Sunday, April 6, 2008

A call for evidence

An anonymous commenter wrote something in response to one of my posts:

It seems as though you haven't tried finding any real evidence for religion, Christianity in specific. If you are up to opening your mind, read the book "What's so Great about Christianity" by Dinesh D'souza..I am sure it would stimulate your mind


To which I responded

Hi Anonymous,
I'm curious what you mean by "evidence for religion." My definition of evidence would be something like "undeniable, incontrovertible and reproducibly verifiable". And because all such statements, by definition, can only apply to natural phenomena I am puzzled as to what evidence exists for religion which is supernatural. I appreciate your book recommendation, but I have little time for reading. Perhaps you could summarize it for me. I assure you that I am quite open minded. My atheism is a call for evidence. If I can be convinced of the existence of god by evidence of the kind I described, then of course, I would be religious. I welcome you to continue comments here, or email me at the address provided on my profile.

(emphasis added)
Well I wanted to bring the issue up front, to this page. Why isn't there evidence, of the kind I described, for the existence of god? I can produce evidence for tangible things, obviously. Anyone familiar with basic physical science can demonstrate core principles of chemistry or biology which puzzled our predecessors.

I can even prove the intangible. I have perfectly valid reasons for believing in my family's love for me, for example. The amount of support and comfort that my family provides me is explainable only if they feel for me what I feel for them. Unconditional love.

So what proof would I expect for an omnipotent creator? How about a book of genesis that was filled with statements about the universe that weren't known to human beings 5000 years ago. For example, watch this video. If Genesis sounded like that, I'd gladly be a christian.

And before I end this call for evidence, let me give it some biblical backing. Undoubtedly some will claim that I am testing god, or that he is testing us by planting evidence that this planet is 4 billion years old, etc. Let me remind you of the words of Paul (Romans 1:20)
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Well we have seen and understood the world, and I see no evidence of a god in it. We have evidence of a natural progression of biological forms. Of a universe that defies the bronze age mentality of the bible. We have that evidence, and god is without excuse. If he was the Alpha of this system we would clearly see his hand. Instead we see only natural cause and effect.

So provide evidence if you can. I would gladly believe. But I will no longer believe for the sake of belief. I will no longer cling to an ancient mentality simply because it is ancient. I will no longer hold onto a book simply because some of it is moral, or inspiring.

I demand evidence. And so should you.

21 comments:

The Anonymous Guy said...

"So provide evidence if you can. I would gladly believe. But I will no longer believe for the sake of belief. I will no longer cling to an ancient mentality simply because it is ancient. I will no longer hold onto a book simply because some of it is moral, or inspiring.

I demand evidence. And so should you."

Your right and I did. But you must recognize the limits of our senses and reason (Are you familiar with Immanuel Kant's works?). The argument for a creator is compelling. Before we go into this I suggest you watch this debate between Dinesh and Christopher Hitches (Hitches is in the Dawkins camp)...he very eloquently adresses most of the issues you raise.

http://www.isi.org/lectures/flvplayer/lectureplayer.aspx?file=v000187_cicero_102207.flv

I am sure your busy in medschool, but what's said in the debate is a concatenated version the book. Here is a review by a prominent athiest...

"As an unbeliever I passionately disagree with Dinesh D'Souza on some of his positions. But he is a first-rate scholar whom I feel absolutely compelled to read. His thorough research and elegant prose have elevated him into the top ranks of those who champion liberty and individual responsibility. Now he adds Christianity to his formula for the good society, and although non-Christians and non-theists may disagree with some of his arguments, we ignore him at our peril. D'Souza's book takes the debate to a new level. Read it." --Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine

As a fellow copt growing up here in the states I understand how it feels to be told to "just believe" from an older generation of sunday school teachers when you implore them about science. I was frustrated beyond belief whenever I approached our leading servant about basic scientific facts and was essentially told to shut up and believe. I eventually didn't believe in God and didn't want anything to do with the church. But after reading many books on various topics, I recognized that it's not irrational to believe in a God (as many militant athiests seem to posit) and specifically in Christianity.

So if you have an open mind I stress that you give equal light to both sides of the issue.

Atheos said...

Hello again,
I will get around to the debate when I can, but let me answer some points you bring up.

1. Our senses are limited but they are improving. By that I mean that our senses must also include those tools we have created to augment ourselves.

Any educated person would certainly agree that scientific inquiry has proven to be the most useful mechanism for understanding the world.

For centuries the best explanation for lightning was that god did it. Those peoples who held that belief had insufficient senses (i.e. scientific tools and method) to come up with a better answer. They saw lightning, named it, and gave it the only explanation the could fathom: an unseen deity.

Does that mean that god makes lightning? Or rainbows? Or makes the sky blue? Or perhaps we can ask a middle school child to furnish us with a simple scientific explanation for each.

Our senses are limited, but we are in a constant struggle for improvement and our increasing knowledge (and lifespans) are testament to the outcome of that stuggle.

I agree that our senses are limited. But I have no idea why that must imply a creator.


2. From the review you posted, it seems that the crux of the argument is that Christianity is a positive force in the world.

So is Buddhism. In fact, I imagine the worship of Thor was a positive force in the world as well.

Of course it is! Religion is a construct which provides us with immense comfort, and great incentives for altruism and sacrifice.

I would go as far as to say that religious thought would be heavily selected for, evolutionarily. That is why atheism, though present, was a very rare phenomenon until recent history.

Again, just because religion can have a positive social effect, it doesn't mean that it always does. And more importantly, it doesn't make it true .

You said at the outset of your comment "The argument for a creator is compelling". I see no argument of the kind. I believe I have answered the points that you did raise.


{I am watching the debate you sent me, I find much of what Dinesh says to be prattle. I have not yet reached Mr Hitchens' part. I'm sure he will express himself better than I can. And because any point I might make would essentially be a rehash, I will not comment on it further unless you ask me specific points.)

Thanks for posting,
Atheos

the anonymous guy said...

Well I was really deferring the specifics to the argument till after you watch the debate so we have some sort of frame work. Then we will discuss the "compelling evidence." I can't write too much now as I have to wake up for work tomorrow. Take care.

the anonymous guy said...

1) The reason why I bring up the limit of reason is because it restricts the "sciences" in our quest for the supernatural. It enables us to accept non-empirical forms of evidence, since the empirical has its inherent limits. The restriction on reason is elaborated here:
http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/1017/p09s06-coop.html

It's a short article, shouldn't take any more than a few minutes to read. Tell me what you think.

2) "I would go as far as to say that religious thought would be heavily selected for, evolutionarily. That is why atheism, though present, was a very rare phenomenon until recent history."

I don't quite understand what your saying here, but are you saying religion was an outcome of evolution?

"Again, just because religion can have a positive social effect, it doesn't mean that it always does. And more importantly, it doesn't make it true ."

Your right. However one of the many things atheists tend to do is attack religion with the notion that it only had a negative impact in the world. So the point must be addressed.

Atheos said...

Hello again,
First let me apologize if I sounded unfair, I didn't realize that you were waiting until I had watched the video to make your points. But let me say that I have watched it, and I enjoyed it greatly. It was a rare example of a truly intelligent discussion on what can be a very passionate matter.

1. First off, I am not a philosopher so forgive me if I'm a bit slow with my Kant. I will however do my best.

I think the crux might be something familiar to many behavioral-science types - that is when we both look at a blackboard and agree that it is black there is no guarantee that we are actually perceiving the same thing.

It further seems to boil down to this: Mr D'Souza thinks (through Kant, etc.) that because claims about theism are outside of the reach of evidence, no evidence need be provided for them and that the lack of evidence does not negate the hypothesis of theism.

Well, lets say I agree with that, which I do not. But even if I did I would make two contentions.

A. There would still remain a significant probability of the lack of a creator.
B. Where the alleged creator has been alleged to intersect with recorded history, there would be obvious record.

A. If you contend that humankind cannot, eventually through scientific means, know all things. That is if you insist that there CAN be a supernatural. You must also admit that there is a probability that there is not.

The linchpin of D'Souza's argument is that we don't know. He even says in the debate that he doesn't know what happens when we die, he simply believes.

In that case, we must agree that there is a probability that he is mistaken.

In fact it would be a stunner if any religion got it right. Thousands of gods have been worshiped. People have fought wars because the other tribe worships the same god, just in a different way. Many of these differences are mutually exclusive and nearly all demand (or used to, many Christian sects have adopted softer theological positions on their brethren) worship in an exact way in order to attain salvation.

So how does Dinesh know he's right? What if he's just really pissing off Amun Ra?

