Will science rule someday rule out God?

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Will science rule someday rule out God?

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1richardbsmith
Editado: Set 19, 2012, 10:09am

Many already think this has been done. We have another topic discussion on a related topic, What would change your mind?

The article looks at specific gaps, especially from a cosmological perspective, for the premise of God. Sean Carroll is a top astrophysicist and a recognized science writer.

This is a good article for everyone to read.

Will science rule out God?

I still do not think so.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/49074598/ns/technology_and_science-science/

ETA
corrected a spelling error.

2aulsmith
Set 19, 2012, 9:20am

I think it depends on how you define God. If you're willing to have a god who fits into the things that science hasn't figured out yet, then, of course, science isn't going to be ruling out God any time soon.

I personally found that kind of God to be too limited to be very interesting, but many people find him/her/it to be quite satisfying.

3StormRaven
Set 19, 2012, 9:22am

Will science rule out God?

No. Science can rule out certain iterations of God, but since God is such an amorphous concept, the definition will then shift to something that has not been ruled out.

4darrow
Editado: Set 19, 2012, 2:28pm

Science may one day rule out God but he won't go away. There will always be some people who cannot accept that there is no purpose for their existence. Those people will continue to need God to provide that explanation.

5lawecon
Set 19, 2012, 10:13am

~1

Well, let's see. Will science one day rule out the possibility of or the truth of reports about a three foot parakeet. No, don't think so. I don't think science works that way.

6John5918
Set 19, 2012, 10:17am

>2 aulsmith: I personally found that kind of God to be too limited to be very interesting

Different way of looking at things, but I think I would find the kind of God that science could disprove to be too limited to be very interesting.

7aulsmith
Set 19, 2012, 11:52am

6: Essentially science did disprove my god, so I tried to make him smaller so he'd fit in what was left unproven and found it very uninteresting, so I gave up.

8John5918
Set 19, 2012, 12:51pm

>7 aulsmith: I understand my God as being bigger than anything science can prove or disprove.

9southernbooklady
Set 19, 2012, 1:06pm

I would imagine that if God is about explaining existence, then science would render the concept unnecessary. But if God is about giving meaning to existence, then science would regard the concept as irrelevant to their pursuits.

10malloyd
Set 19, 2012, 1:15pm


Maybe, but cosmology isn't the science that has a chance at it. The interesting bits of god(s) are mostly facets of inner experience, not origin stories, so neurobiology probably has the best shot.

Pretty much the whole function of origin myths is to serve as psychological props for people for whom "we don't know" isn't a satisfactory explanation of something, so *of course* they collapse when an alternate satisfactory explanation becomes available. But certain literalist fundamentalists aside, they really aren't very important. An exercise I've occasionally tried to get them to do - imagine tomorrow somebody conclusively proves the entire book of Genesis is a forgery, but every other event and miracle in the rest of the Bible really happened exactly as written. What changes about your faith?

11aulsmith
Set 19, 2012, 1:33pm

10: Is the "they" referred to in the 2nd paragraph "origin myths" or "people for whom 'we don't know' isn't a satisfactory explanation". I couldn't quite parse what you were saying either way.

12nathanielcampbell
Set 19, 2012, 2:03pm

>9 southernbooklady:: "I would imagine that if God is about explaining existence, then science would render the concept unnecessary. But if God is about giving meaning to existence, then science would regard the concept as irrelevant to their pursuits."

Well stated.

13Booksloth
Set 20, 2012, 6:00am

For many of us, it has already happened but, as so many others have pointed out, believers just change their position and beliefs each time. Provided your beliefs are sufficiently nebulous to squirm under every fence you are never going to accept proof anyway. Perhaps the more pertinent question would be 'Will science ever prove the existence of gods?' So far (several millennia, depending on your chosen entity) it hasn't happened.

14John5918
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 7:01am

>13 Booksloth: I'd be interested to hear how science has proved that there is no divine (presuming that's what you mean by "it has already happened"; apologies if I have misunderstood). Usually requests for such proof only turn up statements like, "There is no evidence for..." or "It's extremely unlikely..."

Will science ever prove the existence of gods?

No. I doubt whether many religious people would expect it to. It's not what science is for.

Edited to add: believers just change their position and beliefs each time... to squirm under every fence

Or perhaps non-believers simply haven't understood what believers actually believe? Although I do accept that religious belief has evolved and developed just as most other human thought has done.

15Booksloth
Set 20, 2012, 7:13am

For many of us there has been sufficient evidence for us to decide pretty categorically that no gods exist. I guess it's back to the old, old question of where the burden of proof lies. Since believers are arguing for something that is essentially non-provable (as are fairies, the FSM etc) it's a no-win situation because the goal posts simply keep moving to accommodate the latest flight of imagination. Okay, it isn't 100% proof in the strictest sense of the word (omitting pages and pages here on why you can't prove a negative). To use a very old analogy I have used many times before - If I say to you that a giant magic badger dances in my garden every night I would expect you to respond with 'Can I come over and watch?' After the two of us have spent the night out in the cold to no avail and I say 'Well, of course you can't see him, he's invisible,' I'd also logically expect you (assuming you haven't already stomped off to bed) to reply 'Okay, fine, but if he's really been there, there would be some evidence - a gap in the fence where he got in, flattened grass where he danced etc, etc. So we go to take a look and find nothing in particular. That, of course, is when I say 'Ah, but . . . he's magic, so he doesn't leave any trace'. Now multiply that one night by a minimum of 2,000 years. Throw in the odd theory that the badger works magic, helps people and generally makes the world a better place and yet fail to produce any evidence for that either (in fact, I'd expect you to counter that one with a litany of examples about how, for a majority of people in the world, the world is a shitty place with no hope and a lifetime of misery and suffering) and a sensible person would not only be getting a little snitty about their lost sleep, they'd also be a fool to continue to keep watch.

This is where religion and science always part company. You say that 'proving' the existence of a god is not what science is for. Science has one over-riding purpose and that us to investigate what is true about the world we live in. If science had found even the teeniest bit of evidence for the existence of any supernatural being it would have made that knowledge public because it could prove it. Believers claim that there is something (not a little insignificant thing, mind, but something that guides and affects the lives of every single creature on this planet and any others that host life) that istrue but unprovable. I'd suggest that if they applied that thinking to anything else of even half as much importance (eg, believing, without evidence, that they do not need to eat to stay alive; that they could defy gravity; that it's 'turtles all the way down') they would be lying in their graves clutching their Darwin awards by the time they left school.

16Lunar
Set 20, 2012, 7:17am

#14: I'd be interested to hear how science has proved that there is no divine

Not with science, but definitely with reason. I'm sure you have already used reason or rationality to rule out the existence of the invisible pink unicorn.

17John5918
Set 20, 2012, 7:30am

>15 Booksloth: You talk as if the giant dancing badger has just now been seen by one person, a stunning new discovery. But in fact two thirds or more of the world's population, in being invited to come and see the giant dancing badger, appears to have found some evidence that it is indeed dancing away. What's more, it's been going on for a hell of a long time. This is not an argument ad populum; I know that the fact that a majority has seen evidence of it is not proof. But when everybody is pointing up at the sky and saying, "Can you see it? It's a weather balloon" and I can't see anything, I tend to ask myself whether my eyesight is defective. You are part of a minority that can't see the evidence for God, or can't accept that the evidence is evidence, or whatever; I am part of a majority that can. And there's no problem there, because I'm not trying to force you to see, nor trying to prove that I'm right and you're wrong. I see it, you don't; I live my life quite happily; hopefully you live your life happily too.

Yes, religion and science part company; we can agree on that. "Science has one over-riding purpose and that is to investigate what is true about the world we live in". I don't know whether that is a complete definition of the purpose of science, but yes, science investigates the what and how of the world we live in. Religion deals with the who and why.

I'd suggest that if they applied that thinking to anything else of even half as much importance... they would be lying in their graves clutching their Darwin awards by the time they left school.

But they're not lying in their graves, because belief in the divine is different, as you so ably demonstrate in this paragraph.

What's a Darwin award? Is it another internet in-joke like Godwin's Law?

18John5918
Set 20, 2012, 7:39am

>16 Lunar: Not with science, but definitely with reason

It seems that some very rational people are religious, and some very rational people are non-religious, and thus they disagree on whether reason has given a final ruling on the divine. And ne'er the twain shall meet.

the invisible pink unicorn

When I come across traditions thousands of years old that are aware of the invisible pink unicorn I might devote some time to thinking about it. If I were to find that it fitted pretty well with the experience of a huge number of people throughout the ages and throughout the contemporary world (albeit not with a smaller number of a-unicornists) I might give it more consideration. But, having looked at the various human attempts to understand the divine, I'm pretty comfortable with my own religious tradition, so I don't need to become a unicornist.

19StormRaven
Set 20, 2012, 8:54am

This is not an argument ad populum; I know that the fact that a majority has seen evidence of it is not proof.

Actually, it is, because you turn around and say this:

But when everybody is pointing up at the sky and saying, "Can you see it? It's a weather balloon" and I can't see anything, I tend to ask myself whether my eyesight is defective.

Even when you know that an argument ad populum is a fallacious argument, you still try to make it, while denying that you are doing so. That is yet another indication of the fraudulent nature of theism.

20John5918
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 9:25am

>19 StormRaven: It's an analogy. If you don't think it's an appropriate analogy, ignore it. But to conclude that theism is fraudulent because of an imperfect analogy could be construed as an overreaction.

21reading_fox
Set 20, 2012, 9:07am

#17 "But in fact two thirds or more of the world's population, in being invited to come and see the giant dancing badger, appears to have found " ... a wide variety of things, from badgers to foxes, elephants, ants, dancing, standing still, actually looking like flowers, being moonlight coloured, invisible, pink, and stripy.
About the only coherent theme is that a lot of people when asked, say yes of course the king is wearing fabulous clothes, how dare you suggest otherwise. No signs of dancing were present although afterwards a lot of people claim to own crushed flowers, garanteed to have come form that very gardern. yerhonour.

Hence from an outside view it is an easy conclusion to draw that nobody actually saw anything at all.

Darwin award - internet theme yes, google it. People who have increased the evolutionary fitness of a population by removing themselves from it in so spectacularly stupid a way as to earn a virtual award.

22John5918
Set 20, 2012, 9:10am

>21 reading_fox: Hence from an outside view it is an easy conclusion to draw that nobody actually saw anything at all.

Of course. That's a perfectly reasonable conclusion which a minority of people have come to. A majority have come to a different perfectly reasonable conclusion. Which is right? Who knows. You follow yours, I follow mine, and we both get on fine. Or do you (a generalised atheist "you", not you personally) feel that you must prove mine wrong?

23lawecon
Set 20, 2012, 9:11am

~15

Well, reading this just shows that you don't get the point - at least for some of us.

First of all, you still haven't directly answered the question that was posed to you in a thread here http://www.librarything.com/topic/102330
Your approach is both incoherent and cowardly. If you want to say that "I reject a G-d who is like a fairy. Who is invisible and doesn't do things I can observe. Who is supernatural (another word I don't understand and haven't thought about much, but which I use as equivalent for "silly")." Then many religious people would agree with you, although rolling their eyes when they do so. But you don't do that. You don't start out telling us with particularity what you reject. You just tell us that you don't like religious people.

Pretty puerile and prejudiced frame of mind.

24lawecon
Set 20, 2012, 9:12am

~16

Really. Could you present the proof from reason or rationality?

25StormRaven
Set 20, 2012, 9:31am

20: It's not an analogy. By saying "I'd ask myself whether my eyesight is defective' you transformed it into an argument ad populum, by asserting that you would (and by implication the reader should) take the people looking at the sky saying they saw a weather balloon you cannot see as evidence it was there.

As an analogy it is pretty lousy too. But that's a different issue.

26John5918
Set 20, 2012, 9:39am

>25 StormRaven: Ah well, once again we disagree.

27timspalding
Set 20, 2012, 9:43am

The question boils down to a sub-question to "Will science someday rule out philosophy?" Certainly there are radical naturalists in philosophy departments, but their answers are such that by definition they can say nothing that science cannot. If they ever win out, philosophy departments will, I expect, wither and die—dying in a number of directions, surely, like brain science and cosmology, but dying.

I think such a death is unlikely, but possible, on the level of academics. But I don't think the death of philosophy will ever be acceptable to unbiased people with an open mind.

28nathanielcampbell
Set 20, 2012, 10:43am

>25 StormRaven:: "By saying "I'd ask myself whether my eyesight is defective' you transformed it into an argument ad populum, by asserting that you would (and by implication the reader should) take the people looking at the sky saying they saw a weather balloon you cannot see as evidence it was there."

Scientists (including my wife) tell me that there are these tiny things out there called "bacteria" that squiggle around under their own power. I can't see them. Should I believe the scientists, even though I can't see what they see?

29southernbooklady
Set 20, 2012, 10:59am

>28 nathanielcampbell: Scientists (including my wife) tell me that there are these tiny things out there called "bacteria" that squiggle around under their own power. I can't see them. Should I believe the scientists, even though I can't see what they see?

Not analogous. You can see them with a microscope. The conditions to see them are independently reproducible.

30nathanielcampbell
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 11:08am

>29 southernbooklady:: And in John's analogy, his presumption when everybody else can see the weather balloon but he cannot is not that the weather balloon doesn't exist because he can't see it, but that, if only his eyesight were better, he could see it -- perhaps with a telescope rather than a microscope.

Hundreds of generations of Christians experiencing the love of God in their lives and the movement of the Holy Spirit certainly seems like "independent reproduction" of the evidence.

But that brings us back to where we always start: atheists don't accept the religious experiences of millions of people over thousands of years as valid evidence, while theists do.

31StormRaven
Set 20, 2012, 11:22am

And in John's analogy, his presumption when everybody else can see the weather balloon but he cannot is not that the weather balloon doesn't exist because he can't see it, but that, if only his eyesight were better, he could see it -- perhaps with a telescope rather than a microscope.

But then he could see, in an independently reproducible way. Can you do the same for your "love of God"?

I thought not.

The analogy is inapt.

32southernbooklady
Set 20, 2012, 11:25am

>30 nathanielcampbell: Hundreds of generations of Christians experiencing the love of God in their lives and the movement of the Holy Spirit certainly seems like "independent reproduction" of the evidence.

Not according to the scientific method. For one thing, reproducible means always reproducible. Give two people the same tools and circumstances, and they will both observe the same results. If they do not, then the theory is invalid or at the very least flawed and must be altered to explain the different results.

Religious experiences are entirely internal and personal, and thus not reproducible. They are anecdotal evidence, but that is not scientific evidence. Just the opposite--anecdotal evidence is entirely suspect unless it can be back up by scientific evidence.

33lawecon
Set 20, 2012, 11:33am

~29

Tell me, Southern, if a historian tells you "yes, there was a Napoleon" should you disbelieve him or her because you can't see or touch Napoleon?

34timspalding
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 11:43am

But then he could see, in an independently reproducible way. Can you do the same for your "love of God"?

History is not independently reproduceable. Sometimes it leaves "scientific" evidence—usually very ambiguous of itself—but most past events can be reconstructed only based on the say-so of participants, living or recorded in some form. Yet I've never heard of a scientist say that the Lincoln-Douglas debates or the Battle of Arbella were ruled out.

35reading_fox
Set 20, 2012, 11:46am

"Yet I've never heard of a scientist say that the Lincoln-Douglas debates were ruled out."

Really? DO we know every word? As it was spoken?
Surely honest historians will concede doubt over the matter. 'we don't knwo what was precisely said, but we have these records that come from this provenance, and accord with these other records of that provenance, that agree to this subject.' But precisely because some evidence is only on the say-so of the victors is that there is so much controversy in history. And that's only a few hundred years ago. Historians produce evidence to support their claims, and that evidence can be examined by everyone, who sometimes come to other theories which can also be tested through evidence. It is sometimes a bit messy in history - but it's still leaps and bounds ahead of religion when it comes to scientific support for its ideas.

36southernbooklady
Set 20, 2012, 11:48am

Nonsense. A scientist could well look at the historical and archaeological evidence of Jesus and conclude that it is likely he did exist and had followers. He would not be able to conclude that Jesus was the son of God or that those followers all had been "saved."

37lawecon
Set 20, 2012, 11:52am

~36

As a nonChristian, a position you've probably never considered, I am not much interested in discussing Jesus being the Son of G_d. Now would you please answer my question?

38timspalding
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 12:02pm

>36 southernbooklady:

There is no archaeological evidence for Jesus, or for 99% of ancient historical personages. The evidence for Jesus is that people said he existed, which they—or more likely later people in a chain of transmission—committed to writing. Why isn't that your excluded anecdotal evidence?

39nathanielcampbell
Set 20, 2012, 12:14pm

>36 southernbooklady:: " A scientist could well look at the historical and archaeological evidence of Jesus and conclude that it is likely he did exist and had followers. He would not be able to conclude that Jesus was the son of God or that those followers all had been "saved."

And I don't think any of us have claimed that science should be able to prove the divinity of Christ. It's a question beyond the proper boundaries of the scientific method.

The problem is that some here--possibly including you--won't accept any knowledge that isn't produced within those boundaries.

40nathanielcampbell
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 12:18pm

>32 southernbooklady:: "Give two people the same tools and circumstances, and they will both observe the same results. If they do not, then the theory is invalid or at the very least flawed and must be altered to explain the different results."

Have two people examine Picasso's Guernica. Will their observations of the painting agree? I doubt it. Does that invalidate the powerful truths about humanity, inhumanity, and violence that the painting reveals? Not in the least.

Not all truth is scientifically reproducible or reducible.

41southernbooklady
Set 20, 2012, 12:21pm

Thousands upon thousands of people believed for eons in the existence of Yellow Corn Woman. Why aren't you worshiping her alongside Jesus?

Independent corroboration from disinterested and/or unrelated parties lends weight to anecdotal evidence. But it is not proof. And it has nothing to say about the validity of internal experiences of a person--their experience of God--since those remain locked within our heads.

42nathanielcampbell
Set 20, 2012, 12:26pm

>41 southernbooklady:: "And it has nothing to say about the validity of internal experiences of a person--their experience of God--since those remain locked within our heads."

Why do you seem to spend so much time criticizing us for what "remains locked within our heads"?

I'd also point out that, in Christianity at least, a faith that stays locked within your faith is a dead faith and no faith at all. Faith compels love, and love cannot exist "locked within your head", for by definition love requires that you love someone outside of yourself.

43timspalding
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 12:31pm

Not all truth is scientifically reproducible or reducible.

Exactly. Preach it!

And I don't think any of us have claimed that science should be able to prove the divinity of Christ. It's a question beyond the proper boundaries of the scientific method.

The problem is that some here--possibly including you--won't accept any knowledge that isn't produced within those boundaries.


Exactly.

Independent corroboration from disinterested and/or unrelated parties lends weight to anecdotal evidence. But it is not proof. And it has nothing to say about the validity of internal experiences of a person--their experience of God--since those remain locked within our heads.

Agreed. In history one sometimes speaks of proving something, but it's not the same sort of proof one might use in math. But yes. And not all truth—even in math—is provable.

I leave out the various philosophic proofs of God, which aren't empirical proofs but mostly logical ones. I don't, frankly, think any of them "work." But they are a different sort of thing.

44margd
Set 20, 2012, 12:30pm

Science is hard-pressed to prove a negative: "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence_of_absence

45timspalding
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 12:32pm

>43 timspalding:

Right. That's where the anti-religious zealot wades in with Okham's Razor, and treats it as so close to a proof that only dumb people would doubt it.

46southernbooklady
Set 20, 2012, 12:34pm

>39 nathanielcampbell: The problem is that some here--possibly including you--won't accept any knowledge that isn't produced within those boundaries.

Conversely, the problem is that people who say they have such knowledge want it given equal weight as scientific, empirical knowledge in the scientific sphere. Science does not accept this because such knowledge does not meet its requirements for validity: it is not falsifiable. So I refer you once again to my statement in #9: I would imagine that if God is about explaining existence, then science would render the concept unnecessary. But if God is about giving meaning to existence, then science would regard the concept as irrelevant to their pursuits.

I do not doubt for one minute that there are thousands of people who believe they have experienced the divine. My neighbor down the street credits God's intervention for her daughter's cancer going into remission and she is entirely sincere. But such testimonials do not offer sufficient evidence that God exists for the empiricist--who is more likely to assign credit to the chemotherapy.

It is a fundamental divide between atheist and theist--one of first principles that, as far as I can tell, is in the end unbridgeable. In order to come to terms, either the atheist must decide that existence can't be explained empirically, or the believer must decide that God must be explained empirically.

47timspalding
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 12:50pm

Conversely, the problem is that people who say they have such knowledge want it given equal weight as scientific, empirical knowledge in the scientific sphere.

Unless I'm mistaken, none of us want to do that. We don't demand that science prove God exists—on the contrary. We merely criticize those who think science excludes a God, particularly by some rather illogical monstrations involving "science."

For what it's worth, however, I would put forward that materialism (which is a theory of reality, not "science" which is merely an intentionally and appropriately limited method) does indeed fail to adequately explain various things about reality. Materialism does not seem to me (and many others, many of them not theists) to offer an adequate explanation of consciousness. While not strictly required, materialism also disallows free will, objective morality and any sort of meaning or teleology to anything, which goes against our intuitions and makes for a world that strikes many of us as very "ugly." (This aesthetic sense is hardly foreign to science—many scientists are convinced that the ultimate nature of reality should be simple and tidy, not, say, some versions of string theory.) This gets you only as far as non-materialism, but theism is a subset of that. But should I lose faith in God, I suspect I'd continue believing that mechanistic interactions between atomic particles does not explain consciousness, or my feeling that I am free and that crushing a small child's head for fun isn't just risky as a practical matter, but something more too. Indeed—truth be told—I sometimes worry that there might not be a God. I never worry that free will and morality don't exist.

48jbbarret
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 12:53pm

>46 southernbooklady:: And us agnostics sit back and watch each side trying to tear each other to bits.

49LolaWalser
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 12:57pm

While not strictly required, materialism also disallows free will,

No, it doesn't, as most people understand "free will", and as it applies to our daily decision-making.

objective morality

Only if "objective" is misused to mean absolute, handed-down-from-God morality.

and any sort of meaning or teleology to anything, which goes against our intuitions and makes for a world that strikes many of us as very "ugly."

YOUR intuitions, YOUR aesthetics etc. Lots of people give purpose to their lives and find the world very beautiful indeed. Personally, I find your disgusting religion a major blot on the beauty of the world.

But I try not to dwell on it.

50nathanielcampbell
Set 20, 2012, 1:02pm

>46 southernbooklady:: "So I refer you once again to my statement in #9: I would imagine that if God is about explaining existence, then science would render the concept unnecessary. But if God is about giving meaning to existence, then science would regard the concept as irrelevant to their pursuits."

And I would refer you back to my post 12, in which I said of this, "Well stated."

51southernbooklady
Set 20, 2012, 1:04pm

>49 LolaWalser: While not strictly required, materialism also disallows free will,

No, it doesn't, as most people understand "free will", and as it applies to our daily decision-making.


Just so. Empiricism may not explain consciousness (yet?) but there is no evidence it can't. P vs NP type problems not withstanding, I have a general working theory that the universe is knowable. Religious people seem to have a belief that it is not. Personally, I get more satisfaction out of my theory than your belief.

52StormRaven
Set 20, 2012, 1:06pm

History is not independently reproduceable.

And history is, by its very nature, suspect in many ways.

But there is a very substantial difference between saying "this happened", and saying "this is happening right now". One is only subject to forensic study. The other is (typically) much more amenable to investigation. And yet religious claims are not.

53timspalding
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 1:23pm

No, it doesn't, as most people understand "free will", and as it applies to our daily decision-making.

Nonsense. Certainly there is a philosophical argument (Compatibilism) that it does not. But most people do not think that free-will is the merely the lack of an external impediment. Most people think it means they are actually choosing and thus might choose different. We can do a survey if you like.

Only if "objective" is misused to mean absolute, handed-down-from-God morality.

Of course not. It has nothing to do with God. This is not some new idea. Philosophy starts with Plato. He believed in objective morality. He did not believe in "handed-down-from-God morality."

Personally, I find your disgusting religion a major blot on the beauty of the world.

I find your hectoring attacks on my religious sad.

But anyway, it's pathetic and illogical to believe in no objective morality or aesthetics and then make moral and aesthetic arguments. You don't see me criticizing you based on my appreciation of garlic and dislike of broccoli, do you? I'm not telling you you're an idiot because I had a dream you were one, am I?

