be a stolen concept. You wouldn’t want to deliberately steal a concept, would you? ;)”
    I’ve made clean off with all sorts of concepts thought up by smarter men than me :-P.
    But seriously, why is this hanging off the coat-tails of your morality. Are atheists, agnostics, and non-Christians not allowed to consider states of affairs that everyone benifits from good/desirable? Is the only reason you consider these states of affairs good because the Bible told you to?
    “For the sake of this argument, my morality calls for the killing of unbelievers and making the rest my slaves and/or concubines.”
    For the sake of the argument then, you would be what people who want a world where they can all prosper in peace would call “evil”. If God came down and decided to declare your cause just, with special effects to awe the masses, you would still be evil, in the eyes of those people.
    I might point out that in the absence of people, the relevance of morality vanishes.

  88. Bryan,your basis for morality is the same as any athiest…yourself….you decided what you is moral and what isent based what appeals to you personally…weather that moral sense was instilled by biblical teachings or you athiestic grand father is irrelevent…you are still the one that decides what right and whats wrong in the end.

  89. I’ve made clean off with all sorts of concepts thought up by smarter men than me :-P.
    Cute, but stealing the concept in this case is a logical fallacy, not just a case of honor via copycatting.
    But seriously, why is this hanging off the coat-tails of your morality. Are atheists, agnostics, and non-Christians not allowed to consider states of affairs that everyone ben(e)fits from good/desirable?
    Sure, you’re allowed to do that–but there’s no need to ask me about it if that’s what you’re doing. You can just insist that I get benefit from something even if I insist on the opposite, I suppose. But it doesn’t really resolve the issue. What allowed your judgment to trump mine?
    Is the only reason you consider these states of affairs good because the Bible told you to?
    No. But weren’t you going to tell me about your moral system?
    “For the sake of this argument, my morality calls for the killing of unbelievers and making the rest my slaves and/or concubines.”
    For the sake of the argument then, you would be what people who want a world where they can all prosper in peace would call “evil”.

    Are they right? If so, why? What sets their collective human judgment over my human judgment? Numbers? Power? Flowery language?
    Notice that you’re going in circles?
    If God came down and decided to declare your cause just, with special effects to awe the masses, you would still be evil, in the eyes of those people.
    Again, would they be right? Would their view trump God’s? On what basis? Numbers? Power? Flowery language?
    I might point out that in the absence of people, the relevance of morality vanishes.
    In terms of relationships between persons, sure. You could say the same thing about air. Air isn’t relevant to us if we’re not around to breathe it. I wouldn’t rule out the relevance of morality if a personal God existed, though, nor would I rule out the relevance of morality to various animal populations.
    Forgive me, but you seem to still be having difficulty addressing the issue. What is the metaphysical foundation for your morality, please?

  90. Ludwig said:
    Bryan,your basis for morality is the same as any athiest…yourself….you decided what you is moral and what isent based what appeals to you personally…
    Then why does MRM think his morality is better than mine? Is it just that he’s self-centered and arrogant? Do you think our moral systems are equal regardless of contradiction? Is there really nothing wrong with me thinking it right to kill unbelievers and enslave those who remain?
    weather that moral sense was instilled by biblical teachings or you athiestic grand father is irrelevent…you are still the one that decides what right and whats wrong in the end.
    You seem to be confusing the epistemology of morality with the metaphysical foundation for morality–unless you’re just really good at committing the fallacy of begging the question (assuming that god isn’t around to establish a universally applicable morality, for example).

  91. “For the sake of this argument, my morality calls for the killing of unbelievers and making the rest my slaves and/or concubines.”
    For the sake of the argument then, you would be what people who want a world where they can all prosper in peace would call “evil”.
    [b]Are they right? If so, why? What sets their collective human judgment over my human judgment? Numbers? Power? Flowery language?[/b]
    What do you mean by “right” though? Will their morality accomplish what they think it will? Will what they think your morality accomplish, actually be the result of your morality?
    They obviously don’t want to become slaves, and realize that they can’t live peaceably with people who want to enslave them, hence the “evil” label. What do you mean setting their judgement “over” your judgement? If they can’t convince you they’ll have to deter you or defeat you, in which case it becomes a contest of power not a debate.
    Who is “right”, the lion or the gazelle?

  92. In the same way a theory of a cyclic universe can not be empirically validated since an observer in each iteration of the universe could never observe previous or future iterations. The cyclic universe theory is as much a matter of faith as the existence of God.
    No, this is, again, a mis-characterization of the Cyclic Universe theory as presented by Steinhardt & Turok, which is different from ideas within Big Bang theory having to do with the possibility the heat death model vs. the contraction-and-repetition model. The Endless Cycling Universe is different from the Cyclically Exploding and Imploding Universe familiar from some Big Bang models. Hawkings’ speculations and retractions have more to do with the latter controversy, but don’t touch on either the theoretical underpinnings of Steinhardt & Turok’s model or the actual and potential experimental evidence for them.
    As for the idea that there can be no direct observation of a cycling universe, that almost goes without saying – but is also rather like saying that there can be no direct observation of quarks, the operation of quantum mechanics, in a different sense, the nose on your face (since from a certain perspective we never “directly” observe anything). If contemporary Big Bang postulates are accurate, then certain phenomena should be observable, and the theory may be confirmed, even though no one will have directly observed the Big Bang.
    Anyway, the larger point isn’t that this or that theory is or isn’t accurate or useful. The larger point is that D’Souza is making a contemporary version of the mistake made repeatedly by the Catholic Church and other organized religions when they have aligned themselves with whatever obvious, accepted, or scientific pictures of the universe, history, biology, and so on, only to discover much to their embarrassment and ill repute that the ground had shifted beneath their feet.

  93. “Then why does MRM think his morality is better than mine?”
    I just don’t think religion forms a very sound basis for morality or how to organize a society. There were hundreds of religions at one point or another, and millions of people, all who thought different things about morality and what they thought their God or Gods wanted from them.
    Many people point to America as being founded on Christianity, but people were Christian far longer than they were American, so it’s obviously not a sufficient condition for a free society.
    People were also devising moral codes and speaking in terms of good and evil long before they were Christian, or even monotheist, so Christianity doesn’t appear to be a necessary condition for morality.

  94. In a BIG hurry here. This post will suck, guaranteed.
    Captain Ed (Great web site, seriously), the desire of certain scientists to actively oppose theism is, er…., complicated and (arguably) regrettable, but does not constitute an argument in favor of the existence of God.
    Bryan,
    The whole “descriptive” vs. “prescriptive” thing is going to require some elaboration on your part.
    To suggest that morality is a “social construct” is NOT to suggest that it is arbitrary. Social constructs, like, say, cars or scientific theories, or amusement rides either “work” or someone gets killed/hurt/sued.
    The “social constructs” must conform to reality or they are sucky social constructs.
    Calling an assertion a “social construct” does not invalidate it.

  95. Ich bein,
    What could constitute “proof” of God. I am not absolutely sure, frankly, but it would be a fact or a logical observation that conformed with reality and could not be explained without the existence of God.

  96. “Do you think our moral systems are equal regardless of contradiction?”
    No. They’re obviously not equal, as they would both lead to different states of affairs. Yours (the one put forward for the sake of argument) would lead to a world where strongmen rule and the weak are in chains. Where most people are miserable and vast amounts of human potential wasted. Mine (I sincerely hope) would tend to support a free society and our great nation.
    “Is there really nothing wrong with me thinking it right to kill unbelievers and enslave those who remain?”
    If you believe as I do that a free society such as America is an immensely desirable end, your morality would be “wrong” in that it would tend to accomplish its opposite. I view it as wrong because I hold freedom and prosperity for myself and others as a goal.
    What you hold as a goal, however, is a matter that your “free will” decides. If you hold, in your heart of hearts, the misery and enslavement of others as a goal, then I can’t help you and we’ll be enemies. The prosperity of mankind, the world that results from these actions, and your status in the eyes of people who hold one of the various moralities will vary accordingly.

  97. “Is there really nothing wrong with me thinking it right to kill unbelievers and enslave those who remain?”
    If what you mean by “wrong” is “will anything stop me” then unless you mean other freedom-loving people stopping you, the answer is sadly no. For thousands of years, the vast majority of the human race was in chains and bondage because of this.
    I’ve got to go. Life’s too short for overindulgence in philosophy.

  98. >As a descendant of one of the 19 women hung
    >as witches in Salem more than 300 years ago,
    >I share many of your concerns.
    I’m not sure about religion, but the Salem Witch Trials did make a couple of important points. One – torture makes people lie, and in that case it made them confess to being witches. Two – Even in a tiny rural village it bacame an assembly line operation that killed dozens of people. Three – It did not catch a single real witch.
    So a tip of the hat to you ancestor. I have a friend whose ancestor was one of the first women hung.

  99. What do you mean by “right” though? Will their morality accomplish what they think it will? Will what they think your morality accomplish, actually be the result of your morality?
    Does their opinion negate mine? Or am I still correct in my human-based morality? Is their opinion, in the end, no more relevant than mine?
    At this point, you have to make some kind of decision between a morality connected to absolutes or go the other way toward moral relativism.
    Moral relativism has coherency problems.
    They obviously don’t want to become slaves, and realize that they can’t live peaceably with people who want to enslave them, hence the “evil” label.
    Once they were good and properly enslaved they’d be peaceable enough. But it’s nice to hear that their silly label doesn’t really carry any moral weight. 😉
    I can still have my own “ought” regardless of what they say, and you’ve given me no reason to suppose that their view somehow invalidates mine. So I’ll be doing the right thing by enslaving and killing them.
    What do you mean setting their judgement “over” your judgement? If they can’t convince you they’ll have to deter you or defeat you, in which case it becomes a contest of power not a debate.
    So you believe in might makes right, or are both of our moral opinions essentially irrelevant (in which case you’re describing, fittingly enough, a descriptive morality)?
    Who is “right”, the lion or the gazelle?
    Most don’t apply moral reasoning to non-sapient interspecies relationships.
    So are you saying that human morality is merely descriptive? We simply act as though certain activities and choices are right and wrong but in reality there is no true ought or is?

  100. I just don’t think religion forms a very sound basis for morality or how to organize a society.
    Oh, really?
    I don’t think non-religion forms a very sound basis for morality or how to organize a society.
    Does that make us even? 😉
    There were hundreds of religions at one point or another, and millions of people, all who thought different things about morality and what they thought their God or Gods wanted from them.
    Don’t worry, once belief in god goes away, everyone will have the same morality.
    Just kidding! 🙂
    Many people point to America as being founded on Christianity, but people were Christian far longer than they were American, so it’s obviously not a sufficient condition for a free society.
    The United States was the first, I believe, to explicitly posit the government as the mere custodian of a set of rights granted by a higher power. They placed those rights outside of human meddling. From the sound of it you couldn’t go along with their view of things.
    Your view, I think, might be amenable to allowing the government to add or take away rights on its own whim.
    People were also devising moral codes and speaking in terms of good and evil long before they were Christian, or even monotheist, so Christianity doesn’t appear to be a necessary condition for morality.
    Was that our argument? Sure an atheist can be moral. They just tend to have an extraordinarily difficult time providing a coherent metaphysical justification for their morality.

  101. In a BIG hurry here. This post will suck, guaranteed.
    The sense of humor adjustment (SOHA) will weigh in your favor, at the very least. 🙂
    Bryan,
    The whole “descriptive” vs. “prescriptive” thing is going to require some elaboration on your part.

    Be glad to. I’ll express it in terms of science, since scientific laws, as science currently understands them, are a perfect illustration of a descriptive.
    If scientists continually observe inertial effects, they develop a law of inertia. The law is descriptive. It offers a pattern to their observations. If an object defies inertial law there is no punishment. Scientists (if they trust their observations) will promptly amend the law to agree with the observations (perhaps “objects other than object X behave like M”).
    If physical laws were prescriptive, then the object that failed to follow the law would be an enduring problem. Prescriptive laws do not exist to agree with observations. They simply provide a line of demarcation between law-abiding and otherwise.
    Does that help?
    To suggest that morality is a “social construct” is NOT to suggest that it is arbitrary.
    It is if social construction alone is the metaphysical basis for the morality.
    A social construct with an underlying foundation or justification might not be arbitrary but you haven’t suggested one from what I can tell.
    Social constructs, like, say, cars or scientific theories, or amusement rides either “work” or someone gets killed/hurt/sued.
    If it’s like a scientific theory, then your morality is descriptive.
    The “social constructs” must conform to reality or they are sucky social constructs.
    Calling an assertion a “social construct” does not invalidate it.

    If your moral system is descriptive then it is very probably arbitrary. The final descriptive morality is based, for a materialist, on preceding states of matter (perhaps with random quantum events added) that apparently could have been otherwise. This is particularly true for a cosmological model that posits infinite and varied universes.

  102. D’oh! MRM lifted my statement about “equal” out of context:
    No. They’re obviously not equal, as they would both lead to different states of affairs.
    The original comment was in the context of your morality betting “better” than mine. Thus, “equal” referred to moral equality. Though perhaps you’re simply geared to outcome-based morality. We’ll see.
    Yours (the one put forward for the sake of argument) would lead to a world where strongmen rule and the weak are in chains.
    As though there’s something wrong with that? 🙂
    See, you’re disrespecting my morality all over the place. I’m saying that it’s perfectly OK for the strongmen to rule and keep the weak in chains. But apparently your morality is higher than mine since you try to claim by apparent divine fiat that my morality is flawed because of your distaste for the outcome.
    Where most people are miserable and vast amounts of human potential wasted. Mine (I sincerely hope) would tend to support a free society and our great nation.
    It seems like you take it for granted that a free society is a good thing. What is your justification for that point of view, other than your personal preference (which I should be able to trump with my own personal preference with everything else being equal).
    If you believe as I do that a free society such as America is an immensely desirable end, your morality would be “wrong” in that it would tend to accomplish its opposite. I view it as wrong because I hold freedom and prosperity for myself and others as a goal.
    Is there any way in which your personal opinion about it is elevated above a contrary personal opinion, in principle?
    Is it that you really don’t see the problem?
    What you hold as a goal, however, is a matter that your “free will” decides. If you hold, in your heart of hearts, the misery and enslavement of others as a goal, then I can’t help you and we’ll be enemies. The prosperity of mankind, the world that results from these actions, and your status in the eyes of people who hold one of the various moralities will vary accordingly.
    Well, that doesn’t mean that my morality is wrong. My opinion would seem to be just as valid as yours.
    Suppose for a moment that you believed the same as I did (sake-of-argument style).
    You and I would be perfectly correct to follow our own moral lights and kill the unbelievers and enslave the rest, wouldn’t we? Regardless of the existence of a god or gods?

  103. If what you mean by “wrong” is “will anything stop me” then unless you mean other freedom-loving people stopping you, the answer is sadly no.
    I had more in mind something that might trump my moral authority in executing unbelievers and enslaving the rest. Evidently you can’t think of a way to challenge my moral authority except by replacing it via force.
    For thousands of years, the vast majority of the human race was in chains and bondage because of this.
    Like there’s something wrong with that? 🙂
    Point being, statements like that appear to fallaciously beg the question (like “The Bible is the Word of God–because the Bible says so!”).
    I’ve got to go. Life’s too short for overindulgence in philosophy.
    Careful not to think too hard. 😉
    Thanks for the conversation, in any case.

  104. “Well, here’s another example, then: can physics and nature in itself explain the concept of trust?”
    Anyone who believes in science has to trust that the future will be like the past. Science cannot provide an answer to the question of whether scientific laws will change at some future time. The scientific method analyzes data about experiments done in the past. If the rules changed after the experiments were run, the science based on the old rules can be wrong.
    Christians expect the future to be like the past, based on an unchanging and faithful God who orders the universe. Those with faith in science but not in God trust their past experimental results by ignoring this problem. A faith in science without God needs to explain why the future will be like the past, and cannot do it.
    For those who care about philosophy, this is the skepticism of David Hume, but with the Christian asking the unbeliever to explain their faith in science. To date, nobody has answered the problem without resorting to faith (or talking around the problem).

  105. “Then why does MRM think his morality is better than mine? Is it just that he’s self-centered and arrogant? Do you think our moral systems are equal regardless of contradiction? Is there really nothing wrong with me thinking it right to kill unbelievers and enslave those who remain?”
    I regard most moral questions as having a very simple answer…how would you feel if X was done to you? And 99.99999 of the time,the answer to that will tell you weather or not you’re a moral person.
    “You seem to be confusing the epistemology of morality with the metaphysical foundation for morality–unless you’re just really good at committing the fallacy of begging the question (assuming that god isn’t around to establish a universally applicable morality, for example).”
    Not really…i couldn’t care less where morals ultimately come from…no one has ever managed to demonstrate that the knowledge of the actual origin of morals is relevent or usefull. Even if you believe that your moral compass was beamed directly into your skull by the pie in the sky,the make up of that moral compass will still be dependent entirely on what appeals to you personally and you will interpret any religious teachings you encounter or claim to agree with along those lines,making you the final arbiter of what is or is not moral. Now as i said if you really want to find out the “superiority” of a given moral teaching,compare it to the golden rule…its as failsafe a test as we re ever likely to get.

  106. “Similarly, atheists understandably wish that human nature was not flawed, but instead could be perfected by Reason, by building a Utopia that will cure all the murderers, and all the poverty, and all the racism, etc.”
    That belief has nothing to do with athiesm.

  107. “Similarly, atheists understandably wish that human nature was not flawed, but instead could be perfected by Reason, by building a Utopia that will cure all the murderers, and all the poverty, and all the racism, etc.”
    In order to determine if Humans are “flawed”,one has to demonstrate that we are somehow functionning in a maner that was not originally intended…can you demonstrate that humnans were designed perfect and then “broke down” along the way? Athiests do not believe that we can cure humanity from its “flaws” through reason but rather that they can be reduced to managable levels…and guess what…ahtiests seem to be right on that.

  108. I regard most moral questions as having a very simple answer…how would you feel if X was done to you? And 99.99999 of the time,the answer to that will tell you weather or not you’re a moral person.
    Why would that be, and why isn’t the answer moral .00001 percent of the time? Could it be that the statistical outlier wasn’t a moral wrong but just a moral different?
    Not really…i couldn’t care less where morals ultimately come from…no one has ever managed to demonstrate that the knowledge of the actual origin of morals is relevent or usefull.
    And there we have it. Utilitarianism plainly expressed.
    I suggest, Ludwig, that the lack of curiosity regarding the source of morality says something about atheistic worldviews: They don’t do a good job of providing answers (“no one has ever managed to demonstrate …”).
    Wouldn’t it be useful to know whether or not what you perceive as good is, in reality, good? Maybe .00001 percent of the time, at least? Any curiosity at all regarding the reliability of the method you use to confirm moral decisions?
    Why are (at least some) atheists so satisfied with answers that philosophically beg the question?
    Even if you believe that your moral compass was beamed directly into your skull by the pie in the sky,the make up of that moral compass will still be dependent entirely on what appeals to you personally and you will interpret any religious teachings you encounter or claim to agree with along those lines,making you the final arbiter of what is or is not moral.
    You’re describing epistemology: How we determine (learn) what is right and what is not with our intellect. Your description creates a confusion between arbiting the issue and attempting to learn the truth of the matter (more than likely the confusion in your language reflects an intellectual confusion on your part).
    The confusion leads immediately to contradictions, by the way.
    Let’s suppose that I decide for myself that morality is what I want to do regardless of what other people think about it. My system will probably differ from the results I would obtain under “I regard most moral questions as having a very simple answer…how would you feel if X was done to you?” I mean, my system isn’t any more complicated than yours–if anything it’s simpler. So, why would you think that your system results in moral decisions on your part? Why even bother calling them moral decisions? Maybe they’re merely decisions if you can’t figure out a metaphysical basis for morality.
    Now as i said if you really want to find out the “superiority” of a given moral teaching,compare it to the golden rule…its as failsafe a test as we re ever likely to get.
    Lacking any interest in the metaphysical basis for morality, why would you say that? Why would the Golden Rule be a better guide than doing as I please?
    As an aside, the incuriosity of some atheists is perhaps even more appalling than their philosophical handicaps.

  109. As an aside, could you knock off the snide asides and tell us what glorious truth we seem to be missing?
    If it’s some variant of priveliged reletivism “I do X because the Bible/God told me to”, I’m going to be dissapointed.
    I could say a lot about the curiosity of fundamentalists, and you know little of our backgrounds here on an internet forum.

  110. ANERICA FOUNDED ON CHRISTIANITY?
    Just want to point out the following:
    1. You will not find the words “Jesus” or “Christ” mentioned in the Constitution or Declaration of Independence documents.
    2. Thomas Jefferson, the man who drafted the Constitution, had the passages in the New Testament pertaining to miracles cut out.
    The founders of the nation were Christians, but certainly not the dogmatic kind.

  111. MRM wrote:
    As an aside, could you knock off the snide asides and tell us what glorious truth we seem to be missing?
    “science is quite a bit broader than some circumscribed, reigned in school of philosophy”
    “All throughout, people were butchering each other over trifling theological disagreements, and fraud and charlatainism were rampant.
    If it’s some variant of priveliged reletivism “I do X because the Bible/God told me to”, I’m going to be dissapointed.”
    “So naturally the only real conversation that’s ever gone on between two religions has been swords, guns, and numbers of followers. There’s no reality common between them to discuss.”
    I had the impression that you liked snide asides. 😉
    I guess it depends on the target.
    I could say a lot about the curiosity of fundamentalists, and you know little of our backgrounds here on an internet forum.
    Pardon me for taking Ludwig’s statement at face value: “i couldn’t care less where morals ultimately come from.”
    You’re telling me that he is a liar, right?

  112. Milt typed:
    The founders of the nation were Christians, but certainly not the dogmatic kind.
    They weren’t even all Christians–but they were dogmatic: “We hold these truths to be self-evident …”

  113. Mr. MacLeod:
    Speaking of mischarachterizations, your statement about the non-obervability of entities like quarks clearly falls into that category. The existance of quarks has been obverved in particle accelerators. I belief you are confusing the Heisenbberg Principle with empirical observation of the particles themselves. Quarks have been observed.
    Our exchange has demonstarted my underlying point. Incompletness is a fundamental property of the physical universe. We can imagine an infinite set of theories about the origin of the universe, none which can be empirically verified and ultimately are taken on faith.
    For the purposes of this disucssion I have treated belief and non-believe in God as equivalent. However, from a matter of the orginization of a society whethter you belief in God will determine what kind of society you live in. While it is true the religious philosophies may lead to disutopia we know that all forms of scientific atheism degenerate into such a world.

  114. Jeff from Mpls:
    If you can address the first half of my comment, you’ll have gone a long way to refuting the second part. You’ve got a “Pink Unicorn” problem to deal with here.
    It’s an old device but I still think it’s a good one, to the extent that I’ve never seen it answered very clearly. In case you haven’t heard it – if you’re going to base your belief on faith, you’ve got to prove why your faith is any more valid than others – what’s the difference between Christianity and hundreds of other dead religions? Or Scientology? Or my new religion that worships a giant waffle in space that created us all? Divorce yourself from reason, make faith the center of your belief system, and there’s no end to the absurdity that leads to.
    As to which represents wish-fulfillment more closely, atheism or Christianity – what’s easier to believe? That we live forever or that death is a sleep forever, that those we loved in this life and passed away are truly gone forever? That we’re made in God’s image or that we may well be the only spark of intelligence in the universe? It can be difficult to accept an indifferent creation, but losing our illusions and realizing the world doesn’t revolve around us is part of -growing up-.
    Besides that, most Christians don’t even acknowledge their own holy writ. Read Leviticus and Isaiah in full and then tell me you worship a loving God. One that advocates genocide and infanticide (those Canaanites were just infidels after all… sound familiar?). I’d be happy to supply chapter and verse if you like.

  115. The most influential of the architects of the Founders, including Jefferson, Madison, and Washington, were Deists. Which was about as close as you could get to being atheistic in the 18th century without being considered a complete lunatic. I don’t know if this gets glossed over out of willing ignorance, but the very different nature of a deistic Christianity from what people know of it now is not that obscure or hard to find.

  116. jerry, it may be beating a dead horse on a dead thread, but the quark example is a good one. You are wrong: No quark has ever been directly observed. A more accurate description of the facts is that evidence of the existence of quarks has been detected in particle accelerator experiments. Similarly, the Big Bang has not been directly observed, though the evidence of what seems to confirm key underlying premises of the Big Bang model has been observed. The difference is that the Big Bang model remains incomplete in critical respects – ones that still allow for alternative interpretations of the data accumulated thusfar, and that may be forced to undergo fundamental revision as new evidence is accumulated.
    You might say that referring to observation of evidence of quarks rather than observation of quarks themselves is a distinction without a difference – like saying that we never see our fingers in front of us, rather only the visual evidence of the existence of our fingers, as confirmed by neural signals that, indeed, we are wiggling them – but the latter description remains accurate. Most of us accept the existence of fingers. Most scientists accept the existence of quarks, though on the basis of somewhat less evidence. Indeed, the vast majority of us simply accept the testimony of others that the evidence they’ve observed conforms to the “signals” sent by their theoretical work.
    Regarding the origins of the universe, and in some ways regarding the existence of God or the truth of religious prophecy, we are in a similar situation. My argument here isn’t with those who claim direct experience of revelation, but rather with those who mistakenly claim that one or another scientific model happens to confirm, almost in the manner of scientific proof, a religious “theory” – as though Christ had prophesied the latest data from CERN, or that Christianity is a theory contingent upon experimental confirmation.
    Such an approach inevitably will put Christians and other believers on the side of scientific models that are incomplete and subject to revision, and whose deeper implications (this goes very strongly for Big Bang, by the way) they would have difficulty accepting. It also frequently puts them on the side against, say, some cartoonish representation of Natural Selection, on the basis of laughable pseudo-science that happens to make as much intuitive common sense to the willing believer as the flat Earth or, alternately, the geocentric universe did to believers of other eras.
    I have too much respect for people of faith and also for science to see either reduced to the level of snake oil charlatanism. In the excerpts and descriptions of D’Souza’s work that I’ve seen, that’s what happens.