B. This one I'll just make one point, I'm sure there are many. I mentioned in the post that we're commenting on how disappointing Genesis is. Why doesn't it look like something a creator would have written?

I bring this up because there are many things which religion states which are overtly scientific.

The claim that the bible is divinely inspired seems to be dogmatic and faith based. But when the creator cannot get the basic facts of creation right, it raises some flags.


2. Yes, I think that religion is an evolutionary construct.

First let me say, I don't know what scientific background you have but I would suggest you acquaint yourself with natural selection. It is, in my experience, the simplest, most beautiful, most substantive idea ever constructed to explain a fact. The fact being, that we are all evolved creatures.

Religion is universal. It is a fact which theists love to mention. It is true, and I brought it up in the quote you mentioned. What possible evolutionary benefit could religious behavior have? Comfort, the knowledge that a loved one is "in a better place", belonging to a group, justification for war, death in war as martyrdom.

Dawkins in the God Delusion goes beyond the simplistic examples above (it is his field of study after all) and gives an example of religion as a byproduct of other adaptive behavior. Let me demonstrate. When your parents told you not to stick your finger in the socket, you did not demand a detailed explanation. You accepted it as gospel (mind the phrase). The reason I state this as a fact is, any child so inclined would probably be dead long before he could become a blog commentator.

When our parents get that tone, the one which holds authority and fear, we listened. When our elders did it, we listened. Those children who listened survived, reproduced, and a thousand generations later we carry on listening because we carry their genes.

So human beings are evolved, when we are children, to obey parents and elders. Whether the obedience concerns electrical outlets or fasting, it makes no difference. And we continue making choices based on that education. And many of us never outgrow the need for that type of dictator education.


So there are two different tacts of evolutionary theory which can explain the existence of religion. No doubt, you will retort that there are conscious reasons why people believe. There are also conscious reasons why people have sex. That doesn't mean it's just for fun. We enjoy it because it is adaptive, it spreads our genes.

3. I personally do not think that religion is universally negative. I do not make that claim. Some people in other posts accuse me of making it. I do point out that certain atrocities can only occur in the framework of religion (letting a child die because you'd rather pray, murdering thousands on 9/11 because you think thats what your god wants). That doesn't mean that all, or even most religious people think that way. Simply that it happens. And that it happens in a religious context.

Well, there it is. If I was too science heavy, I apologize. I am really enjoying this conversation, and I hope it will continue.

the anonymous guy said...

It will don't worry :). I had things to attend to tonight, I'll respond tomorrow afternoon...Take care till then

the anonymous guy said...

Hey,
No need to apologize I took no offense. Glad you enjoyed the debate.

1)
The essence of Kant’s argument is not that we each don’t perceive the black board in the same way (Kan’t would say we all would perceive it in the same way because we are all “plugged” into reality through the same medium…our senses), but rather that we can’t assume that the perceptions of reality acquired through our senses truly, in Dinesh’s terms, “unmask the whole of reality.” Why assume, Kant asked, that the five senses are all there is to perceive reality. In essence, everything we perceive is an experience, not necc. unmasked reality.
To quote from St. Paul in 1 Cor 13:12
“12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”

Through Kant we see that science, reason, and empirical evidence, is subject to the domain of human experience due to the inherent limits of our senses and so when discussing things outside of this domain….faith must come into play in either direction. As quoted from the article, “But in showing the limits of reason, Kant's philosophy "opens the door to faith," as the philosopher himself noted.”

Your’re right in saying both that this in no way proves the existence of a creator, and that this in no way removes the burden on theists (or burden on atheists) to provide non-empirical evidence for the supernatural…It shows however, that “the absence of such evidence (empirical evidence) cannot be used as the evidence for absence.”

Personally, this was the most profound thing I have ever heard in the defense of faith.

1A) I agree with D’Souza as with you, that there is a probability in which the supernatural does not exist. However, this probability, in my opinion, is pretty low. I feel this way because of the compelling arguments for the supernatural. I say compelling because it is not complete…non of them are complete when scrutinized individually, but as a whole seem “compelling” (The court of law convicts many people based on circumstantial evidence, rarely do prosecutors have an air-tight case). And this is where faith comes in, as it is necessary at some point (since I assume you agree it is impossible to prove the theist, or atheist position), you either take your step of faith towards God or away from Him.

How does Dinesh know he’s right about Christianity? How do we know Christianity is the true religion? Well we can jump in greater detail when the time is right, for now however; I think this can be pushed over till we discuss a bit more on what’s above.

1B) You seem to have an issue with the story of creation especially its direct conflict with evolution. I think there is a fundamental thing you must understand here; the Bible was not meant to be a science book, its a book describing God's plan for salvation...making it an authority on faith and morals. Many religions are beginning to accept the notion that evolution is plausible (Christians [specifically catholics, some mainstream protestants], reformed Jews, and even some Muslims) and in no way contradicts Genesis. The Bible once again was NOT written as a science book, but rather a book describing God’s plan of salvation for man…so long as theologians respect their limits (not stepping into the boundary of science) and scientists respecting their limits (something I believe, Dawkins has not done) science and religion are in harmony…as was the case in the past hundreds of years as elaborated beautifully by Dinesh in the debate. Evolution describes the method of creation; Genesis tells us God made the world...where is the conflict? Genesis describes us being created from dust, aka atoms and moleculres…well so have monkeys. Genesis tells us that God created the world in 7 days with making no mention that the 7th day ended…this gives us the inclination that the days aren’t 24 hour periods (As also said by Peter that a one day to God is a thousand years). God says he made us in his image in likeness…God is spirit not material so we expect the similarities between us and God to be in the non-materialistic realm...In any case, this is just going to show that evolution can be congruent with the story of creation and one can accept the Bible and evolution, as have many established scientists such as Francis Collins leader of the Human Genome Project and Kenneth Miller, a Biology Professor at Brown University.


2)You put forward many statements and I hope I can effectively address them all. Dawkins in my opinion has truly jumped out of his field of expertise (biology), and has been criticized for doing so.

Now onto religion being an evolutionary construct. I don’t think the early Christians cared much for preserving and passing there genes when they were told to die for their belief. To accept religion as a byproduct of evolution and the survival of the fittest, then we must say Religion buffed up the survival skills of man in order to pass his/her genes.

I am confused however, on how Christ's tenants made the people more fit for survival? How does the Darwinian thesis explain the rational of a man giving up his seat to an old lady, the giving of blood, or Christ’s maxim “love your enemies” as exemplified by the story of the Good Samaritan.? Where is the evolutionary benefit to being like the Good Samaritan? How exactly does it make one more fit for survival? These things, in my opinion, could not have been constructed from evolution, because these things don’t make one “fit” for “survival.” This sense of morality and altruism presses on us to act against our evident self-interest. It tells us not to tell lies even when they benefit us and to help strangers with nothing expected back in return.

You make mention of two characteristics of religion and i'd like to particularly hone in on them. From the view of an outsider, viewing these traits in the Darwinian lenses, how exactly does comfort, in the sense you described, make one more “fit” for “survival.”? The comfort of knowing that somebody is in a better place, make the human race more “fit” for “survival.” Or even better, lets look at martyrdom. If martyrdom was a result of evolution, then we should expect that martyrdom helps the spread of ones genes, but in reality it does exactly the opposite....it prevents the spread of genes. If religion is a construct of natural selection...How does it account for martyrdom, the Good Samaritan, etc?

There are a number of flaws, it seems, in your example. If what you say is true, then our obedience (not listened, because one can listen and not obey...atleast I think this is where you are going with this) is totally dependent on our genes. Since we carry those genes today we would expect all kids to be obedient. But we all know thats not the case. There are kids who are obedient, others who are defiant, and others who are a mix of both. Shouldn't this suggest that our obedience/disobedience is not dependent on our genes, but rather external factors such as the environment, parental care and such? I guess you can tell I am on the nurture side of the debate, when it comes to nature vs nurture.

I can understand how the "survival of the fittest" model applies to bacteria, and how it continues to evolve and become more and more resistant to antibiotics....I can understand how the long-necked giraffe was the only giraffe that was able to survive a shortage of reachable food, which enabled it then to pass on its genes to give us the giraffes we have today... This makes sense, because genes directly control how long the neck of the giraffe...

Take Care,
The Anonymous Guy

Atheos said...

Hi again,
1. Thanks for the summation of Kant, as I say I am no philosopher. let me quickly(I'm a bit busy) sum up my take on the whole burden of evidence thing because I think that it is important.