But I try not to dwell on it.

Really? Because your usual pattern is to come into conversations like this and call my religion a "Nazi" one, etc. It makes one wonder.

54LolaWalser
Set 20, 2012, 1:16pm

History and the way science examines history doesn't enter into the discussion about god's existence at all--as long as this "god" is supposed to STILL exist and STILL exert influence. Which, as far as I know, is what any believer believes to be the case.

Right now "God" doesn't have a history, only mythologies.

55timspalding
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 1:21pm

>53 timspalding:

You appear to miss the point. Let me explain: We are demonstrating the existence of ways of knowing things that are not fully covered by the methods of science. We could pick others too, and obviously believe something like theology or theological experience is one. How many we find is immaterial so long as demonstration by the scientific method is held up as the sine qua non of things that aren't false.

56nathanielcampbell
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 1:25pm

>49 LolaWalser:: "Personally, I find your disgusting religion a major blot on the beauty of the world."

Yeah, the music of Hildegard of Bingen, Bach's St. Matthew Passion, Mozart's Requiem, the Sistine Chapel ceiling, St. Francis of Assisi calling us to love the animals and live simply and without material wealth, Mother Theresa caring for those in India and around the world whom everybody else wanted to ignore...

All of those are just so ugly and detestable, aren't they?

57John5918
Set 20, 2012, 1:25pm

>51 southernbooklady: I have a general working theory that the universe is knowable. Religious people seem to have a belief that it is not

In what sense do you think "religious people" believe the universe is not knowable? Do you mean that they don't think science can explain the physical universe? If so then you are only referring to a subset of religious people.

58timspalding
Set 20, 2012, 1:27pm

59nathanielcampbell
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 1:28pm

>51 southernbooklady:: "Religious people seem to have a belief that it is not. "

That's gonna make it really hard for my wife to teach anything to her biology students, given that, as a religious person, she rejects the possibility of knowing anything about the world.

60LolaWalser
Set 20, 2012, 1:28pm

#53

Don't you ever get bored?

But most people do not think that free-will is the merely the lack of an external impediment.

Right. So? Tuna or chicken today? Plaid or paisley? The bus or car? Post or not post? Murder Joe or cuss him out or avoid the blighter entirely? Etc.

The "impediments" to "free" choice happen on a level below our consciousness. Do you have the free will to impede your patellar reflex? Do you care? If not, why not?

it's pathetic and illogical to believe in no objective morality or aesthetics and then make moral and aesthetic arguments.

Bullshit, as usual. Just because I didn't buy YOUR morality and aesthetics doesn't mean I go without.

61southernbooklady
Set 20, 2012, 1:31pm

>57 John5918: In what sense do you think "religious people" believe the universe is not knowable?

Is God knowable?

62timspalding
Set 20, 2012, 1:34pm

The "impediments" to "free" choice happen on a level below our consciousness. Do you have the free will to impede your patellar reflex? Do you care? If not, why not?

I thought you were making a compatibilist argument. It's apparent you don't grasp the only logical way or holding the opinion you hold. I should have known when you claimed that objective morality was some sort of religious thing.

63John5918
Set 20, 2012, 1:39pm

>61 southernbooklady: Is God part of the universe?

64StormRaven
Set 20, 2012, 1:43pm

Materialism does not seem to me (and many others, many of them not theists) to offer an adequate explanation of consciousness.

This is supernaturalism of the gaps at best. Will you discard your supernaturalism if a material explanation for consciousness is found? I suspect not. You'll just redefine the area of "supernatural".

While not strictly required, materialism also disallows free will, objective morality and any sort of meaning or teleology to anything, which goes against our intuitions and makes for a world that strikes many of us as very "ugly."

Whether we like the structure of the world or not is of no consequence, and it isn't a particularly good argument against materialism.

In any event, if there is "objective morality" then it would be inhuman and alien almost by definition, and as such should be rejected by humans out of hand.

65timspalding
Set 20, 2012, 1:45pm

Bullshit, as usual. Just because I didn't buy YOUR morality and aesthetics doesn't mean I go without.

Certainly. But keep it inside. It has no truth in it that anyone else should be moved to care about, just like my love of broccoli or my dream. The problem comes when you argue about something that, according to your theory of it, is inherently inarguable.

66LolaWalser
Set 20, 2012, 1:47pm

#55

We are demonstrating the existence of ways of knowing things that are not fully covered by the methods of science.

No, I didn't miss your point, that is EXACTLY the point I addressed. History of many kinds is investigated by science, to higher or lesser satisfaction of criteria for "knowledge", with greater or lesser certainty. So far, the agency of a "god" in this world hasn't been demonstrated even to the low levels obtaining in history of civilization.

How many we find is immaterial so long as demonstration by the scientific method is held up as the sine qua non of things that aren't false.

Only as long as you insist on substituting your "knowledge" of god for the proof of god's existence.

67timspalding
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 1:50pm

Will you discard your supernaturalism if a material explanation for consciousness is found?

I think certain data would be suggestive, but it's ultimately not logically possible.

Only as long as you insist on substituting your "knowledge" of god for the proof of god's existence.

See above where I say proof is impossible.

68LolaWalser
Set 20, 2012, 1:51pm

It's apparent you don't grasp the only logical way or holding the opinion you hold.

LOL, a million apologies. I'm so sorry I dare hold my opinions in a way you don't find "logical".

69nathanielcampbell
Set 20, 2012, 1:56pm

>60 LolaWalser:: "Just because I didn't buy YOUR morality and aesthetics doesn't mean I go without. "

Fine. You have a morality and aesthetics, they just don't match ours.

Then answer this: what is the basis of your morality? How do you determine what is right and what is wrong? If somebody does something that they believe is right and you believe is wrong, how do you determine which view of right and wrong should prevail?

70nathanielcampbell
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 2:28pm

Mensagem removida pelo autor.

71StormRaven
Set 20, 2012, 2:01pm

I think certain data would be suggestive, but it's ultimately not logically possible.

Lots of things have been declared to be logically impossible that turned out not to be.

But that's neither here nor there. The real issue here is that you assert that you are rejecting materialism based upon an entirely non-falsifiable position, as are all the rest of your reasons to reject materialism. That ultimately makes your rejection to materialism entirely subjective, and thus, as you say It has no truth in it that anyone else should be moved to care about, just like my love of broccoli or my dream.

Your anti-materialism is based on nothing but the fact that you don't like the answers you get. In a fit of pique you decide it can't be true and invent a solution based on magic that is more to your liking.

72LolaWalser
Set 20, 2012, 2:11pm

#69

Then answer this: what is the basis of your morality? How do you determine what is right and what is wrong? If somebody does something that they believe is right and you believe is wrong, how do you determine which view of right and wrong should prevail?

I'll answer, but I'm genuinely puzzled: why do you want to know? Is this sheer curiosity? What does it matter?

It would be funny if you didn't spend your whole day criticizing us for holding opinions that you don't find "logical".

I don't believe you'll find a single instance in which I wrote about theists' logic or lack of logic. Quit putting words in my mouth, okay?

73nathanielcampbell
Set 20, 2012, 2:15pm

It's interesting to see how each side employs the rhetoric of assumption and rejection.

Materialists / atheists claim that theists must be making the active rejection of materialism / atheism, as if the latter is the default position and the former a voluntary choice based on no evidence.

Theists claim that materialists / atheists must be making the active rejection of theism, as if the latter is the default position and the former a voluntary choice based on a limited perception of epistemology.

I think part of the problem is the way in which we understand the concept of "default position". Materialists claim that theirs is the default philosophy because it is based on material evidence. Theists, on the other hand, claim theirs as the default because, well, theism is where most of us start our lives as thinkers about the world.

I don't really know how to mediate between these assumptions, beyond simply pointing them out.

74nathanielcampbell
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 2:54pm

>72 LolaWalser:: "I don't believe you'll find a single instance in which I wrote about theists' logic or lack of logic. Quit putting words in my mouth, okay?"

I apologize. I've gone back through several threads and seen that you do, in fact, make a point that you are not calling theists irrational (though when you say in this post that, "the only way I could ever become a believer would be to lose my mind," the strong implication is that one must lose one's mind--be irrational?--to believe in God; of course, a few posts later, I admitted that "losing your mind" has often been considered a theological good thing vis-a-vis the mystical tradition).

"I'll answer, but I'm genuinely puzzled: why do you want to know? Is this sheer curiosity? What does it matter?"

One argument often put forward in favor of theism is that the divinity--whatever it is--offers a universal ethical/moral/epistemological standard against which to judge human behavior or the truth of human knowledge. God, as it were, provides an objective standard to mediate when two human ideas about right and wrong collide.

It is often proposed--as, I think, Tim is alluding to--that materialistic atheism offers no such standard. There remains no way to determine which human ideas about right and wrong are actually right and which ones are wrong.

So I'm genuinely curious to know how you solve this problem. When someone does something they believe is right but that you believe is wrong, who gets to decide between you and them? What criteria do you use? And what is the authority of those criteria? (I.e. if the criteria favor your view of right and wrong over the other guy, what's to stop the other guy from coming up with his own criteria for justice that favor him?) As you can see, it can easily become an infinite regression of he said / she said, until somebody offers a standard of justice that is independently authoritative.

75southernbooklady
Set 20, 2012, 2:38pm

So I'm genuinely curious to know how you solve this problem.

Well, one answer might be that an atheist does not consider it a problem, just the opposite. A moral code based on a relativist position is not any less ethical or less moral in its results. You do not lie with your neighbor's wife because one of the ten commandments tells you not to. I don't because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or break up anybody's marriage.

My moral code is just as subject to constant self examination as yours is, if not more so, since I do not have the reassurance of a religious doctrine to tell me I am on the right path. My moral code is open to re-examination based on experience. It is not any less authoritative to me because it doesn't come from God. In fact, it is all the more demanding because when I go astray, make a mistake, or do hurt someone even inadvertently, the responsibility rests solely with me.

It was once completely moral to own slaves, but the human race has by and large revised that notion. It was once completely immoral to engage in homosexual activity. That particular directive is becoming archaic. A couple of years ago I was reading a set of space opera stories (Honor Harrington, I think?) that existed in a future where our understanding of sentience was so finely nuanced, that eating animals was profoundly repugnant to people, and everyone was a vegetarian. Perhaps our moral code will evolve in such a way.

In any case, I'm always befuddled by the implication that without "a universal ethical/moral/epistemological standard against which to judge human behavior" we are all going to become hedonist crazies. I'm quite sure that there were moral people before there was the ten commandments. And I have noticed that the devices needed to enforce that so called universal moral standard are not particularly effective. The threat of Hell doesn't seem to have been all that big a deterrent, anyway.

76nathanielcampbell
Set 20, 2012, 2:56pm

>75 southernbooklady:: I don't disagree with the substance of what you've said, as I think that it's the method of morality that even most religious people employ.

I think I may have been unclear, however, in stating just what the "problem" is whose solution we're trying to get it. The problem is this: when your belief of right and wrong is different from somebody else's belief of right and wrong, how do we decide which one of you is right and which one is wrong?

77LolaWalser
Set 20, 2012, 3:03pm

#74

You do realise you too live in--nominally at least--secular state, which regulates public and private conduct according to a set of laws not based on religious teaching?

And that any number of states in history had similar systems and codes, again not relying on religion?

Where does this human tendency to develop codes of law and ethics come from?

God, as it were, provides an objective standard to mediate when two human ideas about right and wrong collide.

Except every time different versions of "god" and his standards bloodily collide.

I put it to you that codes that govern our behaviour partly arise from our biological makeup, and partly (and most importantly, for the great majority of us who were born in human societies) from the codes that have been set according to the basic needs for most harmonious life within a collective.

For most of us, obeying such collective rules comes more or less naturally. Do you observe many natural-born criminals around you? It would seem most people find living in a society according to society's rules (more or less) isn't unbearably difficult. I don't think I'm an especially good person, but I don't find myself beset with temptations to kill, steal, cheat and lie, and from what I see, that is probably true for most of us.

As I don't believe religious teachings on morality have been handed down by supernatural beings, I see them too as stemming from human nature and necessities of collective living.

78southernbooklady
Set 20, 2012, 3:22pm

>76 nathanielcampbell: The problem is this: when your belief of right and wrong is different from somebody else's belief of right and wrong, how do we decide which one of you is right and which one is wrong?

Presuming that we are both human, there will be room for compromise, unless it is something that we each feel fundamental to our moral code, in which case one will have to give way to the other. If gay marriage was made legal tomorrow and accepted as a legitimate social institution by the laws of this country, I don't for one moment think that all the people who think it is wrong will actually change their minds on the subject.

79StormRaven
Set 20, 2012, 3:27pm

God, as it were, provides an objective standard to mediate when two human ideas about right and wrong collide.

No. It doesn't. Your interpretations of "God" and "objective morality" are subjective. Even if they did exist, the only way you have of evaluating them is subjective.

80nathanielcampbell
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 3:34pm

>79 StormRaven:: "Even if they did exist, the only way you have of evaluating them is subjective."

Then what do we do when two subjective evaluations of morality collide?

For example, one person might think that it is an acceptable and even laudatory use of modern technology to test human embryoes for a variety of genetic traits and then choosing which embryo to implant in a woman's womb based on those traits that are considered desireable -- resistance to disease, or a certain eye or hair color, or perhaps height and strength.

Another person might consider such eugenics morally deplorable. What's to stop us from genetically weeding out people we simply don't like?

How do we decide which side is right and which side is wrong?

(I will point out that religious people hardly have an advantage in such sticky ethical questions. A situation like this is difficult to discern no matter whether you believe in God or not.)

81southernbooklady
Set 20, 2012, 3:42pm

>80 nathanielcampbell: How do we decide which side is right and which side is wrong?

I guess I don't understand what you are asking, NC. I would answer you decide based on your conscience. As do others. And it is all worked out according to the laws of the society you live in. You give human genetic engineering as an example. One could also ask about stem cell research, weapons-as-deterrents, "just wars."

It seems to me that you want the security of some "universal moral standard" to which you can always look for choosing the right path. I can't offer you that security, only the suggestion that you act according to what you believe is right. If you think abortion is murder, then by all means work to eradicate it -- make it illegal. make it unnecessary. You are in a society where others will not necessarily agree with you, so you will have to work long and hard for incremental success, or possibly end in failure, if the rest of society thinks otherwise.

Welcome to life in the human race.

82StormRaven
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 4:17pm

How do we decide which side is right and which side is wrong?

Well, gee, what do you do right now? You only have your subjective evaluations to guide you now and somehow you manage to do it.

83LolaWalser
Set 20, 2012, 3:57pm

That's an example without an absolute right or wrong; it's a question of which view will prevail.

Is it right or wrong to eat pork?

84lawecon
Set 20, 2012, 4:31pm

~54
"History and the way science examines history doesn't enter into the discussion about god's existence at all--as long as this "god" is supposed to STILL exist and STILL exert influence. Which, as far as I know, is what any believer believes to be the case."

Nice of you to speak for all believers. Are you receiving a fee for your services?

85lawecon
Set 20, 2012, 4:33pm

~54
"History and the way science examines history doesn't enter into the discussion about god's existence at all--as long as this "god" is supposed to STILL exist and STILL exert influence. Which, as far as I know, is what any believer believes to be the case."

Nice of you to speak for all believers. Are you receiving a fee for your services?

"Right now "God" doesn't have a history, only mythologies."

So, any record over, say, 2,000 years old is a "mythology." Damn, I'm learning a lot from this thread.

86rrp
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 5:05pm

That's an example without an absolute right or wrong; it's a question of which view will prevail.

Ah! Atheism combined with a "might is right" morality. Sounds like a recipe for success.

87southernbooklady
Set 20, 2012, 5:18pm

A position can prevail without resorting to coercion. And "might is right" is a philosophy not specific to any political system, rather it tends to poison all of them.

88nathanielcampbell
Set 20, 2012, 6:35pm

>87 southernbooklady:: "And "might is right" is a philosophy not specific to any political system, rather it tends to poison all of them."

How do we keep it from doing so?

89modalursine
Set 20, 2012, 6:39pm

ref 44

I wouldn't get too excited about the "absence of evidence" thing. Or rather, the absence of something can count as positive evidence for some proposition or other.

"My glasses are in the drawer. "
"No they're not!"
"How do you know they're not? "
"Well here's the drawer, take a look, what do you see?"
"Dang! There they are! Gone!"

Alternate Universe:
"Dang, I don't see them in there"
"See, your glasses are not in the drawer"
"NO, just because I can't find them there doesn't mean they really aren't there
anyway".
"Say what?"
"Absence of evidence that they ARE there, isn't evidence that they're absent from the drawer"
"Read a lot of theology have we? "

Not finding the glasses in the drawer (after looking diligently) counts as evidence that they're not there.

If the Universe had a supremely good and powerful owner operator we would expect a world with a good deal less cruelty than the world we see.

The existence of so much gratuitous cruelty and evil, on such a scale, is pretty good evidence (though of course not a definitive proof) that the premise (supreme benevolence and the power to make things happen, or not happen) must be false.

90nathanielcampbell
Set 20, 2012, 6:41pm

>89 modalursine:: The irony is that, in the post right before yours (88), I posed a question of "might vs. right", precisely because I'm reading Job with my students this week.

91modalursine
Set 20, 2012, 7:06pm

ref 90

If Job, or rather the pietistic "book ends" placed around the core of the Job story (clearly a re-write done by a committee to blunt its impact on the rubes), I mean the opening scene where its all framed as the Heavenly Prosecutor's attempts to serve (after being duly licensed by the Boss) as an agent provocateur to elicit disloyal remarks from Job, and the last scene where "The Voice" speaking out of the whirlwind tells Job that he has no standing to complain; if those are meant to be a "theodicy" explaining why arbitrary evil is visited upon the just, its one of the lamer attempts that have survived.

It falls completely flat as all such theodicies do.

92margd
Set 20, 2012, 7:46pm

> 89 Not finding the glasses in the drawer (after looking diligently) counts as evidence that they're not there.

The appropriate hypothesis is "my glasses don't exist".

My understanding is that all great religions try to square the proposition that
1. God exists
2. God is all-powerful
3. God is good.
4. Bad things happen to (apparently) innocent people.
("Apparently" because of Buddhist explanation.)
Interesting!

93richardbsmith
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 7:53pm

When considering theodicy, I always come to the size of things. I looked at Andromeda last night. Another completely different galaxy, even bigger than ours.

Theodicy may be an issue that arises from our perspective of ourselves. And that might actually be the answer provided by Job.

94LolaWalser
Editado: Set 20, 2012, 9:36pm

#85

any record over, say, 2,000 years old is a "mythology.

Records of existence of religions aren't records of god's existence. For the latter, there is nothing better than mythologies. Work on that reading comprehension, why don't you.

Might vs. right: unsurprisingly, this is strictly the troll's contribution to the discussion, nothing what I said, nor remotely relevant to what was being discussed.

A view, as southernbooklady noted, can prevail by any number of means, including direct democracy (Swiss referendums, for instance--there was at least one on issues touching on Nathaniel's example), representative democracy (court decisions, such as legalised abortion in the US), a tyrant's whim etc.

The point is that for the example offered there is no--universal--absolute standard of rightness or wrongness.

95rrp
Set 20, 2012, 11:25pm

Switzerland? -> Orson Wells: The Third Man. Your move.

96rrp
Set 20, 2012, 11:33pm

Swiss direct democracy "resorts to coercion". There are jails in Switzerland are there not? They coerce those who do not agree with the morality of the majority by locking them up. The Swiss also have an Army to coerce those who would like to live in and on their pretty land to remain outside the country. They coerce their friendly banks to reveal sensitive private information about their customers to other nation states like the US. There is no such thing as a moral position that "can prevail without resorting to coercion".

97lawecon
Set 20, 2012, 11:39pm

~92

"My understanding is that all great religions try to square the proposition that
1. God exists
2. God is all-powerful
3. God is good.
4. Bad things happen to (apparently) innocent people.
("Apparently" because of Buddhist explanation.)
Interesting!"

Is that what you understand? As I said above, damn, I'm learning a lot in this thread.

98lawecon
Set 20, 2012, 11:42pm

~94

"any record over, say, 2,000 years old is a "mythology.

Records of existence of religions aren't records of god's existence. For the latter, there is nothing better than mythologies. Work on that reading comprehension, why don't you."

So, if it mentions a G-d it is mythology. Damn, this is exciting stuff. I'm learning so much !! What if it mentions a mushroom?

99John5918
Set 21, 2012, 12:15am

>81 southernbooklady: If you think abortion is murder, then by all means work to eradicate it -- make it illegal. make it unnecessary. You are in a society where others will not necessarily agree with you, so you will have to work long and hard for incremental success, or possibly end in failure, if the rest of society thinks otherwise.

I agree with you. This is the democratic process at work. But didn't you (possibly in another thread, possibly not you but someone else) criticise this as Christians imposing their beliefs on others?

100lawecon
Set 21, 2012, 12:41am

~72

"I don't believe you'll find a single instance in which I wrote about theists' logic or lack of logic. Quit putting words in my mouth, okay?"

The above comment by the same poster who was speaking for "all believers" in post #54.

101Booksloth
Set 21, 2012, 6:16am

Blimey! I turn my back and suddenly there are 75 new messages. Later I may get round to reading them all (well, most of them) but for now I'll just respond to the first of them:

#17 You talk as if the giant dancing badger has just now been seen by one person, a stunning new discovery. But in fact two thirds or more of the world's population, in being invited to come and see the giant dancing badger, appears to have found some evidence that it is indeed dancing away.

And we're back again to the question of evidence (which, incidentally John, and with the greatest of respect, you seem happy to use for your purposes when it suits you, while repeatedly telling the rest of us that evidence isn't necessary). If these people have evidence, why are they so reluctant to share it with the rest of us? Just one piece of credible evidence would get the whole world agreeing with them and yet it still hasn't happened. This was really the point of my earlier post, that a lack of evidence eventually becomes sufficiently substantial to be accepted as evidence that something doesn't actually exist.

Another of those arguments that believers seem to turn on a dime about is how much of the population they actually make up. If another religion comes in for criticism they detach themselves from it so fast it makes your head spin and yet, when it's just a numbers game, suddenly there is no difference between them. People who believe unlikely things are almost certainly in the majority - that includes believers in all and any gods, people who believe the ocean 'remembers' a drop of some deliberately added agent and yet forgets all the dead and mouldering fish, rubbish and human waste, people who think they are Napoleon etc, etc. However, believers in Jesus Christ (and that tends to be the belief we are discussing here) are in the minority. Just because a lot of people believe something> that doesn't believe they all believe the same thing.

Let's get one thing clear here - nobody has seen the giant badger. Some people think they have seen it (many people whose eyesight is worse even than mine) and yet that is not the same thing at all. If you (even in company) think you have seen something that is empirically shown not to be where you say it is, it may be your eyesight that needs testing, not that of the people who accept there is nothing there.

102Booksloth
Set 21, 2012, 6:23am

#40
Have two people examine Picasso's Guernica. Will their observations of the painting agree? I doubt it.

But they will both agree that it is there.

103Booksloth
Set 21, 2012, 6:49am

#22 Or do you (a generalised atheist "you", not you personally) feel that you must prove mine wrong?

#42 Why do you seem to spend so much time criticizing us for what "remains locked within our heads"?

This one always cracks me up. After thousands of years of atheists being persecuted by believers (as opposed to one set of believers being persecuted by another set of believers) the minute we argue back we're picking on you when all you really want to do is keep your faith private. Well, here's news, your faith isn't private. Your faith affects my life because it affects my laws; I pay taxes to contribute to the running of your religious institutions (who pay no taxes themselves); until very recently, children whose parents didn't want them indoctrinated at school were sent to what was vritually 'detention' while religious activities took place, even in so-called non-religious schools; until very recently many people were unable to marry (and gain the tax and inheritance advantages that went with that) because religion disapproved; even today, countless men, women and children die in religious wars etc, etc, etc. In a much smaller capacity, my daily routine is frequently interrupted by people knocking on my door to preach their faith. When religion stops affecting my life I will stop protesting against it.

104John5918
Editado: Set 21, 2012, 7:10am

>101 Booksloth: you seem happy to use for your purposes when it suits you, while repeatedly telling the rest of us that evidence isn't necessary

Well, I'd probably have to look at each instance to comment on that. Sometimes I demand evidence from atheists with a touch of irony or tongue in cheek, because it seems to be at the centre of their case and yet they are sometimes sloppy about making claims which don't have much evidence; I'm challenging them on their own terms. I'm not sure whether I've said that evidence isn't necessary; I think the debate which has raged backwards and forwards is what is evidence, or what is credible evidence. Clearly there is disagreement about this. I think it's also clear that some believe that the scientific method is applicable in all circumstances, others believe that there are types of knowledge and experience which may be outside the scientific realm.