  117. “Any atheist willing to sign off on the Declaration of Independence has some explaining to do.”
    why? any athiests can recognize the benefit of inalienable human rights…their possible origins,while academicaly interesting are immaterial to their applications and as such of no particular interest.
    “The difference between a deist and an atheist is not small.”
    I d say its every bit as large a difference as a deist and a bible believing christian.

  118. THE PROBLEM OF EVIL, according to Saint Thomas Aquinas, poses one of the most serious challenges for believers in the existence of God. Now I know that D’Souza and many other Christians find in C. S. Lewis a great and eloquent defender of the Christian faith. In his book, “Mere Christianity”, Lewis says that “free will is what has made evil possible.” Ergo, God gave Hitler free will and H used it to liquidate six million of God’s chosen. I don’t see how that makes God come out well on this.

  119. Wanted to point out a couple tidbits –
    1) We don’t have free will
    — We have will, but it’s with certain limits. i.e We have options put in front of us, but we cannot choose the options that are put in front of us.
    2) The omnipotent and omniscient argument –
    — Can God create a rock so large He cannot move it? If God is omnipotent he can do everything. But how can he do that?
    You can’t deal in absolutes like being omnipotent. With our logic it doesn’t work out.
    Hopefully this hasn’t been stated in this thread already… I got to post 30 something and couldn’t keep on reading them all =/

  120. milt – C.S.Lewis isn’t really known as a great religious philosopher… His ideas are a bit mundane compared to some of the greats…
    The Problem of Evil – Indeed a great problem. But! You first would have to define evil! In my POV, there is no evil. This especially holds true since evil is somewhat of a religious term. i.e. If there is evil, and in religious terms death isn’t necessarily bad, why exactly is dying bad? What might be evil?
    Insanity while alive could possibly be considered evil, but even that has unintended (or intended?) consequences that shape our world. Most people would agree the Holocaust was evil… right? But if it weren’t for the Holocaust, we wouldn’t be sitting here discussing it today… moreover, none of us would be the same as we are today. Since we are a series of reactions to actions, if that big action (the holocaust) never took place, then the reactions which make us what we are would not have happened either. So if you say the holocaust was evil, then we all must be products of evil. I don’t believe that.

  121. Ludwig quoth and answered:
    “Any atheist willing to sign off on the Declaration of Independence has some explaining to do.”
    why? any athiests can recognize the benefit of inalienable human rights…their possible origins,while academicaly interesting are immaterial to their applications and as such of no particular interest.

    You’re telling me that an atheist would have no problem signing a document that declared that a Creator endowed all men with unalienable rights?
    Is it because atheists can’t read or because of a lack of scruples?
    “The difference between a deist and an atheist is not small.”
    I d say its every bit as large a difference as a deist and a bible believing christian.

    The Christian has more than one doctrine in common with the Deist.

  122. Wanted to point out a couple tidbits –
    1) We don’t have free will
    — We have will, but it’s with certain limits. i.e We have options put in front of us, but we cannot choose the options that are put in front of us.

    Free will does not require absolute free will. Having the ability to wiggle your index finger or refrain from doing so based on your own initiative is free will (not to exhaust the possibilities!).
    2) The omnipotent and omniscient argument –
    — Can God create a rock so large He cannot move it? If God is omnipotent he can do everything. But how can he do that?
    You can’t deal in absolutes like being omnipotent. With our logic it doesn’t work out.

    It works just fine with our logic, actually, but it’s pointless because theologians don’t use absolute omnipotence as one of God’s attributes.
    Omnipotence is absolute sovereignty and the ability to accomplish anything logically possible in accordance with God’s other attributes.
    (If you use the premise that god is omnipotent in the sense of being able to do absolutely anything whatsoever, that can hardly exclude the ability to exist despite being logically impossible. But like I said, that type of argument is pretty much pointless)

  123. “You’re telling me that an atheist would have no problem signing a document that declared that a Creator endowed all men with unalienable rights?
    Is it because atheists can’t read or because of a lack of scruples?”
    its because the “creator” does not have to be a god…that phrase simply means “as long as you exist,you have rights”. And just so we are clear on one point,if the “Creator” in question was actually the god of the christian bible,there could be no such thing as unalienable rights because his nature is that of a despot. So you should be thankfull that we did not use him as an exemple of what our society should be like…i know i am.
    “The Christian has more than one doctrine in common with the Deist.”
    Just liek the atheists have more then one doctrine in common with the deist.

  124. “Omnipotence is absolute sovereignty and the ability to accomplish anything logically possible in accordance with God’s other attributes.”
    Omnipotence and Omniscience are the sole attributes of a god…they are what defines a god…everything else (love,autority,judgement,wrath,pity) are HUMAN attribute…utterly useless to a god.

  125. Think it’s easy to be an atheist? Not in America. Why, even in our dollar bill we find the words: IN GOD WE TRUST. Yes, there is Almighty God and there is the Almighty Dollar. Jesus says “You cannot serve God and Mammon” and we’re trying to prove him wrong.

  126. I’ll leave the Deist debate to Ludwig for now, as that’s not even my primary bone of contention here.
    The problem remains: every argument made here, as well as all of those made by “Creation Science”, contain nothing that points to Christianity -specifically-. Going by what we’re given, we might as well all be Daoists or, Buddha forbid, Muslims. Or I can just make up my own damn religion like L. Ron Hubbard and it’s equally as valid as Christianity by Creationist logic.
    The religious have hit on one truth, however, and run with it: the idea that there are limits to human reason and we may not be able to comprehend reality in total. Even if they’re right on this, and I believe they are, my question is thus: just because human reason is imperfect, are we then given license to make the rest up as we go along?
    And btw, Bryan, ad hominem attacks are the first clue that your own premises are lacking. As far as atheists not being able to read, statistically the more years people spend in higher education the more likely they are to be atheist. And as far as lack of scruples go, religion wrote the book on atrocity, literally. (Crusades, Inquisition, witch burnings, 9/11, suicide bombings, death for heresy / apostasy, etc, etc, etc…)
    Here’s a lovely passage from your divinely-inspired book – Deuteronomy 20: 10-17…
    Now keep in mind this is your loving Father in heaven speaking here, not some bit character…
    “When you go to attack a city, first give its people a chance to surrender. If they open the gates and surrender, they are all to become your slaves and do forced labor for you {oops, this is a Christian nation and we’re already going against the word of God here… better repeal the 13th amendment since slavery gets God’s stamp of approval}…
    Then, when the Lord your God lets you capture the city, kill every man in it. You may, however, take for yourselves the women… you may take everything in the city. The Lord has given it to you {the Lord has given you rape camps. Our heavenly Provider}…
    But when you capture cities in the Land that the Lord your God has given you, kill everyone. Completely destroy all the people: the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, as the Lord ordered you to do”
    This is not an isolated passage, the Bible is full of this (there’s another wonderful passage in Isaiah where Jehovah tells the Israelites to go into Canaan and “smash the babies against the rocks”. I can provide chapter and verse on that as well if anyone asks). Contemporary Christianity is full of contradiction – on the one hand, the Bible is supposed to be a work that is divinely inspired – these are the words of God. What’s the other option, that this was just written by regular people? That means it could be wrong, because people are fallible, especially Bronze-Age pastoralists. So which is it? Is this just a book like any other, open to interpretation and even open to being completely discredited as 3000 years outdated, or is your God a genocidal war criminal?

  127. Ludwig wrote:
    Omnipotence and Omniscience are the sole attributes of a god…they are what defines a god…everything else (love,autority,judgement,wrath,pity) are HUMAN attribute…utterly useless to a god.
    Evidently Ludwig is the sort of person who takes it on himself to define his opponent’s positions, disregarding as he does the doctrines of god developed by theologians over the centuries.
    http://www.theopedia.com/List_of_God%27s_known_attributes

  128. David wrote
    The problem remains: every argument made here, as well as all of those made by “Creation Science”, contain nothing that points to Christianity -specifically-. Going by what we’re given, we might as well all be Daoists or, Buddha forbid, Muslims. Or I can just make up my own damn religion like L. Ron Hubbard and it’s equally as valid as Christianity by Creationist logic.
    Actually it’s not that simple. Most of these arguments (if not all) point toward a monotheistic version of god on the basis of Occam’s Razor if nothing else. The god-concepts of Taoism and Buddhism don’t necessarily fit the same parameters (both of those Eastern religions tend to be compatible with atheism, depending on the form). Islam teaches an inscrutable god.
    It seems to me that your main bone of contention is more of a nit-pick. Arguments that shore up any particular aspect of a worldview count as supports for that worldview. Yes, other arguments may be required to distinguish from other similar views … but atheism isn’t one of those (no matter what the atheistic world view).

  129. Almost forgot about this part!
    Again, from David:
    And btw, Bryan, ad hominem attacks are the first clue that your own premises are lacking.
    Poppycock.
    1) I didn’t use an ad hominem attack
    2) Ad hominem attacks are not necessarily fallacious (certainly comments that do not amount to ad hominem are not fallacious ad hominem attacks)
    3) Following #2, your argument above is weak at best
    4) Your argument, David, seems to be a red herring fallacy that you’re using to distract from the huge problems any atheist should have in signing off on the Declaration of Independence, which unequivocally locates the source of unalienable rights in a Creator.
    As far as atheists not being able to read, statistically the more years people spend in higher education the more likely they are to be atheist.
    Therefore an atheist could sign the DoI with no qualms of conscience whatsoever?
    And as far as lack of scruples go, religion wrote the book on atrocity, literally. (Crusades, Inquisition, witch burnings, 9/11, suicide bombings, death for heresy / apostasy, etc, etc, etc…)
    Therefore an atheist could sign the DoI with no qualms of conscience whatsoever?
    Now tell me how great atheists are at logic. 😉
    Speaking of which, I see that Ludwig weighed in again:
    its because the “creator” does not have to be a god…that phrase simply means “as long as you exist,you have rights”.
    Keep in touch with the DNC. They’re looking for people like you to freely interpret the Constitution.
    Seriously, your argument is criminally spurious. It has been accurately admitted that at the time of the framers nobody took atheism seriously. You might as well say you could sign it on the basis of reinterpreting it to mean that “Richard Dawkins is a very intelligent chap.”
    And just so we are clear on one point,if the “Creator” in question was actually the god of the christian bible,there could be no such thing as unalienable rights because his nature is that of a despot.
    That doesn’t follow. God could be a despot as you say, but that would not rule out God withholding from men the right to infringe on the unalienable rights.
    You win the thread award for mental gymnastics, I think.

  130. Bryan –
    “Free will does not require absolute free will. Having the ability to wiggle your index finger or refrain from doing so based on your own initiative is free will (not to exhaust the possibilities!).”
    I wasn’t aware there were varying degrees of “free.” I was under the impression “free” was always of the absolute variety unless stated otherwise. Therefore, stating that we have “free will” is not anywhere near as accurate as stating we have “will.”
    —————————————–
    Bryan –
    “It works just fine with our logic, actually, but it’s pointless because theologians don’t use absolute omnipotence as one of God’s attributes.
    Omnipotence is absolute sovereignty and the ability to accomplish anything logically possible in accordance with God’s other attributes.
    (If you use the premise that god is omnipotent in the sense of being able to do absolutely anything whatsoever, that can hardly exclude the ability to exist despite being logically impossible. But like I said, that type of argument is pretty much pointless)”
    Again, you seem to be arguing something I’m not. I argue that omnipotence and omniscience is not accurate. You argue that it is, but not too many theologians use it so it doesn’t matter… but the reason they don’t use it is because it’s not accurate.
    You also attribute omnipotence to God’s ability. That’s not the true meaning. The true meaning is: “Having unlimited or universal power, authority, or force; all-powerful.” As I showed in my previous question, this will never work in accordance with logic we can all agree on. God cannot create a rock that he cannot lift. It’s impossible if we are to attribute the omnipotent trait to God.
    But yes, you are right, it is a pointless argument because of all the fallacies, such as the one you pointed out. So I’m not quite sure why you were arguing the point I was making, since you seem to be trying to make the same point.

  131. ck:
    I wasn’t aware there were varying degrees of “free.”
    You’re overcomplicating the matter. It’s simple. The more free choices you have (such as the finger-wiggling example) the more freedom you’ve got. If no choices at all are inaccessible to you (such as the decision to make yourself King of the Mole Men instantaneously) then you have absolute freedom. Freedom does not require the latter condition.
    Again, you seem to be arguing something I’m not.
    You argued that omnipotence would not work with our logic. I demonstrated that you were incorrect.
    I argue that omnipotence and omniscience is not accurate.
    It’s not at all clear to me what you mean by that. Not accurate in what sense?
    As I showed in my previous question, this will never work in accordance with logic we can all agree on. God cannot create a rock that he cannot lift. It’s impossible if we are to attribute the omnipotent trait to God.
    Look, I’ll explain it to you again: If you take as a premise that God can do absolutely anything up to and including the impossible (lifting the unliftable is impossible), then the rock question is dead easy to answer using conventional logic.
    p1 God is able to do absolutely anything
    p2 “Lifting a rock too heavy to lift” is an anything
    Therefore
    C: God is able to do “Lifting a rock too heavy to lift”
    It’s a valid argument, so if both the premises are true then the conclusion must be true.
    The problem, of course, is that the second premise is incoherent all by itself, (as is the first if it is meant to include the impossible)–and that is your fault, not the fault of logic nor the fault of theologians and philosophers who developed our conception of omnipotence over time.
    But yes, you are right, it is a pointless argument because of all the fallacies, such as the one you pointed out. So I’m not quite sure why you were arguing the point I was making, since you seem to be trying to make the same point.
    I didn’t point out a specific fallacy, but if I had it would be the straw man fallacy (competent theologians and philosophers do not use the definition of “omnipotence” as you appear to use it).
    If you argue against the theologian’s conception of god, you are obligated to start with the theologian’s conception of god.
    Otherwise, it’s likely that you’ll commit a fallacy.

  132. Bryan –
    “Actually it’s not that simple. Most of these arguments (if not all) point toward a monotheistic version of god on the basis of Occam’s Razor if nothing else.”
    Well, you’ve certainly narrowed it down. Now explain how my monotheistic Cosmic Waffle fits Creationist logic any less than your God. Since, you know, there is only one Waffle, and the Lord my Waffle is One. You can tell me it sounds ludicrous, but sometimes you just need to have faith.
    “1) I didn’t use an ad hominem attack
    2) Ad hominem attacks are not necessarily fallacious (certainly comments that do not amount to ad hominem are not fallacious ad hominem attacks)”
    Oh, I don’t know, just seems that saying those who disagree with you are either illiterate or have no scruples of their own is veering into the category of ad hominem.
    Which is beside the point. You asked me if an atheist could sign the DoI. My response to that was to remind you of the nature of Enlightenment deism. Put the Founders in their own historical context. The 17th century was still a time when being an avowed atheist was the equivalent of, say, being a satanist today. These men were philosophers, but they were also political figures. Besides, believing in a God who set the universe running like a watch and then went away forever, never to interact with human life again, is pretty near atheistic to me.
    Moving on. Let us take a word from Scripture. Psalms 137, verses 8-9: “O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one, How blessed will be the one who repays you. With the recompense with which you have repaid us. How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock”
    What a wonderful moral guide Christianity is.
    Finally,
    Romans 13, verses 1-2: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves”
    The DoI flatly contradicts the Bible here. For that matter, so does democracy.

  133. Well, you’ve certainly narrowed it down. Now explain how my monotheistic Cosmic Waffle fits Creationist logic any less than your God. Since, you know, there is only one Waffle, and the Lord my Waffle is One. You can tell me it sounds ludicrous, but sometimes you just need to have faith.
    Until you tell me more about your Waffle, I have no basis for drawing a distinction. For all I know you’re explicitly describing Pentacostal Christianity in using a nontraditional set of terms.
    Oh, I don’t know, just seems that saying those who disagree with you are either illiterate or have no scruples of their own is veering into the category of ad hominem.
    It’s not those who disagree with me, it’s those atheists who claim that they could sign off on the DoI without either an issue of reading or morality resulting. If you’ll be able to stick to the DoI issue without tossing out more red herrings my position will be overwhelmingly vindicated. You can’t acknowledge a Creator (in the DoI sense) and remain an atheist without some form of semantic gamesmanship, and that will involved either a difficulty with reading or an issue of morality. It’s not an ad hominem, you simply placed yourself on the horns of dilemma and I was nice enough to point out your precarious position.
    Which is beside the point. You asked me if an atheist could sign the DoI. My response to that was to remind you of the nature of Enlightenment deism. Put the Founders in their own historical context. The 17th century was still a time when being an avowed atheist was the equivalent of, say, being a satanist today. These men were philosophers, but they were also political figures. Besides, believing in a God who set the universe running like a watch and then went away forever, never to interact with human life again, is pretty near atheistic to me.
    Let me unclutter your logic for you:
    “Besides, believing in a God … is pretty near atheistic to me.”
    You should try that one out with your atheistic friends and see if they agree with you.
    Pardon me for not following up on your other red herrings.

  134. “On the other hand, in the manner of Nobel Laureate Al Gore, atheists never seem to be able to question their atheism. To them, it is settled science.”
    But athiesm in and of itself isn’t a religious belief but the absence of one. The problem with that line of thinking is that it equates athiesm to a religion which it isn’t.
    “The religious have hit on one truth, however, and run with it: the idea that there are limits to human reason and we may not be able to comprehend reality in total.”
    They’ve been running with that one since the Dark Ages. The problem with that line of thinking is that they’ve got a 1,000 year track record of being wrong.

  135. Well, this debate can be settled in just a few words.
    I’m religious. The Constitution permits me to overtly practice my religion and I’m going to do so.
    Jose and the other atheists have an equal right to practice non-religion, and they will do so.
    After death, according to “Pascal’s Wager”, some of us will be right, and some of us will be wrong. If Jose and his ilk are right, it won’t matter to those of us who were wrong. If Jose and his ilk are wrong, it will matter to them.
    End of discussion.

  136. I like D’Souza because he doesn’t see evolution as a threat to his beliefs system, unlike many Creationists whose faith is so insecure and and belief in God so weak that evolution must be trashed.
    Evolution is based on stronger theories and evidence than many areas of science. Particle and atomic physics, areas of study that have yielded advances in things like hard drive capacity and enabled the iPod, stand on much weaker ground. Teaching kids to distrust the scientific process seems like a great way to outsource more jobs to China.
    As for Hitchens, at least he equally criticizes all religions. Putting his personal safety at risk and almost asking for a fatwa, Hitchens’ book describes Islam a copy-cat religion.

  137. A good example of this is the belief that life started spontaneously. Just about every scientist believes that life started from random combinations of inert chemicals, yet there is no real proof to this theory.
    Amino acids in space.

  138. The argument regarding deism of Jefferson and other founders is based on a 20-21st century definition of deism – that of the watchmaker who created then let the watch run.
    this is not the deism of Jefferson or Franklin. Both clearly believed that Nations would be judged by God, and that God ruled in the affairs of nations (see Franklin’s statements at the constitutional convention or Jefferson’s statements regarding God’s judgments of nations.)
    Neither apparently believed in the deity of Jesus Christ, but both believed that Jesus’ teachings were consistent with their view of God. Jefferson did cut out the miracles of Jesus but it was because he denied Jesus’ deity and not his teachings.
    And btw, these two were probably the only deists among the founders.

  139. Wow, that is a lot of comments.
    As someone with some expertise in the field of cosmology, I would like to point out that the “Big Bang” does not necessarily mark “the beginning.” Additionally, although we often extrapolate the trajectories of galaxies back to a singular event, the farthest back we have evidence of is for a period of “cosmic inflation,” about which we know very little in the specifics. There are scenarios in which there is a singular beginning that leads into the epoch of inflation, scenarios in which the epoch of inflation goes all the way back to the infinite past, and scenarios where the epoch of inflation springs from the empty state our universe seems to be headed for.
    So I wouldn’t peg too much on the existence of the “Big Bang.” Its only a theory, after all.

  140. OK, I’ll jump into the deep end of the pool, make a spash, and jump right back out.
    Imagine a conversation….
    Steven Wright:
    “God, could you explain yourself, life, the universe and everything so that I no longer need faith?”
    God:
    “I could, but your head would blow up.”
    Get the point?
    Switching gears….Jose said:
    (quoted)”The religious have hit on one truth, however, and run with it: the idea that there are limits to human reason and we may not be able to comprehend reality in total.”
    They’ve been running with that one since the Dark Ages. The problem with that line of thinking is that they’ve got a 1,000 year track record of being wrong.
    Jose, calculate the complete value of pi, and then come back and tell me we can comprehend reality in total.
    Number next…..to everyone else – doesn’t morality presume a reference point external to oneself as a judge for human behavior?
    If God is not that reference point, just where do you suppose we can get one, hmmm?
    As for the whole why Christianity instead of other religions? Christ was the only religious leader I can think of who was hard on his followers but not to nonbelievers. He greeted everyone else – even prostitutes and other “sinners,” with open hands and heart. Who did he scourge? People who liked to claim to represent him.
    Being Christlike would be a noble thing, but is very rare to see. Being a professed “Christian,” not so much.
    May I someday be one-thousandth as Christlike as Christ.

  141. Conrad,
    Wiki “elohim”. Be sure to read the entire article. Note statements under “Hebrew Grammar” that while “elohim” is mophologically plural, it’s used with singular verbs when referring to the God of the Isrealites, and is used with a plural verb in one place in the Ten Commandments.
    An interesting adjunct to this is the later etymology section, in which an author posits that the word really does refer to multiple gods, but gods who act as a single entity with regard to humanity. If this is indeed the case, how can we humans ever discern that there is more than one god? And, if they act uniformly (as one), does it matter? This feeds into my response to M. Simon below.
    M. Simon, you raise an interesting point.
    But how did the amino acids wind up in space? Or, if you are looking for a real hard nut, why?
    And what caused the universe to expand during the microseconds following the Big Bang? And what caused it to cool and become non-opaque over hundreds of thousands of years thereafter? Why is the universe not-quite-uniform in its distribution of visible matter? Is faster-than-light travel possible given the fact that space stretched faster than the speed of light during the universe’s initial expansion? Or, to put it another way, what is to prevent non-uniform stretching or contraction of space?
    There are no answers to these questions at present. Will we discover them? Maybe. Maybe not.
    There are things which in their whole may be unknowable. That doesn’t mean that they do not exist or that some part of them does not have effect on our lives.
    And, with that thought…
    I personally believe in the Creator. I am no different from those who signed the Declaration of Independence, which explicitly mentions “God”. Hence, I believe in an entity capable of ordering this universe, which is the essence of the “Nature’s God” phrase in the Declaration.
    Other people are welcome not to believe. The Constitution graciously gives them that right. But it also graciously gives me the right to believe. And, again, according to “Pascal’s Wager”, the weighted probability that my position is the correct position is very high.

  142. Someone way back above said
    “The general public believes that science has the answer to all the mysteries of life and if we don’t know something now then we eventually get the answer. This is false at the very heart of the physical universe. Cosmologists admit that they can only know the properties of the universe down to the size of a golf ball. Knowledge of a universe smaller then that is unknowable.”
    As a “working assumption” science simply HAS to assume that everything is ultimately knowable (or at least understandable) — it is a key to its success.
    Without going ahead and *trying* to solve mysteries of nature, what other possible way is there to tell apart “unknowable”/supernatural from “what we don’t understand yet ?

  143. unclesmrgol,
    And, again, according to “Pascal’s Wager”, the weighted probability that my position is the correct position is very high.
    That’s probably a misrepresentation of Pascal’s Wager (though I agree with most of what you wrote). The Wager doesn’t have to do withe the probability of god’s existence, but with a gambler’s angle on decision making. Pascal’s argument was that the payoff of correct religious belief/practice was attractive enough to warrant pursuit because of the potential payoffs. The Wager may be looked at as an early form of Game Theory.

  144. Of course, if God is omniscient, he wouldn’t be fooled by the gambler who professed to believe in order to get on the right side of Pascal’s wager, and would send him straight to Hell.
    That’s a sucker bet.

  145. Of course, if God is omniscient, he wouldn’t be fooled by the gambler who professed to believe in order to get on the right side of Pascal’s wager, and would send him straight to Hell.
    That’s a sucker bet

    That’s another misunderstanding of the Wager. Pascal doesn’t suggest fooling God. As I explained above, the Wager suggests a reason for trying to seek out and follow a true religion.