In nature, the simplest answer is most often true - that is the most popular bastardization of Occam's Razor that most people are familiar with. It is a good guideline. Sometimes, really weird and inelegant things are true. Let me use a different word, sometimes a very complicated thing is true. In these cases the evidence must be commiserate with the complexity.

One point on which I am sure we will disagree is this: God is a complex answer to the question of the universe.

Intelligence, of the kind required by the definition of a theistic god is insanely complex. We pitiful mortals are neither omnipotent nor omniscient. We both agree on the limits of our reason and intelligence. And yet life began on this planet 4.5 billion years ago. Homo sapiens have been around for about 100,000 years. For a matter of scale, the universe is about 12 billion years old.

My point is that intelligence is complex, like an eye or a planet. It must come about slowly (the eye evolves, the planet might have another word).

To postulate a creator god is, by its complexity, an even more unlikely idea than the most unlikely scientific theory of our origins.

I will concede that god cannot be disproved, but I still await the compelling proof!

These aren't matters of faith. Science is never a matter of faith. When Dinesh calls it faith to expect a pen to fall when he drops it, he makes the word faith meaningless. Faith and belief are not needed in science. We use those words sometimes. I believe in my diagnosis, I have faith in that surgeon. But that is based on evidence. To equate that with supernatural faith is to do a disservice to faith AND science.

1B) First, I'm glad you're not going to try to fight me on evolution, that would take too long.

If the bible's creation story is treated as allegory then sure, it's fine.

But who decides? And when do they decide? I would be shocked to find that there were theologians before Galileo who downplayed the literal interpretation of the bible as a science and history text.

Those denominations that you mention are quite smart. They don't want to repeat the mistakes of the RCC as per Galileo. Choosing to be agnostic, indifferent, or accepting of evolution are very smart choices for churches that don't want to be laughed at.

But that is not all of Chistendom! Many still take the bible literally (not really, I'll get to that).

If you don't take it to be a science text then we don't have a problem with the book, as written with regards to science.

There are 2 problems. The book as it should have been written. And the book as it was written with regard to morality.

1. Of course it isn't a science book, my point was that is should have been. Stay with me now. The divinely inspired word of God, that is what you and I were taught the bible is. That some dudes woke up one day and god wrote it through them (my tone is flippant but I'm tired, so forgive me).

So all I was saying was, why does it sound like the stock knowledge of a people who had knowledge of Egyptian science, and that of other cultures. Why isn't it an authoritative view of the real world? The answer is in the question, methinks.

2. The book stinks as a morality text. I want to write a post one day about the origin of our morality, it certainly is not the bible.

Golden rule? Genius!

Leviticus? Man is that scary.

Ok, so you're more of a NT kind of person, the OT no longer applies.

How about Paul telling the slaves to obey their masters? Or all the condemnation of gays. Certainly the creator of man would want all his people to be free. And obviously the inventor of the human genome would know that sexual orientation is not a choice.

Those are a few examples, off the cuff, but I think I get my point across.

As for creation being congruent with evolution? Why didn't he just mention evolution!

Ok, that would be too easy.

Dust = atoms? That's taking the symbolism approach a bit far.

Here's the bottom line, the symbolism thing only comes along when it becomes obvious that the literal words are embarrassingly wrong. Before then throughout history, the literal interpretation was assumed.


2. Ok, I think I may have lost you on some deep biology. There were two tacts.

1 - religion itself makes us happy (simply put, I included examples before). That absolutely makes us more fit. If you living in a world where you'll be dead before you're 20, after making a life under the stars with nothing but fire and stone tools, being happy counts.

2 - Of course not all kids are obedient. But we don't live under the same natural selective pressures. My vision sucks. It's in my genes. I imagine that my gene pool, if transported back a few thousand years, would not have survived long enough to produce me.

The dangers aren't as bad, and also it doesn't have to work all the time. A few formative experiences in childhood shape a lot of who we become. "DONT TOUCH THAT" has more of a ring than "DON'T EAT JUNK FOOD", ask any parent familiar with the terrible twos. Dawkins' proposal does not insist on complete obedience in children. If it did, he'd be nuts. Oh and when hell is involved in the conversation, it tends to stick.

I agree that nature/nurture comes in to play, but the answer is always "both". The times may demand different warnings. And warnings may fall on deaf ears if the nature of the child precludes comprehension.

The point Dawkins makes is that religion, any religion, is a byproduct of this attribute of listening to elders. Sure some people listen more than others. But then again some people believe more than others. Trying to ask the benefit of a Christian doctrine in the face of that theory is non sequitur because it applies to all religions, throughout time. Unless you want to defend Amun Ra (why do I always pick him I wonder...), mentioning a relative newcomer (Christianity) is irrelevant.

Ok, that was a quick run through, I doubt I answered everything you said but I'm really really busy.
Have a nice day
-Atheos

The Anonymous Guy said...

Hey,

1) I bring up Kant for one purpose, and that is to open your mind to evidence outside the scientific realm. You stated on your blog:

"My definition of evidence would be something like "undeniable, incontrovertible and reproducibly verifiable". "

There is no point to continue this debate if all you accept is empirical evidence. Kant logically extends the definition of evidence (I'm not going to go in this again, its elaborated above)

I don't recall Dinesh arguing that (not saying he wouldn't agree), but if he did, his point is simple. Scientific laws are unverifiable; hence we take it on faith that objects obey the unverifiable laws of science. Why are they unverifiable? Well let’s ask David Hume, one of the most popular skeptic philosophers of the 18th century. Hume postulated that scientific laws are unverifiable because "no finite number of observations, however large, can be used to derive an unrestricted general conclusion that is logically defensible."

" If I say all swans are white and posit that as a scientific hypothesis, how would I go about verifying it? By checking out swans. A million swans. Or ten million. Based on this I can say confidently that all swans are white. Hume's point is that I don't really know this. Tomorrow I might see a black swan, and there goes my scientific law." (Dinesh in his book, "Whats so great about Christianity")

So to say the pen will fall when dropped requires some amount of faith; however infinitesimal it may be, because the law of gravity isn't completely verifiable.


You say science is never a matter of faith, but evolution is taken on faith! Where is the "undeniable, incontrovertible, reproducible" evidence for evolution? Has evolution been scrutinized under the scientific method? Can it even be tested under the scientific method? How do you go about testing a process which took billions of years? But hold on, not only once...but many times! This is impossible; however people accept evolution because as Theodosius Dobzhansky famously said, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."

Does this make it fact? No. Is there a possibility of evolution being wrong? Yes. Hence, you take evolution on reason AND faith.

Let’s use Occam's razor on the Fine Tuning of the universe. This in essence states that the Universe has been fine tuned for life. Meaning what? Stephen Hawking, in his book "A brief history of time" states, "If the rate of expansion one second after the Big Bang had been smaller by even part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have recollapsed before it even reached its present size." Same argument goes for the other constants of the universe such as the mass of the proton, gravitational constant, etc.

Now there are 3 rational explanations for this, and they are:
1) We were just lucky
2) Multiple Universes
3) Someone must have designed it

For the first explanation, Dawkins writes, "It is no accident that our kind of life finds itself on a planet whose temperature, rainfall, and everything else are exactly right. If the planet were suitable for another kind of life, it is that kind of life that would have evolved here."

That is just weird. Here is an example to expose the silliness:

"Imagine a man sentenced to death and is standing before a firing squad of ten shooters. The shooters discharge their rifles and they all miss. They repeatedly fire their rifles and continuously miss. Later, the prisoner is approached by the warden who proposes that some conspiracy is at work. The prisoner laughs with the comment, "What on earth would make you suggest a conspiracy? It's no big deal. Obviously the marksmen missed because if they had not missed I would not be here to have this discussion." This prisoner would be moved to the mental ward, ASAP. I am sure nobody would believe that nonsense.

The second explanation states that if there were many different universes, the chance of one universe being "fine tuned" for life would have been increased drastically. This theory carries no evidence under its belt whatsoever; it’s simply a ditch by scientists to prevent them from accepting a Creator. As physicist Stephan Barr puts it, "It seems that to abolish one unobservable God, it takes an infinite number of unobservable substitutes." Plus, if you have enough faith to believe in multiple universes, why not God? Harvard astronomer Owen Gingerich has said, "anymore who can believe in multiple universes should have no problem believing in heaven and hell."

The third principle stated very simply, is that our universe is designed for life because someone designed it that way by a Creator. How is this any more complex than the above theories?

What does Occam's Razor suggest here? Believe in the idea of a hundred billion universes that you know nothing about in order to account for the only universe you can possible experience? No. I think William Ockham, the father of Occam’s razor, would chooses option three, the Designer that Created the universe...and just for some historical information he was a theist.