Just one piece of credible evidence would get the whole world agreeing with them and yet it still hasn't happened

Well, it's got two thirds of the whole world agreeing with them. Two out of three isn't bad. Might I add that just one piece of credible evidence that the divine does not exist might also get the whole world agreeing, but nobody has come up with it yet.

>103 Booksloth: your faith isn't private. Your faith affects my life because it affects my laws

And your atheism affects my life because it affects my laws. So does your neighbour's belief in nuclear weapons, or capital punishment, or gun ownership, or conservatism, or socialism, or whatever, regardless of her religious affiliation (and within Christianity you'll find people who take completely opposite views on all of those and more, including abortion and gay marriage). That's democracy. We can all affect someone else's life by lobbying and voting for legislation.

The issue of tax exemption for churches is a different one. By all means lobby to change the law if you don't think it's fair, but that's rather different from protesting against religion per se. And protesting against particular manifestations of religion (I too get frustrated by those religions which go around knocking on doors trying to convert people; try Kevin Bloody Wilson's approach in The Festival of Life; NB adult content warning in spades) is different from trying to prove that there is no divine.

Your >103 Booksloth: doesn't explain why you feel the need to prove me wrong in my belief in the divine rather than simply disagreeing with me and working against the manifestations of religion which you find objectionable. Sometimes it really does feel as if militant atheists have the same mission as fundamentalist Christians; to prove that their belief is right and everybody else's is wrong.

105Booksloth
Set 21, 2012, 7:28am

#104 Well, it's got two thirds of the whole world agreeing with them. And what was that one piece of credible evidence again?

one piece of credible evidence that the divine does not exist might also get the whole world agreeing, but nobody has come up with it yet. The only way in which you can prove something doesn't exist is to keep coming up with refutations of claims that it does. This has been done time and time again.

your atheism affects my life because it affects my laws In what way exactly? I am not aware of any laws in my own country - perhaps yours is different - that were put in place purely to appease atheism. Similarly, the examples you give (nuclear weapons etc) have nothing to do with religion or lack of it and, as you yourself admit, are viewed differently by individuals regardless of faith. Yes, there are laws I disagree with but they are individual matters that can be fought against without having to take on the umbrella of a church that has nothing to do with most people's lives. We can vote out (in theory, at least) the party that is in favour of certain laws - we cannot vote out the church's influence on the state except by pointing out at every given opportunity our disagreement with it. Religion is not, and should not, be a special case in which everything that falls under that particular heading is considered right in law. In the country where I live the head of state is also head of the church - that alone immediately privileges the churches laws and disadvantages those who wish to have nothing to do with that church.

Incidentally, pointing out that you, too, get hacked off by people trying to converts you on your doorstep only reinforces my point about you including in your statistics numerous other groups with whom you have nothing in common.

106Booksloth
Set 21, 2012, 7:40am

Just noticed your final sentence in #104. Why do you take the argument so personally? I'm not trying to 'prove you wrong' (I don't need to do that), I'm replying to your earlier comments. What you believe personally has little bearing on my life or that of anyone else, it's when ancient beliefs, from the days when people knew no better, continue to be enshrined in law for no good reason that I, and everyone else who objects, have a duty to comment and if the laws of your country were based around the existence of my giant badger I would guess (hope?) you might have something to say about that.

107southernbooklady
Set 21, 2012, 7:49am

>99 John5918: I agree with you. This is the democratic process at work. But didn't you (possibly in another thread, possibly not you but someone else) criticise this as Christians imposing their beliefs on others?

Not exactly. I protest when organized religion interferes in American politics. And I do worry greatly about the apparently quickly eroding wall of separation between church and state--the one thing I think is at the foundation of our guarantee of personal freedom and individual rights. So it irks me to have official religious advisers to the President, it irks me that a man's (or woman's) religious beliefs is scrutinized as a criteria for a candidate to public office. It bothers me that there is a strong element that would like to make the United States "a Christian Nation," which it is emphatically NOT.

To return to the example most prevalent in my mind--because it is the one I have to deal with now on a daily basis. Here in North Carolina this year we passed "Amendment One," which defines the only official recognized marriage as between a man and a woman, to our state constitution. Leaving aside all the issues that this amendment brings up--the fact that homosexual marriage was already illegal in the state, the fact that the amendment is so vaguely worded it could apply to simple domestic partnerships of the heterosexual variety, the fact that one of the amendment's co-writers ended up voting against it, while the other acknowledged that it would most likely be overturned within twenty years--leaving all that aside, here is a case where religion has interfered to impose itself on a secular civil government.

After all, there was no reason for the Amendment, as gay marriage--which it was targeting--was already illegal. The justifications for the Amendment were entirely religious, based in Christian doctrine, not civil precedent. The issue was politicized in the churches, and pastors across the state urged their congregations to adopt it. (A great many of the state's business leaders, incidentally, urged the opposite).

It was clear that the people who voted to adopt the Amendment, did so because they believe gay marriage is incompatible with a Christian society. The people who voted against, on the other hand, regarded it as a civil rights issue, because the Amendment singles out a group of people and denies them equal protection under the law.

All done, and hopefully will be undone, by the democratic process.

108lawecon
Set 21, 2012, 7:55am

~107

"It was clear that the people who voted to adopt the Amendment, did so because they believe gay marriage is incompatible with a Christian society. The people who voted against, on the other hand, regarded it as a civil rights issue, because the Amendment singles out a group of people and denies them equal protection under the law."

So. let me get this straight. If you are a Christian who voted against this amendment because you believe that equal protection under the law is a Christian value, that, ah, doesn't count?

109nathanielcampbell
Editado: Set 21, 2012, 9:43am

Booksloth says....

In 103: "Well, here's news, your faith isn't private. Your faith affects my life because it affects my laws."

In 106: "What you believe personally has little bearing on my life or that of anyone else..."

So which is it? Are believers allowed to have their faith without affecting you? Or does their faith always affect you?

And why is it, then, that only religious people aren't allowed to participate in the democratic process? If you have a non-religious reason to oppose a political view, then by all means, vote! But if your reason is religious, you cannot possibly be allowed to affect the political process.

110southernbooklady
Set 21, 2012, 10:26am

>109 nathanielcampbell: If you have a non-religious reason to oppose a political view, then by all means, vote! But if your reason is religious, you cannot possibly be allowed to affect the political process.

I know this seems to be counter-intuitive to you, but at least in the United States, which is specifically mandated to "make no law respecting the establishment of a religion" a purely religious reason for a law is insufficient. In fact, it is unconstitutional. So it isn't that religious people can't participate in the democratic process--it's that they can't impose their religious directives upon the rest of society. There has to be a secular reason for a law, and it's justification must be for the civil common good, not because something in their Bible or belief system tells them that it should be law.

That's why gay rights is such a good example. Homosexual practices are almost universally considered "sinful" and counter to Christian understanding of a moral way of life. Secular society no longer thinks this, and considers homosexual relationships not harmful--indeed, even beneficial if they are stable--to society. So Christians can lobby against recognizing homosexual relationships all they want, but not because they are prohibited by the Christian Bible. Only because they think such relationships are damaging to society. And in this case, they will have a very hard time proving their position.

111nathanielcampbell
Editado: Set 21, 2012, 10:42am

>110 southernbooklady:: Dangit, here I was about to vote for a candidate because he supports taking care of the poor and hungry and oppressed -- but since my motivation was Jesus's command in the Gospels to do so, I guess I can't support that candidate anymore. After all, the First Amendment doesn't allow me to use my religious beliefs to influence policy.

Oh well. Guess I'll have to vote for the bastard who's going to cut services to the poor so that the rich can afford to buy more vacation homes.

112southernbooklady
Set 21, 2012, 10:46am

You're being silly, nc. It derails the conversation without addressing my point. What you can't do is demand that a law be made a law because Jesus said so.

I seem to remember a couple years ago there was a judge in Georgia who got into trouble because he had a big replica of the 10 commandments placed in the lobby of the court house or something. He had to remove it. Not because everyone wanted to sleep with their neighbors' wives, but because the United States is not in the business of enforcing the 10 commandments. It is in the business of upholding the Constitution.

113John5918
Set 21, 2012, 11:32am

>107 southernbooklady: It was clear that the people who voted to adopt the Amendment, did so because they believe gay marriage is incompatible with a Christian society. The people who voted against, on the other hand, regarded it as a civil rights issue, because the Amendment singles out a group of people and denies them equal protection under the law.

But what about the people who voted against because Christianity is about justice for all, and their concern for civil rights issues is part of their Christian faith? OK, I admit there might not have been many of them in North Carolina, but the principle is the same. Who are you to judge my motive for voting for something? Personally I tend to be a socialist who supports civil rights issues, and my Christianity is a major part of this. I would certainly have voted in favour of measures which give equal rights to gay people. But under your criteria, should I not be allowed to vote?

>112 southernbooklady: I don't think Nathaniel is being silly. I think he is demonstrating that your understandable frustration about a particular bloc of Christians who vote in a particular way because of their understanding of their religion can lead to an untenable situation if taken to extremes. Ultimately you can't know or dictate my motivation for voting as I do. Many different things influence me (life experience, culture, upbringing, education, social class, economic status, ethnicity, nationality, etc and yes, religion); how can we isolate religion amongst all those influences?

114southernbooklady
Set 21, 2012, 11:42am

>113 John5918: Who are you to judge my motive for voting for something?
I don't pretend to know the motives for why an individual votes the way they do. That is between you and your conscience. What you seem to miss is that in this particular case the motives were public, were lobbied for by religious organizations, were stated in the public debate on the subject and were justified on religious grounds. You seem to think I am saying religious people shouldn't be allowed to vote. That is nonsense. But laws in this country are founded on the civic common good, not the religious notion of what constitutes a moral society. For very good reason.

115lawecon
Set 21, 2012, 11:43am

~113

"But what about the people who voted against because Christianity is about justice for all, and their concern for civil rights issues is part of their Christian faith?"

Obviously she doesn't want to answer that question, John. I already asked it in #108 and she is ignoring the inquiry.

116John5918
Set 21, 2012, 11:57am

>114 southernbooklady: in this particular case the motives were public, were lobbied for by religious organizations, were stated in the public debate on the subject and were justified on religious grounds.

Would it have been OK if they were lobbying for something which you agreed with? There are other civil rights issues where churches have publicly stood up for freedom in many parts of the world. Do we criticise them for that?

117lawecon
Editado: Set 21, 2012, 12:10pm

~110
"I know this seems to be counter-intuitive to you, but at least in the United States, which is specifically mandated to "make no law respecting the establishment of a religion" a purely religious reason for a law is insufficient. In fact, it is unconstitutional."

Let's see if I can improve your understanding here. The phrase you cite to has to do with the effect of laws - no establishment of a church or of a religion. It has nothing at all to do with the motivation for making a law or refusing to make a law. Motivations for otherwise legally permissible acts are within the private sphere of individuals and are not the concern of government in a free society. Only a totalitarian society is concerned with such things.

~114

Damn, I missed that part of the Declaration and the Constitution and the US Code Annotated- the part where one has to have only the "civic common good" in mind when one engages in political matters. Could you point it out?

118southernbooklady
Editado: Set 21, 2012, 12:25pm

>116 John5918: Would it have been OK if they were lobbying for something which you agreed with?

Honestly? Not if they were lobbying for something to alter the state constitution. They could have argued for a "love thy neighbor" amendment and it would have made me squirm. But we're not talking about exhorting congregations to support aid to Africa. We're talking about the legal system of this country.

Here's a converse example. In Oklahoma a couple years ago there was a ultra-right wing push to adopt an amendment to the state constitution that would ban the state courts from consulting sharia law. (This was a political movement, mind you, as far as I know there was no official religious support or organization on this issue--and Oklahoma isn't the only state to explore bans on sharia law). The amendment was ruled unconstitutional based on the first amendment -- the part where "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"

The politician who wrote the amendment then re-wrote it so that Islamic law was not specifically mentioned, and ended up with text so vague as to be applied to any foreign or religious law (rather like what happened concerning marriage and domestic partnerships in the case in my state). It was still blocked by the federal courts.

Basically the point is that the state has no business either upholding or banning a particular religion or religious practice. Religious law of any kind is simply not its province. If twenty years from now we were to discover that most of the people living in this country were Buddhist, or Hindi, or Islamic, then trust me, the Christians in the minority would be profoundly grateful for the commitment and restraint required by the First Amendment.

(edited for a typo)

119modalursine
Set 21, 2012, 1:14pm

If by "God" one means a benevolent, powerful, intelligent personality who owns and operates the Universe, then if naturalism is true, there wouldn't seem to be much room for said personage.

But can systematic investigation of the natural world (aka "science") rule out non naturalism as a viable option? Some of us think that for all practical purposes it has pretty much already done so; but when we're talking "philosophy" (If you had a brother, would he like noodle pudding? ) we're leaving practical considerations behind to some extent.

I suppose it would always be possible to argue, however implausibly and however "daft" it might seem to the rest of us, that our naturalistic description of the world is incomplete.

But there's an asymmetry here...a description can be proved incomplete by a single counter example, but no matter how many seeming counterexamples are rendered explainable in the light of further knowledge and "brought into the fold" so to speak, there's no way we could definitively prove that our description is in fact complete. Who knows, the next phenomenon we discover might well be the one that demonstrates the incompleteness.

So can science rule out God? Not for those who want God come hell or high water (no pun); but for those who didn't walk into the room already committed to the idea that God is real in the way that literary characters are not, then naturalism becomes more plausible and theism less so until in the limit the positions approach probability one and zero respectively.

Just in case that sounds too brash; let me point out that "science" is in a bit of a pickle right now.

Einsteins theories of special and general relativity are well tested and have never given the wrong answers yet for problems within their respective domains.

Quantum theory has been well tested and has never given the wrong answers yet for problems within its domain.

But the theories are incompatible with one another. They are both, as far as we can tell, true, or at least really good approximations to "The way things are", and yet they can't both be true because they are mutually contradictory. Relativity "works" at very large scale and very high velocities, and QM works at very small scale. Perhaps there is a larger theory which converges to relativity for large scale and to QM for small scale, but so far, nobody knows what that theory, if it exists at all, could be.

120nathanielcampbell
Editado: Set 21, 2012, 1:39pm

>114 southernbooklady: and 116: " in this particular case the motives were public, were lobbied for by religious organizations"

You do recall that Martin Luther King, Jr. was an ordained minister, right? "I have seen the Promised Land!" he declared the day before he was killed. Other excerpts from that speech:
{On the need for boycotts}: We just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, "God sent us by here, to say to you that you're not treating his children right. And we've come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God's children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you.
(...)
{From the end of the speech}: Like anybody, I would like to live - a long life; longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
Sounds like the use of religious rhetoric to support legal change in the United States. How terrible! Instead, all those black churches should have stayed mum about civil rights, since, you know, it's against the First Amendment for a church to have political views.

121John5918
Set 21, 2012, 1:37pm

>118 southernbooklady: But both Christians and non-Christians are for gay marriage and both Christians and non-Christians are against gay marriage, for a whole mixture of reasons which I mentioned in >113 John5918:. I'm a Christian and I would not vote for a ban on gay marriage. There's an active LBGT Christian movement. There are mainstream Christian denominations such as the Episcopal Church which have a pretty open view on it. And there are others, rather a lot of others admittedly, who take the opposite view. Would you argue that the LBGT Christian movement is imposing its religious view on your legislation when they campaign, lobby and vote in favour of gay marriage? Gay marriage is not a religious issue in the sense that, say, imposing Islamic shari'a would be. Gay marriage is supported by numerous pressure groups (some of which happen to be religious) and is opposed by other pressure groups (some of which happen to be religious). I'm repeating myself, but we don't seem to be connecting on this.

122John5918
Set 21, 2012, 1:41pm

>120 nathanielcampbell: Thanks for that, Nathaniel. One that is uppermost in my mind is the role of the Church in the South African liberation struggle (with the exception of the Dutch Reformed Church, which has since repented and apologised for its aberration). Religious rhetoric to support legal change, which was supported, nay praised, by virtually every country in the world...

123nathanielcampbell
Set 21, 2012, 1:46pm

>122 John5918:: One might also mention the crucial role Pope John Paul II had in triggering the Solidarity Movement in Poland, a key step in bringing down the Iron Curtain.

124southernbooklady
Set 21, 2012, 2:21pm

Yes, yes. Churches do many good things. And have done many bad things. I do not deny it. I do question the legitimacy of a church that, for example, tells its members that Obama is a Kenyan Muslim and makes it clear to even the most dimwitted among them who they should vote for in the next election.

Here's an interesting piece on the role of religion in US politics:

But should religious viewpoints, even on moral issues, have any role in our political debate? Some say no, on the grounds that effective arguments require premises that virtually everyone taking part in the discussion accepts. A religious argument, based on, say, the authority of the Bible or of the Pope, would therefore, be out of place in a public debate among citizens with every variety belief and disbelief.

But this line of thought misunderstands the point of political debate. The goal is to reach consensus about conclusions, but not necessarily consensus about the reasons for the conclusions. We have, for example, come to a consensus about extending full civil rights to all adult citizens, regardless of race or gender. But some argued for this conclusion from the equality of all human beings as children of God, others from self-evident truths about human nature, and still others from the overall increase in happiness that would result from equal treatment. Not everyone accepted the premises of all of these arguments, but that did not prevent such arguments from having an essential role in our national debate about civil rights. They helped form what John Rawls called an “overlapping consensus,” in which different groups of citizens accepted the same conclusions from quite different arguments. So there is no objection in principle to religious arguments in political debates.


Clearly there is room for religious motivations in political debates. I am not arguing that at all. However,

What is striking on the current American scene, however, is the extent to which people see certain political and economic positions as required by their religious commitment. We may understand — even if we do not accept — the thinking of those who condemn abortion on religious grounds. But many conservative religious groups endorse a wide range of political and economic positions that have no religious basis. For example, The Family Leader (the group that has called for presidential candidates sign a pledge supporting “family values”) has a Voter’s Guide that specifies the “attributes of a strong Christian leader.” According to the guide, a strong Christian leader “understands key elements of God’s law,” which means that, for example, the leader “upholds the Biblical principles of responsibility and accountability in civil life, thereby limiting the size and cost of civil government”; “encourages an ethical and free enterprise system, and understands it is the only economic model in accord with Biblical principles”; and “understands the right to bear and keep arms” for defensive purposes. The guide also specifies that strong Christian leaders must subscribe to various views about how to interpret the United States Constitution.

There is no honest line of argument from what the Bible says to substantive conclusions about the size of the United States government, the need for a free enterprise system, the right to bear arms or the proper interpretation of the Constitution.


Americans seem to have a peculiar willingness to accept and even demand a religious tone in the tenor of their political process, despite the fact that the country was founded on the principle that to protect both religion and political freedom, the two must be resolutely separate. It worries me. I've been the target of enough religiously-founded hostility to fear for the rights of a minority under a Christian nation.

125nathanielcampbell
Editado: Set 21, 2012, 2:36pm

>124 southernbooklady:: "There is no honest line of argument from what the Bible says to substantive conclusions about the size of the United States government, the need for a free enterprise system, the right to bear arms or the proper interpretation of the Constitution."

No argument there. But wouldn't you agree that there is an honest line of argument from what the Bible says to opposing gay marriage? You seem to want to cherry-pick which issues it's okay for religious people to act on based on their faith (such as the civil rights movement of the 1960's) and which it isn't (gay marriage).

The beauty of American liberty, as enshrined, for example, in the First Amendment, is that it sets out a level field. The government doesn't get to decide which types of ideas are acceptable and which aren't. (Thus the theoretical danger of hate crimes laws -- an odd name, as it is, since aren't all crimes hateful?)

You are free to support gay marriage based on whatever reasons you want. Somebody else is free to oppose it, based on whatever reasons they want. So long as you don't physically assault each other over it, both are fair game.

126lawecon
Editado: Set 21, 2012, 3:01pm

~119

"If by "God" one means a benevolent, powerful, intelligent personality who owns and operates the Universe, then if naturalism is true, there wouldn't seem to be much room for said personage."

Well, at least we're getting conditional and a bit more cautious in our absolute pronouncements.

"But can systematic investigation of the natural world (aka "science") rule out non naturalism as a viable option? Some of us think that for all practical purposes it has pretty much already done so;..."

You know, once again I'm learning something. Here for many decades I've thought that science was about discovering what the "natural world" was really like. But I've found out from the "atheists" in the Librarything Forums that they start out with intuitive and complete knowledge of what constitutes the "natural world," and, therefore, that they know absolutely what it doesn't include. Marvelous.

.......but when we're talking "philosophy" (If you had a brother, would he like noodle pudding? ) we're leaving practical considerations behind to some extent."

Whooooo, that silly elitist intellectual egghead philosophy thing. Surely none of this has anything to do with philosophy. We're just being practical around here. Aren't we?

127modalursine
Set 21, 2012, 3:44pm

ref 126

... But I've found out from the "atheists" in the Librarything Forums that they start out with intuitive and complete knowledge of what constitutes the "natural world," and, therefore, that they know absolutely what it doesn't include. Marvelous.

No such thing. We do perhaps have some intuition about what there is or is not in the world, but experience trumps intuition and so far, systematic investigation of the physical world has not forced us to abandon the working hypothesis of naturalism.

To say that we claim to "know absolutely what it (the world) doesn't include" might bedazzle an audience of rubes in a debating meet, but it doesn't come to grips with
the claim that there is no such thing as "spirits" and that so far science has not forced us to revise our opinions on that score or come up with any contradictions that flow from
that assumption.

Whooooo, that silly elitist intellectual egghead philosophy thing. Surely none of this has anything to do with philosophy. We're just being practical around here. Aren't we?

No, we're not denigrating the the practice of asking hard questions, clarifying assumptions, drawing inferences, refining logic, all of which can fall under the rubric of
"philosophy", but we are pointing out that at least some of what has passed historically as western philosophy involves wild speculation and possibly untestable assertions.
When a branch of "philosophy" begins to grow up and actually know something about its subject, it tends to graduates to being a science.

"In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is"

128lawecon
Editado: Set 21, 2012, 4:52pm

Mensagem removida pelo autor.

129lawecon
Set 21, 2012, 4:52pm

"No such thing. We do perhaps have some intuition about what there is or is not in the world, but experience trumps intuition and so far, systematic investigation of the physical world has not forced us to abandon the working hypothesis of naturalism.

To say that we claim to "know absolutely what it (the world) doesn't include" might bedazzle an audience of rubes in a debating meet, but it doesn't come to grips with
the claim that there is no such thing as "spirits" and that so far science has not forced us to revise our opinions on that score or come up with any contradictions that flow from
that assumption."

You know, I think we've had this discussion before. Apparently "spirits" is the only example you can come up with of the nonnatural world. The problem with that example is that the only notion of "spirit" that existed before certain Greek philosophers and Christian theologians was "that which animated a body such that it was alive rather than dead." Now I would presume that you know the difference between a live and dead body, although you clearly don't know much about religion beyond a simplistic reading of Christianity.

"No, we're not denigrating the the practice of asking hard questions, clarifying assumptions, drawing inferences, refining logic, all of which can fall under the rubric of
"philosophy", but we are pointing out that at least some of what has passed historically as western philosophy involves wild speculation and possibly untestable assertions.
When a branch of "philosophy" begins to grow up and actually know something about its subject, it tends to graduates to being a science."

A truly impressive reading of the history of Western thought, not.

130rrp
Editado: Set 21, 2012, 5:30pm

#127

We do perhaps have some intuition about what there is or is not in the world, but experience trumps intuition and so far, systematic investigation of the physical world has not forced us to abandon the working hypothesis of naturalism.

Those of an opposite persuasion have some intuition, which they find is always prior to experience, about what there is or is not in the world, and find that the intuition trumps experience and so far, systematic investigation of the world had not forced them to abandon the working hypothesis of idealism. In fact, they see that it has many advantages over naturalism in that it explains both intuition and the subjectivity of experience which naturalism spectacularly fails to do. In fact, they find naturalism "daft".

131John5918
Editado: Set 22, 2012, 12:04am

>124 southernbooklady: Thanks, southernbooklady. For me two key lines are:

The goal is to reach consensus about conclusions, but not necessarily consensus about the reasons for the conclusions...