  146. I haven’t read all these comments, but hope to before they are buried too far. However. . .
    The Captain writes, “Physics can explain the universe, which acts in very precise and predictable ways, but it can’t explain the why.”
    Actually, physics (by which I assume he means the sum of the physical sciences, cosmology through biology) can’t even begin to “explain the universe.” Science has just dipped our toe in the deep and imponderable water.
    Where the true scientist differs from the theist is that he admits to ignorance. We know practically nothing about the origin or ultimate nature of existence, not about ‘the universe’ nor of ‘life’, nor about an infinite number of other things currently beyond our ken.
    But we have learned a little more than our ancestors knew, and that tidbit of knowledge has come through the rigorous application of the scientific method, of forumulating theories and hypotheses and testing them with better and better instruments, building on previous experience.
    But there is so far to go! The scientist cannot be a theist nor an atheist, because to claim one or the other is to pretend to knowledge that we simply do not have.
    The true scientist is not afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
    That is the only rational position; call it agnosticism, if you like.
    What is it about most people, who seemingly cannot tolerate uncertainty? To me, the wonder of it all is that we are here, and can contemplate our own existence and place in the nature of things. Science cannot answer the question “Why?” because we simply don’t know. I very much doubt that anyone to pretends to know really does.
    /Mr Lynn

  147. Bryan –
    You keep mentioning red herrings, but I’m curious as to what you’re referring to. Is it the biblical quotes? Because you haven’t addressed them.
    The Romans verse seems particularly appropriate to this conversation since we’re discussing the role of Christianity in the creation of our system of government. Appropriate because the primary source of Christianity flatly contradicts democracy. One more time:
    “”Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves”
    This isn’t me talking, this is the -Bible-, this -is- Christianity. It’s the word of -God-, and your Creator, when given a voice of His own, said it was sinful for the Founders to rebel against the British, just as it is sinful for us to vote anyone out of office. Christianity is a belief system tailor-made for an authoritarian state, and the only way you’re going to pass it off in a free and democratic society is to practice an etiolated, Hallmark version that denies most of its own teachings.

  148. Bryan–
    I don’t misunderstand it at all. Pascal was well aware that his argument would appeal only to players. Sure, he was arguing for a sincere belief, but a sincere believer needs no wager.

  149. I would put forth a couple of things that I think clarify:
    Religions can generally be divided into mythology (assertions about events), morality (rules for public behavior), and ceremony (initiation and additional requirements).
    “Faith” and “belief” are a bit confusing as to their meanings. To be more exact, one should say that a theist premises most actions on the assumptions including a God, while an atheist premises most actions on the assumptions not including one.
    Science never “proves” anything–that is the domain of pure mathematics. Nor does it disprove things, it simply constructs scenarios consistent with observations, an then tests them.
    As it turns out, one can develop a scenario with a flat Earth at the center of the universe, and be perfectly consistent with observations. We don’t use this scenario, however, because it is much more complicated than the scenario we have developed involving a round Earth with no privileged position.
    Likewise, one could develop a scenario consistent with the literal wording of the Bible and current observations, but it is much more complicated than the scenario generally referred to as “evolution.” Unless I am mistaken, most Americans actually alternate between which of the two they assume depending on what action they are contemplating.

  150. Bryan,
    Google “Pascal’s Wager”; click into the wikipedia article at the top, and examine the quotation from Pascal’s Penses.
    The wager is indeed a wager on the existence of God. If you wager that God is, then you must try to please him. You will want to put all your chips on what you think he wants you to do, including believing totally in his existance, and trying to follow what you think he has told you to do. Remember, this wager is all or nothing — there’s nothing fuzzy about it.
    And Brett is right in the sense that you can’t put some chips on each spot. You have to bet the farm.

  151. Unclesmrgol,
    The wager is indeed a wager on the existence of God.
    Here’s what I wrote:
    “The Wager doesn’t have to do withe the probability of god’s existence.”
    Pascal’s wager doesn’t give the time of day to probabilities. Even if it were less likely that God exists than otherwise, Pascal’s argument bids the gambler to bet on the existence of God based on the potential rewards.
    If anything, the wager assumes a 50/50 probability (“Since there is an equal risk of gain and of loss …”).

  152. Brett,
    I don’t misunderstand it at all.
    I cannot share your confidence.
    Pascal was well aware that his argument would appeal only to players. Sure, he was arguing for a sincere belief, but a sincere believer needs no wager.
    If Pascal was arguing for sincere belief yet the sincere believer needs no wager, then what was Pascal’s point in arguing the Wager?
    I don’t see how you can answer that question coherently based on the understanding of the Wager you express above.

  153. I’ll always find Pascal’s wager to be fallacious argument, and an insincere one at that. I’ve only heard Christians make it in defense of Christianity, not one of whom thinks to apply it to Islam, and devote half his time to that faith.
    Here’s a coherent answer: the wager is intended to con doubters into faith.
    And many sincerely believe that all religions are confidence games.

  154. Bryan,
    I have no idea what you are arguing anymore – You seem to want to respond just to respond…
    One thing I did see is that you are still being stubborn with “free will”… You keep on saying we actually have free will… and your example of finger wiggling is not as good as I think you believe it is… You say you have a “free choice” although you really don’t. I’m sorry you can’t take it the one extra level you need to, to be able to understand my point, but that’s something you’ll have to work on yourself. The mere fact that you have a finger to wiggle is not by choice… You can’t have free will if you can’t even decide on what you have to work with… We are given limitations to work within, and that helps compose the set of choices we get. We don’t get the wide array of choices that “free will” would imply. We get a limited set of choices, therefore we have will.
    Last thing – you said you demonstrated how omnipotence and omniscience in a God could work with our logic… but I don’t think you did… I said it couldn’t, you said it could?
    Maybe its semantics… You claim that nobody actually uses the true meaning of omnipotent when using it in reference to God… I would then say that it’s not the same word, if you aren’t using the true meaning. I gave you the definition, if that doesn’t suit you, then you will need to come up with a different word.

  155. olddead meat asks the fundamental question vis a vis morality, and one that bryan, has been suggesting as well with his various questions, namely:
    Number next…..to everyone else – doesn’t morality presume a reference point external to oneself as a judge for human behavior?
    If God is not that reference point, just where do you suppose we can get one, hmmm?

    Where does an atheist derives his moral center from, and to what is he referencing it to? Is morality nothing other than someonones’ opinion? How then are we to judge whether someone like Hitler was actually a bad guy.
    Yes, us refined and enlightened types say that genocide is bad and that Hitlers brand of warmongering was bad, and yet, absent a higher authority, what exactly are we basing our outrage on?
    Personal opinion?
    Do unto others as you would have them do unto you or do what thou wilt. WHich one is more moral, and how are we judging that?
    Under atheism, there is no inherent moral difference between a Ghandi or a Ted Bundy, and in either case no way to determine other than through personal preference. And Ted Bundy’s opinion on the rightness or wrongnes of serial kiling might be different.
    Thou shalt not kill (murder) is well founded in biblical text. On waht basis is an agnostic,atheist going to say that its wrong? Yes, people say its wrong, but they are basing it on a religious belief. YEs, I wouldn’t want someone to murder me, but by the same token, there’s nothing in nature that would suggest killing is wrong and why should do unto others bound me, when in fact its a religious argument, but also doesn’t actually prevent others from harming me. What if self preservation, motivation, gratification is more important to me than doing right by my fellow man,and I make an intellectual rationalization that to hurt my fellow man while benefitting myself does more for my edification than turning the other cheek and letting him get ahead while I fall behind?
    And who’s to say that darwinism is any less moral than turning the other cheek anyway? If survival of the fittest is moral, and Im stronger than you, and murder you then its moral, and the only justification I need is that I was able to do it, and had no problems with my actions.
    Are atheists basing morality on reason? Well, as i just pointed out, reason could justify darwinsm. it might be reasonable to assume that, as gordon gecko said “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good”. Well who’s to judge such things, and on what basis?
    Christianity for example has many arguments against greed, but such arguments require God as it were to create a higher law to which humans reference when conducting their actions . What is an atheists response to greed being bad as opposed to good?

  156. ck:
    I have no idea what you are arguing anymore – You seem to want to respond just to respond…
    I could give you several counterexamples, but perhaps it will suffice if I simply address your arguments.
    One thing I did see is that you are still being stubborn with “free will”… You keep on saying we actually have free will… and your example of finger wiggling is not as good as I think you believe it is… You say you have a “free choice” although you really don’t.
    If you’ll check the record, I simply dealt with what is meant by “free will.” It is not the absolute free will that you (iirc) denied.
    I’m sorry you can’t take it the one extra level you need to, to be able to understand my point, but that’s something you’ll have to work on yourself.
    lol
    http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/015123.php#comment-183530
    Your argument was that we don’t have free will unless we have unlimited (absolute) free will. That’s ridiculous.
    The mere fact that you have a finger to wiggle is not by choice… You can’t have free will if you can’t even decide on what you have to work with…
    That doesn’t follow. Try to think about it for a moment. If I were to decide what I have to work with you’d just complain that I was forced to choose whether or not to have something to work with–no free will. Any choice involving the exercise of free will, even finger movements, is an exercise of free will (tautologically obvious).
    Moreover, we cannot ourselves exercise free will in the sense you want without limiting our subsequent choices unless we are omniscient (thus choosing an near-infinite course of action that may follow from the original choice).
    We are given limitations to work within, and that helps compose the set of choices we get. We don’t get the wide array of choices that “free will” would imply. We get a limited set of choices, therefore we have will.
    “Free will” does not imply a wide array of choices except in your head.
    Last thing – you said you demonstrated how omnipotence and omniscience in a God could work with our logic… but I don’t think you did… I said it couldn’t, you said it could?
    One of us provided a deductive syllogism in support of his position. Guess which one of us it was?
    http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/015123.php#comment-183904
    Maybe its semantics… You claim that nobody actually uses the true meaning of omnipotent when using it in reference to God…
    If you’ll check the record, I referred specifically to competent theologians and philosophers. There are plenty of laypeople who still amuse themselves with arguments that the competents abandoned centuries ago as unproductive.
    I would then say that it’s not the same word, if you aren’t using the true meaning. I gave you the definition, if that doesn’t suit you, then you will need to come up with a different word.
    The definition you offered is ambiguous. You can read into it what you want, so you did.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnipotence

  157. Bryan,
    Ah, Bryan, but it is a wager on the probability of God’s existance. Read the wiki article yet again, and click through the link labelled “expected value”. You will find expected value defined as a sum of weighted probabilities. Think carefully about what those probabilities and their respective weights could be and you have my answer.
    Count to 10,
    You are putting forth the principle known as Occam’s Razor, which, in a nutshell, says that the best explanation for an event is that which has the least number of hypotheses (things which are assumed true without proof).
    Scientists do indeed prove things. All proofs stand upon a set of hypotheses — things that cannot be proven, but are assumed to be true. Even mathematical proofs work this way — consider the variant hypothesis underlying Euclidean geometry as opposed to Riemannian geometry. A Euclidian answer does not work right in a Riemannian univers (and vice versa).
    Your order of events for observations is not necessarily correct. Consider Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, which was not derived from any observed state of the universe — it was developed mathematically by Einstein using a set of hypotheses which could not be verified with the equipment of the era. Einstein stated that gravity and light ought to interact in a certain way due to the way gravity warps space. Newton’s theories claimed a different interaction on the (to that date verified) assumption that gravity does not warp space. Newton’s appeared to be right given our local observations; nobody had ever observed the behavior that Einstein predicted. Nobody, that was, until a British astronomer named Arthur Stanley Eddington realized that the bending of light Einstein predicted with his theory ought to be visible if a star passed the edge of the Sun’s boundary during a total eclipse [its light ought to be bent to the point where the star would be in a different apparent position from that which Newton predicted]. Einstein’s theory was proven during the total eclipse of 29 May 1919; the Hyades star cluster was observed in a position Einstein’s theory stated it would be observed, and not in the position Newton’s theory stated. Before the proof, the Theory of Relativity was unproven, and before Eddington’s stroke of brilliance, was unprovable. That didn’t make it any more true than it is today.
    With regard to mrlynn’s observations: I am a scientist. I am also a theist. I do not claim that I know God completely. In fact, I claim quite the opposite — that God may know us completely, but we cannot know all there is to know about God. Once again returning to Pascal’s Wager, it is not the theist who is on the hotseat, it’s the atheist (regardless of how the atheist poo-poos the idea of the Wager).

  158. Not really no. Calvinists believe that some people were created for the purposed of being damned and that nothing will ever change that. This is not at all what i m saying. I dont believe that there is an ongoing judgement of creation to begin with.
    I referred to “certain Calvinist groups” not to Calvinists in general. Some Calvinist groups are explicitly deterministic, demanding absolute meticulous control of every event as well as exhaustive foreknowledge of those events.
    “Once you allow that omnipotence and omniscience require self-consistent descriptions before being employed in argument, you realize that a universe that includes free will cannot be planned in advance even if it were known (and it can only be known as fact in advance if its future reality is assured).”
    That argument makes absolutely no sense at all. Free will is only the ability to choose between all the available options, all of which were purposefully created by God. And those choice we make are driven by whatever impulses traverses our minds at the moment of choosing,all of which were also purposefully created by God.

    You’re describing compatibilist free will, not “free will” (which is understood as libertarian free will when not modified by the term “compatibilist.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compatibilism
    And those choices […] from the perspective of God,he would be creating all of it RIGHT NOW.
    Again, you described determinism so your only free will option is compatibilist free will.
    That’s not an easy argument to make, so I don’t envy the position you’ve taken.
    “These are the types of spurious arguments on which atheists have long relied–people like Dawkins and Hitchen simply keep that tradition going.”
    Not at all…athiest dont believe there is a God to begin with.

    Irrelevant. Arguing against a position based on its own internal consistencies is a fair strategy, and atheists attempt it with gusto. They’re just not very good at it, on average.
    on the other hand,the “free will” argument is typical christian self deception when it comes to the nature of reality because christians,like many other humans,like to believe that we are the cornerstone of creation and place themselves as the agency that all of us supposadly “need” to avoid the consequences of our so called damned status in what they call the judgement of God. the entire philosophy of independant free will arguments is 100% self serving and does not wistand an objective examination when compared to the available facts.
    lol
    That must explain why many Calvinists are explicitly deterministic.
    If you don’t have free will then you have no grounds for trusting your ability to reason (C. S. Lewis, “The Abolition of Man”).
    The right combination of minerals in your next glass of water and you might willingly become a Scientologist. 🙂

  159. Writes Unclesmrgol, “With regard to mrlynn’s observations: I am a scientist. I am also a theist. I do not claim that I know God completely. In fact, I claim quite the opposite — that God may know us completely, but we cannot know all there is to know about God. . .”
    You may claim to have some knowledge of ‘God’, but if you do it is not ‘scientific’ knowledge, i.e. theory which can be falsified by replicable tests. If, as many theists do, you want claim it is a different kind of knowledge altogether, that is fine, but then you are essentially walling off science and theology. The latter becomes some kind of idiosyncratic experience that can perhaps be shared by descriptive narrative, as peyote-eaters talk about their visions, but cannot be replicated in any ‘objective’ framework.
    What I said was that the scientist, qua scientist, cannot be either theist or atheist, because both pretend to knowledge he does not have. So he must be agnostic. If you want to escape that state of ignorance, then you have to wander in realms that are essentially subjective and quite possibly invented by the incessently hyperactive (and ultimately explicable, by science) brain of man.
    Einstein may have gone out on a limb with Special Relativity, but it was in the event a testable limb, which could carry some objective weight. There is no way for an Eddington to test the provenance of God.
    /Mr Lynn

  160. “Most atheists don’t deny the existence of God; they deny that any particular religion is true.” — Brett | October 23, 2007 3:09 PM
    This atheist does not deny existence of gods. I’ve seen nothing to deny.
    Religions are not proof of the existence of gods, even though religions–true or not–exist. I don’t deny.

  161. “doesn’t morality presume a reference point external to oneself as a judge for human behavior?”
    Not necessarily: philosophy is a powerful tool.
    And if atheists are correct, theists derive their moral center from the same sources they do: a mad combination of tradition and speculation.

  162. “Under atheism, there is no inherent moral difference between a Gandhi or a Ted Bundy.”
    I call this the Dostoevskian slander: the claim that all is permitted unless there is a God. (What a great artist!)
    It’s a compelling argument. It is also bunk.
    I note that the great majority of crimes are committed by believers, not atheists. That’s not surprising: theists greatly outnumber atheists.
    What is the origin of morality, absent a belief in God? Sheer self-interest: I don’t wish to be killed; don’t kill me and I won’t kill you. Don’t rob me and I won’t rob you. It’s no more complicated than that.
    Can such a basis eliminate all evil? Certainly not. Neither would a universal belief in a single religion, or a universal belief in God: see the fact noted above, that most crimes are committed by believers. But this idea has led many to treat their fellows well, preventing much evil. To claim that morality is impossible without a belief in God is observably ridiculous.

  163. “Once again returning to Pascal’s Wager, it is not the theist who is on the hotseat, it’s the atheist (regardless of how the atheist poo-poos the idea of the Wager).”
    In other words you better get with the program or my imaginary friend is going to inflict an infinite amount of pain on you. You’ll have to excuse us if we fail to soil our boxers over that paticular threat.

  164. Brett wrote:
    Sheer self-interest: I don’t wish to be killed; don’t kill me and I won’t kill you. Don’t rob me and I won’t rob you. It’s no more complicated than that.
    Except mere self interest isn’t by itself moral, and in fact most would find those acting solely from self interest as selfish people, not moral people. THe seven deadly sins are all personal sins, derived from actions which are all in ones self interest, and no one save perhaps a libertine would find these to be moral actions.
    In fact a lion chasing down an animal in the wild and eating it is purely acting from self interest,which as istated before is akin to dwarwinism.
    And why does self interest have to preclude killing and robbing if its in your self interest. The assumption is of course, that the other person is similarly holding off as he doens’t wish to be killed or robbed, yet obviously, my desire to treat others the way I wish to be treated doesn’t preclude others from treating me however they want. And wouldn’t robbing and killing similarly be in your self interest anyway, if you could get away with it? What if I said, I’m not for killing unless a) I can get away with it and b) the person is weaker than me, and c) its in my self interest. It doesn’t fit into your stated paradigm (which in itself is simlply a rehash of the golden rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you), but why is it not moral, if its in my self interest?
    It doesn’t answer why kiling or robbing is in fact wrong. It;s certainly reasonable to treat others the way you would like to be treated, except of course, when others ascribe to a different set of creeds with which they lead their lives, ie “do as thou wilt”, and what then? THere is no basis, other than your own impressions and oponion, for you to detemrine that your creed of “help others and do unto them as they would do to you” is any better than “screw others and take as much as you can”, except to yourself.
    The other problem is it doesn’t bound anyone else to actually ascribe to your moral perameters.Its merely two peoples conflicting opinions as to what’s right or wrong, which is essentially noise in the air. You could never therefore determine what is moral, or immoral, except to yourself. So therefore, if Ted Bundy says its ok to kill people, why is it wrong? Yes, its your opinion that its wrong, but everyone’s got an opinion. WHy is your opinion more valid than Ted’s opinion, and why should your opinion bound him, considering there is no real right or wrong.
    Right and wrong and good and evil based on reason and self interest, will only produce libertines and sociopaths and those who disagree with them but who’s opinions are irrelevant.
    Morality has to be based on something. To an atheist it can only be based on his own personal mindset. He can apply reasons, but so can,and so does everyone else. Even an “evil” person is applying reason to his actions. THe nazis hate the jews and want to wipe them out. Therefore its best to do it in the most efficient means possible. That’s perfectly reasonable, and is based on reason. ANd to them its even moral. Therefore, what exactly is the issue if others have a problem with genocide? On what are they basing their moral outrage?
    What if morality is determined by what produces the best results. What if we look at two creeds “do as thou wilt” and “do unto others” and see who has the most at the end of the day. DOing as thou wilt, is certainly freedom, not having to treat others the way I want to be treated could certainly be an advantage if I want stuff and they’re standing in my way. Why is that not reasonable and in fact moral. Its based on reason, and self interest. And what’s higher than that?

  165. “What is the origin of morality, absent a belief in God? Sheer self-interest: I don’t wish to be killed; don’t kill me and I won’t kill you. Don’t rob me and I won’t rob you. It’s no more complicated than that.”
    In some societies, they say, “Love thy neighbor.” In such societies, your argument might hold water.
    In other societies, they say, “Eat thy neighbor.”
    Your defined origin of morality falls apart in such societies.
    Was the holocaust OBJECTIVELY evil? That is a question to ponder. If so, then by whose standard?

  166. brett wrote:
    Can such a basis eliminate all evil? Certainly not. Neither would a universal belief in a single religion, or a universal belief in God: see the fact noted above, that most crimes are committed by believers. But this idea has led many to treat their fellows well, preventing much evil. To claim that morality is impossible without a belief in God is observably ridiculous.
    Eliminate what evil? How are you defining evil? How you construct that sentence suggests that you are referring to a higher law (which can only come from an ordered and just universe, which requires a creator and a set morality.
    And yes the idea has led many to treat their fellows well, it is the golden rule after all, but is it in fact moral? Why is treating others well a moral choice? Doesn’t that require the higher law that most adhere to whcich guides their actions? You’re basing your good an evil on the assumption that you SHOULD treat your fellow people well, which is in turn based on a higher law that can not be based on your opinion alone. Otherwise the guy standing next to you who decides to break that law and treat his fellow human beings like crap, is not in fact comitting evil at all to him. And if its not evil to him, then how is it evil to you, unless you are referring to a higher morality than simiply your opinion, or unless you think your opinion is godly and others should be bound by it.
    Yes, its reasonable to assume that treating others well, will get them to treat you well. But that’s not proven. And everyone has dealt with people they have treated well, who in turn treated them badly. Even the idea that there is karma and payback requires again a moral universe. Absent that, there is no guarantee that how I treat people will determine how they treat me,and in any case why is that the only criterion.If I’m strong enough, I don’tn have to worry about how they would treat me, because I’m secure in the knowledge that because I’m strong enough they wont treat me badly. This principle works quite well in nearly all dictatorships by the way. If I have people under my thumb, and if they get out of line I have the means to kill them or keep them in line out of fear, and by doing so I preserve my self (thus acting out of self interest) then how is that any less moral than treating others well.

  167. Ludwig said:
    <quote>
    thats right but when a scientist says “assuming X is true then…” x in this case is a fact that has yelded enough predictability in the past that it can be relied upon as being true until shown otherwise. thats not faith…thats either knowledge or experience. Scientist dont go around forming theories based on facts they really know nothing about or cant predict with any reasonable reliability…at least not the competent ones.
    </quote>
    Ok, fair enough. And my “belief” in God is a working “theory” that rests squarely on evidence and experience gathered through nearly a half century of life, enough so as to convince me God truly exists beyond reasonable doubt.
    I’d like to propose a thought experiment: suppose God does exist, and suppose He had the power to create sentient beings like you and me. Suppose His purpose in putting us here, in this physical universe, with limited capability, sense, and mobility, was to afford us the opportunity to either accept Him or reject Him? That He isn’t inclined to provide you with the evidence you demand because that would defeat His very purpose?
    Here is the $64,000 question: what will the penalty be for rejecting Him?
    If you are right, the worse I have to fear is oblivion. If I am right, the worse you have to fear is eternal torment.
    I dare say by your arguments you have rejected Him, and in my humble opinion, are the worse for that choice.
    Thanks for sparring with us. It helps us believers keep our intellect — which I assure you we have not checked at the door — sharp and focused.

  168. Captain Ed, your initial claim that science can’t answer the “why” of the big bang is probably incorrect, but anyway, is less of a show stopper than “who created god”. Where, after all, did god come from ? And answering anything to the effect that he is always there is simply dodging the question. All you can say is you have faith based on no evidence of any provinence at all. If your only answer is “because”, you don’t really have an answer as much as you want to believe otherwise.
    De Souza’s arguements are also not christian centric, his arguements if they work, work for belief in any transcendentant being, the flying spaghetti monster (bless his noodley appendages) is a relevant as any other god construct.
    One further point, explaining faith or trust, evolutionary psychology can certainly provide a natural explanation of why humans exhibit such traits, and explain reasonably well why such traits are not always followed.

  169. I think many of you are laboring under the misconception that I deny the existence of God. For all I know, such a being may exist, but I know nothing of his nature and purposes–and neither do you. None of the evidence adduced convinces me that any of our particular religions are the word of God.
    The Bible or the Koran are not evidence, and no one can explain how they know one or the other is the genuine word of God. They are all works of the human imagination, and to claim otherwise is as arbitrary as you find my philosophy to be. As for the afterlife, it remains “the undiscovered country”, unknown to all, though imagined by many.
    I respect everyone’s right to believe as they do, but for practical morality, I’ll take limited government, which implies a limited morality, distilled from the centuries of thought to be found in our religions and philosophies: life, liberty and property.
    Most other moral issues, so-called, are matters of taste. To seek to rule others by one’s own taste is tyranny.

  170. Brett wrote:
    I respect everyone’s right to believe as they do, but for practical morality, I’ll take limited government, which implies a limited morality, distilled from the centuries of thought to be found in our religions and philosophies: life, liberty and property.
    Most other moral issues, so-called, are matters of taste. To seek to rule others by one’s own taste is tyranny.