1B) I have many ideas here that I am not sure where to start. I guess I'll start with saying that, in defense of the RC church, they had every right not to accept Galileo's proposal because the science at the time did not support his theory. And as a matter of fact, some of his proofs were wrong. Read this article if your interested.
http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/20071125_He_didnt_suffer_all_that_much.html

If your writing a book to describe hwo you plan on saving one who is drowning you would expect certain things to be in the book, such as: ow to perform CPR, what to do if it fails, etc... What you would not expect to find are the INTRICATE details of how CPR works, because its irrelevant to the situation.

The Bible is an Inspired book which describes God's plan for the salvation of man, how he created the universe is totally irrelevant! Whether God's method was evolution, or whether it was 6 literal days it doesn't matter to me, it in no way shape or form effects the plan of salvation; and this is why we should not expect to find Einstein's theory of Special Relativity or Quantum Mechanics in Genesis. Because its irrelevant.

I hope your ready for the "shock" you described because there are church fathers who did not interpret Genesis literally Here are a few: Justin Martyr, Origin and Augustine.

Augustine:
"For in these days [of creation] the morning and evening are counted until, on the sixth day, all things which God then made were finished, and on the seventh the rest of God was mysteriously and sublimely signalized. What kind of days these were is extremely difficult or perhaps impossible for us to conceive, and how much more to say!" (The City of God 11:6 [A.D. 419]).

Origin
"For who that has understanding will suppose that the first and second and third day existed without a sun and moon and stars and that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? . . . I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance and not literally" (The Fundamental Doctrines 4:1:16 [A.D. 225]).

Any more to prove my point? Sorry if you’re shocked. Well what does this mean? It means that there was no consensus as to the interpretation of Genesis. But you say the church still put forth that interpretation, well sure why not? They had nothing else to go by. Nobody knew any better at the time. When modern science built up significant evidence to dispel the notion of a 6000 year old universe...the church saught to see if it the billion+ year universe contradicts Genesis, and it didn't.

Why can't dust be taken as atoms? Are you an authority to say its taking it too far? Isn't dust made up of the same protons, neutrons and electrons that make up our body?

And what about morality? Paul telling the slaves to obey their masters? Why do you think slavery is wrong? From where do you draw this extraction? I'll tell you...Christianity! Slavery predated Christianity for a number of centuries. It was well accepted, as sociologist Orlando Patterson notes that all known cultures had slavery. The oppressed found solace in the Bible, not skeptical works.

And now the issue of homosexuality. Let's assume there is a homosexual gene (studies are inconclusive). We can then both agree for now that our personalities are determined by the environment and genes. With this being the case, why not make the same argument for the people who are supposedly genetically prone to drink more, lie more, and rebel more? They exist and are all sins in the eyes of God. The point I am trying to make is that as a Christian, you don't choose the temptations (desires) that are delt to you...you are called to resist them. Nobody encourages the genetically prone drunk to drink more because he is oriented towards drinking more, its not an acceptable lifestyle.

Frankly, I don't see much support in the claim that the Bible wasn't moral as most of the morals we abide by are rooted in the Bible.

2.1) You still don't explain why being happy provides an evolutionary benefit (nor being a martyr), you just assume it does. Hoping in the afterlife to give comfort does not make one more fit for survival, in fact the opposite, it makes one less prone to surviving.

Think about it, if you know this is the only life to live (as most atheist do) you would do everything in your power to extend your life to "pass on your genes". Where as the man who believes in the after life, doesn't care so much about this life as about the next. So he would be more inclined to die and not fight (as was the case for the martyrs) which would cause his/her genes to not be passed along. How happiness makes one more fit for survival is a puzzle to me.

2.2) I misunderstood you as I thought you were all about the nature without any credence to the nurture...

You make the strong claim that ALL religions are an evolutionary by-product, due to it aiding in the survivability of the people who follow it. I say Christianity cannot be an evolutionary by-product because it doesn't make the followers more "fit" for survival; in fact it does the opposite. Disprove my claim about Christianity; otherwise an asterisk would be suitable for the next time you make the claim.

You cannot discount Christianity because it's a “relative newcomer." Christianity has been on earth for approx 2 millenniums commanding a majority, if not most of the world’s population for a majority of that time.

Take Care,
The Anonymous Guy

Atheos said...

Hello again,
So there are some interesting issues that we can go forward with here, and I think there are places where we are just travelling in circles. Let’s see what we can do about both.

Kant and competing philosophy
“There is no point to continue this debate if all you accept is empirical evidence.”
If my choice is between empirical evidence and faith, then I choose empirical evidence. That’s one reason I chose to title this section “competing philosophy”.

I take it that you at least value empirical evidence. How can you look at the world and think that the continuation of gravity (for which we have empirical evidence) is as likely as something for which there is none.

Would you say that there is an equal basis for believing that the sun will rise in the east as there is for the existence an invisible pink unicorn?

According to your ‘it’s all about faith’ (not an actual quote) tactic, there is an equal basis to believe both.

Doesn’t that strike you as the least bit ridiculous? Even if you think (via Hume, etc) that no amount of observation is enough to establish fact, can’t you at least admit that it makes it more than likely?

Think about that, and recall my claim that the use of a creator god to explain the universe is maliciously complex.
I have some back up on this, a philosopher to be named later; allow me a long quote
“That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish”
That is, if you say something extraordinary, the evidence must be so compelling that it would be even more extraordinary for it to be false. The preponderance of evidence for something like natural selection establishes it as true (although it is not claimed to be a miracle) by this definition.

The person I quoted? David Hume. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/hume-miracles.html

Evolution is a Fact!
I intend to post on this eventually but here goes. Evolution is a fact. I know you don’t like facts, fine. Evolution is an observation which has been independently observed countless times in countless places.

“Has evolution been scrutinized under the scientific method?”
Yes, it has. I actually don’t where to start here, attacks like this aren’t usually so basic. I’ll basically turn the response over to http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB901.html , the main site is a great research spot. They have 5 responses to your question – I’ll reproduce 3 here
• We would not expect to observe large changes directly. Evolution consists mainly of the accumulation of small changes over large periods of time. If we saw something like a fish turning into a frog in just a couple generations, we would have good evidence against evolution.
• The evidence for evolution does not depend, even a little, on observing macroevolution directly. There is a very great deal of other evidence (Theobald 2004
• As biologists use the term, macroevolution means evolution at or above the species level. Speciation has been observed and documented.
I will add my own note, as a med student, that we think about the evolution of species every day when treating bacterial infections, HIV, tuberculosis, etc. These species develop complex and specific mechanisms to avoid our drugs. They do so over time, with a nonrandom selection of small and random mutations slowly shaping their populations. People are dying because of this. So you will excuse me if I take it very personally.

“ Can it even be tested under the scientific method? “
Of course it can. All that something needs to be tested under the scientific method is to be natural and observable. From there you must develop a hypothesis which must be testable. There might be more formal definitions out there, but that is the general picture.

“How do you go about testing a process which took billions of years? But hold on, not only once...but many times! This is impossible”
Why is it impossible? Astronomers have telescopes that can peer over 12 billion light years away, and see some of the earliest light in our universe. Are they not testing a process which occurred over billions of years? How is it more difficult to test a process that has occurred for about 4 billion on our own planet?

“ Does this make it fact? No. Is there a possibility of evolution being wrong? Yes. Hence, you take evolution on reason AND faith.”
Again, evolution is as predictable as gravity. If you call that faith, you make the word faith a pointless catchall for everyday experience. We must be able to define a degree of certainty otherwise we can’t even communicate. I don’t know what you do for a living, but in my world certainty counts. We don’t hem and haw about the philosophical possibilities. We can be sure of things based on observation and evidence. By your arguments I can be as sure of my own name as I am of that invisible pink unicorn. That is MADNESS!

Fine tuning
Ok, this is a very interesting topic. I find it fascinating that we live on a razor’s edge, so to speak.
Let me quote you here:
“Now there are 3 rational explanations for this, and they are:
1) We were just lucky
2) Multiple Universes
3) Someone must have designed it”
I think #1 is possible. I know you mock the anthropic principle later on, I’ll get to that. But random events happen. I won a scratch off ticket last week. That was pretty lucky. Far more likely than the origin of the universe being so hospitable, but that’s ok. A tiny rock planet in a distant part of its galaxy evolved intelligent life, two of whom are having this conversation. Again it is very unlikely, but fortuitous. Let me make the statement that the origin of life or of the universe is completely separate scientifically from evolution. I’ll discuss the anthropic principle but it does not explain the diversity around us.