What is striking on the current American scene, however, is the extent to which people see certain political and economic positions as required by their religious commitment.


I understand your frustration in the US context. I suppose I'm arguing a general principle. If all the influences in my life tend to make me believe in policies which are generally considered socialist and pro-human rights, and if my Church reinforces that by interpreting "love thy neighbour" in the context of Catholic Social Teaching, then I don't see why I and my Church shouldn't lobby and vote for it. But then I'm not on the American scene.

Incidentally, "love thy neighbour" and Catholic Social Teaching do require certain political and economic positions. They're not about sexual morals or what might be defined as narrowly "religious" issues.

My question about the LGBT Christian movement still stands. How do you feel about them, an organised religious group, lobbying publicly, using religious rhetoric, to try to get their agenda turned into legislation?

132Lunar
Set 22, 2012, 3:04am

#18: When I come across traditions thousands of years old that are aware of the invisible pink unicorn I might devote some time to thinking about it.

Argumentum ad antiquitatem.

#24: Really. Could you present the proof from reason or rationality?

Who said anything about "proving" anything?

133Booksloth
Set 22, 2012, 5:21am

#109 Well, no. The operative word there was 'personally'. What one person believes is neither here nor there to me because the laws are not constructed to fit in with the whims of one person. It's when that person is part of an organisation that has no basis in provable fact and yet holds immense sway both politically and socially that I have a problem with it.

134Booksloth
Editado: Set 22, 2012, 5:32am

#111 Really? Your only motivation for kindness and compassion is that some book tells you it's a good idea? See, this another point where theism and atheism will never understand each other. My motivation for these things (and that of all the atheists and many of the theists I have come into contact with) is empathy and and a belief in treating others as I would like them to treat me (not, by any means, the original idea of Christians or any other religion). If I was only caring towards other people because the Bible said I should be I would consider that a huge failing in my own emotions and behaviour. Of all the things religion preaches, it is this idea that people are only 'good' because the rules state they should be, that is the hardest or me to grasp and perhaps the most negative part of anyone's belief. I'm not saying for a moment that this way of thinking applies to everyone who believes in a god (there are many examples to the contrary right here in this thread) but it must have a pretty strong following, based on the number of times it is preached at the rest of us.

135John5918
Editado: Set 22, 2012, 5:45am

>134 Booksloth: My motivation for these things (and that of all the atheists and many of the theists I have come into contact with) is empathy and and a belief in treating others as I would like them to treat me

I'm glad you mention "many of the theists". That's also my experience. Religious texts reinforce this, but our motives for kindness and compassion are not that some book tells us it's a good idea.

Of all the things religion preaches, it is this idea that people are only 'good' because the rules state they should be

The religion which I belong to does not preach that people are only good because the rules state they should be.

136southernbooklady
Set 22, 2012, 8:58am

>131 John5918:My question about the LGBT Christian movement still stands. How do you feel about them, an organised religious group, lobbying publicly, using religious rhetoric, to try to get their agenda turned into legislation?

I think such groups--and I know and respect many people involved with them--are better served by working to increase tolerance and acceptance within their own religious communities. (Something that is one of their primary functions) I am aware that they have a political stance and agenda, but....how to put this?...in so far as it is a religious agenda, I think it is out of place in the political sphere.

A Southern Baptist may say: Paul says homosexuality is a sin--let us define define marriage as man and woman once and for all in our laws.

An LGBT Christian may say: Jesus says love thy neighbor--let us not cast our brothers and sisters away by refusing to acknowledge the love they feel for each other, which is surely part of God's will. We should not define marriage in such a way.

But I, secular, say that what Paul or Jesus has to say on the subject of homosexuality is irrelevant to the establishment of any laws in the United States. The only thing that matters is the legality of homosexuality as a practice, and the status of homosexual people as citizens of the country. If homosexuality is not illegal, then the right of marriage, a state-recognized secular institution, must be accorded to them.

It is a peculiarly American viewpoint, I recognize. But separation of church and state is extremely important to me--not just because I am gay and thus at risk under a religious regime, but because many of my family come from diverse religious backgrounds--Arab Christian, Arab Sunni, Farsi, Roman Catholic. It is their right as citizens to live in a country that promises freedom of religion and respect of its diversity among its populace. This is why I tend to view the rabid hostility against gay marriage and the sheer irrational fear of the infiltration of sharia law in the same light, as part of the same root cause. (Not a religious cause, but religion is often used to justify it.)

But all this has taken us very far from the original question of whether science can disprove God. And in this, at least, I stand by what I originally said. Science can explain the universe, but it can not give it "meaning." I am not troubled by the thought that life, the universe and everything is ultimately meaningless. But for those that are, there is God.

137John5918
Set 22, 2012, 9:56am

>316 Thanks, southernbooklady. Actually I don't think we are too far apart, and I hope my questioning of you has not come over as hostile or anything.

138DiogenesOfSinope
Set 22, 2012, 9:59am

>1 richardbsmith: Of course science can't rule out a fiction.

>14 John5918: Or perhaps believers simply haven't understood what they themselves actually believe?

>15 Booksloth: "supernatural" is just yet another synonym for the word "fictional". If a thing isn't in nature, it's fictional.

>17 John5918: "in being invited to come and see" the halo around the guru's head:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sw-oF-Z_I7U

>18 John5918: "thousands of years old"
Thousands of years ago people labelled Venus a star. Or a godess.
Thousands of years ago people labelled there feelings Mars, Eros, God.
Time to update your labels folks.

>20 John5918: "If you don't think it's an appropriate analogy," correct it so no one else is led astray.

>30 nathanielcampbell: I'm an atheist. I do accept that billions, note the 'b', of people, over possibly more than a hundred thousand years (which is as long as man has been man), have had experiences that they have labelled "the love of God in their lives and the movement of the Holy Spirit" or "religious experiences". I just think it's time to start labelling these experiences more appropriately.

>32 southernbooklady: "Religious experiences are entirely internal and personal, and thus not reproducible." I'm looking forward to science being more and more able to "see" what's really going on inside people's brains when they undergo "religious experiences".
eg this kind of experience: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTrJqmKoveU

>38 timspalding: Even if Newton were to be believed to be a fictional character, it would be wise to apply his laws to satellite orbitry.
Whereas, if it could be proved that Mary was a virgin, it would remain UNwise to "take no thought for the morrow".

>56 nathanielcampbell: Anyone can make pretty propaganda. And some day I hope you will find that using the evil work of that poor hoodwinked "friend of poverty" (no friend of the poor) is counter-productive to your casue:
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/fighting_words/2003/10/mommie_de...

>64 StormRaven: Thanks, you just made sense of the phrase "god of the gaps" to me. It of course means "fiction of the gaps".

>74 nathanielcampbell: I trust your moral judgement, Nathaniel, more than I trust that of your "independent" "authority":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IC-9uJrotC4

>86 rrp: "might is right" & #88
Looking at the treatment the "pagans" were given, we can be fairly certain that catholicism doesn't "keep it from doing so".
Acknowledging and accepting and working with the fact that our pre-frontal lobes are too small might help the situation.

139DiogenesOfSinope
Set 22, 2012, 10:01am

>90 nathanielcampbell: What do we think of someone who claims that "The Devil made me do it"?

"And the LORD said unto Satan, Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a blameless and an upright man, one that fears God, and turns away from evil? and still he holds fast his integrity, although you moved me against him, to destroy him without cause."
- "The Devil made me do it." - God - Job 2:3.

140southernbooklady
Set 22, 2012, 10:30am

>137 John5918: I hope my questioning of you has not come over as hostile or anything.

Not at all!

141nathanielcampbell
Set 22, 2012, 11:50am

>132 Lunar:: So on the one hand, you're not trying to "prove" anything. Yet, on the other, if anyone falls prey to very specific types of logical fallacies--i.e. fallacies that are only problematic in the context of trying to prove something logically--then there's a problem.

Theists have to play to a higher standard then you do, eh?

142nathanielcampbell
Set 22, 2012, 11:55am

>134 Booksloth:: "Really? Your only motivation for kindness and compassion is that some book tells you it's a good idea?"

I'm sorry that you have such an absurdly reductionist view of me. When I say that Christ is the motivation for my kindness and compassion, I say that because it was Christ who, as the Word of God, fashioned my human nature in the first place, and it is Christ, the incarnate and the risen, who has redeemed that nature and offers me by grace its perfection.

Humans are by nature kind and compassionate because kindness and compassion are divine attributes in whose image and to whose likeness we are made. That goes as much for me as for any other human being, theist or atheist or agnostic or whatever you want to label anybody.

For me as a Christian, the Gospel is a revelation, the "Good News", about my human existence and its redemption and perfection in divinity. It's not that "some book tells me it's a good idea" -- it's that some book tells me that kindness and compassion is who I am. The "some book" is evidence about human nature.

Now of course, you're going to dismiss all of this poppycock, as good as a pink invisible unicorn or whatever some such nonsense you equate Christianity with. But it would at least reflect better on you if you understood how Christians actually think this process works, rather than making absurdly reductionist claims about it.

143southernbooklady
Set 22, 2012, 11:59am

>142 nathanielcampbell: Humans are by nature kind and compassionate because kindness and compassion are divine attributes in whose image and to whose likeness we are made.

One could also say that humans are by nature vicious and violent and ruthlessly committed to the preservation of their own immediate interests and not be called wrong. I think one of the more interesting things that science still struggles to explain is altruism.

144DiogenesOfSinope
Set 22, 2012, 12:06pm

>113 John5918: "Christianity is about justice for all"

And here I thought christianity is about believing that Jesus is a Very Important Person. Some people believe he is SO important that victims of rape must be denied an abortion, or alternatively must accept the blame for "seducing" their priests. Others believe that Jesus isn't QUITE important enough to ignore the ideas about justice that evolved through pre-christian societies. This is just one of the problems associated with religion: very few people claim that "Spiderman made me do it"; far too many think that "God wants me to do it".

The more the inspirations from our VIPs are tempered by our understanding of, and concern for, the mundane experiences of men, the more humane our societies have become.

>122 John5918: Thanks for that John, one that is uppermost in my mind is the role of the Church (and do let's point out that we are in neither case talking primarily of your particular brand of church) in the persecution of Jews in Europe in the early half of the previous century. The fact that different brands of church can have different political stances within the same community shows quite clearly how worthless inspirations from dead VIPs can be. In some ways religion can look like a dice, but actually it's more like a mirror.

>123 nathanielcampbell: You mean apart from the fact that communism's VIP inspirations weren't working terribly well?

>136 southernbooklady: I would like to add that science can tell us what gives people meaning. A survey could be conducted asking whether "Friends, books, family, hiking, pets, other" gives people meaning in their lives. In fact, for some, performing such a scientific survey might just add meaning to their lives.

145DiogenesOfSinope
Set 22, 2012, 12:13pm

>142 nathanielcampbell: Now here again I am faced with the problem that different god-botherers can mean very different things. I can't be entirely certain, but John seems to have agreed with me that HIS particular God is a fiction. And yet Nathaniel sounds so very serious in saying that ...well, it looks like a bunch of waffle signifying little to me, but I think he is claiming that HIS God has created him.

Nathaniel, are you a fictionalist or a literalist?

146nathanielcampbell
Set 22, 2012, 12:15pm

>143 southernbooklady:: "One could also say that humans are by nature vicious and violent and ruthlessly committed to the preservation of their own immediate interests and not be called wrong."

One of the practical reasons I remain a Christian is that I find that the Gospel and that grace are really helpful in getting me to set aside my pride and greed and jealousy, and instead listen to the oft-much-quieter voice of kindness and compassion and humility.

147nathanielcampbell
Editado: Set 22, 2012, 12:44pm

>145 DiogenesOfSinope:: "Nathaniel, are you a fictionalist or a literalist?"

Such an absurdly reductionist dichotomy is hardly an accurate reflection of Christian biblical hermeneutics and exegesis. A good explanation of my basic approach can be found in this post on LibraryThing from earlier this summer, which makes use of reading Origen's On First Principles. You might also examine a blog post I wrote about a year ago, titled "Can Faith and Science Coexist" (short answer: yes).

148southernbooklady
Set 22, 2012, 12:39pm

>146 nathanielcampbell: One of the practical reasons I remain a Christian is that I find that the Gospel and that grace are really helpful in getting me to set aside my pride and greed and jealousy

Interestingly, my conviction of my absolute insignificance in the universe performs the same function for me.

149John5918
Editado: Set 22, 2012, 12:40pm

>145 DiogenesOfSinope: No, I don't think I said my God was a fiction. I think I said that I wouldn't really object to you calling the book of Genesis fiction although personally I would have liked a more specific term. Just as Animal Farm, to use your example (was it in this thread or a parallel one? I lose track), is a story which has a meaning, so is Genesis. It is a reflection about God in the language, culture and level of scientific knowledge of the people of that time, and we can still learn something about God from it as long as we examine its origins and meaning and don't take it literally.

But I do agree with you that different god-botherers can mean very different things. Hardly surprising since the divine is rather bigger than a single god-botherer can encompass.

150DiogenesOfSinope
Set 22, 2012, 1:24pm

One day, John, I hope that children will be taught the FOUR R's:
Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic, and fReethought.

It would be good if they could learn from as early an age as possible that not everything they hear or read is what it appears to be.

Peace!

151John5918
Set 22, 2012, 1:45pm

>150 DiogenesOfSinope: I think that's the point. Genesis is not what it appears to the literalists to be. Isn't that what children are taught? It was in the schools I went to as a kid.

152Tid
Set 22, 2012, 6:23pm

Once again, it appears these discussions end up with atheists (often materialists as well) on one side, and one brand of religious people (Christians), on the other. Forgive me, Americans, but you are so often the guilty parties in reducing the entire spirituality of the universe down to this sort of BIFF! BANG! POW! cartoon level.

As one species clinging to one piece of rock orbiting one star among billions, in one galaxy among billions, in one universe in a theoretical multiverse - the scale of which is more than our limited minds can even comprehend - we nevertheless have done a fine job in allowing our imaginations to conjure up all kinds of theories for how we got here, and possible purposes behind it all.

So why do we end up with this dreadful, polarised argument, that never gets anywhere, that converts no-one to the cause of another, and seems to end up in so much bad feeling? I wish there was a group called "Let's talk philosophy" (or perhaps there is? If so, let me know!), which ranges further and wider and involves discussions between people prepared to listen to each other, and speculate imaginatively and creatively on matters to which there are no ready answers, but hey, it's fun to wonder.

153Jesse_wiedinmyer
Editado: Set 22, 2012, 7:34pm

#111

You missed the "purely," Mr. Campbell.

154Lunar
Set 23, 2012, 1:06am

#141: Theists have to play to a higher standard then you do, eh?

Nope. Everyone should be held to the same standard when it comes to making irrational claims. Your conclusion to rule out Zeus and Apollo is just as valid and rational as my conclusion to rule out Yahweh and Jesus. It's not my fault that theists want to be the exception. Newsflash: You're not being singled out. You're setting yourselves up.

155John5918
Editado: Set 23, 2012, 1:46am

>154 Lunar: Lunar, I think it has been pointed out very often that religious people do not "rule out" Zeus and Apollo in the same sense that atheists appear to rule out Yahweh and Jesus. Presumably (and correct me if I'm wrong) you don't believe that any of them exist, nor indeed that any version of the divine exists. Religious people experience and thus believe in a divine (or they experience something which they choose to call the divine, or they find that their experience of reality is that there is a divine, or any number of other ways of describing something which is very difficult to describe). This divine is rather bigger and more complex than we can define or describe using human language. Virtually every culture in every period of history has had a stab at putting language to their experience. This necessarily involves using the language, culture, scientific knowledge, etc of their time and place. None are complete, and all are subject to evolution and development. Thus while I believe that our understanding of the divine has developed since the time when it was described as Zeus and Apollo, that those descriptions are no longer very helpful or appropriate, and that contemporary attempts to describe the divine are better, that's not the same as saying that the underlying experience which they were trying to describe doesn't exist. I don't think that's the same as ruling it out.

156Lunar
Editado: Set 23, 2012, 2:33am

#155: I'm sure that feels all warm and inclusive, but it's also highly selective and ad hoc. So does the mesoamerican belief in using human sacrifice to fuel the sunrise lie closer Apollo worship or the invisible pink unicorn? Or are we really back to insisting that the "divine" is beyond definition so that we're not allowed to rule out anything that supports theism?

157John5918
Set 23, 2012, 2:40am

>156 Lunar: You are free to rule out anything you wish, but I was trying to expand on your statement that modern religious believers "rule out" Zeus and Apollo. I don't think they do rule them out in the same way that atheists presumably rule out any expression of the divine. I pointed out that a society's understanding of the divine is based on the context of that society, hence the human sacrifices. I also pointed out that our understanding has developed, hence we would not accept those human sacrifices now.

158Raelian
Editado: Set 23, 2012, 3:07am

This user has been removed as spam.

159Lunar
Set 23, 2012, 3:09am

#157: Argumentum ad populum. You don't get to distinguish the legitimacy of religious beliefs, whether they be Jedi mind tricks, human sacrifice, or the evasively undefinable "divine," based on how publicly acceptable they are.

But really, what I was trying to ask is about where you draw the line on what you can or cannot rule out. How ridiculous does something have to get before you're personally willing to rule it out?

160John5918
Set 23, 2012, 3:59am

>159 Lunar: I really don't see how it is argumentum ad populum to say that our understanding of the divine has developed as time goes on.

I think your question is a good one, though. To some extent it is subjective. I certainly don't rule out honest attempts to understand the divine by societies which were far removed from ours in terms of time and culture, even though I consider that our understanding has moved on since then and they therefore contain aspects which we would no longer accept. I also accept that Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, etc are attempts by cultures very different from my own to understand the divine in their terms. Judaism is an ancestor of Christianity (I hope lawecon won't consider that statement too erroneous!); Christianity has obviously moved in a different direction from Judaism. I see many traditional belief systems, including some of the Celtic, African and native American ones that I have looked at, which seem to describe some of the same truths which we see in other faith traditions. I see some of the modern dilettante forms such as "New Age" which pick and choose from many of the great traditions, which I find rather incomplete and shallow, but which nevertheless have some value. All of these faith traditions have had aberrations and abuses, and clearly there are great differences, but I think one can find some overlap in the way they try to understand the divine.

When someone starts making statements about giant dancing badgers and flying spaghetti monsters, I don't see anything there in common with the great faith traditions. When an "inspired" individual tells his modern day followers to commit suicide, likewise. But exactly where the line is drawn? Difficult to generalise. It's not clear cut, it's not black and white, it's shades of grey.

161Lunar
Set 23, 2012, 6:02am

#160: To some extent it is subjective.

Which is why I said "personally." I'm fully supportive of the fact that different people have different standards and values. That kind of individual subjectivity doesn't bother me. But if by "subjective" you mean each individual case gets it's own separate standards even when being judged by the same person, maybe you'll understand if that sounds more like making it up as you go along instead of following any line of reasoning. The whole point of invisible unicorns and spaghetti monsters is to strip away the cultural baggage and evaluate the rationality of the thinking process itself that leads one to dismiss some things and not others.

I think one can find some overlap in the way they try to understand the divine.

Except that I'm not trying to dismiss personal experiences whether or not they label them as religious in nature. Different people find different ways to grow personally, and as a species we try to understand things by looking for patterns or "meaning" or even the "divine" if they want to call it that. But this is entirely separate from the issue of whether such patterns exist in of themselves. Saying you can't rule out God because you can't rule out the way people seek meaning in their lives is a conflation. It's entirely possible for people to seek the "divine" regardless of whether the divine actually exists or not.

162Booksloth
Set 23, 2012, 6:43am

#142 It might also be a good idea if you understood how atheists think. I'm pleased to see you accept the Flying Spaghetti Monster is nonsense - it's meant to be (or did you really think the rest of us count it as our genuine divinity?) In the real world, however, so is your god.

You accuse Diogenes and me of being 'absurdly reductionist' but you were the one who said (#111) "I was about to vote for a candidate because he supports taking care of the poor and hungry and oppressed . . . my motivation was Jesus's command in the Gospels to do so . . . " Assuming you meant that Jesus commanded you to take care of the needy, rather than to vote for a particular candidate, taking care of the poor and hungry and oppressed because of someone else's 'command to do so' is about as reductionist as it gets.

Away for a week - southernbooklady, Lunar etc, keep the good sense coming!

163aulsmith
Set 23, 2012, 8:13am

155: Just for the record, I spent most of my life (45 years) actively engaged in experiencing the divine, which I interpreted in light of the moderate, credal Christian doctrine. These experiences were very real for me, and I would have argued about God much as you do on these forums.

Through a series of events related to discovering how actual things work in the natural world (loosely, science) I lost my emotional attachment to the experiences of the divine, and, while I still occasionally have them, I no longer think there is any reality (outside of my brain chemistry) behind them.

I don't begrudge you your own experiences. But I do take issue with people who generalize from their own subjective experiences of "the divine" and try to legislate what I can and cannot do.

I think the main problem atheists have with religious people is that the religious people privilege their own experiences above ours. You (collectively) claim that your experiences are of more value because they come from "the divine," even though you (collectively) don't agree on what those experiences are or what the divine is saying. It's tiresome and annoying, and when it actually impacts my civil rights, it's wrong.

164John5918
Set 23, 2012, 9:43am

>161 Lunar: Thanks, Lunar. I'm not sure there's much more I can add.

>163 aulsmith: Actually I don't disagree with much of what you say, aulsmith. A few points, though:

Through a series of events related to discovering how actual things work in the natural world (loosely, science)

And I respect that. That's your journey. And many of us have also studied science and found that it doesn't conflict with our experience of and belief in the divine. I'm sure it does involve brain chemistry, as does anything we think or feel or experience, but that's not all there is to it in the view of religious people.

try to legislate what I can and cannot do

There's been a long discussion on this or another thread (again I lose track) about the democratic process and how it is the right of any citizen or pressure group to lobby and vote for legislation, regardless of whether they are of the atheist or religious persuasion. Ultimately the main objection appeared to be that churches should not, in that case, be tax exempt, which is a different question.

I think the main problem atheists have with religious people is that the religious people privilege their own experiences above ours

I appreciate that you qualified this later in the paragraph with "collectively", so maybe you are not accusing all religious people of doing this, but while I accept that it is true in some cases of some religious people it isn't true of all. I have said on more than one occasion that I accept atheism as a valid attempt to understand reality in the same way as I accept belief in the divine.

165aulsmith
Set 23, 2012, 10:24am

164: Ultimately the main objection appeared to be that churches should not, in that case, be tax exempt, which is a different question.

No, I object to religion being privileged in any way over secular points-of-view. I live in a place where electoral districts are drawn to increase the power of certain religious groups, where special exceptions are written into laws to exempt religious people (but not others with moral or ethical objections), and where the majority opinion is often overlooked if a loud religious group holds a different one. I object to this privileging.

I also object to people on this forum who have tried to claim that their moral/ethical stands are better because they are derived from ideas they garnered with their experiences of the divine. I did not become a criminal when I decided the divine wasn't real. And neither does anyone else.

You folks (collectively) are so used to the privilege that you don't even see that you've got it and think you're being persecuted. It's annoying.

166southernbooklady
Set 23, 2012, 10:34am

In the United States, it's a little more of an issue than whether churches should be tax exempt. The separation of Church and State is one of the fundamental principles of the US Constitution. As a result, the role that religion plays in politics is constantly examined, tested, and contested.

One of the more interesting adjustments I had to make when I moved to North Carolina was about the visible presence of religion in politics. As a Yankee, I was used to a person's religion being considered a private thing. It was almost rude to inquire about it. But here in the South, what church you belong to is almost the first thing people want to know.

At a national level, it is hard to escape the feeling that religion plays an ever-more-significant role in the political arena. It is a voter bloc worth courting--especially when it comes to hot button issues like abortion, gay marriage, or (most recently) mandated accessibility to birth control.

167John5918
Editado: Set 23, 2012, 10:41am

>165 aulsmith: You're referring to particular abuses of the electoral and legal system perpetrated by particular manifestations of religion in the USA. Don't generalise to all religions, all religious people and all the world.

I also object to people on this forum who have tried to claim that their moral/ethical stands are better because they come from experiences of the divine. I also object to atheists who try to claim that they are somehow more rational and sane than religious people, or that all religious people are evil because of abuses which have been perpetrated in the name of religion. I assume you're not one of the latter; I'm not one of the former.