    But that gets us back to the nazi example. There was an example of a govt that, based on its own blending of various philosophies and creeds, and its govt came to the conclusion that in fact it was moral to exterminate the jews (sorry if I’m invoking Godwins law here).
    It points out of course that there are many different philosophies and not all of them value life, liberty and property the same, some not at all. And all will come to some concept of “limited morality” which will be different from culture to culture. In some cultures cannibalism is moral, and in some cultures genocide is the norm as is slavery as is treating women like chattel.
    And at the end of the day, what’s wrong with that to an atheist? Since you yourself can’t determine what is moral, and have no basis for morality other than that which comes from your own brain, how can you have any outrage for others if they say are prone to genocide or slavery, if that barbarism is derived from their own limited morality.
    Even within a society proper there are plenty of people bristling at the notion that govt or anyone will tell them what to do or how to live, and who’s to decide anyway. So then why would you say have qualms about a rape for example as long as you’re not doing the raping. And if you are, what if you can justify it to yourself? Then it can’t be evil, because only the individual can determine what is right or wrong. And to seek to rule someone else by one’s own taste is tyranny. but what else is your morality but your own taste and your own beliefs. It can’t be derived from anything external to yourself .
    The fact is the limited govt and the ideas of inviolable rights and the emphasis on life, liberty and property, are in place because of appeals to and reference to a higher law, which can only be found if there is a maker which set those laws.(That’s the reason our rights are inviolate, because we were endowed with them by a creator). Otherwise, your desire for such things, is merely your own need to impose your will on others based on your sensibilities. No more no less.
    Atheists and moral relativists often express things in shades of gray, yet still suggest that sexism or racism or war are absolutely bad. In other words, for the things they object to they hold such values as absolutes. But why?
    If there’s no higher law and everythings gray, then it would stand to reason that their values could not be based on absolutes, but would be similarly shaded along with anything else. So you’d have degrees of racism, or sexism. There miight even be a rational justification for racism (ie if it is based on self preservation), but at any rate, the only thing you could say for sure was that those values are yours and your alone based solely on your perceptions and nothing else. How is that not tyrannical?

  171. I see so many conversations happening at once here, which is great. So I’ll leave the cul-de-sac of trying to discern the Founders’ personal morality. They were brilliant, but they weren’t gods – they may have believed in Christianity but they were also sanguine about slavery and the lack of universal suffrage. We -can- evolve and move beyond them. I’ll also leave it to others such as Ludwig to wrestle with a humanistic basis for morality – I’d rather come at the immorality that is at the heart of Christianity.
    James Larson said:
    “If you are right, the worse I have to fear is oblivion. If I am right, the worse you have to fear is eternal torment.”
    Let’s think about that. A belief system in which those who disagree with you are bound for eternal torture, either sent there or left there by a “loving Father” (and you don’t get an out by saying “that’s our choice, we need to have the choice between God’s love and eternal damnation or else we’d have no free will”. Poppycock. God is omnipotent, remember? It’s in His power to just put all the sinners to sleep forever, wink them out of existence, or allow them to reincarnate until they get it right. Either God is a charlatan and really isn’t omnipotent, or else he has no damn imagination and a wicked violent streak). Extend that sort of thinking to any system of government – when the end goal is to avoid eternal pain by falling in line, when unimaginable, endless torture is justified for those who dissent. Do you think this is the best foundation for a representative democracy?
    I’m not even an atheist – I’m not saying God doesn’t exist. The only logical answer is that I don’t know, just as I don’t know what happened before the Big Bang or what will happen after I die. I just can’t make up stories to make myself feel better about all the unanswered questions, especially when there are so many conflicting stories being told with the same degree of fervor and belief.
    Besides that, Christian morality seems an awful lot like a protection racket sometimes. “Do X, Y, and Z, follow these Commandments, and you get made. Don’t follow my orders and sleep with the fishes”. An atheist who treats others well and acts selflessly isn’t looking to any reward in the afterlife, and doesn’t expect any gold star from their invisible friend. They’re just doing it because it’s the right thing to do. And if you want to know -why-? The answer probably lies in evolutionary psychology. Groups of people that help each other out are going to prosper and outlive neighboring groups that kill each other over a funny look. Altruism and charity are part of who we are, they’re intrinsic to us,. Understanding why is purely academic, just like understanding why we ever fall in love.
    To sum up: believe whatever you choose, no matter how batshit-insane it may seem to me, or how internally inconsistent is. Just don’t drag it into the government, and don’t tell me I can’t be a moral person without your Flying Spaghetti Monster, your Supernatural War Criminal, or your Jesus.

  172. “Since you yourself can’t determine what is moral, and have no basis for morality other than that which comes from your own brain.”
    This is no argument, as the believer only asserts his morality comes from God; it came from another person’s brain, a someone who has been dead for some time.
    This argument slanders the non-believer. It also reveals how untrustworthy some believers are, as it comes down to admitting that, without their belief, they would kill and steal. Psychological projection in action!

  173. David (just above) has it about right: “. . .The answer probably lies in evolutionary psychology. Groups of people that help each other out are going to prosper and outlive neighboring groups that kill each other over a funny look. Altruism and charity are part of who we are, they’re intrinsic to us. Understanding why is purely academic, just like understanding why we ever fall in love.”
    The operative term is ‘probably’. We don’t know what the origin of the moral sensibility is, though we do know that it can be too-easily overriden by other impulses: anger, hate, loyalty (e.g. to one’s Mob), fanatical belief (genocidal Nazis, head-chopping Islamists, etc.).
    The argument that the Source of morality (of the Moral Sense, or the Moral Law) must be a (benevolent) God is too easy; it is equivalent to invoking God as the explanation for the nature of the universe, or of the origin of life. It is just another ‘God of the gaps’, i.e. the gaps in our knowledge. Admittedly these gaps are huge, as is our ignorance, but it is a wonderful ignorance. One cannot help but be awestruck at how much we don’t know or understand. To me, it is just a short cut, equivalent to cheating, to fill in the gaps with God.
    Yes, the Founding Fathers invoked God: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. . .” Whence come these ‘self-evident’ Truths? They are not so self-evident that everyone everywhere holds them, so it is clear this is a rhetorical device. In fact these Truths are assumptions, in the mathematical sense, postulates upon which the framework of a just society may be erected. Arguably (and I think self-evidently) they result in a better society than any others, e.g. the ‘truth’ held by our enemies that “Allah has given us Shari’a so that all men may honor Him by living according to his Law” (or however the Islamists phrase it).
    In point of fact, there are many possible postulates upon which one could base a social system, and even within our own society there is no firm agreement (Mrs. Clinton and her socialist ilk would have us subsume individual liberty in favor of some kind of watered-down communism). So I suppose it is helpful to perpetuate the idea from the Founders that our ‘self-evident’ Rights were endowed by the Creator. It is a noble assumption, even if it is only an assumption.
    /Mr Lynn

  174. Unclesmrgol wrote:
    Ah, Bryan, but it is a wager on the probability of God’s existance.
    I’m noticing a semantic evolution of your position.
    Your latest formulation does not necessarily conflict with statement I made with which you took issue.
    Was that intentional on your part?
    Read the wiki article yet again, and click through the link labelled “expected value”. You will find expected value defined as a sum of weighted probabilities. Think carefully about what those probabilities and their respective weights could be and you have my answer.
    “The total utility for believing in God is then a times P + b times (1 – P) while the total utility for non-belief is c times P + d times (1 – P), where P, is the probability of the existence of God. Belief in God is thus optimal in decision-theoretic terms for all P > 0if the values for the utilities satisfy the inequalities a > c, and b > d.”
    That means for any probability of God’s existence exceeding zero where the rewards are as presumed by Pascal (a > c, etc.), the wager suggests believing in God.
    That’s exactly what I said earlier.
    Leaving P undefined beyond “> o” makes my point.

  175. Brett wrote:
    This is no argument, as the believer only asserts his morality comes from God; it came from another person’s brain, a someone who has been dead for some time.
    Not merely a person, and not someone according to some who has been dead for some time. But whatever the ultimate form God takes, morality dervives from a source larger than yourself. Otherwise there’s no such thing as good or evil, or even good or bad actions, only opinions.
    This argument slanders the non-believer. It also reveals how untrustworthy some believers are, as it comes down to admitting that, without their belief, they would kill and steal. Psychological projection in action!
    Having a higher morality provides the guideposts on which to base one’s behavior. Some, despite knowing the rules as it were will still kill and steal, but at least will know its wrong based on that higher law. So having a higher authority does not guarantee that everyone will behave like angels, and according to christianity not everyone’s going to make it to heaven after all. But, take away a higher power and a just universe and what’s left. We’re animals. We come from nature. Nature is darwinian. THere is no morality there other than survival of the fittest. Where then is morality emanating from for an atheist?
    And how does anyone know something is right or wrong except through their beliefs ESPECIALLY from an atheists perspective.You aren’t determining right from wrong based on your beliefs? If you think that people would not kill or steal without their beliefs, then you must believe absolutely that people are good, and that they inherently have a belief in not killing and not stealing that would border on the absolute. Otherwise, they would act,not based on good or bad, but on self interest and considerations on whether actions were good or bad would be secondary to whether it fulfilled someones needs. And someone’s needs would be neither good nor bad, they would just be. Just like an animal doesn’t have pangs of guilt when it eats another animal. it just does it.
    But the problem with atheists morality, is not that they can’t make moral decisions only that their morality is based on nothing other than their own opinions. And what if someone doesn’t have a problem doing things, that others might find immoral, like say murder. Is he then acting in a moral fashion? How are we determining that, other than by our own personal beliefs? So sociopaths and libertines are as moral or immoral as chaste monks, if they don’t have a problem with their actions. You may have a problem with their actions, but your own beliefs are merely your own, and you have no way of determining right and wrong for anyone else other than yourself. So if someone does something truly grotesque and monstrous, like say commit genocide, are you REALLY sure that they are wrong and you are right,and if you remove YOUR beliefs how are you coming to that conclusion? What else, other than your personal opinion determines right or wrong, and why would your beliefs be more relevant thant the person who’s comitting the act your belief tells you is wrong?

  176. “But the problem with atheists morality, is not that they can’t make moral decisions only that their morality is based on nothing other than their own opinions.”
    I don’t think any believer in God should make such a statement. It would seem to me that the actual argument there is that an atheist who is moral is making decisions based upon a unversal morality set into human kind by God. A set of instructions if you like, that either can or cannot be followed (free will and all that.)
    A believer would say that an atheist is aware of this morality, even if they deny the source.

  177. unclesmrgol-
    Occam’s Razor implies a value statement: “this is better than that.” I wasn’t. All of the scenarios that I described are used to predict the consequences of our actions. In that sense, evolution is an approximation, the simplest model consistent with observations to base experiments and developments on. In fact, everything could have been created yesterday, last year, or 5000 years ago, but, if so, it was made in a way that closely matches the evolutionary model. It is easier, so long as it bears fruit, to use the evolutionary model in the lab, and we need not make any judgment of its truth.
    Christians, then, may be well advised to view the evolutionary model as a working model of man’s understanding of the order by which God made creation. Useful, un-perfected, and, on its own, nonthreatening.
    Also, Einstein’s relativity was based on observations. If came out of one observation in particular, that the speed of light in vacuum is always measured to be the same. He then imagined what the structure of the universe would have to be like in order to accommodate that as a fundamental property rather than the result of some either.
    Other-
    If one denies the existence of a particular God, that would make him an anti-theist.
    And a-theist is one that makes no god his own. Even if there existed a god or creator, the atheist does not worship, and would not view such a god as inherently good.
    An a-gnostic (the ‘g’ is silent), does not know, by definition. So, he does not only not know if God exists, but knows nothing of His properties, and neither does he know if he should worship.

  178. I think the difficulty people are having with the subjectivity of morality is that they want to make it objective.
    Even in the absence of a rational way to judge moral frameworks, one can still act on their own morals, and promote them. The deciding factor is which and how many people share some or all of your morality. The demand for objectivity is just a crutch to prop up your case with those sympathetic to such concerns.

  179. Brett wrote:
    “Under atheism, there is no inherent moral difference between a Gandhi or a Ted Bundy.”
    I call this the Dostoevskian slander: the claim that all is permitted unless there is a God. (What a great artist!)
    It’s a compelling argument. It is also bunk.

    Why?
    I note that the great majority of crimes are committed by believers, not atheists. That’s not surprising: theists greatly outnumber atheists.
    Point being?
    What is the origin of morality, absent a belief in God? Sheer self-interest: I don’t wish to be killed; don’t kill me and I won’t kill you. Don’t rob me and I won’t rob you. It’s no more complicated than that.
    Couldn’t an individual’s perceived self-interest encompass virtually any behavior?
    If yes, then on what basis is Dostoevskian assertion a slander?
    In no, why not?
    Can such a basis eliminate all evil? Certainly not.
    No kidding! It multiplies evil by the number of perceptions of things opposed to the self-interest of all individuals!
    Neither would a universal belief in a single religion, or a universal belief in God: see the fact noted above, that most crimes are committed by believers. But this idea has led many to treat their fellows well, preventing much evil. To claim that morality is impossible without a belief in God is observably ridiculous.
    True. If God exists, then morality is possible even if you lack belief. 🙂
    It’s a world view thing.

  180. I think the difficulty people are having with the subjectivity of morality is that they want to make it objective.
    That’s beautiful. Could it also be that the difficulty people have with the objectivity of morality is that they want to make it subjective?
    Even in the absence of a rational way to judge moral frameworks, one can still act on their own morals, and promote them.
    If that’s the case then what do you do about contradictions within the system such as “A believes it is right that A possess Y at time t” versus “B believes that it is right that A ~possess Y at time t” (where if X believes p is morally right then p is morally right)?
    Are both A and B correct? Does your system welcome such contradictions?
    The deciding factor is which and how many people share some or all of your morality.
    So the appeal to popularity goes from being a fallacy to the principle that determines correct moral thinking? In a universe of 25 persons, where 13 believe it is right for A to possess Y at time t it is, in fact, correct for A to possess Y at time t?
    But when one of the 13 gets sick and dies the issue is thrown into limbo until one side achieves a majority (or plurality) again?
    The demand for objectivity is just a crutch to prop up your case with those sympathetic to such concerns.
    And you would say that it has absolutely nothing at all to do with avoiding a world view that encourages a contradictory state of affairs?

  181. Bryan, you missed the point. Morality does not have to be objective for you to fight for it. If someone does something that you find to be immoral, the fact that he finds it moral does not prevent you from doing something about it. The popularity of your morality comes in with regard to the consequences of what action you choose to do.
    There seems to be an unstated bias that we have to have some extra, somehow neutral, support for our actions. Lets not get too caught up in this sentiment that we can’t force, or enforce, our own sense of morality on others. Of course we can, do, and, I think, often should. But lets not fool ourselves that we aren’t.

  182. Bryan, you missed the point. Morality does not have to be objective for you to fight for it.
    How did I supposedly miss that point?
    It’s true enough that I’m entire unimpressed by that point. Let’s say that I think it’s fine for me to enslave welfare grandmas and force them to clean toilets using a Q-tip. And I’m willing to fight for that moral principle. So what? Does it mean anything?
    If someone does something that you find to be immoral, the fact that he finds it moral does not prevent you from doing something about it. The popularity of your morality comes in with regard to the consequences of what action you choose to do.
    You’re the one missing the point. If all that matters is what happens as a result of the disagreement over “morality” then there really isn’t much point in calling it morality. “Morality” becomes a stand-in for personal taste. Once that happens, why should I not do whatever I feel like doing that I also think I can get away with doing?
    There seems to be an unstated bias that we have to have some extra, somehow neutral, support for our actions.
    Fine. You can call it a bias if you like–but I don’t insist that you have some type of “extra, somehow neutral, support for” your actions. You could say that you just do as you please because you don’t believe in morality and I would accept that as your position (particularly since I find that position predictable upon reduction).
    And then I’d point out the contradiction to you again to see if you’re interested in resolving it. 🙂
    Lets not get too caught up in this sentiment that we can’t force, or enforce, our own sense of morality on others. Of course we can, do, and, I think, often should. But lets not fool ourselves that we aren’t.
    “and, I think, often should”
    Judging from the rest of what you’ve written above, this appears to be nothing more than your opinion.
    Morality in that framework become whatever anyone thinks is right, modified by the power of enforcement (might makes right).
    At least that would handily set you up to recognize God’s authority to judge you as He pleases if God is anywhere near as powerful as He is reported to be. 😉

  183. “Let’s say that I think it’s fine for me to enslave welfare grandmas and force them to clean toilets using a Q-tip. And I’m willing to fight for that moral principle. So what?”
    So the rest of us get together and punish you. And free the grandmas, welfare or not. Because we agree that what you did was immoral.
    It really comes down to consequences. A bit of enlightened self interest. The lack of an objective, top down basis for morality by no means excludes the possibility of orderly, moral behavior.
    Yes, there is a bit of might-makes-right. But inherent in that is that, in all but the pathological cases, the might comes from popular support, and popular will.
    But, perhaps you misunderstand my position. I very strongly support moral behavior, and I have found the mature sects of Christianity to have (with the possible exception of an odd fixation on bodily fluids) very admirable moral systems. But I rate that on its own merits, and not by some authoritarian mandate.

  184. So the rest of us get together and punish you. And free the grandmas, welfare or not. Because we agree that what you did was immoral.
    My opinion is just as good as yours, isn’t it? The use of “immoral” is a rationalization. You and your goon squad just did not like what I did.
    It really comes down to consequences. A bit of enlightened self interest.
    … and if Germany wins WW2 and can slay enough of those who disagree with them … then they are right (see “consequences”).
    The lack of an objective, top down basis for morality by no means excludes the possibility of orderly, moral behavior.
    True, but what you’re missing is that the position you’re describing allows any opinion expressed as the majority view/winner of the game of consequences as “orderly, moral behavior.”
    If I put together a group of welfare-grandma-enslavers and kick the butts of your pathetic group of welfare-grandma-enslaver-opposers, then your group was immoral and mine was moral. Your system gives us no way to decide between the two other than which was in the majority or had the better of the consequences. So, in the end, your system allows virtually any beliefs and actions to be moral so long as they meet the criteria (majority/enforce consequences).
    That is the system you describe.
    Yes, there is a bit of might-makes-right. But inherent in that is that, in all but the pathological cases, the might comes from popular support, and popular will.
    Well, let’s give you the opportunity to narrow down your principles still further. Dr. Evil wipes out all of humanity except for the top 10 most beautiful women in the world (as he judges them) and gives them a love potion that works perpetually so that they love and serve him with perfect loyalty. His plan works perfectly. The consequences say that he was morally right.
    What do you say? Was he wrong to go against the majority?
    Was he still wrong even after he became the majority?
    But, perhaps you misunderstand my position.
    Perhaps you don’t understand your own position, with all due respect.
    I very strongly support moral behavior, and I have found the mature sects of Christianity to have (with the possible exception of an odd fixation on bodily fluids) very admirable moral systems. But I rate that on its own merits, and not by some authoritarian mandate.
    What’s the moral difference between your moral position and that of Dr. Evil in the example above? You always side with the majority?
    Suppose that the majority of people believed in god and decided it was morally right to believe in god and further that those who do not believe in god should be put to death.
    According to what you have described to me, that position is moral since they are the majority (the implication being that the majority has the ability to enforce ill consequences on the minority).
    How does that sit with you?

  185. There is a very strong basis for atheistic morality contained within Christianity itself:
    “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”
    It’s a simple, powerful idea, and not exclusive to Christianity. I just don’t see why you would need a belief in God to make that work.
    Bryan, what also strikes me is the fact that, even though you can’t recognize the source of their morality, the fact is that there -are- kind, decent atheists. How is it possible when they don’t recognize a higher power? It must be, somehow, because we’ve all known an atheist we would consider “moral” (unless you’re completely dogmatic).

  186. David wrote:
    There is a very strong basis for atheistic morality contained within Christianity itself:
    “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”
    It’s a simple, powerful idea, and not exclusive to Christianity. I just don’t see why you would need a belief in God to make that work.

    You don’t, but what you describe is not a “basis” for morality (despite your description of it as “a very strong basis for morality”) any more than “drugs are bad, mmm-kay” is a basis for morality.
    What you describe is a moral precept, and an ill-defined one at that (a masochist following the Golden Rule, for example, inflicts unwelcome harm on his non-masochistic neighbor).
    Bryan, what also strikes me is the fact that, even though you can’t recognize the source of their morality, the fact is that there -are- kind, decent atheists. How is it possible when they don’t recognize a higher power?
    Same way there are kind and decent atheists whether or not I recognize their existence, of course. Until I hear a coherent metaphysical basis for an atheist’s morality, I have reason to suspect the atheist of a fallacy of the stolen concept (when it comes to his world view).
    It must be, somehow, because we’ve all known an atheist we would consider “moral” (unless you’re completely dogmatic).
    If you can recognize morality but cannot account for it coherently within your own world view then maybe you need a different world view.
    Or you could follow your world view and see morality as might-makes-right or majority rule or something like that.

  187. Bryan,
    What I’m saying is that moral behavior is as intrinsic to our nature as jealousy, greed, or hate. You can say it was put there by God, and I would say evolutionary psychology.
    Which is not to say at all that morality is absolute – like someone else mentioned, one group might say “eat thy neighbor” instead of “love thy neighbor”. But when you look at how people are expected to treat each other within their own groups, there are more consistencies than differences regardless of religion.
    “If you can recognize morality but cannot account for it coherently within your own world view then maybe you need a different world view.”
    I think we are both accounting for it. My recognition just doesn’t require the existence of an invisible man, and I don’t expect any kind of gold watch in the hereafter for being the most moral person I can be.
    Is it altruism when you’re trying to win Heaven?

  188. David wrote:
    What I’m saying is that moral behavior is as intrinsic to our nature as jealousy, greed, or hate.
    You have a funny way of saying it (appealing to the Golden Rule as a basis for morality).
    You can say it was put there by God, and I would say evolutionary psychology.
    If we had evolved a culture analogous to that of ants or bees, with a slave subclass, would that have been wrong? Or is the morality resulting from evolution invariably good?
    Which is not to say at all that morality is absolute – like someone else mentioned, one group might say “eat thy neighbor” instead of “love thy neighbor”. But when you look at how people are expected to treat each other within their own groups, there are more consistencies than differences regardless of religion.
    The result, then, (in terms of comparative could-have-beens) is entirely arbitrary.
    If we had evolved a slave culture that was more or less consistent, then that would be moral.
    “If you can recognize morality but cannot account for it coherently within your own world view then maybe you need a different world view.”
    I think we are both accounting for it.

    Your accounting makes morality an illusion devoid of meaning. It could as easily go by the name personal preference, and your method would apply as to protozoa as well as arctic terns. Each has evolved normative behaviors which we can call “morality” if we so choose. We could do the same with physical laws. We could determine that birds and bats are evil for their limited defiance of gravity, for example.
    My recognition just doesn’t require the existence of an invisible man, and I don’t expect any kind of gold watch in the hereafter for being the most moral person I can be.
    It’s missing the feature of the absolute, as you’ve already noted. Loss of that feature leaves you with a difficult time addressing the coherency problem–which you’ve yet to address. In my experience, that failure is often accompanied by an attempt at counterattack.
    Is it altruism when you’re trying to win Heaven?
    No. The majority of Christian sects teach that good works are not an effectual means of attaining heaven, however.
    Is it altruism if you are following evolutionary programming?

  189. “Is it altruism if you are following evolutionary programming?”
    No. It’s a tautology.
    Besides that, I don’t see what’s incoherent with humanistic principles of equal rights, rule of law, etc. I recognize their origins in Judeo-Christian belief but these are not complex or difficult ideas. I’d say they are simple enough to be “absolute” in themselves. Again, I don’t see the need to appeal to an invisible man to reinforce them. Or especially to a religion as ill-suited to democracy or egalitarianism as Christianity is.
    You never responded to any of my posts quoting Scripture, when this is coming from the direct source of your belief. I find that puzzling.

  190. No. It’s a tautology.
    How is it a tautology? Is evolutionary programming the only type of programming, and/or is all human behavior the result of programming?
    If your statement relies on assumptions other than those I’d like to hear about it, because I see no obvious redundancy in my statement.
    Besides that, I don’t see what’s incoherent with humanistic principles of equal rights, rule of law, etc.
    I provided you a specific example where two contradictory statements could be true regarding the same moral precept. You can escape the horns of that dilemma by doing a tiebreaker based on appeal to numbers, or via an appeal to power (might makes right).
    The appeal to numbers results in the apparent absurdity of Dr. Evil’s self-justifying plan for world domination (see above). The appeal to power will logically force you to accept god’s moral authority if god exists regardless of how distasteful you find it. In particular, you’d have undercut your own rationale for asserting a problem of evil (assuming you would use such an argument) as a reason for not believing in god.
    I recognize their origins in Judeo-Christian belief but these are not complex or difficult ideas. I’d say they are simple enough to be “absolute” in themselves.
    You own description of your moral foundation provides no room for absolutes minus a god.
    Again, I don’t see the need to appeal to an invisible man to reinforce them. Or especially to a religion as ill-suited to democracy or egalitarianism as Christianity is.
    Scoreboard. What culture produced egalitarian democracy?
    It is counterintuitive to claim that the lone culture that produced egalitarian democracy is ill-suited for the task.
    You never responded to any of my posts quoting Scripture, when this is coming from the direct source of your belief. I find that puzzling.
    I find it wise in debate to deal with one topic at a time rather than allowing my opponent to distract via use of the red herring fallacy. You have yet to describe a coherent metaphysical basis for morality. But you want to move on to something else?
    A product of discomfort, perhaps?