The anthropic principle is not, in my understanding, meant to be applied to people in firing squads but we can make a personal example.
Roughly a quarter century ago, two people conceived a child. Of the many millions of genetic permutations, they produced one. That child was carried to term. From conception up till the present second every chemical, biochemical, toxic, biological process that occurred to that person shaped him. And here I am. Let us pretend you really like me, anon guy. Let’s say you want me to be who I am. Well if even the slightest change in balance had occurred. If the wrong sperm had gotten lazy, I wouldn’t be here. But I am here, so the massive odds against it are pointless (though humbling).

Your explanation leaves a lot to be desired. If there is a prime mover, where did he come from? Is that not a reasonable question? Cosmologists and biologists will study the origin of their fields further and further back, infinite regress, looking for the origin. You postulate an intelligence but deny the need to explain its origin.

Maybe we see the world in different ways. I look for ways to reduce complexity. I see, as an unrelated example, natural selection as a way to (as Dawkins puts it) “tame improbability” and look for similar tamers elsewhere.

There are, apparently, some physicists who say that the numbers CAN’T vary at all. That would nullify this whole conversation in a sense; although this would still lead one to wonder why the only way to make a universe would be so damn accommodating. I would postulate again, that the improbable need only happen once. And if it happens, its improbability cannot be taken as a barrier to its occurrence.

2 I’ll only make a statement here (I’m no physicist, and I don’t find a billion universes to be any stranger than some of the things I see in this one). Again, you confuse FAITH in god/supernatural with a theoretical framework of understanding the world. I don’t care that you never want to call anything a fact. But this is getting old. They’re not the same. One is better.

3. Of course god is a more complicated answer. Where did god come from? What created god? You are intent on realizing the limits of our senses and reason. Does that mean we have to deny every fruit of them? From where did we get the idea of god? Who told you that he exists? What reason do you have to believe what you were taught, as opposed to what you would have been taught as a Muslim, or a Hindu, or a Jain, or a Sikh? These people believe too. They may have the same rational as you do, why aren’t you a Jain? Because you are Egyptian? Why aren’t you a Muslim? Because your parents are Coptic?

God is the most complex answer of all.

The bible
It makes claims about the nature of the universe. You point out, rightly, that some thinkers didn’t take the creation story literally. I’ll take you at your word, my bad.
I suppose I would have written the book a different way. In a way that didn’t make it look like a bunch of men cooked it up (as opposed to god). But I’ve been droning on for a while, so I’ll try to stay brief.

Dust does not equal atom
It’s fine if you say it’s a symbolism thing. But the word atom has been around for millennia, they aren’t the same thing.

Slavery
I made a statement in the post, just because the bible has extremely moral parts, it doesn’t make it true. Again, let me take you at your (really I know I’m taking you at Dinesh’s) word on this. That Christianity was the first moral code to repudiate slavery. Firstly let me say, good for Christianity. 2 points:
A. That doesn’t make Christianity “true” in any sense any more than Islam is “true” because algebra is essential and they thought it up.
B. If the Bible is the inspired work of god, Paul should have repudiated slavery first. Only if Christianity is understood as an evolving framework of the ideas of mortal men does the contradiction make sense.

Homosexuality
Sexual orientation is hereditary. Let me explain what that means because it’s subtle. It means that we can tell there are genetic and environmental factors involved. Here is the subtle part, we can tell this without having the first damn idea where in the genome the trait is coded (if you’re interested, look up twin studies). And make no mistake; it’ll be many different genes working in different combinations. This is far more complicated than say, eye color. In my opinion isolating the gene/environment combinations isn’t useful.

Sexual orientation is not the same thing as alcoholism. I know gay couples who have been in stable relationships for decades. What should we tell them, stay home and avoid temptation? You can learn not to drink. You cannot learn not to love. And if you can, no one should try.
I did not choose to be straight. I can indeed choose not to give into temptation when I see a beautiful woman. But does that mean my right to have a relationship with a woman should be abridged? Certainly not.

I give that example to make this point: the 95% of us who did not choose to be straight should never frown the 5% of us who did not choose to be gay.

Religion and evo
1. I agree that the martyrdom explanation is weak. Look, the fact is religion is here. It is in every culture. It has been for all recorded history. This is not an attack on Christianity, it is a comment on the religious nature of humankind. All behavior can be understood in an evolutionary context. These are not vacuum chambers. Many different things can be happening. The martyrdom theory is a kind of group selection for religion.

Put it in a present context: a mother dies in childbirth because she refused blood transfusion based on her religion (I wrote about it a few months ago). What will a child in that situation grow up to believe? What would she say to me? Probably that I was a horrible person, that atheists are wrong, that her mother died for something real. I know people like that anon, I’ve heard those stories (not as intense but similar). So even as weak as group selection is, it can still show us the propagation of genes and social behaviors associated with religion.

2. Happiness makes us more fit to survive. Have you ever heard of depression? How about suicide? Imagine that in a context of brutal world. Imagine a line of thinking that told you that your pain would pass away if you appeased the gods and the king they had chosen. Is it still a puzzle?
2.2 A little tip, it’s always nature + nurture unless you’re talking about eye color, etc.
Please understand what I mean by newcomer. We are 100 000 years old at least! Religion is very ancient. Christianity is 2000 years old, perhaps a record I don't know, but it’s a matter of scale.
I don’t have to prove or disprove anything for Christianity in particular. If Dawkins has a theory that applies to religious tendency, why treat one group as special? That would be horribly biased. It’s the same way creationists will fold on microevolution, or the age of the earth while demanding that we humans MUST have come from somewhere else.

If we had had this conversation millennia ago would you ask me to treat the majority religion differently? If we have it in Saudi should I disprove it for Islam?

Certainly not, we would agree. You would agree because you believe that Christianity is special. I would for a different reason.

There is truth. There are things that are true. They can be proven and theory and hypothesis framed around them. If we bend them to the pressures of the society we inhabit, how can we claim to be honest? It would not be science. It would not be true.

Atheos said...

I just wanted to add a small clarification. I wanted to reiterate why explanation for Dawkins’ explanation with regards to individual religions is pointless. Basically, he is saying that this could be a tendency we developed based in an entirely different battle for fitness.

So if he’s discussing this in a way that implies an explanation that has nothing to do with religion. That is, if religion is a byproduct. One would not necessarily need for religion to be explained as adaptive.

I do believe that it has been adaptive to a degree, for reasons I’ve already stated. I’ll also say that as a societal phenomenon it has been positive in enough respects to take on a life of its own.

Not unlike sexuality taking on a life of its own, independent from the origin of the sex drive in the need for reproduction.

Doubtlessly other species have precocious young who “obey” their parents. Just as all species have a sex drive. That does not imply the presence of religion, or lingerie commercials respectively, in nonhuman animals.
Take care
atheos

Atheos said...

I'm coming up on a time when I won't have internet access for a while, so I wanted to sneak in a few statements/critiques.

1. A statement that explains everything without predicting anything proves nothing.

Even if we found a black swan, it would not negate our theory, simply cause us to expand it. It also would not take away from the predictive power of our theory. Swans would still be mostly white. We would have to insert some clause "some swans in place X are black, this is why we think that is" etc. Our ability to predict increases with each new datum, that is the beauty of science.

Religion is the opposite. I've outlined why god is a complex answer above, let me make another point.

God is a pointless answer. It is a non-answer.

If you ask me where the eye came from, I would do my best to explain the well understood path of its evolution (which occurred independently in a number of species). We could use the predictive power of natural selection to make some guesses as to what an eye should look like. We could confirm that, verifying our assumptions. If we were wrong, we could modify our assumptions and improve our theory.

That is the point of an explanation. Not simply to say, "this happened" but to show how.

Saying god did it is like writing an answer to a calculus question without showing work.

Because "god did it" (I'll abbreviate to DGI) doesn't make any predictions as to what outcomes should look like (in contrast to science) it is not valid.

Moreover you hold out these improbable events as though science is afraid of them. Google "black swan theory".

Things like the origin of life, the determination of natural constants, the big bang are all black swans. They are all highly improbably, occurring once (we'll assume until SETI finds us some neighbors)and literally forming the world we live in.

If god exists, there must be tangible proof. There must be some place in the system where we'd see his hand. Many creationists try to argue that there is design in the universe. Even Dinesh is struck by the order of the universe.

This order, this illusion of design are all explainable scientifically. So you're trying to have your cake and eat it too. You cannot say "there is order and beauty thus there is god" while also saying that empirical evidence is useless.