You folks (collectively) are so used to the privilege that you don't even see that you've got it and think you're being persecuted

Well, some of my Christian friends and colleagues have been imprisoned, tortured, killed, whipped, disenfranchised, forced into exile, dismissed from their jobs, had their property confiscated, etc. I must remember to tell the survivors that they are privileged. Don't assume that all Christians in the world are the whingeing variety of evangelical protestants in the USA. In many places there is quite a stiff price to be paid for being of a particular religion. I sometimes feel like saying to almost everyone who lives in north America and Europe (yes, including atheists), "You folks (collectively) are so used to the privilege that you don't even see that you've got it and think you're being persecuted", if I might borrow your own words.

168southernbooklady
Set 23, 2012, 10:58am

>167 John5918: Don't assume that all Christians in the world are the whingeing variety of evangelical protestants in the USA. In many places there is quite a stiff price to be paid for being of a particular religion.

I think one's own provincial perspective always has to be acknowledged--something that we often forget to do since our personal experiences always feel "universal" to ourselves. So perhaps we must simply agree that the religion that has been such a force for good in one place can also be a force for repression in another. Or that the atheism that can be so repressive in one country, is a bulwark of rationality against the religious fanaticism in another country.

And the question we must ask ourselves is not, "how can they think my religion is bad?" Or "how can they think my atheism is wrong?" but "what has gone wrong with religion that it has made these people choose atheism in response?" and "how have atheist principles become so twisted that it has driven these people to religion?"

I suppose one could make comments about "first world problems" when it comes to persecution. After all, most of us in the United States live relatively safe lives in a stable country. (I'm putting aside problems of gang warfare, etc). On the other hand, such stability and security does allow the freedom to experiment and expand your ideas of liberty and human rights. If you are worried about finding food, then gay rights are not on the agenda. But I am not worried about finding food, so I am free to fight for liberty on other fronts.

169aulsmith
Set 23, 2012, 1:59pm

167: Your point about the first world is well-taken.

Were your friends tortured and killed because of rampant secularism or because another religion was privileged over theirs?

My problem with the general run-of-the-mill theist is that they tend to think because they have experienced the divine, they somehow have special insight into the Good/the Moral/the Right that the rest of us are lacking and therefore they deserve special attention. You have not shown yourself to be among those theists.

I've been addressing you simply because you made the remark in post 155 "Religious people experience and thus believe in a divine" and I started out by remarking that, at least in my case, experience of the divine does not equate to belief in a divine. Then I discussed why I object to people who claim to have had an experience of the divine being accorded privileges that people who reject that experience are not. Those objections were not in reference to your post. Sorry if that was unclear.

170John5918
Editado: Set 23, 2012, 2:29pm

Deleted because it somehow got posted twice.

171John5918
Set 23, 2012, 2:28pm

>169 aulsmith: No, they were tortured and killed by totalitarian regimes whose political ideology was based on another religion, Islam. It wasn't intended as a veiled attack on atheism or secularism. I suppose if it had been the former USSR, North Korea, China or Pol Pot's Cambodia then atheism would be in the frame.

Thanks for your explanation. It's something I find extremely frustrating. Many atheist posters are naturally enough talking about the type of religion they are most familiar with, and the type which is causing problems for them in their own situation, particularly in the USA. I understand that. I don't deny that it is a common manifestation of religion, although perhaps not as common worldwide as one might think if one lives in some parts of the USA. It has echoes in militant Islam, ultra-Orthodox Judaism (correct me if I'm wrong, lawecon!), militant Hinduism, etc. I'm certainly not saying it's a straw man. But it's not my type of religion (nor, I would venture to suggest, that of most of the other prolific religious posters here, including Nathaniel, Richard, Tim, lawecon, Arctic-Stranger, nor agnostics like Tid). I just find it rather tedious constantly being faced with posts about that type of religion, posts which almost automatically preclude any real sharing of ideas and searching for common understanding. I'm not aiming this rant at you, aulsmith, as I appreciate your position, but perhaps it's once again a general plea that "Let's Talk Religion" might actually become "talk", a conversation, instead of being so polarised and adversarial.

172lawecon
Editado: Set 23, 2012, 2:48pm

~171

"Thanks for your explanation. It's something I find extremely frustrating. Many atheist posters are naturally enough talking about the type of religion they are most familiar with, and the type which is causing problems for them in their own situation, particularly in the USA. I understand that. I don't deny that it is a common manifestation of religion, although perhaps not as common worldwide as one might think if one lives in some parts of the USA. It has echoes in militant Islam, ultra-Orthodox Judaism (correct me if I'm wrong, lawecon!), militant Hinduism, etc. I'm certainly not saying it's a straw man. But it's not my type of religion (nor, I would venture to suggest, that of most of the other prolific religious posters here, including Nathaniel, Richard, Tim, lawecon, Arctic-Stranger, nor agnostics like Tid). I just find it rather tedious constantly being faced with posts about that type of religion, posts which almost automatically preclude any real sharing of ideas and searching for common understanding. I'm not aiming this rant at you, aulsmith, as I appreciate your position, but perhaps it's once again a general plea that "Let's Talk Religion" might actually become "talk", a conversation, instead of being so polarised and adversarial."

No, you are not wrong about "ultra-Orthodox Judaism". And as you know, John, 8 times out of 10 we have similar approaches to things because you are not wrong.

However, where we definitely part ways is that you have the same attitudes toward fundamentalist Christians that many Jews have toward ultra-Orthodox Jews - i.e., you think that they are surely wrong, but you really can't distinguish between them and yourself, particularly vis-a-vis the rest of the world.

I don't have that problem. In my interpretation and understanding of Judaism, Fundamentalists are, in principle, not Jews, regardless of what religion they profess with their mouths. Their behavior is contrary, indeed, contradictory, to the core of Judaism. End of discussion. That they claim to be Jews requires that I denounce them, both for my own sake (you might say "for the sake of my soul") and for the sake of the reputation of Judaism among nonJews.

Now I think that the same is true of fundamentalist Christians and the religion you profess, but you adamantly refuse to acknowledge that fact. You say you really can't find the boundaries of your Christianity, and whether fundamentalist are truly Christians involves matters beyond your purview. So I'm not surprised when those who are not Christian can't really see a strong difference between you and them.

On this we disagree, and I can foresee the day when the distinction between you and fundamentalists will become very clear to you in the most unfortunate ways.

173John5918
Set 23, 2012, 2:53pm

>172 lawecon: Fair comment, lawecon. And you're right in that I do think their interpretation of Christianity is misguided and, yes, wrong. I'm just not sure that I can take it upon myself to say that someone who I think is a misguided Christian, or a Christian who has misunderstood rather a lot of what Christianity is all about, is not a Christian, particularly when they clearly do believe some of the same core teachings of Christianity as I do, and they dispute with me the meaning of other core teachings. It's a dilemma. I appreciate your view on it, which challenges (and tempts) me, but remain unconvinced.

174StormRaven
Editado: Set 23, 2012, 2:56pm

171: No, they were tortured and killed by totalitarian regimes whose political ideology was based on another religion, Islam.

In other words, they were killed because another religion was privileged over theirs, which was one of the options that southernbooklady presented.

But you, blinded by your adherence to theism, didn't notice this, and just charged blindly ahead. The fact that they were persecuted by a religiously based political system, while you are busy talking about how religious people need to be able to inject their ideas into the political arena, is ironically amusing. When religion and politics mix, people get imprisoned, tortured, and killed. But you make apologies for the practice anyway, probably because you just figure if the "right" religion got into politics, everything would be hunky-dory.

175John5918
Set 23, 2012, 3:04pm

>174 StormRaven: When religion and politics mix, people get imprisoned, tortured, and killed

No, when totalitarian regimes use religion, or nationalism, or ethnicity, or anything else, as their political ideology, people get imprisoned, tortured and killed.

they were killed because another religion was privileged over theirs, which was one of the options that southernbooklady presented

If you think there is any comparison between living under a totalitarian military dictatorship which (mis-)uses religion as its political ideology, and living in the USA where citizens belonging to a particular religion are using the democratic process to try (with mixed success) to get some of their concerns voted into law (while other citizens of the same religion oppose them along with the atheists), then I fear you are a tad out of touch with reality.

And normal service has been resumed. We're back to being adversarial and polarised.

176StormRaven
Editado: Set 23, 2012, 7:49pm

No, when totalitarian regimes use religion, or nationalism, or ethnicity, or anything else, as their political ideology, people get imprisoned, tortured and killed.

That's what happens when one religion is privileged over another. That's the point.

If you think there is any comparison between living under a totalitarian military dictatorship which (mis-)uses religion as its political ideology

You say misuses, they say uses. They just have a different worldview than yours John. Why are they wrong?

The key is that in the U.S., in law at least, one religion is not privileged over another. And we are slowly getting to the point that it is not in practice either. But things haven't always been this way - witness the persecution suffered by (and in turn handed out by when they got localized political power) sects like the Mormons. And although the law was neutral, the people engaged in such persecution were able to thumb their noses at the law in practice, because their faith was privileged.

Heck, the KKK was a religious organization, and they were as dedicated to persecuting Jews and Catholics as they were to persecuting African-Americans, and once again, they were able to do so with impunity because their faith, a radical form of Protestantism, was given a privileged position in society.

We don't have that sort of situation so much now in the U.S., but only because religious privilege has been beaten back over many years and through extensive effort. But we have people trying to reverse that - by trying to pass laws that would allow doctors to lie to female patients on religious grounds, by removing protections for people providing legal services such as abortion, and many other areas.

You say that the regimes were "misusing" religion. But all they were doing is what every privileged religion does when it seizes power: persecute others. It isn't misuse. It is the commonplace expression of religion when it becomes part of the political arena.

177southernbooklady
Set 23, 2012, 3:38pm

Is it possible to have a religious political system that is not totalitarian? Can a theocratic state be anything but repressive?

178Tid
Set 23, 2012, 5:09pm

169

I think that the problem with most theists is that they HAVEN'T experienced the divine. If they had, they would have greater humility, a wider perspective on life, and reflective insights. Or so it has been my own experience when meeting such people. "Experience of the divine" is what I call mystical experience, and it seems it can also happen to people with no religious belief, in which case they express the experience in different terms.

179Tid
Set 23, 2012, 5:14pm

172

I believe you are quite right about fundamentalist Christians - not in relation to mainstream Christianity necessarily, but in relation to the reported teachings and activities of Jesus, whom they seem to dishonour (though they would vehemently deny it) each time they put dogma and text above real moral choice and action.

180lawecon
Set 23, 2012, 7:41pm

As a Jew, I have a similar point of view about most Haredim. They are idol worshippers. They worship their Rebbe, and those that are aligned with the Settler movement worship The Land. That is contrary to the foundations of Judaism. It is one of the worst things you can do.

As for "mainstream Christianity," I doubt that there is such a thing, any more than there is mainstream Judaism. There are simply those who have it mostly right and those who have it entirely wrong.

181aulsmith
Set 23, 2012, 9:30pm

Tid in 178: In deference to John's plea that we actually have a conversation about religion, I will attempt to riff a bit about your contention that most (run-of-mill) theists haven't really had a real experience of the divine and that's why they often don't come across well to people who are non-believers.

(Before I start, I feel the need to qualify some things to keep my street cred as an atheist. First, I have noticed (and am ignoring) that accepting John's statement in 155 and Tid's statement in 178 simultaneously doesn't make any sense. Secondly, by "experience of the divine" I am referring to subjective life-changing or -enhancing experiences that seem to originate outside one's own "self," and can, for that reason, be interpreted as supernatural. I personally think these experiences have a naturalistic explanation, but explaining them is not necessary to this discussion, as we are dealing with their frequency and quality, rather than their origin.)

My first reaction to your statement is that it's really hard to judge the quality of someone else's experience. I've known a lot of Christians who experience Jesus as a very real presence in their lives, and I would be uncomfortable saying that Christians who I don't know and who aren't acting the way I think they should, aren't having that same kind of experience. They say they are. (In fact, I suspect there are people reading this forum who would discount my own experience of Jesus as not being "real," since I'm now an atheist and no true believer could ever become an atheist.) To be more inclusive here, I also know Jews and neo-pagans who claim experiences of the divine and their narrative of their experiences seems to correlate with my own.

My second, contradictory, thought is that there are probably large numbers of people in all religious groups who don't think a personal relationship with the divine is the point of religion, so maybe they're not experiencing the divine in the sense we've been talking about. Are their religious lives more narrow than people who do want "a personal relationship with God"? The reading I've done on this subject in sociology of religion says that there are other equally valid religious experiences other than the mystical. However, my personal interests have always been in the people who experience God as personal, so I have nothing of my own to contribute to discussion.

My third reaction is that one of the many, many straws that broke the back of my faith was the intractability of behavior, even in the face of life-changing experiences. My father, who went back to drinking after 13 years in AA. Thomas Merton, who had an affair after years in the monastery (it's not the sex that shocked me, so much as his rather callous use of the woman involved, who pretty clearly had needs and desires that he had no intention of helping with.) My own intractable problems that no amount of prayer would help with. So, I'm not very convinced that having an experience of the divine automatically makes one humble or reflective or open to experiences.

So, basically I'm not convinced.

Back over to you or whoever else wants to chime in.

182nathanielcampbell
Set 23, 2012, 10:32pm

>163 aulsmith:: "I don't begrudge you your own experiences. But I do take issue with people who generalize from their own subjective experiences of "the divine" and try to legislate what I can and cannot do."

Wow. You go from "I believe in Jesus" to "I want to pass laws against you because you don't" in one sentence. Trying to equate religious belief with religiously-motivated political repression is extraordinarily fallacious.

183nathanielcampbell
Set 23, 2012, 10:35pm

>159 Lunar: (Lunar): "Argumentum ad populum. You don't get to distinguish the legitimacy of religious beliefs, whether they be Jedi mind tricks, human sacrifice, or the evasively undefinable "divine," based on how publicly acceptable they are."

I wonder if you could, then, expand on how it is that you determine a system of morality. What constitutes right and what constitutes wrong? Were the Aztecs right or wrong to practice human sacrifice? Are we right or wrong to eat animals or wear fur today?

Because the answer I usually get when I ask materialists/atheists this question is, "We determine collectively as a society what constitutes right and what constitutes wrong." Which sounds a heck of lot like, we determine right and wrong "based on how publicly acceptable" a particular behavior is.

But isn't that just argumentum ad populum?

184eromsted
Set 23, 2012, 10:59pm

>183 nathanielcampbell:
It's the difference between arguing that x is true because many people believe x and simply observing that many people believe x. "We determine collectively as a society what constitutes right and what constitutes wrong" is a sociological claim not a claim about moral truth.

Some people may believe that their morals are given from an outside authority. But not everyone will agree that claim, or draw the same moral rules from that belief. So in practice such believers are in the same place as atheists who deny the existence of any such authority: working together in society to decide collectively what's right and what's wrong.

185Lunar
Set 23, 2012, 11:19pm

#183: Using coercion to impose morality on others, whether imposed by individuals or the collective, has a pretty objective record of making things worse. There's a difference between tolerating individual morality and a pack of voters getting together to impose their own collective morality on the remainder of society.

186John5918
Set 23, 2012, 11:47pm

>176 StormRaven: That's what happens when one religion is privileged over another

Well, we'll disagree about that. It's not about religious privilege, it has to do with totalitarian military dictatorships which have no regard for human rights. The regime also tortures, kills and imprisons Muslims when it feels it is threatened, or when it needs to set an example to deter people from challenging it. But the people who do not belong to the identity class which the regime represents or has chosen as its ideology, whether that be religious, ethnic, political or whatever, are particularly at risk for the duration of the regime.

>178 Tid: I think that the problem with most theists is that they HAVEN'T experienced the divine

Benedictine Brother David Steindl-Rast says something like, "Theology without the experience of God is like literary criticism without the poem". If you've got a nice poem, then literary criticism can help you to understand it. If you try to read the literary criticism without ever having seen the poem, it doesn't make a lot of sense. Likewise religion, theology and the experience of God.

>181 aulsmith: Thanks, aulsmith, for a thoughtful post. That there are contradictions doesn't surprise me nor indeed particularly worry me. Life is not always neat and cut and dried.

it's really hard to judge the quality of someone else's experience... I would be uncomfortable saying that Christians who I don't know and who aren't acting the way I think they should, aren't having that same kind of experience

Agreed. What I can say from my personal experience of being a spiritual director is that many people will express this feeling, and be worried about it. In some cases it is that they haven't had the experience. In many other cases (and I myself went through this particular journey) they have had it, but the routine mundane doctrine-based teaching of their church has not helped them to recognise it. The church has given them certain images of God, usually during childhood, and they have not reached a more mature understanding of God. Part of the journey is to explore with them how they do actually experience God and then help them to integrate that into their religion, if that makes sense.

So, I'm not very convinced that having an experience of the divine automatically makes one humble or reflective or open to experiences.

Agreed. But even those who are humble, reflective and open to experience are humans with both strengths and weaknesses, so the fact they fail from time to time is not surprising. It's a cliche but a true one that we are a Church of sinners.

>185 Lunar: I ask again, though, isn't that what the democratic process is all about, "a pack of voters getting together to impose" not only their own morality but their views on just about anything on society? Isn't that what a political party does? But it also gives the opportunity for another pack of voters to resist that and instead impose their views. Democracy is not perfect and it does risk the tyranny of the majority, but it's all we have, and from where I sit it looks better than a military dictatorship (cf the famous quote from Churchill that pops up from time to time).

187Lunar
Set 24, 2012, 12:30am

#186: Democracy is not perfect and it does risk the tyranny of the majority, but it's all we have, and from where I sit it looks better than a military dictatorship (cf the famous quote from Churchill that pops up from time to time).

That kind of fallacy is what we call a false choice. Take religion, for example. No one in the US is making any kind of Churchillian argument that we need to choose between democratic religion and autocratic religion. To have such a laissez-faire stance on religion would have been anathema three hundred years ago. What about other aspects of life? Does speech need to be democratically controlled? The press? The bedroom? There are many more things I'd like to add to that list that would make most people today uncomfortable, but that doesn't make Churchill's false choice a legitimate argument.

As for morality I haven't the slightest idea what you're trying to say. It's like you're trying to have it both ways between having a government that isn't the morality police and having a government that still makes people "behave."

188John5918
Set 24, 2012, 2:08am

>187 Lunar: Well, I can also say (sincerely and not trying to be confrontational) that I haven't the slightest idea what you're trying to say. Democracy is about citizens and groups of citizens trying to influence legislation, any legislation, for whatever motive.

189Lunar
Set 24, 2012, 7:39am

#188: Democracy is about citizens and groups of citizens trying to influence legislation, any legislation, for whatever motive.

And just one message ago you were saying "isn't that what the democratic process is all about, "a pack of voters getting together to impose" not only their own morality but their views on just about anything on society?"

I'm not saying that creating impositions is the only thing democracies do. But they do it much more often than repealing their impositions. When you create a system that makes it artificially easier to impose morality (religious or secular) on others, the logical outcome is that voters will overemphasize the creation of impositions in their voting behavior.

190Tid
Set 24, 2012, 7:45am

181

Thank you for your very full answer. I think that when I used the phrase "experience of the divine" I initially used it to mean an INTERNAL experience, rather than what you are referring to as external. But actually, I'm now not so sure. It seems entirely possible that a mystical experience is a kind of "interfacing experience" between the internal (which at all but the deepest level is subjective and open to interpretation by the mind in terms of what it already knows - e.g. the person of Jesus) and what I dare to call "true reality", i.e. the external world as unfiltered and unmoderated by our own subjectivity and physical apparatus.

There does seem to be a sort of consensus between those through history who have experienced what can be called a "timeless moment". The common thread seems to be a feeling of unity, of connectedness between all things, the inner and outer worlds becoming one (albeit briefly), and time itself seeming to stand still for the duration of the experience. This kind of experience seems to occur to people of all religions, but also of none, so it may be unconnected with religious belief, and is open equally to the atheist, who would of course express it in vastly different terms from the religious believer.

Yes, it's hard to talk about other people's experience, particularly when it hasn't happened to me. When it comes to mysticism I'm a believer rather than an experiencer, but I've met and spoken to people to whom it has happened, and I've also been impressed by reading books like Watcher on the Hills.

The catalogue of failures of people who are religious is not in itself a proof or disproof of anything, except a rather sad reflection on the weakness of human nature. After all, wasn't it St Augustine who prayed "Lord, make me celibate ... but not yet."? I think my poor choice of language was to try and underscore what you yourself said - that such experiences are life-changing (even if the change doesn't prove permanent in the long run).

I would - rightly or wrongly - separate mystical experience from those who have a personal relationship with Jesus. That, I believe, is because religion often drives a need for a spiritual relationship with an actual "person", and Jesus is the obvious fit for Christians. (Krsna for Hindus, the Buddha for most Buddhists except Zen, the Q'ran for Muslims, and so on).

191southernbooklady
Set 24, 2012, 8:04am

>186 John5918: I ask again, though, isn't that what the democratic process is all about, "a pack of voters getting together to impose" not only their own morality but their views on just about anything on society?

I think this is a somewhat simplistic view of the way that at least modern democracy works--in most cases there are checks in place to guard against the tyranny of the majority. Constitutions, Common Laws, legal precedents, etc. Americans, anyway, give an immense weight to this sort of thing--we are often regarded as a young country with no real sense of history, but we are an idealistic one. We don't have thousands of years of crumbling castles and strongholds on our landscape. Just a consciousness that our country began around ideas about personal liberty and freedom. We can get quite fanatic about it.

192lawecon
Editado: Set 24, 2012, 8:32am

~~188 & 189

Let's see if I can explain to John what is going on in at least part of this discussion. Lunar is, or thinks he is, an American libertarian. American libertarians have some strengths and some blind spots. One of the blind spots is democracy and limits on government.

The way American libertarians interpret the history of the United States (and, to a lesser extent, of Britain) is as a benevolent aristocracy during the Golden Age and as more and more of a democracy as it declines into tyranny. Hence, democracy, particularly "unrestricted" democracy, is a BAD THING.

Consequently, you can seldom get any of these guys to answer questions about alternatives. To the extent they try to do so they will usually prate on about permanent constitutions that somehow exist apart from the control of the society in which they exist. A very few honest ones will tell you that what they really want is a variant of what we once had - rule by the Virginia Aristocracy. They will tell you straight out that a limited government that is undemocratic and even anti-democratic is preferable to a democratic government that results in unlimited government. Of course, I wouldn't expect Lunar to be that clear.

In any case, the discussion never reaches the point of where such an aristocracy would come from or how it gets its dominate power over the other parts of society. It is just the classic Bibbity Bobbity Boo of this particular ideology.

If you want some examples of the founding essays along this line try http://www.econlib.org/library/LFBooks/Spencer/spnMvS.html

193John5918
Set 24, 2012, 8:57am

>191 southernbooklady: No disagreement with you there, southernbooklady. A good democracy does indeed have checks and balances, including the constitution. It might prevent a majority from imposing their views in some cases, but it doesn't alter their basic democratic right to try to influence legislation, whether as individuals or as organised groups (aka parties, pressure groups, campaign groups, lobbies, etc). Indeed that is what democracy is all about.

>192 lawecon: Thanks, lawecon. That's helpful. I don't know whether other US posters will agree with your analysis, but I think non-US people often find it very difficult to understand the particular dynamics of the USA.

194lawecon
Set 24, 2012, 9:06am

I don't think that this is going to work with southernbooklady. I tried above to explain to her that constitutional limitations in the US were on the effects of legislation, not on the motivations for legislation, that the only sorts of societies that are overly concerned with the motivations for legislation are totalitarian societies. Her response was that she ignored that point just as she has ignored several other key points that undermine her misunderstanding of the world around her. It is curious how the antireligious are often people of great faith.

195aulsmith
Set 24, 2012, 10:06am

Reply to the following in 182:

>163 aulsmith:: "I don't begrudge you your own experiences. But I do take issue with people who generalize from their own subjective experiences of "the divine" and try to legislate what I can and cannot do."

Wow. You go from "I believe in Jesus" to "I want to pass laws against you because you don't" in one sentence. Trying to equate religious belief with religiously-motivated political repression is extraordinarily fallacious.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Let me unpack the statement in 163 so that it's clearer

John, in 155 stated that some people (numbers unspecified) have a subjective "experience of the divine" that informs their religious belief.

I said that I have no problem with people interpreting their own subjective experiences in any way they want to for themselves.