  191. “I find it wise in debate to deal with one topic at a time rather than allowing my opponent to distract via use of the red herring fallacy. You have yet to describe a coherent metaphysical basis for morality. But you want to move on to something else?”
    For the -third- time: I’m saying a moral sense is intrinsic in human nature and doesn’t need any outside absolute. I don’t know what else you’re looking for.
    Next. “Scoreboard. What culture produced egalitarian democracy?”
    Polytheistic Greek Athens.
    Although it wasn’t exactly egalitarian, neither was American democracy until the mid-20th century when Jim Crow laws were finally repealed. The religiosity of the Founders didn’t translate into equal voting rights for nearly 200 years. Moving on.
    “A product of discomfort, perhaps?”
    As far as moving on to something else, I’ve seen you drift from defending Christianity, to a nameless monotheistic god, and now to the metaphysics of morality. Let’s stick to the original topic, shall we? Every argument you’re using now could apply equally to any monotheistic religion, so I ask you again: where does Christianity fit in? You could just as well be a Muslim for your argument. By your words here, Islam should appeal to you more – if you require an absolute basis for morality, then sharia should suit you just fine.
    What’s striking is that I’ve called out the primary document of your faith as inconsistent at the least and reprehensible at the worst, and you’ve found that unworthy of comment. I’m sticking to the original topic: What’s so great about Christianity?

  192. the Holy Spirit. i know that’s not what anyone wants to hear, but THAT’S what’s so great about Christianity. that’s what Christ left behind after conquering death. that’s what every human being on this planet has the oppurtunity to invite inside and experience for themselves. withouth this, you’ll talk yourselves in circles till the end of time. it’s the only thing that fills in the gaps between all these arguments. it’s the only personal evidence that will put your mind at peace and make your “faith,” which to you is now certainty, seem like insanity to the rest of the world. has anyone but Christ not only conquered death, but left a comfortor behind to help us believe? it’s not a placebo. i’m the most reluctant Christian i know. i didn’t want any part of it. but it was my fear that i was hiding from the truth that made me search. and the only faith that offered something substantial besides words and myth was Christianity. once you start looking, you are drawn unto Him. and when you are finally serious, when you’re finally ready to know, he WILL show you. it won’t be a lightning bolt or a flash in the sky, something you could take a picture of and show your friends as a definitive proof. it’ll be a still small voice, the holy spirit swelling up inside of you, loosening your tongue, speaking a language you’ve never spoken before. this happened in the privacy of my own bedroom, just me and God. no flashy church service, no preacher shoving it down my throat, just sincere seeking. once it happens, you know. then all these arguments from that point on are just background noise. it’s not about definitive proof anymore. it’s about you and God. true love. becoming the human being you were meant to be, no longer a mechanism being yanked around by every force that brushes up against you. again, i’ve read the philosophers, the apologists, delved into some of the world religions, practiced zen buddism, there was always something about Christianity that urked the hell out of me. i wanted it to be wrong. but all the proofs just toggle back and forth like some eternal game of tug-of-war. it wasn’t until i closed the books, and closed my eyes, and really sought, that my mind was put at ease. there’s still much that confuses me, such as why this is all going on in the first place, but what no longer confuses me is that there is a God, and he is Christ, and he has conquered death, therefore we have too, if we accept this. we have access to unlimited joy, if we want it. all other ponderings are irrelevant.

  193. David wrote:
    For the -third- time: I’m saying a moral sense is intrinsic in human nature and doesn’t need any outside absolute. I don’t know what else you’re looking for
    For more than the third time, I’m looking for coherency in the non-theist position. Repeating that morality is intrinsic and doesn’t need any outside absolute doesn’t quite cut it; nor does that description jibe with your own earlier description (problem of inconsistency).
    Polytheistic Greek Athens.
    Although it wasn’t exactly egalitarian, neither was American democracy until the mid-20th century when Jim Crow laws were finally repealed. The religiosity of the Founders didn’t translate into equal voting rights for nearly 200 years. Moving on

    I’d prefer to linger on your instantaneous backtrack: “Although it wasn’t exactly egalitarian …”
    Repeat: Scoreboard.
    As far as moving on to something else, I’ve seen you drift from defending Christianity, to a nameless monotheistic god, and now to the metaphysics of morality.
    Yet never to avoid an existing topic–unlike your apparent technique.
    Let’s stick to the original topic, shall we? Every argument you’re using now could apply equally to any monotheistic religion, so I ask you again: where does Christianity fit in?[?quote]
    Have you accepted the necessity of a god? Why talk about Christianity before that? Should you accept the broad tenet (existence of a god or gods) prior to trying to figure out the specifics?
    You could just as well be a Muslim for your argument.
    You too. Especially the inscrutability part. 😉
    By your words here, Islam should appeal to you more – if you require an absolute basis for morality, then sharia should suit you just fine.
    You appear to have confused the particulars of an absolute morality with the metaphysical foundation for morality. Perhaps you still don’t understand the precarious philosophical position you’ve mapped out for yourself as regards morality. But I sense that you don’t want to talk about that any longer. Is that correct?
    What’s striking is that I’ve called out the primary document of your faith as inconsistent at the least and reprehensible at the worst, and you’ve found that unworthy of comment.
    It’s worthy in two senses. First, it warrants comment because you’re using the issue as a red herring fallacy. Second, it warrants comment once the the specific nature of god looms as a live issue in the conversation.
    In my judgment the latter rightly occurs as some point after the existing argument runs its course.
    http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/achanai.cgi#comment-182952
    http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/achanai.cgi#comment-183149
    http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/achanai.cgi#comment-183170
    I’m sticking to the original topic: What’s so great about Christianity?
    It has a metaphysical foundation for morality that non-theistic world views have no capacity to match in terms of coherence.
    You don’t really want to talk about that, though, do you?
    There’s another reason for covering this before moving on to your moral outrage arguments, David. It will be useful to determine whether or not you can put yourself in the position of being able to judge Bible morality without invoking the fallacy of the stolen concept.
    Though if you’re one of those who doesn’t mind using blatantly fallacious arguments perhaps you’ll keep right on pushing to change the subject.

  194. “There’s another reason for covering this before moving on to your moral outrage arguments, David. It will be useful to determine whether or not you can put yourself in the position of being able to judge Bible morality without invoking the fallacy of the stolen concept.”
    You’re obfuscating behind technical language. Tell me how “go into Canaan and smash the babies against the rocks” is in any way justifiable. Or how “Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God”.
    I’ve already said that I don’t discount the possibility of God, that I am not an atheist – I just have enough humility to say that in the absence of direct evidence, I’ll make no claims about what God is or wants from us, if anything. What I have said is that the -Christian- God and the Christian Bible are both riddled with inconsistencies and instructions that few would consider moral in this day and age. Furthermore, if God is your moral absolute, and the Bible is the Word of God Himself, you -cannot- just pick and choose out of that book. So don’t wear clothing of mixed fibers. Don’t eat shellfish. And don’t ever vote an incumbent out of office.
    You’ve accused me several times of changing the subject. Look at my first comment, and every one subsequent – my point has remained the same throughout, that Christianity is founded on some truly vile ideas that its present-day followers choose to ignore.
    You’re moving from the particular issues I raise to the most wildly general, none of which even support Christianity to begin with. Just because there is -a- God, doesn’t mean that it’s -your- God.
    I would have moved on from there but you’re stalling. I would have liked to talk about the assumption that God even has a -personality-, or interacts with our lives in any meaningful way.
    As for the snarky “scoreboard” remarks – my point was twofold. One, that a non-Christian, polytheistic culture developed the first democracy. Second, that the republic founded by our own, Judeo-Christian culture, was no more or less egalitarian than that found in Athens, which leaves religion as a neutral element.

  195. You’re obfuscating behind technical language. Tell me how “go into Canaan and smash the babies against the rocks” is in any way justifiable. Or how “Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God”.
    You just don’t get it, do you?
    Given your moral framework, how can you establish that smashing babies on rocks isn’t justified? Not wanting to mess with that issue, you rush on to fallaciously shift the burden of proof. You make the implicit assertion that the act is morally wrong and refuse to announce your grounds for making the judgment. Your assertion is to be taken as true without argument. Your opponent has the burden of proof (“Prove that God doesn’t exist”).
    What I have said is that the -Christian- God and the Christian Bible are both riddled with inconsistencies and instructions that few would consider moral in this day and age.
    Yet you avoided my question regarding the Dr. Evil example that might have helped us shed light on the relevance of your charge above. With the majority in agreement with Dr. Evil after he puts his plan into effect, does that retroactively make his prior actions OK even if the majority did not like what he was doing (before he killed them all)?
    Why would you run from the opportunity to clarify your position, given that it intimately affects your subsequent moral argument?
    Furthermore, if God is your moral absolute, and the Bible is the Word of God Himself, you -cannot- just pick and choose out of that book. So don’t wear clothing of mixed fibers. Don’t eat shellfish. And don’t ever vote an incumbent out of office.
    You have much to learn. But first things first.
    You’ve accused me several times of changing the subject. Look at my first comment, and every one subsequent – my point has remained the same throughout, that Christianity is founded on some truly vile ideas that its present-day followers choose to ignore.
    As such, your basis for rendering judgment is a critical key to your argument. What does “truly vile” mean if your described system of morality is based on appeal to popularity or appeal to force?
    You’re moving from the particular issues I raise to the most wildly general, none of which even support Christianity to begin with. Just because there is -a- God, doesn’t mean that it’s -your- God.
    Heh. Your statement of your original topic completely justifies the issue I’ve taken with you. You’re making an assertion and you refuse to back it up.
    I would have moved on from there but you’re stalling. I would have liked to talk about the assumption that God even has a -personality-, or interacts with our lives in any meaningful way.
    How are you going to move on from there without ever justifying assertion you made? Do you want to argue by simply making one baseless assertion after another?
    As for the snarky “scoreboard” remarks – my point was twofold. One, that a non-Christian, polytheistic culture developed the first democracy. Second, that the republic founded by our own, Judeo-Christian culture, was no more or less egalitarian than that found in Athens, which leaves religion as a neutral element.
    You still haven’t gotten the point, eh?
    Do you consider our current culture egalitarian? Or is the system still imperfect to the point where you would say that it is an unrealized goal?

  196. It occurred to me today just why Hitchens’ comment about Heaven being worse than North Korean bothers me so much. It’s a cheap quip. Hitchens is a well-off (these days he’s very well off) Westerner using that line in front of audiences of other comfortable Westerners. An actual North Korean might have a different take on things. (The North Korean government forced a Christian pastor and members of his congregation to lie down in the street a year or so. Then they were steamrollered.)
    That line by Hitchens in fact points to the reason atheism is an acquired taste and is acquired primarily by safe, sheltered, prosperous and complacent people (like Western Europeans and Americans, for instance.) This world is rosy for them, why worry about the next one, or even entertain the idea that there may be a next one? For most of the billions on this planet, that’s not only pretty thin gruel, it’s an idea which is almost unbearable.
    Remember the Poles back in the 1980’s? After decades of crappy living conditions and enforced atheism, they shouted “We want God!” Not “We want Apple computers” or “We want color TVs” (although they undoubtably wanted those things too.) It was a highly embarrassing moment for Western leftist secularists.
    David: Many awful things were committed in the name of Christ. However, it did intoduce into the West the beautiful idea that everyone, even the sorriest beggar, had an immortal soul and was loved by God. The Greeks would have thought such an idea ridiculous. Out of that idea, ultimately, came the notion of universal human rights. So yes, modern democracy owes more to Christianity than it does to Athens.

  197. From thr Right Coast blog:
    The New York Times ran a front-page story recently about an elderly man who starved to death in Japan, having been denied help by the welfare bureaucracy. The man kept a diary as he died: heartbreaking to read. The Japanese welfare bureaucracy seems to have been notably heartless, and not only in this case. There are other, similar cases of starvation in the past year or two in Japan, according to the Times.
    There is this brief throwaway in the lengthy Times story:
    “With no religious tradition of charity, Japan has few soup kitchens or other places for the indigent. Those that exist — run frequently by Christian missionaries from South Korea or Japan’s tiny Christian population — cater mostly to the homeless.”
    Say what you will about the “Abrahamic” religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – can there be any doubt that they have brought an ethic of charity into a world that would otherwise be a crueler place?
    The ancient, pagan world, for all its brilliance, was coldly cruel. The Hebrew Bible put enormous emphasis on charity, which was something radically new.

    If religious people sometimes cast an overly rosy glow on Christianity, I have found that atheists often get misty-eyed over the ancients. Gore Vidal thinks there was no better time to be alive. Unless of course, you were deformed, an unwanted baby girl or a beggar. Everyone was not sitting around discussing philosophy under a beautiful godless sky.

  198. Brian:
    “As such, your basis for rendering judgment is a critical key to your argument. What does “truly vile” mean if your described system of morality is based on appeal to popularity or appeal to force?”
    How complicated is “Don’t commit infanticide” or “Do not kill innocents” or “Don’t kill anyone unless your own life is in danger”? – This right to life is absolute in itself. I can’t see how you need a single religion to justify it, one which began 300,000 years after humans first walked the earth (and what became of those unbaptized billions?), in one small corner of the world, competing with dozens of other modern faiths. Furthermore, even if you did, tell me how the need for -a- monotheistic religion leads to -Christianity- in particular. Are you so ignorant of other world religions that you think Christianity is the only belief system that fits the bill you’ve presented me? Or are you just agnostic? Because all you’ve given me is justification for a religion, any religion, as foundation for a moral sensibility. In which case you may as well say no religion is true and just call yourself an agnostic.
    “You have much to learn. But first things first.”
    Now you’re just being pedantic.
    “Do you consider our current culture egalitarian? Or is the system still imperfect to the point where you would say that it is an unrealized goal?”
    I’d say it’s the most egalitarian so far in Western history. Racism, sexism, and homophobia are still with us, but for the first time in Western history they are discouraged by the law.
    I’ve answered your questions. Return the favor and answer one of mine:
    Is the Bible the word of God?

  199. Donna:
    “Say what you will about the “Abrahamic” religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – can there be any doubt that they have brought an ethic of charity into a world that would otherwise be a crueler place?”
    I’d encourage you to take a entry-level anthropology or world religions course at your local community college. It might broaden your horizons a bit. You speak as if the Abrahamic religions invented charity – read about the Taoists, Buddhists, or the many indigenous cultures that had a much stronger sense of mutual care than we do today. Read about the potlatches of the native american tribes of the northwest, or moka gatherings in New Guinea.
    One of the things that’s maddening about Christianity to non-believers is that you point to any positive element in your own religion and try to pass off the idea that your religion invented it.
    Going further than that, the Abrahamic religions are one of the minority that practice charity for the in-group, but think nothing of mass genocide for non-believers – try reading your own Bible if that statement doesn’t sit well with you. Read Isaiah, Leviticus, or Deuteronomy if you don’t believe me.

  200. Donna:
    “This world is rosy for them, why worry about the next one, or even entertain the idea that there may be a next one? For most of the billions on this planet, that’s not only pretty thin gruel, it’s an idea which is almost unbearable.”
    Just because an idea is unbearable doesn’t make it any less right. Just because a fairy tale is comforting doesn’t make it any less wrong.
    “Remember the Poles back in the 1980’s? After decades of crappy living conditions and enforced atheism, they shouted “We want God!” Not “We want Apple computers” or “We want color TVs” (although they undoubtably wanted those things too.) It was a highly embarrassing moment for Western leftist secularists.”
    As a Western leftist secularist, I’m not embarrassed at all. People enduring crappy living conditions have turned to all sorts of bad ideas, whether it’s radical Islam, Marxism, or Fascism. What they choose is their prerogative, not mine.

  201. How complicated is “Don’t commit infanticide” or “Do not kill innocents” or “Don’t kill anyone unless your own life is in danger”?
    Not complicated at all, and light-years from constituting a metaphysical (philosophical) basis for morality. Why isn’t that obvious to you?
    You might as easily claim that “Don’t remove mattress tags” isn’t complicated. It ends up being a red herring and an implicit appeal to the people (hoping that a majority agree with the proposition so that they will overlook your failure to provide any justification).
    This right to life is absolute in itself.
    Why, other than through your divine proclamation?
    I can’t see how you need a single religion to justify it, one which began 300,000 years after humans first walked the earth (and what became of those unbaptized billions?), in one small corner of the world, competing with dozens of other modern faiths.
    I don’t need a single religion to justify it. I need some metaphysical basis for the justification, and any one of many religions might take advantage of that philosophical justification. Non-theistic systems don’t appear to have a coherent player in that game. You don’t want to talk about it, other than to make assertions that you cannot/will not support.
    Furthermore, even if you did, tell me how the need for -a- monotheistic religion leads to -Christianity- in particular.
    Seriously, re-read what you just wrote to me in your latest message. You don’t accept that theism generally offers something that non-theism does not, yet you want me to make the appeal of theism particular to Christianity. Isn’t that backwards?
    Doesn’t it make more sense to work from the general to the specific? You come across like this: “I’m not interested in arguments that increase the appeal of theism unless they apply to Christianity in particular.”
    How can Christianity fail to benefit from a general advantage of theism?
    Are you so ignorant of other world religions that you think Christianity is the only belief system that fits the bill you’ve presented me? Or are you just agnostic? Because all you’ve given me is justification for a religion, any religion, as foundation for a moral sensibility.
    Are you so ignorant of other world religions that you think that all religions posit the same metaphysical basis for morality? Or is it that you’re addicted to red herring?
    Christianity’s metaphysical foundation is one of the reasons to prefer Christianity, and some other religions share the same metaphysical basis for morality.
    There’s no conflict between the first statement and the latter unless you have excluded the other systems from consideration.
    You fail to exclude the other systems, yet still make the complaint.
    In which case you may as well say no religion is true and just call yourself an agnostic.
    As though assuming that I have no argument apart from the one on which I wish to focus at present? 🙂
    Now you’re just being pedantic.
    Pardon me. I meant to say that you know all and that I will follow each of your red herring fallacies wherever they lead. 😉
    I’d say it’s the most egalitarian so far in Western history.
    OK, then. Scoreboard (“…to a religion as ill-suited to democracy or egalitarianism as Christianity is”). Your statement about Christianity, I repeat, is counterintuitive given your admission.
    I’ve answered your questions.
    Would you like a list of those you’ve skipped?
    Return the favor and answer one of mine:
    Is the Bible the word of God?

    Yes. But why the red herring?

  202. First of all, I should clarify something: in my second post above, only the last paragraph was mine. The rest comes from the Right Coast blog and should have been italicized. My home computer has been acting jiggy for the last few days, so I typed and posted quickly, before the error reading box popped up.
    Personally, I am uncomfortable lumping “the Abrahamic religions” together as the Right Coast blog does. Islamic charity does seem to be an “in-group” sort of thing; check the web site of Christian and Jewish charities and you will see that Christian and Jewish charities are not. In fact Christian charities raised many millions for the tsumani victims. Therefore, David’s assert that the Abrahamic religions only practice charity among their own is easily disprovable nonsense.
    I don’t pretend to know much about Taoism or other non-Western religions. I would suggest to David that he perhaps learn a bit more about the dominant religion of the West, as he appears to have never read the Gospels in his life. If he had, he wouldn’t make statements like “a religion as ill-suited to democracy or egalitarianism as Christianity is.”
    Here’s another gem from the New Testament: “Render onto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render onto God what is God’s.” That sentence lays the foundation for the seperation of church and state. (Islam, founded by a man who led a conquering army, has much more trouble with that concept.) Now, clearly, that idea took many centuries to come to fruition, but it eventually did. You can debate for hours about whether the Founding Fathers were Deists or not, but what is undisputably true is that the vast majority of colonists were believing and practicing Christians and they had no trouble with the concept.
    David, you think religious belief is for naifs. What I find naive is the assumption that morality can function without religion. You’re making the same mistake George Eliot did, except that Eliot knew what today’s atheists can’t stand to admit: that our moral code is rooted in Christianity. Eliot wanted Christianity without Christ. Nietzsche knew that this would be impossible.
    Back in the peaceful 1880’s, Nietzsche predicted exactly what “the death of God” would mean: wars and bloodshed such as the world had never seen and the “total eclipse of all values.” He must have seemed crazy to his peers even before he actually lost it. Then along came the century of the gulags and Auschwitz. But atheists still naively believe that they can have their cake and eat it too – that it is possible to have a moral society without all that tiresome God stuff.
    Remember John Lennon’s sappy “Imagine?” Well, imagine this: imagine Hitchens and Dawkins getting their wish. Religious belief vanishes from America and we’re all just one happy bunch of secularists. By 2025, the government, overburdened by the aging boomer population, decides to start knocking off everyone over 75 too sick or senile to be of any use. (Of course, this being America, it wouldn’t be phrased like that – we can be counted on to develop awkward euphemisms and sentimental justifications for nasty things.) Well, say I’m 77 then, and I’ve got a lot of health problems but I don’t feel like kicking the bucket just yet. (Especially since there is nothing awaiting me after the grave.) The cops come to haul me off to the glue factory. What can I do to save myself? I can’t say “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” “This is wrong?” “Well, sorry, lady, but it’s the law and 52% of all Americans say it’s right. Furthermore, they think you’re a selfish old biddy who has no right using valuable resources that should go to younger, healthier folks. Besides, we’re all sick of your generation anyway. You’re sitting there listening to ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ for about the 10 millionth time. For that alone, you deserve the needle.”
    Now clearly, I’m exaggerating to make a point (although I’m not sure that that scenario is entirely improbable.) If ethics are relative and entirely manmade, then what is moral is anything the ruler or the majority says is moral – as Nietzsche realized.

  203. Brian,
    I notice you keep avoiding any particulars about why Christianity is a good moral foundation. You acknowledge that the Bible is the word of God but won’t say word one about the obvious contradictions contained within. I’d like to concede that a belief in a monotheistic god is necessary for any moral framework just to see how you’ll justify Christianity in particular, partly out of curiosity and partly because your sophistry is becoming tedious. I’d love to see you work your way down from the general to the specific, so, yes, I agree that we all need to believe in an invisible man in the sky in order to keep from killing each other. I’ve got a feeling that if I agree with all the points you’ve made so far, if I give you the keys, you still won’t want to leave the driveway. I think you’re stalling.
    So let’s ante up. Tell me why -your- God is the right one. I’ve given you many, many reasons why I believe Christianity is flawed, but you’ve not said one word in its defense; as I’ve said, you could just as easily be arguing in favor of Islam or any other monotheistic religion that I could make up myself.
    Getting back to the original topic – tell me what’s so great about -Christianity-, not simply monotheism. If you can’t respond to that simple, direct question, then I can only assume you don’t have any arguments in mind for Christianity in particular and you’d be satisfied with any other monotheistic belief.

  204. Donna,
    When I said Christianity was ill-suited to a democracy, I had verses like this in mind:
    Romans 13, verses 1-2: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves”
    This is the tricky thing when you start out with absolutes like “the Bible is the Word of God” – there is no wiggle room here. God Himself has said that anyone resisting authority is going against His will, so by that argument the Founders should never have broken off from the British, and we might as well stop having elections because kicking an incumbent out of office is also an act of rebellion.
    The contradiction I see all the time is Christians saying that they know God through the Bible, but then they ignore or flatly deny what’s inside the Bible to begin with. If you follow that route, then where does it stop? So maybe the Bible isn’t 100% right – and now it’s open to interpretation. Then you might as well give it up right there, if it’s all in the interpretation then it’s nothing divine at all, your religion is just people doing what they think is right at the time. Just like any Aborigine, Buddhist, or atheist. I’ve quoted the most shocking verses I can find only to drive home that fact.

  205. Donna,
    By the way, I have read the Gospels. I’ve done something many Christians never do, and I’ve read the Bible cover to cover. I was raised as a Christian and it was after one summer of intensive study, reading all of the Bible and not just the Hallmark quotes that get passed off in sermons every Sunday, that I ceased identifying with Christianity.

  206. Donna,
    Okay, final thought for the night. You said: “Well, imagine this: imagine Hitchens and Dawkins getting their wish. Religious belief vanishes from America and we’re all just one happy bunch of secularists. By 2025, the government, overburdened by the aging boomer population, decides to start knocking off everyone over 75 too sick or senile to be of any use.”
    Please… this is a little extreme and absurd. Yes, the godless 20th century was filled with atrocity. So was the 15th. The atheistic Soviet Union was responsible for the death and misery of millions. So was the Christian kingdom of 15th century Spain, ruled by a monarch crowned by the Pope. Religion is no panacea for man’s inhumanity toward man, and I could spend hours giving you examples. Christianity has been used to justify witch-burnings in Salem and Europe, slavery in the Old South, the Inquisition, the Crusades, and on, and on, and on. These past atrocities were carried out in a society that was -more- devout, more Christian, less secular than we are today.
    You and Brian speak as if all the human rights we have recognize and enjoy today have come about because of Christianity, as if Christian history only goes back 150 years or so. Never mind the fact that there has been over 2000 years of Christianity in the West, and the more secular we have become the less repressive our governments have been. Compare the present to 1800 – only white male property-owners had voting rights, slavery was widespread. Or 1800 to 800, when kings ruled by divine right, and serfdom was justified by doctrines such as “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”.