It is obvious that Dinesh takes that order and beauty as empirical, what other kind of evidence is there in natural phenomena? If we can see it it is empirical, tangible. That tangible stuff does not show a designer. This again bolsters my claim that if there was a creator, there would be evidence where the natural and "supernatural" are alleged to cross paths.

So discuss that, but keep it empirical. You can't make a statement on actual evidence and then poo poo it from behind a fence of doubt with Dinesh and Kant.

Similarly I won't attack strictly theological or ephemeral claims based on empirical evidence, or the lack thereof.

2. I can make claims with the same reasoning you do, however. If I state that god is an invisible pink unicorn that is a big fan of raisin bread, how could you refute that?

This brings up my question, why do you believe what you believe?

How do you feel about other, mutually exclusive, religions that make the same claims about the rightness of their belief as you do?

3. The bible
Again, you made a good point. Many early thinkers, it seems, didn't take the creation story literally. But many modern ones do. I was trying to find a position of the coptic church on evolution. I came across a book being sold by a priest (I'll dig up the link if you want, or just google) that was in support of creationism.

So lets discuss that, what does it mean if the coptic church is not agnostic/accepting of evolution?


4. Facts
I alluded to this before. There must be a construct in your philosophy called "fact". Or whatever word you use to describe how you know your own name. And how that your knowledge of your own name is more concrete than say, you're knowledge of the existence of an invisible pink unicorn living in your closet.

One thing must be objectively more "true" than the other. One must be more verifiable than the other.

Ok, that's it for now, I might sneak a few more in over the next few days. Unfortunately I have some things to attend to, followed by a trip home for a while.

So reply whenever, don't be offended if I don't respond quickly.

Take care

atheos

The Anonymous Guy said...

Hey,
I think we have touched on a lot of topics, but I’d like to hone in on a few as I can’t address everything atm.

I think you missed my point with the whole empirical evidence, and faith talk. I believe so because of this quote:

"If my choice is between empirical evidence and faith, then I choose empirical evidence."

In your blog it seemed to me that you refused to accept any non-empirical forms of evidence, and I hoped to open that up through Kant

To weaken the “empirical only” claim further, I extended my argument to say that scientific laws are not verifiable via Hume. In the end, laws derived from empirical evidence are inconclusive at best to give us the truth. Hence why empirical evidence lacks in this department.

The point of the swan example is to illuminate this weakness. Up until the discovery of a black swan people thought every swan was white. If you had to predict what color the next swan you run into might be, you would surely say white and in all likely hood...you would be right. But does the fact that I have seen 100 million white swans, mean that all swans are white? No. This is the weakness; no amount of empirical evidence can “be used to derive an unrestricted general conclusion that is logically defensible.”

You accuse me of not liking facts (I assume you mean I don’t think anything can be considered a fact), but that’s not true. I am wearing a blue shirt today and that is a fact. What I am saying is that scientific laws are not facts; we are so ignorant that we cannot even begin to comprehend the amount of information that we do not know.

A perfect example which testifies to our ignorance is F=MA. That formula was “fact,” along with all the other formulas which derived from this. Newtonian physics was untouchable as it helped derive and predict the motion of almost everything known to man. Little did people know how incomplete this equation was.

How horrifyingly wrong it came to predict things moving close to the speed of light.

It’s a bit foolish, in my opinion, to say that any scientific laws are complete fact and verifiable. So we cannot completely rely on them to provide us with the whole picture.
Do you still accept only empirical forms of evidence in search for the truth, to which Kant says is deficient?


Now on to evolution being fact…
Let me begin by quoting you:
"All that something needs to be tested under the scientific method is to be natural and observable. From there you must develop a hypothesis which must be testable. "
Ok so I think we agree that evolution is natural and observable, however we disagree on whether it is testable. And I think it’s because we define “testable” differently.

When I say testable, I mean being able to reproduce the results. I think we both agree that we will never be able to reproduce the results that evolution claims to make.

Evolution however, is testable in a historical sense, in which this theory best explains the evidence we currently have, as we don't have a time machine nor a billion year lifespan to notice the transitions between life forms. The strongest proof of evolution is the geological record. The fossils are found in exactly the right time and place we would expect if Darwin was right. And I accept evolution as the best theory to explain the evolution of mankind. Can the scientific community be wrong? Of course. Is there something that can be missing here, of course! But for now this is the best explanation we have, but to say its absolute fact is a bit prideful.

This sort of historical test is how I plan on defending the miracle of the resurrection, as it’s the best theory to explain particular events in history, I’ll get into that later.

Ok so now onto the Fine-Tuning:
The firing squad example shows you cannot explain an improbability of this magnitude by simply pointing out our existence, its silly. The proper tuning of all the constants is on some degree as improbable as a firing squad continuously missing a target (where each shot missed represents one constant being correct) There is still an immense probability that needs to be accounted for. The Fine-Tuning argument isn’t saying that given the billions of stars in the universe, it’s amazing that life turned out on our planet. It says that that the entire universe with all the galaxies and stars in it had to be formed in a certain way in order for it to contain life at all.

Is it even remotely possible that God fine tuned the universe? You ask for God's handwork in the universe...well here it is. Francis Collins conversion had much to do with his work leading the human genome project, here is a quote from an interview:

"What have you learned about God specifically through the study of genetics?

Oh goodness! Practically everything that we are able to uncover by studying DNA, the instruction book of all living things, is for me a reflection of the amazing awesome creation that God has put in place. In The Language of God, I compare this notion of DNA, which is this information molecule, as being the way in which God spoke life into being. As a scientist who is also a believer, virtually everything that we uncover day after day about the human genome and how it works is also a glimpse of God's mind. My work is a celebration of our understanding of nature, but more importantly a celebration of what God has done."

The fine-tuning argument also convinced the long time atheist philosopher Antony Flew of the supernatural thus his conversion to deism. Flew recognized that a better answer is needed. Others not as convinced and consequently many of them flocked to the multiple universe answer.

Now I would like to address this point:
“You postulate an intelligence but deny the need to explain its origin.” Well this goes into another theist argument, it’s called the cosmological argument which goes:

1)Whatever begins to exist has a cause
2)The Universe and time began to exist
3)Therefore, the Universe and time had a cause

Thanks to the Big Bang this argument has gotten more weight, as scientists call the starting moment of the universe a “singularity” in which neither space nor time nor scientific laws are in effect.
So then we (probably not) can conclude that someone or something outside of time must have created time, that someone or something is what I call God.

We live in a world that is governed by time. The word “origin” invokes the usage of time hence when we try to fathom a “timeless” dimension we cannot imagine such a thing. It’s like a man who is in a 1-dimensional world of a single line, trying to comprehend what 3-dimensional objects (which consists of many different shapes which in turn consists of many different lines) are.

If the creator is outside of time he has no beginning or end; hence he does not need a cause.

You keep asking me why Christianity and my answer is Christ’s Resurrection. When I have time I’ll get into much more detail, as I am very busy atm.

Take care till then
-The Anonymous Guy

Atheos said...

Hi there, this will probably be my last post for a while so I will continue your admirable goal of honing in.

I understand and accept that empirical evidence, as gathered through our senses, is limited. I would posit that you misunderstand most scientists. We know we can be wrong. It keeps us up at night.

On the other hand, it is the black swans, the aberrations that get us up in the morning. No one is ever given a Nobel Prize for discovering a white swan, so to speak.

My point is that these aberrations, which require us to change our thinking, are the strength of science. The ability to constantly improve our predictions based on new data is at the heart of scientific enquiry.

F=MA
Let me take up Newton’s cause here. Again here is a point which we both think beautifully demonstrates our respective positions. First let’s state some facts. Every high school student learns Newton. Every intro physics college class learns Newton. Newton’s numbers predict occurrences that happen at less than light speed. We still use Newton in intro classes, by the way, because his equations are far less messy to work with. His equations are elegant, but he got his theory wrong. So it doesn’t encompass very fast speeds. Hence Einstein, etc.

Was Newton “untouchable”? Einstein certainly didn’t think so. His theory was a revolution, and that is what science is all about. When the time came that we could comprehend near light speed travel, someone applied standard Newtonian physics to it and it came out nonsense. So we needed another theory to encompass the new observations.

Here’s the part I don’t understand, why are you picking on these guys? Your whole premise is that our senses are too pitiful to comprehend nature as it really is. Is it fair to attack the process which is trying to comprehend it? What I mean to say is, if you want to make an argument that our senses are incapable of comprehending everything that is, you shouldn’t attack things we have, in fact, discovered! You can’t blast Newton for getting it wrong without admitting that someone else later got it right.