However, some of the people described by John (numbers unspecified but less than the total set) take their subjective experience of the divine and decide that what the "divine" has told them applies to the rest of us and try to get the rest of us to do it because the "divine" told them to. I object to people who attempt to generalize their subjective experience so that I must conform to it even if it conflicts with my own subjective experience.

In logic terms I said (sorry there are no Venn diagrams)

- there is a set R (religious people who have experienced the divine)
- within set R there is a subset I (people who consider their experience normative and wish to impose it on others)

Tid argues that set I is not a subset of R, that it is a set wholey outside R. Since the experience that makes you a part of R is subjective, there is no way to evaluate who is in R and who is not. I argued that the people in set I claim to be part of R and, lacking an objective way to exclude them, I'm leaving them in set R.

I don't see the fallacy (though we can, of course, argue ad infinitum about the premises).

196aulsmith
Set 24, 2012, 10:18am

190: I would - rightly or wrongly - separate mystical experience from those who have a personal relationship with Jesus. That, I believe, is because religion often drives a need for a spiritual relationship with an actual "person", and Jesus is the obvious fit for Christians. (Krsna for Hindus, the Buddha for most Buddhists except Zen, the Q'ran for Muslims, and so on).

I'm confused.

I was saying that when someone says "I allowed the Lord Jesus into my life as my Lord and Savior, and now I have a personal relationship with Him" that that is an "experience of the divine" as posited by John in post 155. One of many possible "experiences of the divine".

Were you thinking that was the only experience I thought was an experience of the divine?

Or are you saying you don't qualify that experience as an experience of the divine?

Or are you making a distinction between run-of-the-mill experiences of the divine and specialized mystical experiences?

197nathanielcampbell
Set 24, 2012, 10:23am

>195 aulsmith:: To paraphrase:

I have no problem with people interpreting their own experiences of the world in any way they want to for themselves, even if that means that they reject any notion of the divine as utter nonsense.

However, some of these people (number unspecified but less than the total set) take their perception of the lack-of-a-divine and decide that what they understand from a materialistic perspective applies to the rest of us and try to get the rest of us to go along with it because the "divine" can't possibly be meaningful or real. I object to people who attempt to generalize their subjective rejection of God so that I must conform to it, even if it conflicts with my own subjective acceptance of God.

In logic terms:

- there is a set A (atheists who have rejected the divine)
- within set A there is a subset I (people who consider their experience normative and with to impose it on others)

And the rest follows....

Subset I of Set A seems to be very active on LibraryThing.

198aulsmith
Set 24, 2012, 11:14am

197: Agreed

199southernbooklady
Set 24, 2012, 12:04pm

>197 nathanielcampbell: Heh.

In logic terms:

- there is a set R (Religious people who accept the existence of the Divine)
- within set R there is a subset F (people who consider their experience normative and wish to impose it on others because such is God's plan)

And the rest follows....

Subset F of Set R seems to be very active in the world in general.

It makes this atheist a little bit overly sensitive.

200nathanielcampbell
Set 24, 2012, 12:37pm

>195 aulsmith:: "I don't see the fallacy (though we can, of course, argue ad infinitum about the premises)."

The fallacy in the original statement was that it did not distinguish between the set and the subset -- the implication was that all who belonged to the set also belonged in the problematic subset. 195 clarified the boundaries and thus removed the fallacious implication.

201aulsmith
Set 24, 2012, 1:46pm

199: Agreed. But trying to argue them out of their subjective experience is a useless enterprise, as I know well from decades of experience on the other side. The best we can do is try to keep them from getting away with wildly inaccurate generalizations from their experiences and pointing out when they try to privilege their subjective experience over other subjective experiences or observed facts. It's a daunting job and I admire those of you who keep at it, but I have other things to do.

200: I usually try to clarify ambiguities before declaring statements fallacious, but whatever.

Tid: If you want to continue the discussion of mysticism and the experience of the divine, perhaps we want to start another topic? This one is getting long.

202Tid
Set 24, 2012, 4:24pm

196

I think possibly we are both using the phrase "experience of the divine" in different ways? To me, if I hear someone say "I allowed the Lord Jesus into my life as my Lord and Savior, and now I have a personal relationship with Him", it's a psychological and / or emotional statement, informed by that person's religious beliefs. It's what John Shelby Spong describes as our 'childlike need for a parental figure', and he says that's what is holding religion - specifically Christianity - back, and that we, as a species, have to 'grow up and move on'.

Now, maybe that's a gross generalisation. Maybe there are people who can have that personal relationship with Jesus following a mystical experience that started out as non-specific, but which got translated by their mind in the context of their religious beliefs.

For me, a specifically religious "experience of the divine" doesn't exist. Yes, that's a challenging statement to make, but it's for this reason : to me, such experiences are a glimpse of a deeper reality and non-specific to particular religions (or indeed, any), as religions are all man-made.

I'm not sure I'd use the word "specialised" in relation to mystical experience, in fact I'd use the term "generalised" for the reasons I just gave. And to relate it to the "set theory" described above, I would define mystical experience as being neither Set R nor Set I, but a different set entirely, often unrelated to religion.

203Tid
Set 24, 2012, 4:25pm

201

Sure! Why not?

204aulsmith
Set 24, 2012, 8:36pm

202: I tried to start a new topic and couldn't think of a way to summarize where we were, so maybe we should continue here. We're probably pretty much done.

What you are calling generalized is what I meant by specialized (in that only special people can have it.).

Since all these experiences are subjective, there's no objective way to compare them. The people who promote the generalized mystical experience (Merton, Suzuki, Spong? -- I haven't read Spong) certainly say they're special. But a lot of what I experienced in the Charismatic Renewal/Catholic Church/Catholic Worker community seemed to be very much what Merton was on about, just that I filtered my experience through the Catholic Charismatic lens and Merton filtered his through the Catholic mystics/zen practice lens. And I think people who have an "experience of the divine" that they call accepting Jesus into their hearts are pretty much doing the same thing with a born-again Christian lens and the Voodoo practitioners who let the loa ride them are doing it with a Voodoo lens. But I don't know.

Maybe if someone ever gets enough money to study the brain waves of all these people in the midst of having these experiences, we'll have some objective data to discuss.

Don't know where else to go with this. You have anything else?

205John5918
Editado: Set 24, 2012, 11:36pm

Don't know whether this is relevant, but about 20 years ago I was on the fringes of some inter-faith dialogue between Christian Benedictine monks and nuns and some Buddhist monks from the Dalai Lama's tradition. When they talked about theology they had nothing in common. When they talked about their experience of prayer and meditation, they found they were describing the same thing, albeit using different images and language, and had very much in common.

206mikevail
Set 25, 2012, 12:13am

204
This is a link to a paper titled, "The transcendent experience: Conceptual, theoretical, and epidemiologic perspectives" byJeff Levin, PhD, MPH, and Lea Steele, PhD published in 2005; you'll need access to JSTOR or a similar academic archive to read the full article but this is the abstract:

"This paper provides a conceptual, theoretical, and empirical overview of the concept of the transcendent experience. The principal goal is to formalize a scientific field around the study of dimensions, determinants, and health outcomes of transcendence. This is accomplished through posing several fundamental questions and then answering them as concisely as possible in light of current theory and existing empirical research. These include the following: “What is the transcendent experience?” “Can the transcendent experience be studied?” “What do we (and don’t we) know about the transcendent experience?” “How is the transcendent experience triggered?” “How is the transcendent experience sustained?” “Are there physiological models of the transcendent experience?” “Are there health effects of the transcendent experience?” and, “How should we study the health effects of the transcendent experience?” Finally, an agenda is proposed for research on the role of the transcendent experience in health, emphasizing development of an epidemiology of the transcendent experience."

They seem optimistic about being able to effectively study the transcendental experience. This is their summary:

"Through implementing a program of research, as identified above, scientists will be able to move systematically from the current state of conceptual and theoretical discordance to a fully fleshed-out and mature body of empirical research findings on the dimensions, determinants, health outcomes, and basic sciences of the transcendent experience. This work can itself then serve as a spur to future research seeking to identify salutogenic mechanisms whereby mental, emotional, and spiritual factors other than transcendence impact on the body, on human physiology, and on health status across the natural history of disease and throughout the life course. This is consistent with both (1) recent calls to expand and broaden ongoing research efforts in the epidemiology of religion to consideration of internal psychological states and traits and (2) more longstanding efforts to encourage investigators to extend research on transpersonal states of consciousness by utilizing a wide variety of methodological approaches. Most of all, of course, such programmatic research will enlarge our understanding of the transcendent experience. In so doing, such investigations will go a long way toward dispelling the misconceptions, skepticism, and fear related to these poorly understood yet most compelling states of being."

207Lunar
Set 25, 2012, 12:58am

#193: Thanks, lawecon. That's helpful.

Just to let you know, lawecon was talking out of his ass when he implied that I was in favor of going back to some imaginary "golden age" of an American aristocracy. America doesn't even have any firmly rooted history of an aristocracy (except insofar as the slave-holding plantation owners prior to the Civil War) and de Tocqueville noted that American culture was notoriously counter-aristocratic in nature. The way lawecon goes on about democracy vs. aristocracy is just another one of those Churchillian false choices.

208lawecon
Editado: Set 25, 2012, 2:22am

~207

All of which is an extensive dodge. (Should have left this one alone.)

So tell us, Lunar, if you are in favor of any government at all, who exercises the power of the sovereign in your ideal government?

Just tell us simply, rather than engaging in all this dodging around about "false alternatives."

I am not asking how extensive the government should be. I am not asking about its scope. (Although how you actually maintain a particular limited scope is a good question in itself.)

Just tell me who exercises the power of whatever government exists. Who is the sovereign? Is it an aristocracy or a dictator or a popular majority?
Commit yourself to one of the actually available alternatives, Lunar - out loud and once and for all, for all to hear.

(For anyone who is interested in an honest answer, just plug "democracy and liberty" into a google search and note what comes up and the ideological affiliation of those who are contending that democracy is both unconnected with and hostile toward liberty.)

209Lunar
Set 25, 2012, 3:01am

#208: It's not a dodge. You made up some bullshit story about pining for a golden age of American aristocracy and I showed how you were wrong.

Commit yourself to one of the actually available alternatives, Lunar - out loud and once and for all, for all to hear.

More false choices. Maybe you should go back to the sixteenth century and propound upon protestantism and catholicism as being the "available alternatives" and anyone who dissents to that false choice is making a "dodge." History is not confined by your languidity.

210Tid
Set 25, 2012, 7:40am

204, 205

Yes, that's exactly what I was trying to say - that "experience of the divine" or mystical experience, ends up being filtered by the mind through the lens of one's belief system. If one doesn't have a particular belief system, then I presume that the experience would be forever remembered, but as a "Wow, what was THAT?" moment, possibly life-changing, possibly not, but never forgotten.

211lawecon
Set 25, 2012, 9:21am

~209

As anyone can now see, you're not going to answer the question. You are not going to answer the question because either: (1) You are simply lying and don't want to disclose your true views because you know how they would sound. (Again, many other very prominent libertarians are very very clear about this issue, that you are not, simply makes it look like this is the correct alternative.) or (2) You have such blind faith that you have also blinded yourself to this question.

The question still exists, however. If there is a government someone controls and makes decisions about policies. The traditional alternatives are the ONLY ones - either it is one person, or it is a small group of persons or it is "every citizen." Or maybe you believe that G-d directs the government? (No, thought not.)

212Lunar
Editado: Set 26, 2012, 1:27am

#211: Oh, look at you pounding your chest like you're some kind of brave knight in shining armor calling out the rascally beast from hiding. Cut the machismo crap. Everyone here knows my political views (and despite my disagreements with johnthefireman regarding politics, I'm confident that he can attest that I have been anything but evasive). You just want to bog the discussion down so that we don't talk about your irrational theism. That's just your schtick.

213aulsmith
Set 26, 2012, 8:33am

206: Thanks for the citation. I meant to look at the actual article yesterday but a hunt for my database password led to a day of cleaning my office (and not finding the password).

Your link was also password protected. Can you give the actual journal citation for the article? At this point it might be faster for me to go get the hardcopy.

214JaCo0108
Set 26, 2012, 9:22am

Science equals creation. What do you think that God is science? The almighty creator. Scientists may research but it all comes back to the creator, God. I am sure that are many good books out there to read. Are there any spiritual enlightening authors on here?

216margd
Set 26, 2012, 10:15am

Science may be hard-pressed to prove a negative, but it can awe, and awe leaves one open to possibilities. For example,

Hubble looks back 13.2 billion years in deepest view yet
September 26, 2012 9:38 AM
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-205_162-57520513/hubble-looks-back-13.2-billion-year...

Breathtaking!

217Tid
Set 26, 2012, 12:57pm

214

This, from Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the astronomer who discovered pulsars, in an interview :

"I was born into a Quaker family ... I've been active in Quakers all my life, still am. I find that Quakerism and research science fit together very very well.

In Quakerism you're expected to develop your own understanding of God from your experience in the world. There isn't a creed, there isn't a dogma. There's an "understanding" but nothing as formal as a dogma or creed. And this idea that you're expected to develop your own understanding also means that you keep re-developing your understanding as you get more experience.

And it seems to me that this is very like what goes on in the scientific method. You have a model ... - it's an understanding - and you develop that model in the light of experiments and observations. And so in both, you're expected to evolve your thinking. Nothing is static. Nothing is final. Everything is held provisionally.

Through history we've seen some theories that have stood the test of time well, and some that have disappeared relatively quickly. A theory that stands the test of time well will have been prodded and poked and battered and examined from every angle - and it still stands up....

Scientists should never claim that something is absolutely true. You should never claim perfect or total or 100% because you never ever get there. Science is a quest for understanding. A search for "truth" seems to me to be full of pitfalls - we all have different understandings of what truth is, and we are all in danger of believing that "our truth" is the one, the only, the absolute truth, which is why I say it's full of pitfalls. I think that a "search for understanding" is much more serviceable to human kind, and is a sufficiently ambitious goal of itself."

218John5918
Set 26, 2012, 1:05pm

>217 Tid: In Quakerism you're expected to develop your own understanding of God from your experience in the world. There isn't a creed, there isn't a dogma. There's an "understanding" but nothing as formal as a dogma or creed.

I think any religion ought to be about developing my own understanding of God from my experience in the world. But I can be helped by the experience of a community, both a historical community and a contemporary community. The creed and dogma are what has developed out of this community, but they don't override my own responsibility to understand God. As long as they are both helpful to and broadly compatible with my own experiential understanding of God, I remain a Catholic. If they diverge too much, I become a Sikh or whatever. At this stage of my life I can't really see that happening, but who knows.

219JaCo0108
Set 26, 2012, 8:12pm

http://www.librarything.com/work/117211/book/90192631. Author Kenneth R. Miller "Finding Darwin's God" suppose to be a scientist's search for common ground between God and evolution. This is a clean library copy. I suppose someone signed the title page, but tore it out and donated to the library. Looks like I need to read this book soon.

220Tid
Set 27, 2012, 6:52am

219

It's interesting that so often a debating arena is set up for the supposed conflict between "God" and "evolution". Yet never is there a corresponding arena for "God" and "chemistry", or "God" and "relativity", or "God" and "mathematics". Yet each of those sciences covers a more comprehensive aspect of the universe than evolution, which only applies to living organisms.

221aulsmith
Set 27, 2012, 7:57am

215: Thanks very much. I'm working my way through it.

220: That's because evolution produces the most conflicts with traditional Christian doctrine.

222John5918
Set 27, 2012, 8:17am

>221 aulsmith:That's because evolution produces the most conflicts with traditional Christian doctrine

But I think Tid's point is that it doesn't. Some of the others create potentially greater problems. Ask Galileo.

One would also have to define "traditional Christian doctrine". The Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Orthodox and a number of other denominations representing most of the Christians in the world have no problem with evolution, and they can certainly claim to have a stake in "traditional Christian doctrine".

223southernbooklady
Set 27, 2012, 8:27am

>220 Tid: Yet never is there a corresponding arena for "God" and "chemistry", or "God" and "relativity", or "God" and "mathematics". Yet each of those sciences covers a more comprehensive aspect of the universe than evolution, which only applies to living organisms.

Just so. And, significantly, none of these disciplines contradicts or disproves the workings of another. Evolution works because of the laws of physics manifested in the processes of chemistry. People who reject scientific evidence in favor of religious doctrine have to do some real mental gymnastics to hold onto their belief.

224StormRaven
Set 27, 2012, 8:35am

Yet never is there a corresponding arena for "God" and "chemistry", or "God" and "relativity", or "God" and "mathematics".

Fundamentalists often try to "disprove" cosmology because it conflicts with their notion of a creator-God. That's not directly attacking relativity, but since our model of cosmology uses relativity as one of its building blocks, it is an indirect attack.

Fundamentalists have decided that set theory is somehow illegitimate too, and have expunged it from their "Christian" textbooks.

225aulsmith
Set 27, 2012, 8:39am

Hmm, I read Tid's point as evolution doesn't cover much territory compared to the other sciences that he mentions, so he was wondering why it gets so much attention.

Evolution is the science that ultimately did in my faith (Lutheran/Catholic hybrid). Evidently you've been able to find some way to reconcile the two. So clearly I would think there is a big conflict where you do not.

I do think that because evolution deals with human origins and the human condition, and many Christian doctrines are concerned with human origins and the human condition that there is much more potential for conflict than with, say, mathematics, which deals only tangentially with things that concern Christianity. Hence the reason for evolution being the site for the most debate.

226John5918
Set 27, 2012, 8:54am

>225 aulsmith: Thanks, aulsmith. For me there is absolutely no conflict between evolution and faith. The Genesis account is not literally true, but contains truths. Genesis was written in a pre-scientific age and was not supposed to be a science text book, but it can be mined for truths about humanity and God. Most Christians are not bible literalists.

I don't think any branch of science actually conflicts with faith. Science tells us what happens and how; religion asks questions about who we are and how we should live. But I would think that stuff like particle physics, cosmology, relativity, quantum mechanics, string theory, etc has greater implications for faith than evolution does, as they deal with the fundamental make-up of the universe. Exciting times for religious thinkers, some of whom are scientists themselves, as they examine how modern science and modern faith complement each other.

227aulsmith
Set 27, 2012, 9:03am

226: It wasn't the conflict with Genesis so much as the one with Augustine that got me.

228Tid
Set 27, 2012, 9:18am

221 - 226

You all make some good points. And John (226), I agree with all of that. I suppose that evolution has become a kind of shibboleth for fundamentalists and thereby also for some atheists in its defence. 400 years ago it was cosmology, Galileo and the Catholic church; now, it's evolution, Darwin, and fundamentalists. Yet as John points out, the vast majority of Christians apparently accept the findings of science in general, and evolution in particular.

Yes, these are exciting times, as science explores areas that overlap with the traditional remits of philosophy.

229John5918
Set 27, 2012, 9:21am

>227 aulsmith: It wasn't the conflict with Genesis so much as the one with Augustine that got me.

That's a sentiment I can understand!

230StormRaven
Set 27, 2012, 9:40am

228: One thing that should be pointed out is that creationists tend to conflate a whole host of scientific fields into "evolution", probably because their basic science education is so lacking.

They will say they don't believe in "evolution", but then proceed to argue about Big Bang theory, stellar evolution, planetary formation, geology, radiometric dating, abiogenesis, and tangentially, evolution, plus a whole host of other areas of scientific inquiry. But to them, its all one big shibboleth labeled "evolution".

I suppose it should come as no surprise, given that the primary "educators" in the creation community are themselves to poorly educated on the subject that they get easy basic stuff wrong. Case in point, Kent Hovind, a fairly prominent proponent of young Earth creationism, confuses Big Bang theory and stellar formation, mushing them together to come up with a muddled rationale for why Big Bang theory is "wrong".

231marq
Set 27, 2012, 9:44am

Yes, I don't see how the theory of evolution has ever really had any bearing on a religious faith or even on a philosophical notion of God. A theory by which forms of life have resulted from a process that does not require intention does not contradict a theory that the process itself is as intended.

The original question is interesting. I wonder also if science will ever finally rule out the belief that German Opera is better than Italian opera or if Indian classical music is superior to jazz?

Perhaps science should be called upon to solve the European debt crisis? (Perhaps a planned economy on purely rational lines governed by an intellectual elite styling themselves "the intelligentsia" unimpeded by distractions like democracy. It would make an interesting experiment).

To what extent does a film maker need to go to insult people's culture and society before it justifies a violent response? Ask a scientist!

232nathanielcampbell
Set 27, 2012, 9:52am

>231 marq:: "Perhaps a planned economy on purely rational lines governed by an intellectual elite styling themselves "the intelligentsia" unimpeded by distractions like democracy."

Isn't that basically what the ECB and their creditors are forcing Greece to do? As much as I sympathize with the protesters (including the academics whose jobs and research monies are being slashed), I have to wonder what alternative they have. Default on the loan monies? Sure, because that will certainly allow the government to continue to fund everything!

233StormRaven
Set 27, 2012, 9:53am

Perhaps science should be called upon to solve the European debt crisis?

You do realize that economics is described as a social science, don't you?

234marq
Set 27, 2012, 9:56am

I do indeed. Economists will solve it then?

235StormRaven
Set 27, 2012, 9:58am

234: Most of the people who are formulating policy are economists. Look at who is in the policy making positions of the European Central Bank for example.

236marq
Set 27, 2012, 10:04am

And what of the opinions, emotions and culture of the people of Greece and Spain? The economists at the ECB are going to put something in their water?

237StormRaven
Set 27, 2012, 10:37am

236: The emotions of the people of Greece and Spain won't solve their fiscal problems.

238marq
Set 27, 2012, 5:40pm

237: I disagree. "The best laid schemes of mice and men". But I suppose the economists may attempt to take into account culture and emotional reaction in their economic modelling. Which, to go back to the original question, is the nature of science.

Science creates useful intellectual models (theories) and tests (their usefulness) experimentally. Some would say science discovers reality or truth. That strikes my ears as theism. Even if we get around that contradiction implied in the original question, what is the nature of religion and a religious belief in God?

a. I choose to believe in God because it is part of a faith that brings me happiness, comfort, wisdom, enhances life and is my salvation.
b. I assert that God exists. God's existence is proven in many ways including the existence of intention in material reality.

"b" potentially knocked on the head by the best (most useful) theories of science. But does "a" really depend on "b"?

"I have been deeply inspired by the life of one man. His heroism, honestly and courage has deeply inspired me to see my life as an heroic journey to discover my true potential, to grow spiritually. His name is Luke, Luke Skywalker."

239marydee.valdez
Set 27, 2012, 7:57pm

There is always a remnant of people who will not follow the ways of man, but will always be children of God and hold His Word dear. The Word has been here for over 2000 years. How can the created rule out the Creator? Never. Thank you for sharing the info.

240southernbooklady
Set 27, 2012, 8:17pm

>239 marydee.valdez: How can the created rule out the Creator?

Since I do not find evidence of intention in the universe, it is quite easy. I think it is not "created" at all, but merely (and wonderfully) a happy accident of physical laws and chemical interactions. Combine, then shake, and voila! Life, the universe and everything.

241marq
Set 28, 2012, 5:42pm

Accidental physical laws?

242southernbooklady
Set 28, 2012, 5:46pm

accident = without intention

243marq
Editado: Set 28, 2012, 5:49pm

The laws or their application? The laws appear by accident or they are accidentally applied? (or both)

244Tid
Set 28, 2012, 6:32pm

242

As a philosopher ( manquée), I'm particularly fascinated by the fact that this universe has evolved through the operation of a consistent set of "Laws" - I use the word advisedly; I really mean principles, as in chemical elements, mathematical and physical constants, etc - that must have come into existence in the nano-instants following the Big Bang. Now, I'm quite prepared to accept that the universe has evolved according to those laws/constants/principles, without the intention of a watchful supernatural being. But, it's still unknown how those laws/constants/principles emerged, and why we therefore live in the universe we do. I'm not sure that 'accidental' is the right word, but I'm equally not sure what the right word would be.

245lawecon
Set 28, 2012, 7:06pm

~244

As a philosopher, you should be skeptical that the "Laws" are somehow properties of the universe, rather than of the minds of human being trying to make sense of the universe.

246nathanielcampbell
Set 28, 2012, 7:52pm

>244 Tid:: If I understand the evidence for multiverses correctly--and please, somebody correct me if I've got this wrong--the oddly small and almost arbitrary value of the cosmological constant, the properties of sting-theory-induced multiple dimensions, and several other factors indicate that there are a practically infinite number of possible universes, in each of which the values for these basic "laws" are different. Ours happens to be the one in which those values all combined to allow us to happen in exactly the way we have.