  207. I notice you keep avoiding any particulars about why Christianity is a good moral foundation.
    Correct. Because I know that you can’t figure out whether or not any system is a good moral foundation without establishing a metaphysical basis for the judgment. And I’m having a tough time getting you to understand it.
    I try to rescue you from fallacies of outrage and inconsistency, but you don’t want to be helped.
    You acknowledge that the Bible is the word of God but won’t say word one about the obvious contradictions contained within.
    That’s partly true. I’ve written extensively about the alleged contradictions in the Bible, but I won’t let you use the topic as a red herring to distract from your inability/unwillingness to establish a metaphysical basis for your judgments.
    I get the impression that you do see the problem at this point, so you’re working all the harder to distance yourself from it.
    I’d like to concede that a belief in a monotheistic god is necessary for any moral framework just to see how you’ll justify Christianity in particular, partly out of curiosity and partly because your sophistry is becoming tedious.
    You could try staying on topic for a few days just to see if you’re able to concede in all sincerity …
    I’d love to see you work your way down from the general to the specific, so, yes, I agree that we all need to believe in an invisible man in the sky in order to keep from killing each other.
    Obviously you still don’t understand the need for a firm metaphysical basis for morality. A mere invisible man in the sky wouldn’t cut it.
    Though of course maybe I should credit you with the use of the fallacy of appeal to ridicule, or even the straw man fallacy.
    I’ve got a feeling that if I agree with all the points you’ve made so far, if I give you the keys, you still won’t want to leave the driveway. I think you’re stalling.
    I know that you are in avoidance mode.
    So let’s ante up. Tell me why -your- God is the right one.
    One of the biggest reasons is because the monotheistic system allows for a firm metaphysical basis for morality. But for some reason you keep running away from that topic.
    I’ve given you many, many reasons why I believe Christianity is flawed, but you’ve not said one word in its defense;
    That’s ridiculous. I pointed out that you had established no basis for rendering a judgment against the morals of Christianity. Your argument suffers from the fallacy of appeal to outrage and the fallacy of inconsistency.
    Why doesn’t that count as a defense, pray tell?
    as I’ve said, you could just as easily be arguing in favor of Islam or any other monotheistic religion that I could make up myself.
    Correct, but at least we’d have narrowed the field down to monotheistic religions. But you refuse to take that step for some odd reason.
    Getting back to the original topic – tell me what’s so great about -Christianity-, not simply monotheism.
    You’re a broken record, David. Suppose that monotheism has 50 things to recommend it and Christianity has one thing to recommend it above other monotheisms. Let’s further suppose that it’s something subtle like the trinitarian provision for eternal self-sufficiency based on a personal relationship within the godhead itself. In spite of the logic that would indicate that Christianity is the best system based on the 51 things, you’d probably pooh-pooh the one thing that sets it above the others.
    The reason you do that, I believe, is that you detect at some level the implications for atheism, and you wish to avoid them. You’ll be more comfortable with atheism and skeptical agnosticism if you have a pet criticism of each of the major forms of theistic religion, regardless of whether or not your own system is coherent.
    If you can’t respond to that simple, direct question, then I can only assume you don’t have any arguments in mind for Christianity in particular and you’d be satisfied with any other monotheistic belief.
    That’s the fallacy of appeal to ignorance (lack of evidence for X is taken to mean that X does not exist).
    You’re pretty good at committing fallacies.
    Cut out the red herring barrage and deal with the metaphysics of morality as though you are a thinker and not an avoider.

  208. David also wrote:
    You and Brian speak as if all the human rights we have recognize and enjoy today have come about because of Christianity, as if Christian history only goes back 150 years or so.
    Where God makes men from dust, David makes men from straw.
    Never mind the fact that there has been over 2000 years of Christianity in the West, and the more secular we have become the less repressive our governments have been.
    1) Not very good with the math, but that’s a minor point.
    2) Cuba is in the West, and it is more secular than the United States. Therefore Cuba is less repressive.
    Obviously point No. 2 is fatal to David’s silly generalization. He has to limit the effects of secularization to the West, otherwise he’s responsible for explaining the repression of the thoroughly secularized systems exported by (Westerner) Karl Marx.
    The more societies lean toward secularism the more they restrict freedom. That tendency is MOL inevitable because the thoroughgoing secularist has no rational choice but to make the government the provider of the rights of man. He has no epistemic basis for any other option. And what governments provide, governments can take away.
    Compare the present to 1800 – only white male property-owners had voting rights, slavery was widespread. Or 1800 to 800, when kings ruled by divine right, and serfdom was justified by doctrines such as “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”.
    By whom was that justification used, and on what rational basis is secularism credited with the cultural changes you like, other than by chronological coincidence (causing us to wonder if the fossil fuel economy isn’t more responsible)?

  209. “That’s ridiculous. I pointed out that you had established no basis for rendering a judgment against the morals of Christianity. Your argument suffers from the fallacy of appeal to outrage and the fallacy of inconsistency.”
    So let me understand. When I make direct quotes from the Bible, in which God himself has advocated genocide, infanticide, and authoritarian government, you call that a fallacy? This is the point I keep coming to and you refuse to address it. How simple do I have to make this for you? If the Bible is the Word of God, which you have conceded, then it is not open to interpretation. To deny any part of the Bible is to deny God himself. Once you open that door, then there’s nothing separating Christianity from any other belief system, it’s merely opinion, and there’s nothing more solid to your moral foundation than there is to an atheist or a Baha’i.
    Furthermore, if I sound like a broken record it’s only because I’m responding to a broken record. The reason I keep bringing up the fact that you are only advocating -any- monotheistic religion is that I could take an hour and make up one of my own, even one with a “trinitarian provision for eternal self-sufficiency based on a personal relationship within the godhead itself.” It could also be utterly absurd in its beliefs but it would be correct by your view. And do you think Muslims and Jews don’t also have a “personal relationship with the godhead itself”? Even some polytheistic religions fit the bill you’ve presented, ones in which all the minor gods are reflections or aspects of a greater unity, such as Hindus with Brahman.
    If you see me skipping from one critique to the next, it’s only because there is more than one argument against Christianity. They’re nearly endless. Among them: 300,000 years of human history before Jesus Christ. All those billions bound for hell (did Jesus not say the only way to heaven was through him?). Contradictions within the Bible itself. Immoral instruction given by God, justifying slavery, rape, genocide, infanticide, repression of women, etc. The existence of hell, eternal punishment for temporal sins.
    You want me to stick to a single line of criticism when any one of the flaws I’ve mentioned would drive away anyone not living in bad faith. Do me a favor, pick one in the paragraph above and cogently justify it.
    Some minor points:
    “Cuba is in the West, and it is more secular than the United States. Therefore Cuba is less repressive.”
    13th-century Europe was ruled by the Catholic Church and monarchs with divine right. Therefore 13th-century Europe was less repressive.
    I don’t happen to believe it’s coincidence that more of the globe is democratic than any other time in history at the same time that we are more secular than any other time. Rule of law depends on primacy of reason. You make faith your foundation, and any dictator will find it much easier to demand the same sort of faith.
    Finally, you keep shifting the burden of proof onto me to prove a negative. Your claim is the more fantastic, you’re the one trying to prove the existence of the supernatural, but you’re asking me to do the heavy lifting for you. You’re on your own.

  210. So let me understand. When I make direct quotes from the Bible, in which God himself has advocated genocide, infanticide, and authoritarian government, you call that a fallacy?
    Of course not. It all depends on what type of claim accompanies the quotation.
    If you, David, say that “infanticide is evil” then you need to provide some basis for your judgment. As you proved earlier, you don’t really have one. Since you establish no basis for the judgment, your charge that “infanticide is evil, therefore God is unjust” has a questionable premise and there is no good reason to accept your conclusion.
    You have avoided taking the opportunity to establish that key premise–you’ve avoided it like the plague.
    This is the point I keep coming to and you refuse to address it. How simple do I have to make this for you? If the Bible is the Word of God, which you have conceded, then it is not open to interpretation.
    Then how would I know what it says? 🙂
    You keep opening your mouth and these silly things keep coming out (no witches were burned in Salem, that anyone knows about anyway).
    To deny any part of the Bible … (blah blah blah)
    Great. I haven’t denied any part of the Bible. But I’m sure you’re eager to get to any topic other than your incoherent moral system.
    If you see me skipping from one critique to the next, it’s only because there is more than one argument against Christianity. They’re nearly endless. Among them: 300,000 years of human history before Jesus Christ. All those billions bound for hell (did Jesus not say the only way to heaven was through him?). Contradictions within the Bible itself. Immoral instruction given by God, justifying slavery, rape, genocide, infanticide, repression of women, etc. The existence of hell, eternal punishment for temporal sins.
    That’s another common cheesy tactic of atheists and skeptics: Present a whole laundry list of arguments. Even if all 3,000 of them reek to high heaven at least you can keep your opponent busy answering them and pretend you’ve got the victory in the meantime. You deal with the problem of morality from the non-theist perspective and then I’ll be delighted to talk about what you think is the best argument against Christianity. Are you brave enough to do that, David?
    You want me to stick to a single line of criticism when any one of the flaws I’ve mentioned would drive away anyone not living in bad faith.
    I merely want you to refrain from reliance on the red herring fallacy, David. You don’t get off the hook for your own moral system just because you think you have an effective criticism of Christianity on hand. You deal with the issue of morality, then whatever you like after that. And I’ll deal with it minus the retreat and obfuscation you’ve attempted so consistently up through this point.
    13th-century Europe was ruled by the Catholic Church and monarchs with divine right. Therefore 13th-century Europe was less repressive.
    lol
    Apparently I made the following argument and then forgot about it: “The more religious we have become the less repressive our governments have been.”
    You do seem to be addicted to red herring.
    I don’t happen to believe it’s coincidence that more of the globe is democratic than any other time in history at the same time that we are more secular than any other time.
    Then why are the explicitly atheist/secularist regimes the ones with the least democracy (China, Cuba, the USSR in its time) oppressing the largest number of people?
    Rule of law depends on primacy of reason.
    It does?
    Regardless of whether you can support your assertion at all, atheism has nearly the same problem with reason that it has with morality. You’ll be justified in not wanting to talk about that until we’re done with the morality issue.
    You make faith your foundation, and any dictator will find it much easier to demand the same sort of faith.
    Chances are we’re not talking about the same thing when we use the term “faith.”
    Finally, you keep shifting the burden of proof onto me to prove a negative.
    lol
    Yeah? And what would that be?
    Your claim is the more fantastic,
    What claim is that, pray tell?
    you’re the one trying to prove the existence of the supernatural,
    Am I? Quote me.
    but you’re asking me to do the heavy lifting for you. You’re on your own.
    Something tells me this school of red herring is likewise designed to keep you from having to answer for the incoherence of your moral system. Have you noticed how consistently you’ve been avoiding it?

  211. Not to get in the way of this increasingly tedious argument, but Bryan seems to be claiming that we need theism, particularly Christianity, because we need a “metaphysical basis for morality.”
    But do we? Conceivably the human Moral Sense has some kind of “metaphysical basis,” however that might work. But also conceivably every human being is hard-wired by genetics to develop a Moral Sense at maturation, and it is conceivable that this evolved as a precondition of humans living in societies more complex than those of baboons and chimps.
    Conceivably Freud was onto something when he discovered a Superego, responsible for Conscience, developing as people matured.
    Now if this were true, then we wouldn’t need a God to explain the Moral Sense as such. Humans could simply experience a need to project their internal Moral Sense upon an external, vividly imagined, world, and to create theologies to organize these imaginings.
    You both, however, might take a look at Nathan’s point, now a good ways above, namely that “all these arguments . . . are just background noise. it’s not about definitive proof anymore. . .” You can’t establish the validity or non-validity of religion by pointing to what theology explains or validates, or does not explain or validate. For believers, it comes down to personal experience, whether you consider that ’emotional’ or ‘spiritual’ or something else. Arguably there is a built-in need or desire for this kind of experience; it is at least peculiar that so many have had it.
    For the believers, arguments like those between Bryan and David (or between Dawkins/Hitchens and D’Sousa) are just games with debating points, missing the core of the experience of God. I tend to side with David and the hypothesis of an innate Moral Sense or Sensibility, rather than the idea of a metaphysical basis for morality.
    But I can appreciate the power to many of the religious tale that one not only believes, but believes into. As J.R.R. Tolkien said, speaking of fairy tales,
    “The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. . . There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits.” (“On Fairy Stories”)
    /Mr Lynn

  212. But also conceivably every human being is hard-wired by genetics to develop a Moral Sense at maturation, and it is conceivable that this evolved as a precondition of humans living in societies more complex than those of baboons and chimps.
    Let’s assume for the sake of argument that’s exactly what happened. Where does that leave us when it comes to having a metaphysical basis for morality?
    Conceivably Freud was onto something when he discovered a Superego, responsible for Conscience, developing as people matured.
    Now if this were true, then we wouldn’t need a God to explain the Moral Sense as such. Humans could simply experience a need to project their internal Moral Sense upon an external, vividly imagined, world, and to create theologies to organize these imaginings.

    Sure, that’s possible, given the assumption. But suppose somebody mutates into a serial killer and that agrees quite nicely with his hard-wired morality, thank-you-very-much.
    Again we end up with the apparent contradiction:
    X is wrong to A at time t
    X is ~wrong to B at time t
    Can either one be wrong if their respective moralities evolved?
    If both are correct, then what does “morality” mean? Hasn’t it been emptied of meaning through relativism?
    If only one is right then how do you figure out which one, if both moral precepts evolved in the manner described?
    So, yes a moral sense may be described as you say, Mr. Lynn–but once you know that it’s evolved what stops you from choosing your own morality? Is it the right thing to do to stick with your hard-wiring (even if you’re a serial killer) or to transcend it in favor of aggressive megalomania (not to limit the endless possibilities)?
    Atheists and skeptics tend to patch this gushing mortal wound with Band-aids.
    You can’t establish the validity or non-validity of religion by pointing to what theology explains or validates, or does not explain or validate. For believers, it comes down to personal experience, whether you consider that ’emotional’ or ‘spiritual’ or something else. Arguably there is a built-in need or desire for this kind of experience; it is at least peculiar that so many have had it.
    So perhaps the right thing (morally) is to believe, if we’re hard-wired to believe. 😉
    For the believers, arguments like those between Bryan and David (or between Dawkins/Hitchens and D’Sousa) are just games with debating points, missing the core of the experience of God.
    Perhaps you know the mind of god and man all that well. But maybe movement in the intellect could prepare the way for the experience of God; perhaps it’s even an indirect experience of god.
    I tend to side with David and the hypothesis of an innate Moral Sense or Sensibility, rather than the idea of a metaphysical basis for morality.
    Some folks are happy with contradictory notions stuck in the midst of their world view, and perhaps Mr. Lynn is one of those.
    I’m sure he can’t be interested in resolving the problem. 😉

  213. There is a story in Genesis 4, about Lamech…this guy was a real scoundrel…seems that those are the types that would have thrived….humans can be aggressive…I don’t see to many tigers as ‘pussycats’? Wouldn’t have aggression been more agreeable for natural selection…I guess you could argue that all the peaceful farmers took up there rakes and vanquished this tendency? This isn’t my expertise…obviously.

  214. For David,
    There’s some personal issue you have with the Bible,
    it seems to me to be above our comprehension…but you obviously have it down pat? Maybe your not understanding or mis-interpreting? We all do…in reality…it is above us all.
    I’d say that the clearest evidence of God are His Miracles…the fact that the Bible survived…and without redaction, is a good one…why are the Samaritan text and Hebrew exactly alike? The Bible itself is a ‘physical’ part of the evidence. But the one Miracle that is most noticeable is that Egyptian history gets very quiet during the time of the Exodus. They really liked bragging on themselves…do you think they just quit their attempt at conquest?

  215. Bryan,
    “That’s another common cheesy tactic of atheists and skeptics: Present a whole laundry list of arguments. Even if all 3,000 of them reek to high heaven at least you can keep your opponent busy answering them and pretend you’ve got the victory in the meantime.”
    No, that wouldn’t be my tactic, since you haven’t addressed a single flaw I’ve mentioned and I’ve given up hope that you ever will. If any of my arguments against Christianity reek to high heaven, choose one and refute it.
    I’ve also stated my non-theistic foundation for morality. Repeatedly. I’m sorry if this notion of innate moral sense is not absolute enough for you, if being “biologically hard-wired” isn’t poetic enough for you, but here is one of the fundamental differences between believers and non-believers – you seek absolutes. What you don’t recognize is that your own understanding of Christianity and what it means depends just as much on individual logic, inclination, and guesswork as any non-theistic morality does.
    “Great. I haven’t denied any part of the Bible. But I’m sure you’re eager to get to any topic other than your incoherent moral system.”
    No, you haven’t. You haven’t denied eternal damnation for non-believers, you haven’t denied that it was moral and good for God’s Chosen to go into Canaan and kill the Canaanites, you haven’t denied the authoritarian mindset.
    “Rule of law depends on primacy of reason.
    It does?”
    Yes, Brian, it does. It doesn’t appeal to faith in the powers-that-be, or cults of personality, or easy emotional appeals. All of which are more analogous to religion than secularism.
    “Finally, you keep shifting the burden of proof onto me to prove a negative.
    lol
    Yeah? And what would that be?”
    That God does not exist.
    “Your claim is the more fantastic,
    What claim is that, pray tell?”
    That God exists. That a man died and rose again three days later. That you can hear the voice of your own Creator in your mind. If none of these apply, please tell me what sect of Christianity you adhere to, because I’ve certainly never heard of it.
    “you’re the one trying to prove the existence of the supernatural,
    Am I? Quote me.”
    Is God not outside of nature? Else how could He have created it? Or else how would He be omnipotent? Again, if this doesn’t describe God to you, if your God is bound by the same physical laws as everyone else, then you’re practicing a Christianity I’ve never heard about.
    Then there is that whole resurrection thing, which defies at least a few natural laws.
    “Something tells me this school of red herring is likewise designed to keep you from having to answer for the incoherence of your moral system. Have you noticed how consistently you’ve been avoiding it?”
    Mr. Kettle, I have Mr. Pot waiting on the line for you.
    Anything not absolute and rooted outside of human causes is going to be incoherent to you. Sorry, you don’t get a nice, neat, orderly moral universe. What you get is ordinary human beings, the vast majority of which have an rough innate sense of what is right and wrong, and a small subset of the population that is just broken – the serial killers and such. We can take what seems best in human nature, kindness and charity, and try to reinforce and propagate that through our laws and institutions, and at the same time try to
    suppress the worst human impulses. It’s an ongoing, messy process, and it’s more like tending a garden than building a cathedral. The work doesn’t stop.
    I’ve given you the opportunity again and again to connect your broad theme of monotheism to the particular doctrine of Christianity and you refuse to. It’s that incapacity to single out one monotheistic belief as the -correct- one that throws the entire concept on its ear.
    mylynn was right, this is becoming increasingly tedious. Your slow devolution into snark and sarcasm (“scoreboard”, etc.) and pedantry (“you have much to learn”) has become low comedy. So either stop dancing around the topic and tell me why you are a -Christian- and not a Muslim, Jew, or Hindu, or else feel free to continue this conversation with someone else. Preferably someone who already agrees with you, or else has the patience of a saint.

  216. Paul,
    “For David,
    There’s some personal issue you have with the Bible,
    it seems to me to be above our comprehension…but you obviously have it down pat? Maybe your not understanding or mis-interpreting?”
    I’m sure you own a Bible. I’ll break my argument down for you step by step if you like.
    1) The Bible is the Word of God
    2) God is good, and there is no higher moral foundation than God
    3)Deuteronomy 20: 10-17. Exodus 21: 2-7. Leviticus 25: 44-46. Romans 13: 1-2.
    4) In the Christian belief system, there is no way to deny or downplay a single part. Read Matthew 5: 18-19 –
    “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
    Deny the smallest letter or stroke and be the least in the kingdom of heaven – quick, check your shirt collar. Then read Deuteronomy 22:11. Hope it’s not a poly blend, or else you’ve broken “the least of these commandments” and now you are “the least in the kingdom of heaven”
    I use the most absurd examples of Christian belief to prove my point: the absolute certainty and blind faith that the Bible demands is an affront to your common sense and power of reason.
    “I’d say that the clearest evidence of God are His Miracles…the fact that the Bible survived…and without redaction, is a good one…”
    The Bhagavad Gita survived. The Tao te Ching survived. If that’s a miracle, it’s not exclusive to Christianity. So did the Epic of Gilgamesh, which, incidentally, contained very nearly the same flood story told in the Old Testament. Only difference was that it predates the Pentateuch by over 1000 years.
    Also, you mentioned “without redaction”. Guess you’ve never heard of the Gnostics. They were “redacted”, ie, called heretics and burned at the stake by the early Church. Guess you’ve also never heard of the First Council of Nicaea, which in the year 325 decided which religious texts went into the Bible and which didn’t cut it. They -put it to a vote-. So out went the Book of Thomas. Shame more people haven’t heard of the Book of Thomas, it contains some lovely dialogues with Jesus (it’s available to us now after it was discovered in 1947). So why weren’t we taught about the Book of Thomas in Sunday school? Because it was outvoted. Still want to tell me the Bible is the Word of God Himself, without redaction?
    “But the one Miracle that is most noticeable is that Egyptian history gets very quiet during the time of the Exodus. They really liked bragging on themselves…do you think they just quit their attempt at conquest?”
    So the proof that the Red Sea was parted is that there’s a gap in the historical record… not very compelling. An event of that magnitude would leave massive physical traces – there would be tsunamis all over the the coasts of the Arabian peninsula and Northeast Africa. Where is the geological evidence for this?

  217. No, that wouldn’t be my tactic, since you haven’t addressed a single flaw I’ve mentioned and I’ve given up hope that you ever will.
    O ye of little faith. 😉
    You did present a laundry list. If you just need one argument refuted then you only need present one argument.
    I’ve also stated my non-theistic foundation for morality. Repeatedly.
    Your statements have been self-contradictory. So you want to stand pat?
    I’m sorry if this notion of innate moral sense is not absolute enough for you, if being “biologically hard-wired” isn’t poetic enough for you, but here is one of the fundamental differences between believers and non-believers – you seek absolutes.
    Absolutes have the advantage of avoiding the contradiction that trapped you. I’m open to other means of avoiding contradiction, but I’m not going to pretend that they exist just to make you feel better.
    What you don’t recognize is that your own understanding of Christianity and what it means depends just as much on individual logic, inclination, and guesswork as any non-theistic morality does.
    I don’t conflate epistemology with metaphysical models, however much you might wish it. More likely you don’t understand the distinction yourself.
    Bottom line: Your condescension is misplaced.
    D: “Finally, you keep shifting the burden of proof onto me to prove a negative.
    B: lol
    Yeah? And what would that be?”
    D: That God does not exist.

    I haven’t asked you to prove that God does not exist at any point. I used the phrase once parenthetically to illustrate your fallacy of shifting the burden of proof: Your opponent has the burden of proof (“Prove that God doesn’t exist”).
    http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/015123.php#comment-184940
    D: “Your claim is the more fantastic,”
    B: “What claim is that, pray tell?”
    D: That God exists. That a man died and rose again three days later. That you can hear the voice of your own Creator in your mind. If none of these apply, please tell me what sect of Christianity you adhere to, because I’ve certainly never heard of it.

    So, anything that I believe is a claim of mine, regardless of whether or not I mentioned it in writing or tried to get you to believe it?
    How much more pathetic can you get, David?
    I haven’t made any of the claims you ascribe to me. This is just another in your long series of red herring fallacies.
    I’ll add that I find this mode of argumentation common to atheists and skeptics when they are pinned down to account for their morality. They tend to be very uncomfortable on the defensive, so they work very hard to return to their usual practice of staying on the offensive.
    D:”you’re the one trying to prove the existence of the supernatural,”
    B: “Am I? Quote me.”
    D: Is God not outside of nature? Else how could He have created it? Or else how would He be omnipotent? Again, if this doesn’t describe God to you, if your God is bound by the same physical laws as everyone else, then you’re practicing a Christianity I’ve never heard about.

    What, no quotation? lol
    I can’t say I’m surprised.
    1) I don’t consider the term “supernatural” useful
    2) I haven’t even tried to prove the existence of anything that David would be likely to call “supernatural”
    3) David makes things up
    Then there is that whole resurrection thing, which defies at least a few natural laws.
    What, nobody ever explained to you that natural law is descriptive?
    “Something tells me this school of red herring is likewise designed to keep you from having to answer for the incoherence of your moral system. Have you noticed how consistently you’ve been avoiding it?”
    Mr. Kettle, I have Mr. Pot waiting on the line for you.

    Now David ignores my pledge to directly address any topic he chooses pending settlement of the issue of the metaphysics of morality (“You deal with the issue of morality, then whatever you like after that. And I’ll deal with it minus the retreat and obfuscation you’ve attempted so consistently up through this point.”)
    http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/015123.php#comment-185660
    The offer stands as my pledge to distinguish myself from David, that blackest of pots. If David claims that he’s done expressing himself on the issue of morality, I’ll collect his conflicting statements for his approval and we’ll move on to the topic of his choice.
    Anything not absolute and rooted outside of human causes is going to be incoherent to you.
    See how you just make things up?
    Morality within Nihiism is coherent. But it doesn’t provide a good position from which to criticize the morality of God.
    What you get is ordinary human beings, the vast majority of which have an rough innate sense of what is right and wrong, and a small subset of the population that is just broken – the serial killers and such. We can take what seems best in human nature, kindness and charity, and try to reinforce and propagate that through our laws and institutions, and at the same time try to
    suppress the worst human impulses. It’s an ongoing, messy process, and it’s more like tending a garden than building a cathedral. The work doesn’t stop.