Newton begat Einstein, Copernicus begat Hawking, Darwin begat Wilson and Dawkins and Gould. Even Galen begat your humble blogger. We move forward, we get better.

Your shirt is blue.

I would say, with equal confidence that gravity exists (an observation). That the earth revolves around the sun (heliocentric theory). Or that microorganisms make us sick (germ theory).

The first one is your example, the rest are scientific principles (and other than the existence of gravity [observation] the others are theories).

So what makes your shirt color (which I can’t see, does that make it faith?) more objectively true than germ theory? I took a class in microbiology; those little bugs are there my friend. It’s still germ theory .


Let me pause here, laws are different from theories. Laws are systemic observations – forget about them for now. I’m talking about theories. Look up the difference because it’s important.

So is germ theory less verifiable than your shirt color? Really? I can’t see your shirt but I have a cold, that nails it for me.

Evolution

Your comment does not imply a rabid creationism, and I appreciate that. That we evolved is certain by any definition. I’ve even heard Dinesh accept it openly. So I won’t dwell here.

Fine Tuning

I recall Hume’s words, if you want to posit a miracle you have to have miraculous evidence. Lots of improbable things happen, I go into that above.

I cannot say any more than I have on this subject, you can see above for my comments on probability. It is absurdly improbable but here we are.

Argument from authority

I’m not interested in taking people at their word simply based on their own subjective experience. I will say that there is some indication that Anthony Flew was not in possession of his mental faculties at that stage of his life. As such, it would be in bad taste for me to react, as well as falling into the trap of argument from authority.

Bada Big Bang

There was a singularity that was at the beginning of space time. I don’t know what caused it. But you say something curious, you:
“ [..] conclude that someone or something outside of time must have created time, that someone or something is what I call God. “

Something “caused” the big bang. With my limited physics knowledge, I agree. I put caused in quotes because I cannot be sure that what cause means here and now, it meant “there and then” (equally useless terms).

Now what if it wasn’t a creator god? What if it was a natural phenomenon? You say “or something”. That phenomenon would be (presumably) a once in history event. It would be more massive in scale and scope than anything in existence. It would be awesome, in the biblical sense. You define god for yourself, you call god that which created the universe.

So my question is, if it was a natural phenomenon, would you call it god?

As I am going to be away for a protracted amount of time, perhaps you could indulge me in a little survey:
1. Do you believe that the bible is the inerrant word of god
2. If so, does this mean you accept the bible literally (you’ve answered that maybe)
3. If not, what parts specifically do you believe in (moral codes, miracles, history, etc)
4. Define god, as you understand the concept (is god just “goodness”, is he the kind that answers prayers, etc – go as far as you can)


It was fun as always, take care
atheos

The Anonymous Guy said...

Well hopefully by the time you come I would adress other points. Here is a quick one to your last post.

You keep making points I agree with. I admire the scientific method, but I don't rule out the supernatural because science cannot explicitely prove it. Thats the whole point of this part of the debate.

Your original blog made the statement that you are only looking for scientific evidence for the supernatural.

I am not picking on these guys and I never blasted Newton. I am simply saying that we cannot let science be the only player here on our quest. This is not an attack and history has proven my oint. We don't know what we don't know. To rely on science only in the quest for the truth is in my opinion foolish.

As an Electrical Engineer (should have revealed this earlier I suppose) I greatly admire the contributions of Michael Farady and James Maxwell. All of these men have done great admirable work.

I am drawing my argument from Dinesh's book and here is the article that sums up what I am trying to say on this topic.

http://news.aol.com/newsbloggers/2007/10/16/are-miracles-possible-in-an-age-of-science/4

Then tell me which of the following scientific laws are verifiable:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_laws_named_after_people

Fine Tuning

Lets talk about probability, as an Engineer I have taken a fair share of courses on the subject.

Your fallacy here is that your comparing the probability of a sequence of relatively less probable events to a one time improbable event.

In essence, your treating your sequence as happening simultaneously and ironically its the fallacy anti-evolutionists make when they say evolution is improbable.

Heres an example:
Lets say I need to roll 10,000 dice and get all ones. I tell you to do it two ways:

1)Roll all 10,000 at the same time and hope to get all ones.

2)Roll one die at a time until you get one, then move on to the next.

Notice here that we have already preselected the sequence we need.
Which one would take longer?

Argument from authority

Sorry I didn't put out the same disclaimer you did when you put up the video of celebrity atheists. But the controversy you mention is in regards to Flew's

Big Bang

I call it God. You might call it something else, this to me is compelling evidence...not conclusive evidence that there is a God. This argument strengthens my case, it it no ways proves it completeley. As I recall in an earlier post, I write:

"I say compelling because it is not complete…non of them are complete when scrutinized individually, but as a whole seem “compelling” (The court of law convicts many people based on circumstantial evidence, rarely do prosecutors have an air-tight case)"

Alot of atheists like to poke fun of theists for using the God of the gaps type argument. Well here your using the Atheist of the gaps argument.

The universe includes all of nature. So did the natural world cause itself into existence? Occam's Razor suggests again that there was a supernatural act here.

Otherwise you would have to explain how something can cause itself into existence.

Now to answer your fun survey.

1) I believe that the Bible is free from errors on issues of faith and morals. I also believe that their CAN be certain historical errors in the Bible, because although it was inspired by God, it was written by fallible men. I want to note however, that many of the "historical errors" are easily reoncicled. I also want to note that the historical accuracies outweigh by a longshot the debatable errors.

2)Certain parts should be treated literally, others shouldn't

3)I think this is answered above.

4)My definition of God is the same definition of the Apostolic Churches. God is good. God is Just. God is Eternal. God is Omnipresent. God is Omnipotent. God is Omniscient. And yes he does answer prayers.

Take Care

The Anonymous Guy said...

Heres an article I think you would like.

http://www.skepticalchristian.com/r_dawkins.htm

Atheos said...

I agree that we keep agreeing with each other.

I’m not saying that science can explicitly prove the supernatural. Something supernatural is, almost by definition, not falsifiable. I don’t rule out the possibility of the existence of the supernatural based on the lack of scientific evidence. Certainly it is possible. So that would take me to agnosticism. How do I get to atheism? One way, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere is the preponderance of gods. I saw a debate Dinesh was in, he was asked about Pascal’s wager with respect to the many options. That is, if one accepts that it is in one’s self interest to believe in god, how does one pick? Dinesh’s answer was very interesting, he told the young man to seek out the religion/god he found to be most true. I call bullshit on this.

For a thought experiment let’s accept the premise of Pascal. Let’s also accept the existence of a creator god. If I take Pascal’s wager, and come to the conclusion that Coptic Orthodoxy is the one true way, great. But if I get up to heaven and Allah is there calling me an infidel, I’ve lost the wager even though I accepted the premise of god.

So it’s not simply the lack of scientific evidence, it is also the lack of celestial evidence. Where are the thunderbolts tearing down the unbelievers? Why hasn’t the sun stood still for a modern day Joshua fighting a just cause? Add to that the clear artifice of religion in general, and there you have it.

If I would have adhered to any religion, for the rest of my life I would have been Coptic. What if that isn’t the “right” religion? Would I be punished for the site of my birth and the religion of my parents? What if Christianity it is true? What of those who are born Buddhists? Does that compel them to hell? Do men like the Dali Lama and Gandhi deserve hellfire? For being born into the wrong faith?

I reject the premise as artificial and ridiculous. That there is no scientific evidence to support it is merely frosting on top.

Verifiable
What do you mean by verifiable? Define verifiable? Do you define it as being true to the greatest certainty possible? Then they are verifiable. Reproducibly true to the greatest certainty possible? Then they are verifiable. Might there be a black swan? Maybe. But I work around gas and fluid laws (blood vessels) all the time. Should I drop them? Should you abandon rules governing electrons? Of course we don’t.

Tuning

“Notice here that we have already preselected the sequence we need. Which one would take longer?”
Certainly it would be far less probable to see the former case. Your analogy is a good one, but it still just shows something being ridiculously improbable. You haven’t said anything more than that it is extremely improbable.

Again I’ll post a talkorigins link here, http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CI/CI301.html, I’ll reproduce one novel (to this conversation) argument below.

“Intelligent design is not a logical conclusion of fine tuning. Fine tuning says nothing about motives or methods, which is how design is defined. (The scarcity of life and multi-billion-year delay in it appearing argue against life being a motive.) Fine-tuning, if it exists, may result from other causes, as yet unknown, or for no reason at all (Drange 2000).”