247marq
Set 28, 2012, 8:47pm

245: Exactly.

The original question contains an absurd paradox. A science that could rule out God is a science built on theistic metaphysical foundations.

248Tid
Set 29, 2012, 11:14am

245

That's why I used the word "Laws" advisedly. I agree that there is no universal law of biology, or chemistry, or physics, etc. However, the constants I referred to (pi, the speed of light, chemical elements, etc) exist, whatever unit of measurement an intelligent species uses to apply.

246

Yes, exactly. But the question of where, when precisely, and how the "Laws" (constants) emerged in each universe, is an interesting question, no? Of course, it MAY emerge that every universe in the theoretical multiverse contains the same set of constants. Or it may not. We can only speculate, which is why I find science and philosophy such fascinating bedfellows.

249lawecon
Set 29, 2012, 1:02pm

~248

Let me make a distinction here, as someone who has had some training in philosophy of science. "Law" is usually used in scienctific discussions to refer to a strictly universal conditional statement that expresses a hypotesized "causal" link between one specified set of circumstances and their outcome. "If I hold a lit match immediately under the hand of a living human being, then that human being will say "ouch." is an example of a crude "law."

Constants are not usually laws.

250Tid
Set 29, 2012, 6:26pm

249

We differ perhaps on the definition of "law" here? For me, if there is a constant, e.g. pi, or chemical elements, or the spectrum of light, then they are "laws" in the sense that they hold true throughout the universe, and are therefore "lawful"...in the sense that there is something behind them that causes them to be constant.

I'm not talking about God here, but whatever "mechanism" or "principle" keeps them from varying or falling apart into a chaotic ever-changing mess (as might apply in a different universe, for example).

251lawecon
Set 29, 2012, 7:39pm

~250

Well, we can stipulate to whatever definitions we like so long as we are communicating with one another, but I think that this usage you are recommending obscures more than clarifies.

252eromsted
Editado: Set 29, 2012, 9:31pm

>251 lawecon:
Is doubt regarding empirically defined laws different from general doubt about the reality of existence outside one's own mind? Or to put it differently, is one's confidence in observable patterns different from one's basic confidence in the ability to make observations about a world outside one's self?

253lawecon
Set 29, 2012, 11:17pm

Confidence is a psychological trait. Science has to do with logic and evidence.

254Tid
Editado: Set 30, 2012, 6:05am

253

Yes, I agree. But science is a discipline practised by, and using a methodology defined by, human beings, and I would suggest that "logic" no more exists as a universal constant than the "(category) Laws" we are also discussing. Or else, both do...

Perhaps it would be helpful to define exactly what we mean by "Law", here? This, from Wikipedia:

"The laws of science or scientific laws are statements that describe, predict, and perhaps explain why, a range of phenomena behave as they appear to in nature.1 The term "law" has diverse usage in many cases: approximate, accurate, broad or narrow theories, in all natural scientific disciplines (physics, chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy etc.). An analogous term for a scientific law is a principle.
Scientific laws:
- summarize a large collection of facts determined by experiment into a single statement,
- can usually be formulated mathematically as one or several statements or equation, or at least stated in a single sentence, so that it can be used to predict the outcome of an experiment, given the initial, boundary, and other physical conditions of the processes which take place,
- are strongly supported by empirical evidence - they are scientific knowledge that experiments have repeatedly verified (and never falsified). Their accuracy does not change when new theories are worked out, but rather the scope of application, since the equation (if any) representing the law does not change. As with other scientific knowledge, they do not have absolute certainty like mathematical theorems or identities, and it is always possible for a law to be overturned by future observations.
Laws differ from hypotheses and postulates, which are proposed during the scientific process before and during validation by experiment and observation. These are not laws since they have not been verified to the same degree and may not be sufficiently general, although they may lead to the formulation of laws. A law is a more solidified and formal statement, distilled from repeated experiment.
Although the concepts of a law or principle in nature is borderline to philosophy, and presents the depth to which mathematics can describe nature, scientific laws are considered from a scientific perspective and follow the scientific method; they "serve their purpose" rather than "questioning reality" (philosophical) or "statements of logical absolution" (mathematical). For example, whether a law "refers to reality" is a philosophical issue, rather than scientific.
Fundamentally, all scientific laws follow from physics, laws which occur in other sciences ultimately follow from physical laws. Often, from mathematically fundamental viewpoints, universal constants emerge from scientific laws."


And this, from http://www.everystudent.com/wires/organized.html :

"Scientists today take for granted the idea that the universe operates according to laws. All of science is based on what author James Trefil calls the principle of universality: "It says that the laws of nature we discover here and now in our laboratories are true everywhere in the universe and have been in force for all time."2

There's more. As scientists record what they observe, most often they are not just using words and paragraphs. The laws of nature can be documented with numbers. They can be measured and computed in the language of mathematics.

The greatest scientists have been struck by how strange this is. There is no logical necessity for a universe that obeys rules, let alone one that abides by the rules of mathematics. The speed of light measures the same 186,000 miles per second, no matter if the light comes from a child's flashlight or a star that's galaxies away. Mathematically, there is an exact speed of light that doesn't change.

Physicist Eugene Wigner confesses that the mathematical underpinning of nature "is something bordering on the mysterious and there is no rational explanation for it."3 Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner for quantum electrodynamics, said, "Why nature is mathematical is a mystery...The fact that there are rules at all is a kind of miracle."4

This astonishment springs from the recognition that the universe doesn't have to behave this way. It is easy to imagine a universe in which conditions change unpredictably from instant to instant, or even a universe in which things pop in and out of existence. Instead, scientists cling to their long-held faith in the fundamental rationality of the cosmos."


Finally, this, from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/18/science/18law.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2pagewa... :

"There is in fact a kind of chicken-and-egg problem with the universe and its laws. Which “came” first — the laws or the universe?

If the laws of physics are to have any sticking power at all, to be real laws, one could argue, they have to be good anywhere and at any time, including the Big Bang, the putative Creation. Which gives them a kind of transcendent status outside of space and time.

On the other hand, many thinkers — all the way back to Augustine — suspect that space and time, being attributes of this existence, came into being along with the universe — in the Big Bang, in modern vernacular. So why not the laws themselves?

Dr. Davies complains that the traditional view of transcendent laws is just 17th-century monotheism without God. “Then God got killed off and the laws just free-floated in a conceptual vacuum but retained their theological properties,” he said in his e-mail message.

But the idea of rationality in the cosmos has long existed without monotheism. As far back as the fifth century B.C. the Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras and his followers proclaimed that nature was numbers. Plato envisioned a higher realm of ideal forms, of perfect chairs, circles or galaxies, of which the phenomena of the sensible world were just flawed reflections. Plato set a transcendent tone that has been popular, especially with mathematicians and theoretical physicists, ever since.

Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate from the University of Texas, Austin, described himself in an e-mail message as “pretty Platonist,” saying he thinks the laws of nature are as real as “the rocks in the field.” The laws seem to persist, he wrote, “whatever the circumstance of how I look at them, and they are things about which it is possible to be wrong, as when I stub my toe on a rock I had not noticed.”

The ultimate Platonist these days is Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In talks and papers recently he has speculated that mathematics does not describe the universe — it is the universe.

Dr. Tegmark maintains that we are part of a mathematical structure, albeit one gorgeously more complicated than a hexagon, a multiplication table or even the multidimensional symmetries that describe modern particle physics. Other mathematical structures, he predicts, exist as their own universes in a sort of cosmic Pythagorean democracy, although not all of them would necessarily prove to be as rich as our own.

“Everything in our world is purely mathematical — including you,” he wrote in New Scientist.

This would explain why math works so well in describing the cosmos. It also suggests an answer to the question that Stephen Hawking, the English cosmologist, asked in his book, “A Brief History of Time”: “What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?” Mathematics itself is on fire."


Sorry to dump such a long post on you, but this matter of universal "laws", and the fact that no matter which way the dice falls, we live in a mathematically-describable universe, is fascinating.

255John5918
Set 30, 2012, 9:12am

>254 Tid: I confess to being completely out of date with physics, but I rather thought that a lot of modern thinking is that the laws of physics as we know them didn't exist in the first incredibly small fractions of a second after the Big Bang. But I'd be interested to hear from someone more knowledgeable.

256lawecon
Editado: Set 30, 2012, 9:49am

~254

Yes, it is fascinating, but you seem to be reading too much into it. You, and most of the above quoted writers, seem to be confusing the "expectations" or working "bellefs" of scientists with science. That isn't science, that is human beings trying to justify what they are doing and trying to make it more important than it may be. It is certainly a claim to knowledge of absolute truth that is without justification.

Science is a group of speculations about how things work. The speculations have certain characteristics. They are hypothetical (require a specification of preconditions under which they are applicable), they are universal (not specific to only a given place and time), they are testable (AND THUS POTENTIALLY SUBJECT TO FALSIFICATION) and, hopefully, eventually, they are interconnected. That is it.

To expect that that there is more than that or, worse, to believe that there is more than that, is no different than the type of belief held by the type of "religious person" who believes that he or she talks to G-d.

257barney67
Set 30, 2012, 11:41am

I didn't read much of this thread, but…many of the issues are addressed in Where The Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism by Alvin Plantinga.

258StormRaven
Set 30, 2012, 11:48am

257: Plantinga is worthless on this. His arguments concerning science and naturalism are embarrassingly bad.

259Tid
Set 30, 2012, 12:46pm

255

Yes, that's what I've understood from science documentaries also. But that hypothesis then leads back to the question - "What caused the Big Bang (or to put it another way What conditions pre-existed that made a Big Bang inevitable?) and what laws are applicable to 'Big Bangs'?"

256

I'm not sure what you imagine I'm reading into this matter? I was trying to clarify what we call "laws" and those three randomly selected quotes seemed to be trying to define that, far better than I can ever hope to. Two of the quotes were from Paul Davies and Richard Feynman, whom I would describe as "beautiful minds", but I'm not trying prove an absolute truth.
It is nevertheless fascinating to philosophers, how and why such "laws", "principles", or "constants" came to be. I'm don't think you can read too much into such fundamental questions about existence. This is absolutely NOT the same as "talking to God".

260marq
Set 30, 2012, 10:18pm

259: Would you say that "comprehensibility" is a property of the universe?

261lawecon
Out 1, 2012, 8:17am

~259

"It is nevertheless fascinating to philosophers, how and why such "laws", "principles", or "constants" came to be. I'm don't think you can read too much into such fundamental questions about existence."

I can only presume that you missed the parts about "speculation" and "falsifiable."

"This is absolutely NOT the same as "talking to God"."

Well, it certainly shouldn't be if it is science. But it sounds an awful lot like that is what it is.

262Tid
Out 1, 2012, 9:19am

260

I think it is, as scientists throughout the ages have got a clearer and clearer picture of the universe and its "laws". We as a species have produced the scientists that asked the questions, and performed experimental tests that eventually came up with an answer, however provisional it might be.

Whether the universe is comprehensible to the extent of containing the answer to the question of its hypothetical "ultimate cause", is more a philosophical question. At least for now.

261

No, I didn't miss them. That's how science operates. (Though "falsifiable" is usually fairly easily uncovered, given the objective rigour and repeatability of the scientific method). However, we were talking about "laws" specifically, rather than the scientific method per se, which uncovers and formulates them.

The "unanswerable (for now) questions about existence" may not interest you. But they interest many people, ranging from the religious, through philosophers, and include scientists in their number too. You cannot assume that such matters are the same as "talking to God", except for the religious askers of the questions (and even then, many of those are happy to allow science to try for the answer, and leave "talking to God" for other sides of their life).

263lawecon
Editado: Out 2, 2012, 5:07pm

"No, I didn't miss them. That's how science operates. (Though "falsifiable" is usually fairly easily uncovered, given the objective rigour and repeatability of the scientific method). However, we were talking about "laws" specifically, rather than the scientific method per se, which uncovers and formulates them."

The continuing problem seems to be that you somehow believe that there is a point where a hypothesis (a speculation about how things are) becomes a Law. There isn't, except as a sociological /psychological phenomenon The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Science is no more than a series of interconnected hypotheses. A scientist may "feel confidence" in a particular hypothesis because it has been tested numerous times, but that doesn't mean that it can't be shown to be false the next time. (That is what it means for it to be falsifiable and for the form of the hypothesis to be "strictly universal.")

And, yes, the person who is a scientist by profession who is too adamant about "these are the Laws of Nature," is no different than the lunatic fundamentalist who talks to G-d.

264Tid
Out 2, 2012, 5:16pm

263

"And, yes, the person who is a scientist by profession who is too adamant about "these are the Laws of Nature," is no different than the lunatic fundamentalist who talks to G-d."

In your opinion. Though it would be illuminating to know precisely how you define "too adamant"? I might agree with you if you are describing an extreme position, which your capitalisation would seem to suggest. But clearly *I* wasn't.

As for how the word "laws" should be qualified, you've already forgotten what I said in 248, 250, 254, 259, for starters. There is the small matter of "constants" that exist in this particular universe, and about which many people, including - to repeat myself - religious people, philosophers, scientists, or any combination thereof are interested to ask "how?" "why?". You may not be one of them, in fact you manifestly aren't, but just because you aren't, doesn't make those who are "God botherers", or "lunatic fundamentalist". You cannot demand that the only true scientists are incurious materialists without a philosophical bone in their body.

265lawecon
Out 2, 2012, 8:22pm

~264

I don't really care whether scientists have a philosophic bone in their bodies. If they do, it is fine so long as they don't confuse it with the work to be done.

However, you continue to seem to miss the point. The point is not some sort of materialism (although I am a materialist rather than a dualist). The point is how you regard "scientific laws." If you regard them as something "external" to human beings, as absolute truths ultimately captured by right intuition, then you are simply clergy in a scientist's garb. If you regard them as speculations that have survived many tests, then fine. Call them "laws" if you want rather than hypotheses or speculations, but realize that all you are reporting on is your mental state - your level of confidence (in a nonstatistical sense of that term).

We, of course, continue to have this problem with "constants" being laws. Why do you think that there is the term "constants" if "constants are laws?"

266Tid
Out 3, 2012, 8:28am

265

It doesn't matter whether you call them "constants" or "laws" (well, it doesn't matter to me; however, I suspect you personally may entertain a semantic gremlin regarding the word "law" which is perhaps why you continue to argue the point).

Ok, let's substitute the word "constant" for "law" - I really don't mind what word we use, as long as we both agree on what we're talking about. So, my philosophical interest (and many scientists are philosophers too) is in how those constants arose. By accident? (It's a possibility, for sure). Or by some other mechanism? (In which case, what mechanism, and how did THAT arise?).

Those are questions which science at present cannot answer. Which is why philosophy exists. God doesn't even have to enter the picture.

267lawecon
Editado: Out 3, 2012, 9:11am

~266

Now that we've stopped calling things by a name that implies wrong things about those things that are properly designated by that name, I still have somewhat of a problem. I don't see the fascination. Yes, there are probably constants in nature. There are also constant's in geometry, like pi. I suppose that it "could be different," but, ah, it isn't. It is what it is. And it rather becomes uninteresting background datum (datum that a working physical scientist must know, but still just background datum) until or unless these constants seem to be changing.

I've always been left cold by this argument from design (which is what I think you're working around to). Yes, the stars and the galaxies and nature are wonderous. I agree. I have a yard full of wonderous succulent plants and a house full of fascinating pets because they are wonderous.

Does that mean that we have to understand in detail how they got the way they are? I am not saying there is anything inherently wrong with such a preoccupation, but it seems like something that is secondary priority when there are still so many "what is" questions and "how does it work" questions that we still haven't got right. Further, and I suppose that this is the source of my unease, most such explanations seem to be historical in character, and we know this uncomfortable thing about "historical knowledge" - it isn't testable, in any strong sense of "testable." Yes, you can adduce evidence pro and con for a particular speculation, but, ultimately, you weren't there (and even if you had been there you probably wouldn't have fully understood what was happening and why) and the event or sequence of events isn't going to happen again. It was and its results are, but its not going to happen again. The implication of that is that whether our historical explanation of how things got like they are is right or wrong, it doesn't really matter to the instrumental significance of science.

Your turn.

268Tid
Out 3, 2012, 10:56am

267

There's not much left to say. Except (i) you really must not infer from my stated interests, that I am "working around to" anything in particular. The existence of constants, and the arguable appearance of design, does not inevitably lead to the (theoretical or otherwise) existence of a 'designer'.

(ii) you and I will never agree on the significance of "how" and "why" questions. They are interesting to me, in a philosophical but non-religious way. They aren't to you, "they are what they are". Is there any point discussing at length what is, ultimately, of subjective interest?

269J_Nigro_Sansonese
Out 3, 2012, 10:58am

Not before God rules out science.

270lawecon
Out 3, 2012, 6:22pm

" Is there any point discussing at length what is, ultimately, of subjective interest?"

Nope, not a bit. De gustibus non est disputandum

271marq
Out 8, 2012, 4:06am

262: I find it difficult to see how saying that comprehensibility is a property of the universe is not talking about God.

However, it is a more subtle example of what the original question in this thread points to: the phenomenon I call "bumper sticker" atheism. We often hear of the rise in atheism. There may be a trend towards rejection of participation in organised traditional religion, a rejection of the notion of an old bearded man enthroned in heaven pulling the strings of the universe and certainly a rejection of his self appointed represenatives trying to tell us how to live our lives on his behalf. There seems to be a trend towards a more strident secularism especially in the USA feeding into the fundamentalist / secularist cycle of reaction and counter reaction. None of that has got much to do with atheism and those trends are probably observable amongst people who would still consider themselves religious.

"Religion no longer reveals the truth of the universe, science discovers it", "the purpose of the heart is to pump blood", "the microscope shows us nature's intricate design", "that doesn't make sense", "that doesn't justify violence", "the universe obeys the laws of physics", "science will someday rule out God".

Atheism on the bumper sticker but a completely theistic popular philosophy of science.

272John5918
Out 8, 2012, 5:01am

>271 marq: those trends are probably observable amongst people who would still consider themselves religious.

Very true.

273aulsmith
Out 8, 2012, 7:03am

271: So, if you define theism broadly enough, most people are theists. What does that get you?

Technically I'm an agnostic. I don't know that some supernatural being didn't start off the big bang. But I also don't care. They could find out tomorrow that the Flying Spaghetti Monster imagined the whole thing into being and I wouldn't care.

What I do know is that there is no life after this one, there's no one "up there" who cares about me as a person, that I'm far better off without the theistic thinking I used for 45 years, and that experiments with other ways of theistic thinking were at best unsatisfying and often as bad as the original religion. So I'm a practical atheist. And I see no reason to make fine distinctions between degrees of theism that have no bearing on the way I live my life.

274John5918
Out 8, 2012, 7:06am

>272 John5918: I see no reason to make fine distinctions between degrees of theism that have no bearing on the way I live my life

Agreed 100% as long as you keep your religious beliefs to yourself as you live your life. But when you voluntarily enter a conversation about them, don't be surprised at being challenged by people who think you are over-simplifying something which is complex and nuanced.

275aulsmith
Editado: Out 8, 2012, 7:58am

274: Okay

ETA: Clearly if there are folks here whose definition of theism is so complex and nuanced that it includes me as a theist, there is nothing for us to talk about, since we disagree on basic premises. I actually thought that was true when I started posting here. My second post did say that the answer to OP's question depended on how you define God. I shouldn't have let myself get sucked in. I'll go now.

276southernbooklady
Out 8, 2012, 8:15am

>271 marq: None of that has got much to do with atheism and those trends are probably observable amongst people who would still consider themselves religious.

It seems to me that you are suggesting that people have shifted from being "religious," in the organized sense, to being, well "spiritual" is the only word I can think of for it. That may be so, but I would still say that all your bumpersticker phrases are an atheistic response to the notion of a higher...something...at work in the universe.

And in fact, where you "find it difficult to see how saying that comprehensibility is a property of the universe is not talking about God" I, an atheist, find it difficult to see how "comprehensibility" can be considered an attribute of "God."

277John5918
Out 8, 2012, 8:24am

>275 aulsmith: I'll go now

Don't go! Enjoy the nuanced conversation!

278Tid
Editado: Out 8, 2012, 8:53am

271

I find it difficult to see how saying that comprehensibility is a property of the universe is not talking about God."

You will have to explain much more precisely what you mean. Where I'm coming from is this :
1. We have evolved as self-aware conscious beings able to comprehend not only our immediate environment but also - using tools and methods we have devised - everything within range of our measuring instruments.
2. We have evolved brains that are capable of asking questions about "ultimate causes" (or the absence of them) which cannot be answered by instinctive, emotional, or rational processes.
3. We inhabit a universe where such evolution is a property of its functioning.

I'm talking about "comprehensibility". Have I mentioned God either explicitly or implicitly? No. So you will have to explain what you mean by your comment.

279marq
Out 8, 2012, 8:52am

276: Yes, I as an atheist, do not think of comprehensibility as being an attribute of the universe. In my limited experience, comprehension occurs only in various individual minds. But where does that leave science? For me, science is necessarily not much more than the creation of a set of useful fictions.

The question of the comprehensibility of God I think is fixed by the theology "Man created in God's image". Atheists obviously can't rely on that though. However, the nervous system of an organism can be thought of as a model of certain regularities in the universe that have been found to be of advantage for survival as it has evolved. So in some way, our brains are made in the universe's image (or a select subset of it).

280marq
Editado: Out 8, 2012, 9:22am

278: Yes, sorry, the second part of my post was not directed at you specifically.

The distinction I was making is between "comprehensibility" as a property of the universe, that is, that there is a correct understanding waiting to be discovered versus the individual creative act of human comprehension.

Where the comprehension of individual minds is projected outward as the discovery of some higher order reality or "law" operating in the universe, that seems to require a theistic foundation.

281Tid
Out 8, 2012, 3:58pm

280

I'm still struggling (with "comprehension"!). For example, however you measure them or whatever tools you use to discover them, the speed of light, pi, gravity, the expansion of the universe, thermodynamics, relativity, etc, actually exist "out there" independently of our creative imaginations.

Now, I agree those constants are not the same as philosophical questions, such as "Is there an ultimate cause?" However, one of the facts of the universe is that it contains within it the process of evolution; one of the evolved species is able to ask questions about "comprehensibility" (or otherwise) of the universe.

The question therefore is, what kind of universe contains an evolved species that can ask about "comprehensibility"? What is the purpose, or evolutionary advantage of this? That's not to indulge in theism, but it is to indulge in philosophical speculations, one of which is the circularity raised in this and the previous paragraph.

282marq
Editado: Out 9, 2012, 10:08am

Firstly, to ask the question, "what is the purpose of human consciousness?" is to most blatantly indulge in theism. We can not attribute to evolution intention. Evolution is not a thinking, planning thing. I assume that is a slip of your wrist.

"God didn't design life, Evolution did!" - another good bumper sticker (capital "E" intended).

But is evolution even a "thing"? What of "one of the facts of the universe is that it contains within it the process of evolution". No it isn't. In what structure is this process stored? Does the process exist in the universe before there was any life?

No. The events that resulted in the diversity of life on earth are vast in number and chaotic and therefore incomprehensible (not to mention that we were not even around to observe them). It will have included events where the fittest individuals eating the best food in the tree tops have been wiped out by a random event leaving their poorly adapted weak siblings to pass on their genes. Many structures in organisms (including the human brain) are thought to be "badly designed" because of course, they were not designed at all. Structures which functioned in a certain way have adapted to different functions where it would have been smarter to demolish and start again. But "evolution" has an IQ of zero.

Science however creates a simplistic intellectual model tested by its usefulness in explaining observations and making successful predictions. This is comprehensible "evolution". It doesn't exist "out there", only "in here".

When we say the universe contains within it the process of evolution, the "God" word has not been used but it might as well have been because it is proposing a process which is super-natural.

The same is essentially true of your other examples (possibly excluding π - not sure what you mean by including that. A circle is a circle).

283Tid
Out 9, 2012, 5:58pm

282

marq, with all due respect, you are constantly attributing to me, motives and hidden things which I have neither said nor meant. You are quite possibly a "hard" (i.e. dogmatic and materialist) atheist? Most of the ones I've debated with have been quite as rigid and dogmatic as the most blinkered religious fundamentalist.

Let me put my own "cards on the table". I am an agnostic (in the true, rather than atheistic-bias, meaning of the word) and I also love philosophy, and the kind of "wow" questions that science throws up but cannot - as yet - answer. If you are a New Atheist, then you will probably see no point in, and have no taste for, such speculations, but that's merely a non-evidence based and subjective difference between us.