    Why work at it? What is the metaphysical goal? What gives you the right to enforce your “what seems best” on somebody else who disagrees (other than brute power)?
    I don’t think you’ve given your own views anything more than a cursory examination, David.
    I’ve given you the opportunity again and again to connect your broad theme of monotheism to the particular doctrine of Christianity and you refuse to.
    Poppycock. You’re making things up again. I reminded you that any advantage of monotheism pertains to Christianity and I pointed out that any one additional advantage of Christianity establishes Christianity’s advantage in the field–and I gave an example. You ignored it and then (as far as I can tell) decided to lie about it.
    http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/015123.php#comment-185477
    It’s that incapacity to single out one monotheistic belief as the -correct- one that throws the entire concept on its ear.
    I guess that’s the type of thing that substitutes for logic in some skeptical circles. I look forward to David performing that same logical exercise in order to resolve competing (but non-established) claims regarding evolutionary history.
    So either stop dancing around the topic and tell me why you are a -Christian- and not a Muslim, Jew, or Hindu, or else feel free to continue this conversation with someone else.
    Evidently David entirely forgives himself for his abandonment of the topic of the non-theistic metaphysical basis for morality.
    I find it amusing that my fending off of his red herring barrage is termed “dancing.”
    Hinduism is not monotheistic. It welcomes both/and logic and features an incoherent moral system (IMHO). Islam features a central contradiction in the inscrutable nature of god (how is it known that god is inscrutable?). I could be Jewish. I prefer the promise of the later covenant.

  218. Bryan asks,
    “. . . So, yes a moral sense may be described as you say, Mr. Lynn–but once you know that it’s evolved what stops you from choosing your own morality? Is it the right thing to do to stick with your hard-wiring (even if you’re a serial killer) or to transcend it in favor of aggressive megalomania (not to limit the endless possibilities)?”
    Presumably, if the hypothesis of an innate moral sense were correct, we would not be ‘hard-wired’ for particular moral codes, but for a conscience that endeavors to distinguish between right and wrong, and does so based on general criteria—perhaps similar to those we label ‘altruism’, ‘loyalty’, ‘honor’, etc. As everyone knows, such criteria can be mangled and distorted by particular cultural traditions, and by psychosis, and can be put to malicious and horrible ends.
    Does this theory then endorse relativism? In a way, yes, but in another way, no. Rather it suggests that there are underlying ‘absolutes’, which however are tenuous enough that they are easily misinterpreted or violated under the influence of other forces: ideas, passions, and the kind of hypnosis induced by coercion and brutality.
    The job of man is to avoid these pitfalls, and I don’t deny that the great religions, and Christianity in particular, can have a positive role in doing so (or, as in the case of Islamofascism, a negative one). As a friend of mine once remarked, speaking of Quaker theology, “The hypothesis that every man has a spark of divinity within him is not bad for society” (paraphrase). Nor, as I said way above, is the hypothesis that “All men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. . .”
    So when Bryan asks, “Where does that leave us when it comes to having a metaphysical basis for morality?” I reply: We don’t need one. But it may not hurt to externalize the positive side of human nature, and if you want to call that a ‘metaphysical basis’, then fine.
    Are we “hard-wired to believe”? Maybe there’s a predilection, or an inclination. I’m an empiricist, so I’m inclined not to. 😉
    /Mr Lynn

  219. Gilgamesh was found on broken clay tablets..by the way.
    You’ve got an answer for everything..apparently…
    do you totally comprehend even ‘the picture’ of God that the Bible is to believers….let alone the True God that in represents?
    I believe the Scripture you present was in order to establish God as the true God….we live in a complex world…you know that even Reality is bigger than our limited imaginations…I know what I don’t know…you haven’t learned that, yet!
    Redaction is that the books that were choose as the true image where not changed….and were written in the fog of history….not changed to coincide with events after the fact…yes… I am familiar with the Gnostics…and that is not relevant to my arguement.
    Before I go futher….tell me what you don’t know…please…so I can see what I have to work with. Thanks.

  220. I ask that because I have not had the time to read all these postings, but I plan to….if I can keep up with these arguments…I am not a professional philosopher.
    What I am really asking though is, Can you prove that God doesn’t exist?
    For me…I see the proof of His existence…and being the True God represented by the Scriptures contained in the Bible.
    If you have no proof other than your distaste of Who God is…well, you just don’t like the Truth…that’s proof of nothing, other than the fact that what is True is not to your liking…am I wrong?

  221. Paul,
    “Before I go futher….tell me what you don’t know…please…so I can see what I have to work with. Thanks.”
    Well, I sure don’t know what this means:
    “do you totally comprehend even ‘the picture’ of God that the Bible is to believers….let alone the True God that in represents?”
    or this:
    “I believe the Scripture you present was in order to establish God as the true God”
    It sounds like you’re saying “I believe in God because I believe in God” or “the Bible is the word of God because the Bible says that God says the Bible is the word of God”. It’s like when I hear people say “Jesus is Lord”. It’s meaningless outside of your own clique. You’ve strung some words together here but it doesn’t look like there’s much thinking going on.
    Few minor points.
    Yes, the Epic of Gilgamesh was written on clay tablets… and? My point was that it survived just like the Bible did, taking the shine of the “miracle”, and that it predates Judaism and Christianity by many, many centuries.
    You also said:
    “I am familiar with the Gnostics…and that is not relevant to my arguement”
    It has everything to do with your argument. You were claiming that there was some kind of divine hand in Christianity because it has come to us “without redaction”, but the Gnostic split was a major, major redaction in Christianity. The Nicaean council, where a few dozen bishops got together in a room and -voted- on what books made it into the Bible also puts the kibosh on the idea that the Bible is the direct word of God.
    Finally,
    “you know that even Reality is bigger than our limited imaginations…I know what I don’t know…you haven’t learned that, yet!”
    If you truly believed this, you would be as agnostic as I am. The opposite is true, you -don’t- know that you don’t know, and your religion demands it. You’re the one claiming to know what God wants from us, what happens after we die, and that miracles claimed in a book actually happened. What else is faith, but the end of curiosity and doubt?

  222. Paul,
    “What I am really asking though is, Can you prove that God doesn’t exist?”
    Here’s a basic idea:
    You cannot prove or disprove a negative.
    Can you prove that the purple unicorn in my bedroom doesn’t exist? Or, for a better analogy, can you prove that an invisible purple unicorn that only I can see, that only talks to -me- doesn’t exist?
    This is pretty much how your defense of Christianity sounds to anyone that isn’t already a Christian:
    “For me…I see the proof of His existence…and being the represented by contained in .”
    It’s the same level of argument, and equally as convincing to anyone that doesn’t already agree with you from the outset.
    You can’t shift the burden of proof onto the disbeliever. If you’re making the claim, it’s up to you to prove it.

  223. Okay, here’s a redaction of my own – the above post got chopped (heads up if you didn’t know, you can’t use square brackets in this message field). What I meant to say was…
    ” This is pretty much how your defense of Christianity sounds to anyone that isn’t already a Christian:
    For me…I see the proof of His existence…and being the (invisible purple unicorn) represented by (the laundry basket) contained in (my closet).
    It’s the same level of argument, and equally as convincing to anyone that doesn’t already agree with you from the outset.

  224. Then if no proof exist or visa versa ‘exist to prove the negative’….it is to each to decide.
    Therefore…science has to acknowledge it’s limits…correct? And isn’t that really the point of this book…to put the antitheist ideology in it’s proper perspective? Am I wrong?

  225. Paul,
    Science also has nothing to say about my invisible unicorn. Science can’t prove it doesn’t exist, therefore it’s open to debate by your way of thinking. And if there is more evidence pointing to a Creator than not, please tell me some examples. Most of the “evidence” presented by Creationists is easily refuted and decades behind current scientific understanding.
    For that matter, you haven’t touched on the scriptures I brought up a few posts back. Those are particularly damning because they are out of the Bible itself. Please choose any one of those and justify it. Or justify hell, eternal torture for temporal sin.

  226. Mr. Lynn:
    Presumably, if the hypothesis of an innate moral sense were correct, we would not be ‘hard-wired’ for particular moral codes, but for a conscience that endeavors to distinguish between right and wrong, and does so based on general criteria—perhaps similar to those we label ‘altruism’, ‘loyalty’, ‘honor’, etc.
    Does the conscience detect “altruism,” “loyalty” and “honor” as the eye detects color (as aspects of reality) or are they subjective judgments?
    If a conscience evolved that placed a premium on lies, betrayal and cruelty, would once conscience be morally better than the other?
    On what basis would one be better than the other, if the answer is yes?
    As everyone knows, such criteria can be mangled and distorted by particular cultural traditions, and by psychosis, and can be put to malicious and horrible ends.
    And what’s wrong with that?
    If a bird, such as a penguin, has it wings mangled into a fair approximation of flippers, has the penguin gone wrong somehow in falling short of the traditional likeness of a bird?
    Does this theory then endorse relativism? In a way, yes, but in another way, no. Rather it suggests that there are underlying ‘absolutes’, which however are tenuous enough that they are easily misinterpreted or violated under the influence of other forces: ideas, passions, and the kind of hypnosis induced by coercion and brutality.
    The result appears to be arbitrary general principles (different events in the past leading to different principles) that do not warrant the term “absolutes” unless you just happen to observe people mistaking them for absolutes. From your vantage point, Mr. Lynn, you’d know better.
    The job of man is to avoid these pitfalls,
    I hate to cut in on you here, but this statement is a key. Why should people obey their conscience, and what what does it mean when two consciences conflict over the same scenario?
    and I don’t deny that the great religions, and Christianity in particular, can have a positive role in doing so (or, as in the case of Islamofascism, a negative one). As a friend of mine once remarked, speaking of Quaker theology,
    “The hypothesis that every man has a spark of divinity within him is not bad for society” (paraphrase). Nor, as I said way above, is the hypothesis that “All men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. . .”

    But we’re still left with the question of where the “good for society” judgment gets its underpinning.
    So when Bryan asks, “Where does that leave us when it comes to having a metaphysical basis for morality?” I reply: We don’t need one.
    Like it or not, Mr. Lynn, you’ve provided one. Your metaphysic appears to result in a relativistic system that is no less relativistic if the participants fail to realize its true nature (constructed by uncaring causal chains in accordance with evolution). That relativistic system is suitably identical to no prescriptive morality at all (nothing is truly right or wrong; people just have the illusion of such, led by conscience).
    But it may not hurt to externalize the positive side of human nature, and if you want to call that a ‘metaphysical basis’, then fine.
    I’m not sure what you mean by “externalize the positive side of human nature.”
    Are we “hard-wired to believe”? Maybe there’s a predilection, or an inclination. I’m an empiricist, so I’m inclined not to. 😉
    Until your environment changes your mind, anyway. 😉

  227. Is reason the only source of Truth…in the fog of human understanding and history…
    Yes there is not any evidence for ‘flying pink unicorns’….but is that the argument?
    This is pompous…BS.
    You say, “Most of the “evidence” presented by Creationists is easily refuted and decades behind current scientific understanding.”
    Well…sir..that’s not all the evidence…and I’m not decades behind the current scientific understanding…and there is evidence for a Creator in the simple fact that the human mind is beyond our own comprehension and the origin of life is a ‘sacred’ mystery.
    There is also, besides reason, experience, tradition and Scripture that will lead one to the truth, if that person isn’t so stubborn as to ask the Holy Spirit for the help the ‘natural’ human needs to understand the things of the Spirit.
    It is my experience that God exist…that should be enough for another to respect that as a valid, truthful belief. You may criticize my actions or behaviors…but belief is sacred.
    So, if one or many…believe…it deserves others respect. The early Americans put it best, “Don’t tread on me”

  228. An other way to say this…if you offer no proof…
    sit down, keep your mouth shut for half the time and quit bullying others beliefs.
    Really, I don’t have much respect for antitheist…and well…I do my best to be nice anyways.

  229. Paul,
    It was never my intent to deny you your right to believe in whatever you choose. Simply disagreeing with you is not the same as wanting to deny you your right to worship in whatever way you like.
    However, if you make your way into a conversation like this, at least accept that you will encounter people who won’t condone blind faith or a blind eye to the negative or absurd aspects of Christianity. I’m still waiting for one Christian to directly address the biblical passages I’ve pulled out here. I really don’t think it’s going to happen.
    You did touch on one new element, which is refreshing – the problem of consciousness. I agree with you that it is a mystery, I think the greatest one we know. And it points to -something- beyond our current understanding, which is why I identify as an agnostic rather than an atheist. But that’s as far as it goes. It doesn’t tell me why I should worship a God that sentences those who deny Him to an eternity of suffering, one who has spoken in favor of all the atrocities I’ve mentioned in the scripture quotes above (you can page up if you like, I don’t want to be a “broken record”). It can lead just as easily to Buddhism, Islam, or any other religious faith.
    I’ll close this out with a final thought: I think Voltaire was onto something when he said “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. If my using absurdity as counter-argument seems bullying, that wasn’t my intention. I just want you to see what happens when you apply your own logic to anything other than Christianity.

  230. One more thing…
    I just want you to remember the source of my “invisible unicorn” analogy. I brought that up only to get across the idea that -you cannot prove a negative-. You can’t rely on me or anyone else to prove God -doesn’t- exist, you have to tell us why He -does-. So, please, tell me what scientific evidence you had in mind when you said “that’s not all the evidence”. I’m not asking you out of sarcasm, it’s genuine curiosity.

  231. You ask what evidence? I point out the mystery of the origin of life and the mystery of understanding the source of our own mind. How about something as simple as soil…we believe we have identified 5% of the micro-organisms….let alone the perplexities of the synergies of those it contains. To put it simply we don’t know how dirt works. We can manipulate it to serve us, but soil is yet a complicated puzzle or more.
    Quoting D’Souza, “Evolution doesn’t explain the origin of life. It doesn’t explain consciousness, and, despite some heroic efforts, it doesn’t explain morality. I’m not making a God-of-the-gaps argument arguing that because evolution can’t account for it, therefore God did it. But neither should we submit to the atheism-of-the-gaps, that holds since science explains some things, it can surely explain everything.”
    Socrates said that he was wiser than those that thought themselves wise. There truly is more than the eye can see. There is also a mystical tradition in Christianity….that is pretty hard to deny that these people were not having actual experiences of the eternal.
    So, since we can’t figure out ourselves with just looking at the physical laws….perhaps we should employ more than our backbones…and utilize our Spirits and Ingenuity. Now, with those three components…in my experience…I have come to know God. I can not prove it….however…you cannot prove that I have not come to know that there is more than just ‘this’ temporal world.
    As far as physical evidence…it is more of an observation of the giganitic diversity which exists in life, including the workings of a biosphere system, within it’s inanimate foundations, ie, geochemical cycling, and additionally the phenomenon of how a single cell develops into something as complex as a human (diversification) and that not one shred of proof has been discovered that explains how any of this came to be….we have a theory…but in my opinion it would have been scraped by true science if it were not to complicate the atheist’s life style.
    Therefore, my proof that I offer is for lack of better words the absurdity of humans….the Stoics relayed that we had ignorance, arrogance and error. Science, itself, is full of it, as science is a human pursuit, and science throughout history has viciously demanded that we bow to it’s greatness, only to be time after time humbled by the greatness of Another.
    I know that’s how science works…so no tomes, please. But, I don’t have any other conclusion to draw from the evidence…and I feel sorry that you haven’t experienced more so that you might come to know what is not true. What is not true is that we have ‘power’ to know what is hidden…that is called ‘faith’ by definition and there lies the true power of humanity.

  232. You ask what evidence? I point out the mystery of the origin of life and the mystery of understanding the source of our own mind. How about something as simple as soil…we believe we have identified 5% of the micro-organisms….let alone the perplexities of the synergies of those it contains. To put it simply we don’t know how dirt works. We can manipulate it to serve us, but soil is yet a complicated puzzle or more.
    So I agree in part with D’Souza. Quoting D’Souza, “Evolution doesn’t explain the origin of life. It doesn’t explain consciousness, and, despite some heroic efforts, it doesn’t explain morality. I’m not making a God-of-the-gaps argument arguing that because evolution can’t account for it, therefore God did it. But neither should we submit to the atheism-of-the-gaps, that holds since science explains some things, it can surely explain everything.”
    Socrates said that he was wiser than those that thought themselves wise. There truly is more than the eye can see. There is also a mystical tradition in Christianity….that is pretty hard to deny that these people were not having actual experiences of the eternal.
    So, since we can’t figure out ourselves with just looking at the physical laws….perhaps we should employ more than our backbones…and utilize our Spirits and Ingenuity. Now, with those three components…in my experience…I have come to know God. I can not prove it….however…you cannot prove that I have not come to know that there is more than just ‘this’ temporal world.
    As far as physical evidence…it is more of an observation of the giganitic diversity which exists in life, including the workings of a biosphere system, within it’s inanimate foundations, ie, geochemical cycling, and additionally the phenomenon of how a single cell develops into something as complex as a human (diversification) and that not one shred of proof has been discovered that explains how any of this came to be. This is more than a gap, it is truly evidence against our current theory…therefore in my opinion this theory, there have been many others, would have been scraped by true science if it were not to complicate the atheist’s life style.
    Therefore, my proof that I offer is for lack of better words the absurdity of humans….the Stoics relayed that we had ignorance, arrogance and error. Science, itself, is full of it, as science is a human pursuit, and science throughout history has viciously demanded that we bow to it’s greatness, only to be time after time humbled by the greatness of Another.
    I know that’s how science works…so no tomes, please. But, I don’t have any other conclusion to draw from the evidence…and I feel sorry that you haven’t experienced more so that you might come to know what is not true. What is not true is that we have ‘power’ to know what is hidden…that is called ‘faith’ by definition and there lies the true power of humanity.
    As far as your question to explain hell…is not this freely a choice of each of us? Plus, Swedenborg said that the joke in heaven is that very few are there…it just takes some millions of eons to get to heaven…

  233. Writes Bryan, “Your metaphysic appears to result in a relativistic system that is no less relativistic if the participants fail to realize its true nature (constructed by uncaring causal chains in accordance with evolution).”
    But I do not propose a metaphysic. I simply hypothesize that there may be an evolutionary basis to what we experience as a moral sense, or conscience; that this ‘hard-wired’ component of our natures has something to do with enabling our ancestors to live in societies, especially with infants who require over a decade of rearing and care (unlike our nearest relatives on the primate tree); and that this sense, while certainly not inviolate, and often warring with other impulses, emotions, and ideations, provides a compass pointing to behaviors and attitudes we have come to label as ‘right’ as opposed to ‘wrong’. The leads us to think of these directions as ‘absolutes’.
    “That relativistic system is suitably identical to no prescriptive morality at all (nothing is truly right or wrong; people just have the illusion of such, led by conscience).”
    If there is any ‘prescriptive morality’ in this hypothetical construct, at bottom it is non-verbal, a set of attitudes or impulses to which we give voice in many different ways, leading their embodiment in cultural traditions of codes and laws. This embodiment clearly can be relative (just compare our current strictures with those of Puritan New England, for example); the internal compass often offers no firm direction, or is simply overridden by custom, belief, ideology, or most dangerously by mass emotion (the ‘true believer’ of which Eric Hoffer speaks).
    But at bottom, this is all hypothetical. If the theist and the atheist both claim certainty, we ‘scientific agnostics’ cannot do so. As Paul Thompson indicates in his posts, we know only a tiny fraction of what, potentially, there is to discover. But unlike him, we do not jump to the conclusion that the mysteries of the origin of the universe, or of life, or of consciousness, or for that matter of spirituality, all lead conclusively to God.
    Nor, unlike Bryan, do we jump to the conclusion that the apperception of many that morality is absolute is metaphysical proof of God. Paul quotes D’Souza suggesting that relying on science becomes an ‘atheism-of-the-gaps’, i.e. a faith that science will explain everything. But that is not a true scientific attitude. The scientist properly holds his conclusion in abeyance: what we don’t know, we just don’t know. The scientific method offers only a replicable way to continue our exploration of the unknown, not a guarantee of any answers.
    /Mr Lynn

  234. Kierkegaard, my paraphase, only with doubt is one going to have true faith.
    Please don’t make an inference that I said I was certain that God existed….my doubts have lead me to have faith in God that is hidden.
    Furthermore, I hope to avoid this argument and can’t really explain this with intellectual expertise…but our human experience requires more than just scientific method (science) to understand ourselves. For me it’s having and using two eyes, maybe three…one scientific, one theological/philosophical and , this is debatable, because it is beyond my ability to prove, one Spiritual.

  235. “Your metaphysic appears to result in a relativistic system that is no less relativistic if the participants fail to realize its true nature (constructed by uncaring causal chains in accordance with evolution).”
    But I do not propose a metaphysic. I simply hypothesize that there may be an evolutionary basis to what we experience as a moral sense, or conscience; that this ‘hard-wired’ component of our natures has something to do with enabling our ancestors to live in societies, especially with infants who require over a decade of rearing and care (unlike our nearest relatives on the primate tree); and that this sense, while certainly not inviolate, and often warring with other impulses, emotions, and ideations, provides a compass pointing to behaviors and attitudes we have come to label as ‘right’ as opposed to ‘wrong’. The leads us to think of these directions as ‘absolutes’.

    That’s a naturalistic metaphysic, and your own description admits the weaknesses I pointed out.
    If there is any ‘prescriptive morality’ in this hypothetical construct, at bottom it is non-verbal, a set of attitudes or impulses to which we give voice in many different ways, leading their embodiment in cultural traditions of codes and laws. This embodiment clearly can be relative (just compare our current strictures with those of Puritan New England, for example); the internal compass often offers no firm direction, or is simply overridden by custom, belief, ideology, or most dangerously by mass emotion (the ‘true believer’ of which Eric Hoffer speaks).
    I’ve yet to see an argument that would reasonably suggest a manner in which morality could evolve naturalistically and also be absolute.
    But at bottom, this is all hypothetical. If the theist and the atheist both claim certainty, we ‘scientific agnostics’ cannot do so. As Paul Thompson indicates in his posts, we know only a tiny fraction of what, potentially, there is to discover. But unlike him, we do not jump to the conclusion that the mysteries of the origin of the universe, or of life, or of consciousness, or for that matter of spirituality, all lead conclusively to God.
    I’ll leave Paul to handle that straw man.
    Nor, unlike Bryan, do we jump to the conclusion that the apperception of many that morality is absolute is metaphysical proof of God.
    Looks like Mr. Lynn is involved in jumping to his own set of conclusions.
    I don’t argue that the perception of morality as an absolute leads to metaphysical proof of God. I argue that one should prefer noetic systems that are both self-consistent and capable of being lived. If you realize that morality is a sham according to your system yet choose to live according to the mores of society, fine. But don’t tell me that you’re living a moral life because all you’re doing is lying to me (not that there’s anything wrong with that in your system).
    Paul quotes D’Souza suggesting that relying on science becomes an ‘atheism-of-the-gaps’, i.e. a faith that science will explain everything. But that is not a true scientific attitude. The scientist properly holds his conclusion in abeyance: what we don’t know, we just don’t know. The scientific method offers only a replicable way to continue our exploration of the unknown, not a guarantee of any answers.
    The “true scientific attitude” stops with the presuppositions of science. Solipsism is unfalsifiable. You can’t know anything at all–but you act like you do.

  236. “. . . I don’t argue that the perception of morality as an absolute leads to metaphysical proof of God. I argue that one should prefer noetic systems that are both self-consistent and capable of being lived. If you realize that morality is a sham according to your system yet choose to live according to the mores of society, fine. . .”
    You confuse the attempt to describe and understand natural reality with the philosophical status of prescriptive systems of thought. I suggest that humans invent such systems because (a) they are capable of intellection and (b) are impelled to do so because of an innate inclination toward what we think of or call ‘the moral’. That doesn’t mean that “morality is a sham,” any more than mathematics is.
    “The ‘true scientific attitude’ stops with the presuppositions of science. Solipsism is unfalsifiable. You can’t know anything at all–but you act like you do.”
    That is true; “the map is not the territory” (Korzybski). Scientific ‘knowledge’ depends upon successive approximations to reality (which it assumes exists), but never reaches it. “The Earth is flat” is a perfectly workable theory within certain limits (don’t walk too far); the “The Earth is an oblate spheroid” is a better one, but still an imperfect description. What we ‘know’ is what works; that’s what we have to act upon. The ultimate nature of Reality will always remain elusive, but our approximations (theories) do get better, by the only measure: workability.
    /Mr Lynn

  237. I don’t understand that you state our theories get better?
    We are so far from Newtonian ‘billard balls’or Darwin’s living cells being little blocks that they were observing at that time (the cell walls of dead cork) and the unknown and unknowable are increasing everyday. That is, the more we learn the more we learn there is to learn…how is that proof that man’s theories are getting better…as if they are just after that ‘elusive’ perfect answer?
    Mr Lynn…you act as if you have ‘no doubt’ that science will answer all of life’s mystery…I don’t understand how you can come to that description of our capabilities in the face of the extremely hidden facts of our existence?

  238. What I am asking is can science put Mr. Newton to rest? Sure in a material world…we had a chance to conquer the unknown…but we now know we don’t live in a totally materialistic reality….we know that we cannot answer many aspects of our existence.
    Thus….more doubt about human’s scientific tools and theories….and consequentually…more ‘faith’ not in science but that there is an “Unknowable”. Am I wrong?

  239. I’m beyond baffled….isn’t that thought process dead? Didn’t it’s death throngs start when science started to move beyond Newtonian physics? I am really at a miss to understand your arguement….what does a ‘flat earth or round earth’ have to do with our current state of understanding.
    It’s like you’re trying to move this discussion back into some long disproved line of reasoning?