Big Bang

This sort of boils down to a “first cause” type of argument. Talkorigins has an interesting take on this too, http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CI/CI200.html
1. The assumption that every event has a cause, although common in our experience, is not necessarily universal. The apparent lack of cause for some events, such as radioactive decay, suggests that there might be exceptions. There are also hypotheses, such as alternate dimensions of time or an eternally oscillating universe, that allow a universe without a first cause.

2. By definition, a cause comes before an event. If time began with the universe, "before" does not even apply to it, and it is logically impossible that the universe be caused.

3. This claim raises the question of what caused God. If, as some claim, God does not need a cause, then by the same reasoning, neither does the universe.

I do like the “atheist of the gap” thing, that was cute.

I can’t explain the origin of the universe; it’s unfair for you to ask that. Obviously I would be cashing in the multimillion dollar prize they give to Nobel winners instead of typing a blog post.

Just because it cannot be explained yet, it doesn’t mean god did it. The point of god of gaps is to look at something like lightning. Lightning was thought to be caused by god until we figured out it wasn’t. For generations people looked at things that scared or confused them and said, it must be a god. That is, briefly, god of the gaps.

I’m not saying that I know for sure that god didn’t create the universe. I’m simply saying it’s unlikely. I’m saying there are natural explanations and analogs, such as is possible. I’m saying that the rules of cause and effect you cite may be meaningless. I’m not being “atheist of the gaps” I’m trying to keep you from using “the God of gaps”.

Your answer is similar to someone asking during a rain storm, in a different age, “Explain how fire can come out of the sky”. I can’t explain the origin of the universe, but that doesn’t make you right.

Thanks for answering the survey. I enjoyed reading your answers, I have one follow-up. How does one decide which parts of scripture are taken literally, and who should decide that?

I’ll read the articles you sent, thanks. Here’s one for you, it’s a rebuttal of Dinesh by another (far better) atheist blogger: http://possummomma.blogspot.com/2008/04/its-like-mardi-grasonly-without-beads.html

I’ll go ahead and delete your replicated comment.

Take care
atheos

David said...

atheos,

Well argued... and with admirable patience.

Also, good to see that you linked to an accurate portrayal of D'Souza. He's an odd character. Seemingly intelligent, but talks nonsense when one dissects the content. Although, when he's speaking live it's easy to understand why some are impressed - such a rapid torrent of words is difficult to assimilate in real time.

The Anonymous Guy said...

A third person!

Before I go on to address some of your issues I want to make a point.

You bringing up valid points in regards to which religion is right, but I want to say that I haven't expressed my arguments for the Christian God at all (yet). I will defend the miracle of the Resurrection once I get the time.

Everything thus far has been shown to provide reason to believe that the "minimalist" God exists.

What is the “minimalist” definition?
I believe God is an entity that is above and beyond the universe. This means that God is not subject to the laws of the universe. In addition, He created the universe and the physical laws that govern it. He has existed eternally, which is why He had no cause for His existence. Moreover, God is able to make decisions. He is not merely a robot, but instead has the ability to decide to do certain things

(http://www.skepticalchristian.com/definegod.htm)

You ask the question of fairness. Christians believe God is just, meaning what he decides is fair.

You ask what happens to the Buddhists, Hindu's, Ancient Egyptians etc. when they die. I'll tell you as a Christian that I cannot tell you where they will go. But what I do know is that God is just; meaning whatever judgment he makes will be fair. For example, will there be American Indians in Heaven? I don't know it's possible.
Will the aborted babies go to Hell because they weren't baptized into the Christian fait? Once again, this is an exception, and God, being just, will make the fair judgment.


On to Pascal.
You're right in pointing out the weakness in Pascal's argument, but I think you over exaggerated the weakness. Your assumption of every religion having this concept of infinite heaven and infinite hell is wrong.

Jew's believe everybody goes to heaven, although there is a temporary punishment period.

Hindu's believe as Buddhists that when you die you reincarnate.

Buddhists don't even believe in God. And whether you believe in God or not doesn't matter, you will reincarnate into something better or worse depending on your deeds…

The only religions I can think of atm that make these bi-directional infinite claims are Christianity and Islam.

So the wager still carries weight significant weight.


Verifiable
I think we agree to the limits of scientific inquiry.


Fine Tuning
How is it illogical? You're right it doesn't say anything about motives or methods, but does that make the claim illogical? I'll just paste an excerpt from the link I provided you above:

"…suppose that astronauts found complicated machines on an extra-solar planet. They would justifiably infer that some intelligent extraterrestrials designed and created the machines, even if they had absolutely no idea what such beings were like, what planet they came from, or how they designed the complicated machines. Clearly, it would be absurd for the astronauts to say, “since we don’t know anything about any possible alien designers, we cannot conclude that these machines were designed.”"

Are you saying it's illogical for the astronauts to infer that the machines were designed by a designer?

And let's go back to our old friend Mr. William Ockham.
His Razor leaves us with the creator, as it is the simplest answer. If the numbers looked Fine Tuned then the Razor suggests that somebody tuned them...simple.


Big Bang/Cosmological Argument

The response to your talkorigins article is found here:
http://creationwiki.org/index.php/There_must_have_been_a_first_cause

I can re-phrase it, but its short so I don't think it's necc.


God/Atheist Of the Gaps

You say you aren't using the Atheist of the Gaps argument (AOTG) but you are. Whether you believe it or not, AOTG is a rephrase of another popular philosophical assumption. This assumption assumes that there is a natural explanation for everything, aka naturalism.

You have faith that one day we will have a natural explanation to everything. I contend that this is not the case.

You have faith in naturalism, I don't. I argued in earlier posts that we are astronomically ignorant of the entire natural world, and are equipped with awfully limited tools to even discover everything in the natural world.

I never said that I was right, but that my position is more rational than yours. Like I said before, I don't rule out the possibility that naturalism can be right, but that possibility is pretty low.


Dinesh's rebuttal

I don't see how this is a rebuttal of any kind. The article is primarily made up of ad-hominem attacks predicated on a misunderstanding. The blogger accuses Dinesh of not being able to comprehend reading material and I'll accuse the blogger of the same thing.

For example:

Dinesh says:
"The problem with evolution is not that it is unscientific but that it is routinely taught in textbooks and in the classroom in an atheist way.”

Blogger says:
"Evolution isn't scientific? WTF? Says who? But, I love the not-so-subtle attempt at poisoning the well. His arguments against teaching evolution in the classroom are so weak that he has to set about creating bias towards the concept as a whole."

Dinesh never said Evolution wasn't scientific, obviously the blogger misunderstood him (maybe he doesn’t have the ability to “employ reading comprehension skills”?). What Dinesh is saying is that the problem is not because it is unscientific, but that it is usually taught with an atheistic undertone.

Specifically he is speaking out against the atheists who want to include terms like "impersonal" and "unsupervised" in describing the evolutionary process, hence wrapping the atheist message in evolution. Here's another short article from his blog on this:

http://news.aol.com/newsbloggers/2008/04/08/biology-without-ideology/


Follow-Up Answer:
The Church.

Take Care

Atheos said...

1. I await with bated breath your post on the resurrection, I imagine it would be most timely in the next 40 something days.

2. Minimalist definition
Well that is a good definition to have. I’ll take that to be your meaning when you say ‘god’, similarly that is the image I conjure up when I use the G word. Also, just to be clear, are you Coptic?

3. But if we are to enter through the narrow gate, as Jesus said, isn’t eternal damnation a valid choice?

4. Pascal is kind of silly to me. I don’t want to spend too much time on it. I mean, wouldn’t god simply see that I was doing things to hedge a bet? Wouldn’t that basically nullify the whole argument?

5. Fine tuning. Here we go again. I really like this topic but I fear that the link war is delving into areas of physics where I am inexpert. So as my time is short for this reply, I’ll leave this alone for now except to say that I do NOT concede that a creator (deus ex machina if you will) is the simplest answer.

6. I think that there is a natural explanation for everything. You don’t. Here we have a fundamental philosophical disagreement that will likely not be resolved. That’s fine, but I’d just as soon not delve into while paying for internet by the hour (still on hiatus over here).

7. I would argue that evolution is taught with atheistic undertones; certainly it wasn’t when I learned it. But that is how some people take it. We are all susceptible to emotion when it comes to charged issues. Certainly I am very passionate about the proper teaching of evolution. So I can understand some vitriol on both sides. That said, Dinesh does say a lot of things that are silly, and as a skilled debater he is quite good at sidestepping flaws in his arguments. It’s part of what makes him entertaining to watch.

Pardon my brevity; I hope to return to full posts soon.
atheos

Anonymous said...

I have a question:Coptic is religion.That mean you arent Coptic.You are atheist Egyptian.