  240. Since you haven’t replied let me offer just two examples….Bell’s theorem….which points to a conciousness in ‘space’ and ‘virtual’ particles…which point to other dimensions in this ‘reality’, let alone the apparently complete, and I don’t know how to put this, but the incompatibleness of what we observe in nature and of the theory of evolution, sorry if I’m stepping on toes with that example…but I just don’t see how any reasonable person can support that theory…as I’ve stated earlier with the gigantic diversity in animal, plant and microorganisms and cell diversification inherent to living organisms and not one example of this evolutionary process occurring anywhere to account for this.

  241. Paul writes, “Mr Lynn…you act as if you have ‘no doubt’ that science will answer all of life’s mystery…I don’t understand how you can come to that description of our capabilities in the face of the extremely hidden facts of our existence?”
    It is true that the more we learn about the universe, the more questions are raised, but that is part of the fun. Science does not proceed in a steady progression, but by fits and starts, as existing theory becomes less able to accomodate new observations easily, and a new theory overturns the old one—or expands it, as round Earth does to flat Earth, or Einsteinian physics over Newtonian. After all, Newton’s principles work well in the macroscopic realm of everyday experience, as for calculating spaceship trajectories or engineering bridges.
    I don’t know anything about Bell’s Theorem, nor about quantum mechanics generally, but the paradoxes and questions QM raises are not atypical of theory in flux. Clearly it has applications and works in the particle world, after a fashion, but just as clearly leaves many questions unanswered. The principle is the same: if you’re just sailing around the Mediterranean, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t know what’s beyond the Atlantic horizon. But if you’re Columbus, you do need to know, or dare to find out. That’s what science is all about: daring to find out. It doesn’t just throw up its hands and say, “It’s all too complicated!”
    As for evolution, it is a fact, not a theory (look at the fossil record), and the Theory of Natural Selection, much refined and eleaborated from Darwin’s day, accounts very well for the “gigantic diversity in . . . living organisms.”
    But this takes us very far away from the original topic of this Comment thread, and considering that I had to ask the Captain to open it up so I could post this morning, and considering that at most there are just four of us reading it, perhaps we can declare our differences unsettled and await the next opportunity to confer. Though this is far more interesting, I am supposed to be working. . . 😉
    /Mr Lynn

  242. PS Let me add that I don’t expect that science will ever “answer all of life’s mystery.” But that’s no reason not to keep plugging away. The universe is full of surprises, and my greatest regret is that I won’t be around to experience all of them.
    /Mr Lynn

  243. Thank you for you answer, however our ‘reality’ seems as if it has more than just a purely physical realm.
    Science is seeing more of it’s limits. Again increasing my doubt of it’s superiority to other methods, i.e. theological/philosophical and spiritual. Not to be rude but you seem to be more of an engineer than someone with a strong science education.
    And I hope you find that proves this ‘once and for all’ fossil record…it’s pretty disputable and spotty as it stands.

  244. Mr. Lynn,
    A quick search in google resulted in the following from a ‘scientific creationism’ website. I’d like to know what you think sometime when you have a chance to look at this ‘evidence’. Since you seem to base your whole belief system on something as ‘crazy’ as having proved evolution through fossils.
    http://www.bible.ca/tracks/fossil-record.htm
    The Fossil Record
    The Only Direct Evidence.
    CARL DUNBAR, Yale, “Although the comparative study of living animals and plants may give very convincing circumstantial evidence, fossils provide the only historical, documentary evidence that life has evolved from simpler to more and more complex forms.” HISTORICAL GEOLOGY, p. 47
    S. M. Stanley, Johns Hopkins, “It is doubtful whether, in the absence of fossils, the idea of evolution would represent anything more than an outrageous hypothesis. …The fossil record and only the fossil record provides direct evidence of major sequential changes in the Earth’s biota.” NEW EVOLUTIONARY TIMETABLE, p.72, 1981
    HISTORICAL – NOT EMPIRICAL, JOHN H. HORNER “…paleontology is a historical science, a science based on circumstantial evidence, after the fact. We can never reach hard and fast conclusions in our study of ancient plants and animals… These days it’s easy to go through school for a good many years, sometimes even through college, without ever hearing that some sciences are historical or by nature inconclusive.” Dinosaur Lives, 1997, p.19
    In Their “Beginning”: Sudden; Complex; Diverse; Every Animal Phylum; Assumed History Missing
    STEPHEN J. GOULD, HARVARD, “The Cambrian Explosion occurred in a geological moment, and we have reason to think that all major anatomical designs may have made their evolutionary appearance at that time. …not only the phylum Chordata itself, but also all its major divisions, arose within the Cambrian Explosion. So much for chordate uniqueness… Contrary to Darwin’s expectation that new data would reveal gradualistic continuity with slow and steady expansion, all major discoveries of the past century have only heightened the massiveness and geological abruptness of this formative event…” Nature, Vol.377, 26 10/95, p.682
    Preston Cloud & Martin F. Glaessner, “Ever since Darwin, the geologically abrupt appearance and rapid diversification of early animal life have fascinated biologist and students of Earth history alike….This interval, plus Early Cambrian, was the time during which metazoan life diversified into nearly all of the major phyla and most of the invertebrate classes and orders subsequently known.” Science, Aug.27, 1982
    RICHARD Monastersky, Earth Science Ed., Science News, “The remarkably complex forms of animals we see today suddenly appeared. …This moment, right at the start of the Earth’s Cambrian Period…marks the evolutionary explosion that filled the seas with the earth’s first complex creatures. …‘This is Genesis material,’ gushed one researcher. …demonstrates that the large animal phyla of today were present already in the early Cambrian and that they were as distinct from each other as they are today…a menagerie of clam cousins, sponges, segmented worms, and other invertevrates that would seem vaguely familiar to any scuba diver.” Discover, p.40, 4/93
    Richard Dawkins, Cambridge, “And we find many of them already in an advanced state of evolution, the very first time they appear. It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history. Needless to say, this appearance of sudden planting has delighted creationists. …the only alternative explanation of the sudden appearance of so many complex animal types in the Cambrian era is divine creation…”, The Blind Watchmaker, 1986, p229-230
    TREES & FISH IN CAMBRIAN, John Repetski, U.S.Geol. Survey, “The oldest land plants now known are from the Early Cambrian… Approximately 60 Cambrian spore-genera are now on record…represent 6 different groups of vascular plants…” Evolution, V.13, 6/’59, p.264. Daniel I. Axelrod, UCLA, “This report of fish material from Upper Cambrian rocks further extends the record of the vertebrates by approximately 40 million years.” [WY, OK, WA, NV, ID, AR] Science, Vol.200, 5 May, 1978, p.529
    PATCH FAILED, “Over the decades, evolutionary theorists beginning with Charles Darwin have tried to argue that the appearance of multicelled animals during the Cambrian merely seemed sudden, and in fact had been preceded by a lengthy period of evolution for which the geological record was missing. But this explanation, while it patched over a hole in an otherwise masterly theory, now seems increasingly unsatisfactory. Since 1987, discoveries of major fossil beds in Greenland, in China, in Siberia, and now in Namibia have shown that the period of biological innovation occurred at virtually the same instant in geologic time all around the world. …just as the peculiar behavior of light forced physicists to conclude that Newton’s laws were incomplete, so the Cambrian explosion has caused experts to wonder if the twin Darwinian imperatives of genetic variation and natural selection provide an adequate framework for understanding evolution…” Time, 12/4, 1995, p.67, 74
    BLIND FAITH, Douglas Futuyma, “It is considered likely that all the animal phyla became distinct before or during the Cambrian, for they all appear fully formed, without intermediates connecting one form to another.” EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY, 1985, p.325
    “Trees” Contradicted By Fossils, From Some Similarities, Ignoring Others
    SEPARATE LIVING KINDS” Stephen J. Gould, Harvard, “Our modern phyla represent designs of great distinctness, yet our diverse world contains nothing in between sponges, corals, insects, snails, sea urchins, and fishes (to choose standard representatives of the most prominent phyla).”, Natural History, p.15, Oct. 1990
    SEPRATE FOSSIL KINDS” Valentine (U. CA) & Erwin (MI St.), “If we were to expect to find ancestors to or intermediates between higher taxa, it would be the rocks of the late Precambrian to Ordivician times, when the bulk of the world’s higher animal taxa evolved. Yet traditional alliances are unknown or unconfirmed for any of the phyla or classes appearing then.”, Development As An Evolutionary Process, p.84, 1987.
    “TREES” NOT FROM FOSSILS, Steven J. Gould, Harvard, “The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of the fossils.”, Nat.His., V.86, p.13
    STORY TIME, COLIN PATTERSON, Senior Paleontologist, British Museum of Nat. History, “You say I should at least ‘show a photo of the fossil from which each type or organism was derived.’ I will lay it on the line–there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument.” “It is easy enough to make up stories of how one form gave rise to another…. But such stories are not part of science, for there is no way of putting them to the test. …. I don’t think we shall ever have any access to any form of tree which we can call factual.” HARPER’S, Feb.1984, p.56
    ARBITRARY ARRANGEMENT, R.H.Dott, U.of Wis. & R.L.Batten, Columbia, AMNH, “We have arranged the groups in a traditional way with the ‘simplest’ forms first, and progressively more complex groups following. This particular arrangement is arbitrary and depends on what definition of ‘complexity’ you wish to choose. …things are alike because they are related, and the less they look alike, the further removed they are from their common ancestor.” EVOLUTION OF THE EARTH, p.602
    Unrelated Look-Alikes, J.Z.Young, Prof. of Anatomy, Oxford, “…similar features repeatedly appear in distinct lines. …Parallel evolution is so common that it is almost a rule that detailed study of any group produces a confused taxonomy. Investigators are unable to distinguish populations that are parallel new developments from those truly descended from each other.” LIFE OF THE VERTEBRATES, p.779
    similarity IS NoT genetic, Sir Gavin Debeer, Prof. Embry., U.London, Director BMNH, “It is now clear that the pride with which it was assumed that the inheritance of homologous structures from a common ancestor explained homology was misplaced; for such inheritance cannot be ascribed to identity of genes. The attempt to find homologous genes has been given up as hopeless.” Oxford Biology Reader, p.16, Homology an Unsolved Problem
    Embryonic Recapitulation?
    R. H. DOTT, Univ. of WI, R. L BATTEN, Columbia Univ., A.M.N.H., “Much research has been done in embryology since Haeckel’s day, and we now know that there are all too many exceptions to this analogy, and that ontogeny does not reflect accurately the course of evolution.” EVOLUTION OF THE EARTH, p.86
    SIMPSON & BECK, “Haeckel misstated the evolutionary principle involved. It is now firmly established that ontogeny does not repeat phylogeny.”Intro.To Biology, 1965,p.273
    KEITH S. THOMPSON, Academy of Natural Sciences, “Surely the biogenetic law is as dead as a doornail. It was finally exorcised from biology textbooks in the fifties. As a topic of serious theoretical inquiry, it was extinct in the twenties.” American Scientist, 5/6, 1988, p.273 “Ontogeny and Phylogeny Recapitulated”
    Ashley Montagu, “The theory of recapitulation was destroyed in 1921 by Professor Walter Garstang in a famous paper. Since then no respectable biologist has ever used the theory of recapitulation, because it was utterly unsound, created by a Nazi-like preacher named Haeckel.” Montagu-Gish Prinston Debate, 4/12/1980
    “EMBRYONIC FRAUD LIVES ON,” “Although Hacckel confessed…and was convicted of fraud at the University of Jena, the drawings persist.” New Scientist, p.23, 9/6/97
    Significant Change Is Not Observed
    BOTHERSOM distresS, STEPHEN J. Gould, Harvard , “Every paleontologist knows that most species don’t change. That’s bothersome….brings terrible distress. ….They may get a little bigger or bumpier but they remain the same species and that’s not due to imperfection and gaps but stasis. And yet this remarkable stasis has generally been ignored as no data. If they don’t change, its not evolution so you don’t talk about it.” Lecture at Hobart & William Smith College, 14/2/1980.
    “DESIGNS,” S.J.Gould, Harvard, “We can tell tales of improvement for some groups, but in honest moments we must admit that the history of complex life is more a story of multifarious variation about a set of basic designs than a saga of accumulating excellence. …I regard the failure to find a clear ‘vector of progress’ in life’s history as the most puzzling fact of the fossil record. …we have sought to impose a pattern that we hoped to find on a world that does not really display it.” Natural History, 2/82, p.2
    Required Transitional Forms Missing
    DARWIN’S BIGGEST PROBLEM, “…innumerable transitional forms must have existed but why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth? …why is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain, and this perhaps is the greatest objection which can be urged against my theory”. Origin of the Species.
    MORE EMBARRASSING, David M. Raup, U. Chicago; Ch. F. Mus. of N. H., “The evidence we find in the geologic record is not nearly as compatible with darwinian natural selection as we would like it to be. Darwin was completely aware of this. He was embarrassed by the fossil record because it didn’t look the way he predicted it would…. Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn’t changed much. ….ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin’s time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as the result of more detailed information.” F.M.O.N.H.B., Vol.50, p.35
    PREDICTION FAILED, Niles Eldridge, Amer. Mus. N. H., “He [Darwin] prophesied that future generations of paleontologists would fill in these gaps by diligent search…. One hundred and twenty years of paleontological research later, it has become abundantly clear that the fossil record will not confirm this part of Darwin’s predictions. Nor is the problem a miserably poor record. The fossil record simply shows that this prediction was wrong.” The Myths of Human Evolution, p.45-46
    Proposed Links “Debunked”
    TEXTBOOK DECEIT, GEORGE G. SIMPSON, “The uniform, continuous transformation of Hyracotherium into Equus, so dear to the hearts of generations of textbook writers never happened in nature.” LIFE OF THE PAST, p.119
    THE HORSE “STORY”, Colin Patterson, Senior Paleontologist British Museum of Natural History, “There have been an awful lot of stories, some more imaginative than others, about what the nature of that history [of life] really is. The most famous example, still on exhibit downstairs, is the exhibit on horse evolution prepared perhaps fifty years ago. That has been presented as the literal truth in textbook after textbook. Now I think that that is lamentable, particularly when the people who propose those kinds of stories may themselves be aware of the speculative nature of some of that stuff.” Harper’s, p. 60, 1984.
    TEXTBOOK HORSES, Bruce MacFadden, FL Museum of Natural History & U. of FL “…over the years fossil horses have been cited as a prime example of orthogenesis [“straight-line evolution”] …it can no longer be considered a valid theory…we find that once a notion becomes part of accepted scientific knowledge, it is very difficult to modify or reject it” FOSSIL HORSES, 1994, p.27
    STORY TIME OVER, Derek Ager, U.at Swansea, Wales, “It must be significant that nearly all the evolutionary stories I learned as a student….have now been ‘debunked.’ Similarly, my own experience of more than twenty years looking for evolutionary lineages among the Mesozoic Brachiopoda has proved them equally elusive.”, PROC. GEOL. ASSO., Vol.87, p.132
    “FOSSIL BIRD SHAKES EVOLUTIONARY HYPOTHESES, “Fossil remains claimed to be of two crow-sized birds 75 million years older than Archaeopteryx have been found….a paleontologist at Texas Tech University, who found the fossils, says they have advanced avian features. …tends to confirm what many paleontologists have long suspected, that Archaeopteryx is not on the direct line to modern birds.” Nature, Vol.322, 1986 p.677
    REPTILE TO BIRD W.E. SWINTON, “The origin of birds is largely a matter of deduction. There is no fossil evidence of the stages through which the remarkable change from reptile to bird was achieved.” BIOLOGY & COMPARATIVE PHYSIOLOGY OF BIRDS, Vol.1, p.1.
    Systematic Gaps
    orders, classes, & phyla, George Gaylord Simpson, Harvard, “Gaps among known species are sporatic and often small. Gaps among known orders, classes, and phyla are systematic and almost always large.”, EVOLUTION OF LIFE, p.149
    GENUINE KNOWLEDGE, D.B. Kitts, U.of OK, “Despite the bright promise that paleontology provides a means of “seeing” evolution, it has presented some nasty difficulties for evolutionists, the most notorious of which is the presence of ‘gaps’ in the fossil record. Evolution requires intermediate forms between species and paleontology does not provide them… The ‘fact that discontinuities are almost always and systematically present at the origin of really big categories’ is an item of genuinely historical knowledge.”, Evolution, Vol.28, p. 467
    NOT ONE! D.S. Woodroff, U.of CA, San Diego, “But fossil species remain unchanged throughout most of their history and the record fails to contain a single example of a significant transition.” Science, Vol.208, 1980, p.716 STEPHEN M. STANLEY, Johns Hopkins U., “In fact, the fossil record does not convincingly document a single transition from one species to another.” THE NEW EVOLUTIONARY TIMETABLE, 1981, p.95
    EVIDENCE-A MATTER OF FAITH, A.C. Seward, Cambridge, “The theoretically primitive type eludes our grasp; our faith postulates its existence but the type fails to materialize.” Plant Life Through the Ages, p.561
    “WE KNEW BETTER”, Niles Eldredge, Columbia U., American Museum Of Natural History, “And it has been the paleontologist– my own breed–who have been most responsible for letting ideas dominate reality: …. We paleontologist have said that the history of life supports that interpretation [gradual adaptive change], all the while knowing that it does not.”, TIME FRAMES, 1986, p.144
    Punctuated Equilibrium
    Unobserved imagined scenario to explain missing evidence,based on fossils not found, mechanisms not observed
    GOULD & ELDREDGE, “In fact, most published commentary on punctuated equilibria has been favorable. We are especially pleased that several paleontologists now state with pride and biological confidence a conclusion that had previously been simply embarrassing; ‘all these years of work and I haven’t found any evolution’. (R.A. REYMENT Quoted) “The occurrences of long sequences within species are common in boreholes and it is possible to exploit the statistical properties of such sequences in detailed biostratigraphy. It is noteworthy that gradual, directed transitions from one species to another do not seem to exist in borehole samples of microorganisms.” (H.J. MACGILLAVRY Quoted) “During my work as an oil paleontologist I had the opportunity to study sections meeting these rigid requirements. As an ardent student of evolution, moreover, I was continually on the watch for evidence of evolutionary change. …The great majority of species do not show any appreciable evolutionary change at all.” Paleobiology, Vol.3, p.136
    S. M. Stanley, Johns Hopkins “The record now reveals that species typically survive for a hundred thousand generations, or even a million or more, without evolving very much. We seem forced to conclude that most evolution takes place rapidly…a punctuational model of evolution…operated by a natural mechanism whose major effects are wrought exactly where we are least able to study them – in small, localized, transitory populations…The point here is that if the transition was typically rapid and the population small and localized, fossil evidence of the event would never be found.” p.77, 110, New Evolutionary Timetable, 1981
    Colin Patterson, B.M.N.H. “Well, it seems to me that they have accepted that the fossil record doesn’t give them the support they would value so they searched around to find another model and found one. …When you haven’t got the evidence, you make up a story that will fit the lack of evidence.” Darwin’s EnigmA, p.100
    Implication Of The Fossils
    PALEONTOLOGY DOES NOT PROVE EVOLUTION, D.B. Kitts, U.of OK, “The claim is made that paleontology provides a direct way to get at the major events of organic history and that, furthermore, it provides a means of testing evolutionary theories. …the paleontologist can provide knowledge that cannot be provided by biological principles alone. But he cannot provide us with evolution.”, Evolution, Vol.28, p.466
    DON’T USE THE FOSSILS, Mark Ridley, Oxford, “…a lot of people just do not know what evidence the theory of evolution stands upon. They think that the main evidence is the gradual descent of one species from another in the fossil record. …In any case, no real evolutionist, whether gradualist or punctuationist, uses the fossil record as evidence in favour of the theory of evolution as opposed to special creation.” New Scientist, June, 1981, p.831
    FOSSILS INDICATE CREATION! E.J.H. Cornor, Cambridge “Much evidence can be adduced in favor of the Theory of Evolution from Biology, Biogeography, and Paleontology, but I still think that to the unprejudiced the fossil record of plants is in favor of special creation.” CONTEMPORARY BOTANICAL THOUGHT, p.61
    Fossils Do Not Support Evolution. Fossils Are Positive Evidence For Creation!
    Valentine (U. CA) & Erwin (MI St.), “We conclude that…neither of the contending theories of evolutionary change at the species level, phyletic gradualism or punctuated equilibrium, seem applicable to the origin of new body plans.” Development As An Evolutionary Process, p.96, 1987.
    THE NEW EVOLUTIONARY TIMETABLE, 1981
    NO VERTICAL CHANGE, NILES ELDRIDGE, Curator, American Museum Of Natural History, “The classic cases of ‘living fossils’ reveal a more pervasive conservatism: there seems to have been almost no change in any part we can compare between the living organism and its fossilized progenitors of the remote geological past. Living fossils embody the theme of evolutionary stability to an extreme degree. …Against them we might pit the mutability, the evolutionary changeability, of disease-causing and antibiotic-resistant staphylo-coccus bacteria, malaria pathogens, or the dreaded retroviruses (that cause AIDS and other horrid afflictions): in the short term, at least, evolutionary change in these microbes is extremely rapid. And so we ask: what underlies this great disparity of evolutionary rates?” FOSSILS, 1991, p.100
    PERCY E. RAYMOND, Prof. of Paleontology, Harvard , “It is evidence that the oldest Cambrian fauna is diversified and not so simple, perhaps, as the evolutionists would hope to find it. Instead of being composed chiefly of protozoans, it contains no representatives of that phylum but numerous members of seven higher groups are present, a fact which shows that the greater part of the major differentiation of animals had already taken place in those ancient times.”, PREHISTORIC LIFE, 1967 p.23
    H.S. Ladd, UCLA, “Most paleontologists today give little thought to fossiliferous rocks older than the Cambrian, thus ignoring the most important missing link of all. Indeed the missing Pre-Cambrian record cannot properly be described as a link for it is in reality, about nine-tenths of the chain of life: the first nine-tenths.”, Geo. So. of Am. Mem. 1967, Vol.II, p.7

  245. You confuse the attempt to describe and understand natural reality with the philosophical status of prescriptive systems of thought.
    Not at all. I simply recognize that the attempt to understand and describe natural reality implicitly invokes a methodologically naturalistic approach and as a result can’t reach anything other than the conclusions a philosophical naturalist might reach.
    The reluctance to describe a metaphysical basis for morality doesn’t mean that you don’t have one (one way or another).
    I suggest that humans invent such systems because (a) they are capable of intellection and (b) are impelled to do so because of an innate inclination toward what we think of or call ‘the moral’. That doesn’t mean that “morality is a sham,” any more than mathematics is.
    It does if you can’t deal with the contradictions that result. You can avoid the contradictions if morality is a sham (unless you behave as though morality was real when you know it’s not–you’ll be a walking contradiction).

  246. Paul, by now the fossil record is incontrovertible: stratification doesn’t lie, younger on top of older, complex on top of simpler. There are many unknowns, problems, and disputes amongst paleontologists and evolutionary biologists, but there is no disputing the overwhelming evidence displaying the history of life on Earth.
    The list of quotes you cite, all out of context, proves nothing. I happen to have Dawkins’s Blind Watchmaker at hand; the quote was ripped from a discussion of ‘punctuated equilibrium’ theory versus ‘gradualism’; neither school endorses ‘creationism’, which is not science at all, nor would any of the scientists quoted.
    The Cambrian explosion, to which Dawkins was referring, did present a puzzle for a long time, because no pre-Cambrian fossils had been found. But they have gradually come to light (literally!), over the last half century or so. They are hard to find because they are soft and generally microscopic, but Precambrian life can now be traced from much earlier in Earth’s history to the beginnings of the Cambrian. Do a search on ‘Precambrian’ and read some of the articles.
    It is easy to get sucked in by pseudo-science. The antidote is reading scientists themselves.
    Evolution is a huge topic, and not suitable for a languishing comment thread on a political blog.
    /Mr Lynn

  247. I’ve read and see photos of petrified trees in vertical positions through these ‘don’t lie’ strata. And I’m not going to research this ‘fossil record’ today, however I will follow up on your suggestions.
    My point…this is a political discussion, because we have a state church, The Church of the Human Secularist. We are told what we can use as a basis of our understanding and again, in my opinion, science will not completely give us all that humans need to reach our full potential.
    I’ve also heard insanity described as cutting ourselves off from the source of our consciousness. It’s pretty obvious to some, you can say the uneducated that reality didn’t nothing.
    It’s a dangerous game that the ‘agnostics’ are playing with humanity. Thank you for your opinions on these topics.

  248. Mr. Lynn,
    I’ve taken a quick look at the ‘evidence’ by both the ‘atheist’ and the ‘creationist’.
    Why couldn’t the layers been formed rapidly and the slower moving organisms trapped first…that seems to make more sense than evolution?
    I’m just asking because you base your whole argument on the fossil record…and again…I don’t see this as a record? In my opinion…the ‘agnositic/atheist’ are playing a dangerous game with human potential. There are other arguments besides evolution that lean toward something ‘Unknowable’ being the cause…I’m not throwing my hands up and giving up…I’m searching…but not with atheisitic blinders on>

  249. Why haven’t you replied…this line of thought isn’t condoned by the official State Church…The Church of Human Secularism. You might as just come out and call me ‘stupid’….it’s your only recourse left.
    What’s up with this closed minded highbrowed elitist arrogance that one can’t even look at contradictory events to the status quo?
    And thanks for thinking up that ‘fossil record’ stuff….it’s put me on a new angle for seeing how
    bigoted and let me say that with as much emphatical political incorrectness as I can, how BIGOTED science has become! Is there no shame?

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