Your 'doesn't exist out there' versus 'only exists in here' thesis, sounds to me for all the world like existentialism, not science. We - as a species - can formulate creative descriptions for what we observe using our measuring tools, but that's merely a linguistic and categorisation exercise. Apart from that, the things we are talking about actually exist (unless you are indeed a paid-up existentialist). That's the operation of classical physics. Now I accept and agree that when we start to talk about quantum mechanics, the game changes; then the act of observation and the 'Uncertainty Principle' come into play, and the act of observation causes the particle to acquire the very characteristic being measured (e.g. mass versus velocity or position).

As for 'purpose', that too exists. We may deny the existence of a creator, but you and I individually have our own purposes, which we exercise from moment to moment throughout the day, sometimes related to procreation, but sometimes too, related to creativity, leisure, and civilised pursuits. So to deny the existence of purpose is a fallacy, as we each recognise it as an abstract quality of existence (our own).

Therefore we can safely say that the universe contains within it purposive creatures. We have evolved that way. I exercise an intellectual right to ask "Why?" and "How?". You may not, and indeed impose your dogmatic slur upon me that I must be invoking theism. I'm doing nothing of the kind. I'm merely asking philosophical questions.

284John5918
Out 12, 2012, 11:19am

Pope presents Vatican II messages for laypeople to change world

Pope Benedict... gave an Italian physicist, a German philosopher and a German Biblicist copies of the "Message to the World of Culture and Science."

The message speaks of the clear possibility for "a deep understanding between real science and real faith, mutual servants of one another in the one truth. Do not stand in the way of this important meeting. Have confidence in faith, this great friend of intelligence."

285Tid
Out 12, 2012, 11:44am

284

Interesting. Amongst the undoubtedly fine sentiments there I wondered about these two:

"a deep understanding between real science and real faith, mutual servants of one another in the one truth."

You quoted that too, John. What do you understand by that? What do you think he means by "real science" and "real faith"? And most of all, what does he mean by "the one truth" - Catholicism? Christianity? Spirituality of all kinds? Ultimate reality? I'd be very interested to know what was in his thinking.

"Artists are "the guardians of beauty" and should be free from fads and "strange or unbecoming expressions." "

Does that mean that the Pope thinks all art should be beautiful, and if so, in what sense? Visually? In its deeper meanings? In originality of expression? The shock of the new? I somehow doubt that last one, yet isn't that what new and original art so often is - "strange"?

286John5918
Out 12, 2012, 11:50am

>285 Tid: Naturally I interpret it according to my own understanding and I don't know what he himself means. But I would say that science and faith are both seeking truth in their own way, answering different questions. Neither can uncover the whole truth, which is where mutuality comes in. And that truth is, well, reality, "ultimate reality" as you put it.

I didn't even look at his message on art and culture. I think he might be exercising a bit of personal aesthetic bias there!

287JaCo0108
Out 14, 2012, 12:46am

Are we all true Christians? Or do we use that name to identify with a group of friends.

288John5918
Out 14, 2012, 1:11am

>287 JaCo0108: The first part of your post is a fair question and we've had several threads on what it means to be a Christian, but I find the second part about identifying with "a group of friends" a little difficult to understand. Would you care to elaborate on what you mean by it?

289DiogenesOfSinope
Out 14, 2012, 9:06am

>271 marq: I took part in a discussion recently where someone picked up a straw and asked "What if this is God?" Furthermore: "Everything is God, therefore: I am God." So I said something like "There already is a perfectly good word for 'everything', it's 'everything'. The same for the word 'I'. How does using the word 'God' in place of other words facilitate communication?" (He appeared to take in what I said, but I learnt from others that he continued with his 'woo woo' talk after I drifted into other discussions.) You're doing the same thing with this non-sensical abuse of the word 'theism'.

I'ts tempting to call you 'disrespectful' to atheists with this playing with words, and John with his "complex and nuanced" (#274) twaddle, but I prefer keeping the discussion along the lines given above because that seems to me more objective. Can't you guys come up with other words to talk about this? Words that clarify, rather than obfuscate?

The impression I get is of people who are shit scared of letting go of... well, actually of mere words. As long as you cling to these words, “There’s a price to using magic” (Mirror, Mirror), among which is that you keep picking fights with us who do in fact not share that part of your world-view however much you try to paint us under your brush.

What is happening here is, I'd say, comparable to a Stalinist declaring that ultimately, all christians share certain ineffable qualities with Stalinists, therefore, you are in fact Stalinists. I'm sure you'd be taken in, right?

Yes, John, twaddle. You are the one who is "over-simplifying something", ie language, "which is complex and nuanced"

>277 John5918: Nothing enjoyable, John, about being abused through misuse of the English language. (Ooooops, did I go the 'disrespectful' route?)

290John5918
Out 14, 2012, 10:25am

>289 DiogenesOfSinope: This little piece by Fr Richard Rohr came to mind with all this talk of words:

Overcoming the split of the mind from the body was probably easier for St. Francis because he wasn’t an intellectual. He was almost anti-intellectual because he saw what it did to so many clergy. They couldn’t touch reality anymore. They confused words with reality. Don’t fall in love with words. To this day, most of our arguments are over “your” words in agreement with “my” words. We have burned people at the stake for not having the right words. So, the alternative orthodoxy that is emerging is orthopraxy instead of verbal orthodoxy—lifestyle instead of just saying the right words.

291lawecon
Editado: Out 14, 2012, 10:58am

In another thread on historical interpretation, Bruce has posted as follows:

" "There really isn't anything to philosophy. Did you ever eat that cotton candy they sell at fairs? Well, philosophy is like that -- it looks as if were really something, and it's awfully pretty, and it tastes sweet, but when you go to bite it you can't get your teeth into it, and when you try to swallow, there isn't anything there. Philosophy is word-chasing, as significant as a puppy chasing its tail."

Robert A. Heinlein

I'll stick to the real world, where most of humanity lives, thanks."

All of which just proves, I guess, that it doesn't matter which century you live in. Anti-intellectualism is timeless (and an equally poor argument in every century).

I must say, however, that I am very disappointed to learn that St. Francis endorsed an argument that is better suited to Ghenghis Khan. But I guess I'm in for a lot of disappointment from Christians this month.

292DiogenesOfSinope
Out 14, 2012, 11:09am

>284 John5918: What nonsense. Empty blatherings.

Science is (based on) evidence. 'Faith' starts where evidence ends. Always and ever. As evidence accumulates, so the domain of 'faith' retreats.

And 'faith' has a nasty habit of trying to deny or suppress or usurp evidence / science.

What's that rhetorical nonsense about a "vain search"? About being "consolers in your discouragement and your failures"? 'Faith' a "great friend of intelligence"? Rather, "Faith is the surrender of the mind, it's the surrender of reason, it's the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other animals." - Hitch
http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/503115-faith-is-the-surrender-of-the-mind-it-s-t...
"Dissociate Faith From Virtue, Now And For Good" - Hitch
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qF4YdJIv2hg

That message wasn't directed at scientists at all, but rather yet another marketing pamphlet directed at the 'sheep'.

293marq
Out 15, 2012, 2:15am


283: Are you saying that a person can hold or express a teleological understanding of science and/or some variety of multi-layered ontology but that has nothing at all to do with what that person thinks about the idea of God?

To suggest that a person who speaks as if the universe has a design and that the laws of physics really exist is a theist is attributing something to that person that they did not say?

294John5918
Out 15, 2012, 2:15am

Just found this by Fr Robert Barron. Now he's not a priest I necessarily agree with much (it was our old friend DJ who pointed me in his direction), and I'm a bit doubtful about the stuff on contingency later in this short article, but I do like a couple of the things he says:

Though the sciences might be able to explain the chemical make-up of pages and ink, they will never be able to reveal the meaning of a book; and though they might make sense of the biology of the human body, they will never tell us why a human act is moral or immoral; and though they might disclose the cellular structure of oil and canvas, they will never determine why a painting is beautiful. And this is not because “science” is for the moment insufficiently developed, it is because the scientific method cannot, even in principle, explore such matters, which belong to a qualitatively different category of being than the proper subject matter of the sciences. The claim that “science” could ever provide a total understanding of reality as a whole overlooks the rather glaring fact that meaning, truth, beauty, morality, purpose, etc., are all ingredients in “the universe”...

The first and most fundamental problem is that, like Hawking, Dawkins and Dennett, Carroll doesn’t seem to know what Biblical people mean by “God.” With the advance of the modern physical sciences, he asserts, there remains less and less room for God to operate, and hence less and less need to appeal to him as an explanatory cause... But God, as the classical Catholic intellectual tradition understands him, is not one cause, however great, among many; not one more item within the universe jockeying for position with other competing causes. Rather, God is, as Thomas Aquinas characterized him, ipsum esse, or the sheer act of to-be itself — that power in and through which the universe in its totality exists. Once we grasp this, we see that no advance of the physical sciences could ever “eliminate” God or show that he is no longer required as an explaining cause, for the sciences can only explore objects and events within the finite cosmos.

295southernbooklady
Editado: Out 15, 2012, 8:47am

>294 John5918: there remains less and less room for God to operate, and hence less and less need to appeal to him as an explanatory cause...

I dunno. I think atheists are correct that many people approach God in just this way. I hear God cited as the explanatory cause for all sorts of crap--from the smiting of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina to the fact that a child's cancer has gone into remission. The specific, direct and tangible presence of God-the-operator seems to be one of those things your average everyday religious person needs as part of their faith.

and though they might disclose the cellular structure of oil and canvas, they will never determine why a painting is beautiful.

The science of aesthetics--of what we find beautiful--is actually pretty interesting, and involves everything from studying the way infants are attracted to complex patterns to why certain shapes, colors, smells and sounds evoke instinctive reactions of attraction or disgust in us. It is not a required attribute of "beauty" that it be somehow mysterious.

296John5918
Out 15, 2012, 9:02am

>295 southernbooklady: many people approach God in just this way

Agreed. Many do. And many don't.

297StormRaven
Editado: Out 15, 2012, 9:15am

The claim that “science” could ever provide a total understanding of reality as a whole overlooks the rather glaring fact that meaning, truth, beauty, morality, purpose, etc., are all ingredients in “the universe”...

I think this is where Barron goes wrong. he attributes things he wants to be attributes of the universe as attributes of the universe. But other than being things "attributes of the universe" in the sense that humans desire them, there is no evidence that these actually are attributes of the universe.

298nathanielcampbell
Out 15, 2012, 9:45am

>297 StormRaven:: For the sake of trying to find some common ground, however, could we at least agree to this?:

"Meaning, truth, beauty, morality, purpose, etc., " are, indeed, concepts that exist in the universe, and they are concepts that exist trans-socially, i.e. as concepts, they seem to make appearances in pretty much every human society we know of, even if the content of those concepts is different. What I mean by this is that every human society has developed a notion of "morality", i.e. the idea that there are actions that are inherently good and actions that are inherently bad; and likewise, every human society has developed a notion of "beauty", i.e. that some things are more aesthetically pleasing than others.

This would suggest that these concepts (at a further level of abstraction, perhaps, we could call them "vehicles of meaning") are in some way universal traits of human mental/cognitive construction. They exist independently of specific social constructions; whether they exist independently of human consciousness generally is another matter.

299marq
Out 15, 2012, 10:09pm

297:

The claim that “science” could ever provide a total understanding of reality as a whole overlooks the rather glaring fact that meaning, truth, beauty, morality, purpose, etc., are all ingredients in “the universe”...

I read that differently as expressing a phenomenalogical ontology. A flower is beautiful. Surely that is a fact? But it is not a fact accessible to science because science only accesses statistical regularities. Things that happen in the same way, all the time, regardless of who is observing within specified limits of certainty.

"meaning, truth, beauty, morality, purpose..." yes, these things are in some ways "chosen" but are they therefore any less real and any less attributes of the universe?

300John5918
Out 16, 2012, 2:15am

Big Bang and religion mixed in Cern debate (BBC)

Some of Europe's most prominent scientists have opened a debate with philosophers and theologians over the origins of everything.

The event, in Geneva, Switzerland, is described as a search for "common ground" between religion and science over how the Universe began...

"But by the end... we might find new ways of understanding our own positions.

"We might even find new ways of talking to each other about the beginning of the world."

301jbbarret
Out 16, 2012, 5:24am

From a letter published in the current edition of New Scientist:

'Further to your commentary about textbooks used under the Accelerated Christian Education programme (25 August), you should also note that the Biology 1099 edition misinforms its readers about the scientific method, claiming the only truly reliable method of scientific discovery is the "Word of God". '

302marq
Editado: Out 16, 2012, 9:43am

If one thinks scientific method is about discovery, then the person might as well speak of the "Word of God".

303Tid
Out 22, 2012, 4:49pm

293

Yes. I am. Only a religious fundamentalist or a certain kind of dogmatic atheist, would deny that such an argument can be expressed.

Yes. And no. To equate "intelligent design" with the "laws of physics" is nonsense. Had I suggested the first, yes you could try to accuse me of theism.
As for the laws of physics, what these mean to me is the existence of a (scientifically observed and tested) predictability of universal phenomena : the spectrum of light, mathematical relationships, the existence of atomic elements, gravity, etc etc etc. I'm not sure what is your scientific basis for denying these?

304Saltraker
Out 22, 2012, 11:25pm

As a matter of course, before this question can be answered, it would help if you would define "God." But, I can say that no matter what science shows, there will always be those who say, "Yes, but what about..." God of the gaps will be around for a long, long time.

305John5918
Out 22, 2012, 11:33pm

>304 Saltraker: Ah, the old "God of the gaps" fallacy...

306Tid
Out 23, 2012, 7:25am

304

Science may one day be able to dispense with/ dispose of God, but it will take a lot longer to do the same with philosophers..

307Booksloth
Out 23, 2012, 8:58am

#305 Would you care to explain why it's a fallacy?

308eromsted
Out 23, 2012, 9:38am

>307 Booksloth:
Because there are conceptions of god that do not rest on the inability to fully explain in material terms how certain phenomena occur.

Of course atheists wouldn't bring up "god of the gaps" so often if people didn't keep falling into it. I'm reminded of that article about a book by Alvin Plantinga posted in another thread. Based on the article, a key part of Pantinga's argument is that he is unconvinced that human consciousness, capable of perceiving truth, could have developed wholly through natural evolution. He finds faith in humanity created in god's image a better explanation of the capacities of human intelligence. This is a classic "god of the gaps" argument. As a more complete model for the evolution of human mental capacities is developed Plantinga's case for god becomes less credible.

309John5918
Out 23, 2012, 10:02am

>308 eromsted: Thank you!

310Booksloth
Out 24, 2012, 6:05am

Thank you for trying to explain that, eromsted, but I do feel your explanation falls short. I know we're never going to agree about the existence or otherwise of the being you refer to as 'god' and I understand where that argument (I'm assuming the reply in #308 is also your argument, John) comes from. However, I don't think you can really call a theory a fallacy from the point of view that, like it or not, the theory does actually exist and it describes a genuine phenomenon. You may not like the fact of its existing or the name it goes under but it still exists. As you yourself, (eromsted) say, people 'keep falling into' those gaps so it is illogical for either of you to claim the gaps don't exist.

There are countless people around who fill their own 'gaps' with something god-shaped. I know many people, for example, who believe that the existence of beauty must therefore prove the existence of god; they cannot understand why we should find anything beautiful so they assume it must be because their god exists. I - and many others - would dispute that. I have not spend enough time studying aesthetics to claim that there is any reason for human beings to have an aesthetic sense, and I don't know if anyone has, but I don't feel the need to fill that gap with a god.

The 'god of the gaps' theory is the opposite of science. Science, when it finds something it doesn't understand, investigates until it finds an explanation. Exponents of the god of the gaps simply fill that hole with god and assume the problem is solved.

I'm not suggesting that either of you has that approach to life - I wouldn't know that - but many people do. Perhaps you don't like the name given to that approach or perhaps it doesn't apply to you but it exists, whether you like it or not and describing it as a 'fallacy' doesn't make it so, no matter how much we both (coming from our opposite standpoints) might wish that were the case.

311nathanielcampbell
Out 24, 2012, 9:40am

>310 Booksloth:: But I think what we're trying to say -- or least what I, a professional theologian, would say -- is that, from a theological perspective, "God of the gaps" represents a minority viewpoint that serious theologians dismiss because it does not accurately represent what most modern Christian theologians -- and I believe that most Jewish theologians would also fall into this camp, as would a significant number of Islamic theologians; I can't speak for eastern religions, as their entire approach to the divine operates in a different ontological / epistemological framework -- understand by the signifier "God".

To use an analogy: your argument in terms of theology is similar to saying that, because some scientists posit Intelligent Design, therefore all scientists must take Intelligent Design seriously.

312John5918
Out 24, 2012, 10:04am

>310 Booksloth: Thanks, Booksloth. I'm not really interested in arguing whether "fallacy" is the correct term or not. If it isn't, my apologies. I think the point I was trying to make was that, while I readily concede that some religious people may view God in a way which I suppose falls into the category that atheists like to call "God of the gaps", it cannot in itself be used as an argument against the existence of God, because so many other religious people understand God in a way that has nothing to do with filling gaps. So if used to describe a minority view, as Nathaniel has called it, or if used as a convenient shorthand by atheists to argue against that particular minority understanding of God, fine. But as a universal argument against the existence of God, it is indeed fallacious.

313Booksloth
Out 24, 2012, 10:20am

I think I'd probably disagree with both of you that this is a minority view (and anyway, the very term 'minority' has little meaning when we're discussing religions, as I've pointed out in many other threads). Hopefully it is so in the highly educated circles in which you both no doubt move but in general, both among the general population and the LT one, it is accepted by far too many people.

I would just add though, that I don't think I've ever heard of anyone using the 'god of the gaps' argument in order to prove there is no god - all it proves, or suggests, if you prefer, is that some people argue fallaciously that it proves the opposite when in fact it proves nothing at all either way. The only real issue as far as #'proof' is concerned is that nobody in the whole of history has yet come up with a single bit of evidence that any god actually exists. So far, that lends a great deal of weight to the likelihood that he/she/it doesn't.

So I guess it's back to Saltraker for an explanation. Were you really suggesting that the 'god of the gaps' theory constitutes proof of anything or, as I assumed, were you just giving one example of the many ways believers try to convince themselves and the rest of us?

314nathanielcampbell
Out 24, 2012, 10:29am

>313 Booksloth:: "I think I'd probably disagree with both of you that this is a minority view ... Hopefully it is so in the highly educated circles in which you both no doubt move but in general, both among the general population and the LT one, it is accepted by far too many people."

Then I guess we're stuck. If religion is to be judged based on views that appear to be held by many but that are in fact repudiated by those most educated in religion, then what are we left with?

Other Christians and I have offered time and again a refutation from Christian theology of such ideas as young-earth creationism and "god of the gaps" -- yet our refutations don't seem to mean much. The assumption continues to be, "if you believe in God, you must also believe in young-earth creationism and god-of-the-gaps."

What am I supposed to do in this situation? What am I supposed to say when things that I have repeatedly repudiated are nevertheless still charged to me? How am I supposed to defend myself against it?

The counter analogy would be for me to consistently declare that atheists must answer for the actions of fellow atheists like Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot -- and to continue to impute the latter's barbarism to every atheist, despite their objections and repudiations of totalitarian oppression and murder.

I'm not, however, going to do that, because when an atheist says, "I repudiate the murderous ideologies of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot", I accept them at their word.

Why won't atheists accept the same from Christians?

315John5918
Out 24, 2012, 10:30am

>313 Booksloth: nobody in the whole of history has yet come up with a single bit of evidence that any god actually exists

But let's not restart all the discussions about what constitutes evidence...

316southernbooklady
Out 24, 2012, 10:51am

from a theological perspective, "God of the gaps" represents a minority viewpoint that serious theologians dismiss because it does not accurately represent what most modern Christian theologians

But from a practicing believer's perspective, does not God "act" in the world? Most of the Christians I interact with do believe that there is evidence of, well, "God's will" for lack of a better term in the course of events. More rarefied arguments about, say, how much of Christ is "divine" and how much is "human" may keep theologians entertained, but in my experience what's important to the people in the pews is that he was a combination of both.
In fact, I'd go so far as to say that God's direct intervention in the world is fundamental to their belief.

But this ends up being reduced to the kind of "god of the gaps" arguments above, because it appears -- at least to me, the atheist -- that religion is being used to explain events, rather than to give life purpose. And we are left where we began: that the believe sees God as a force in the world, whereas I see no reason to think there is such a force.

317nathanielcampbell
Editado: Out 24, 2012, 11:04am

>316 southernbooklady:: I think you are drawing a false dichotomy between a God who acts within history and a God whose being is fundamental to / transcendant of material reality. "God of the gaps" assumes that God is simply one cause amongst many within the material realm -- if something happens that we can't explain by any other means, that must be what God is.

Does God intervene in the world? Absolutely. Does he necessarily do it in ways that are unexplainable? No. God may indeed intervene to cause someone to be healed, but he may do so by using natural processes as the vehicle of healing.

But God's interaction with the world in that sense is not contradictory to or exclusive of God's existence as the ground of being, a cause of all reality that is itself uncaused -- i.e., not just the cause of material pheonomena that we can't otherwise explain, but rather a different type of cause, the reason why causes happen in the first place.

Which brings us back to the question at the top of this thread: Will science someday rule out God? The theologian's answer is that the question is incoherent: science deals with the realm of material causality. The existence of God is not predicated upon that realm. Therefore, any "god" that science has the capability to "rule out" is not what theologians understand by the term "God".

It's like asking, "Will English literature scholars someday rule out Newton's theory of gravity?" The question itself is nonsensical, because the things that English scholars study--and therefore can rule in or out--are not of the same category as Newton's theory of gravity.

318southernbooklady
Out 24, 2012, 11:15am

And yet, if the question were really irrelevant, would this discussion be over 300 posts long? Clearer the "false" dichotomy between the God-who-acts and the God-who-is remains a question many want resolved.

Does God intervene in the world? Absolutely. Does he necessarily do it in ways that are unexplainable? No. God may indeed intervene to cause someone to be healed, but he may do so by using natural processes as the vehicle of healing.

Usually charges of irrelevancy are on the other foot. Science, as a rule, says, "we don't have anything to say about the existence of God. That is outside our sphere of concern." They would, however, also say that there is no evidence that natural healing processes are divinely inspired or orchestrated. And the atheists among them would say that there is no reason to ascribe a natural process to a divine will.

319Booksloth
Out 24, 2012, 12:07pm

#314 Well, try this for a parallel. Many authorities in the field of English literature believe that Middlemarch, for example, is one of the greatest works of literature ever written in the English language. These days, this seems to be a minority view; in fact an apparently larger number of people believe The da Vinci Code is a great book. Sadly, the fact that these people aren't part of the accepted literati has no bearing on the sales of either book or the ways in which their views are gradually accepted by a large number of people who haven't even read either book. As much as we might all like to believe otherwise, the 'expert' view isn't always the generally accepted one.

All of this, as usual, is just sidetracking, of course. What actually happened here was that Johnthefireman used an incorrect word and I took him up on it - that's all. The fact that you think other believers are wrong in what they believe simply points up the futility of the whole religion thing since none of you can even agree on what it is you believe in.

320John5918
Editado: Out 24, 2012, 12:29pm

>319 Booksloth: since none of you can even agree on what it is you believe in

Why should we all express our understanding of the divine in the same way? People have been expressing it since time immemorial; it is couched in the language and ideas of the particular time, place and culture; it develops (dare I say evolves?) as cultures and civilisations change. Religion is not monolithic. Do you find that surprising?

321StormRaven
Out 24, 2012, 12:42pm

Does God intervene in the world? Absolutely. Does he necessarily do it in ways that are unexplainable? No. God may indeed intervene to cause someone to be healed, but he may do so by using natural processes as the vehicle of healing.

And this is why science will never "rule out" God. Because in some conceptions, a universe with God and a universe without God are functionally identical.

322Tid
Out 24, 2012, 2:02pm

313

"The only real issue as far as #'proof' is concerned is that nobody in the whole of history has yet come up with a single bit of evidence that any god actually exists. So far, that lends a great deal of weight to the likelihood that he/she/it doesn't."

That's a very persuasive argument, and I draw on it for my own belief that there isn't any god of the 'external', 'supernatural' kind. Though here I should point out that retired bishop of Newark, John Shelby Spong - albeit representing a currently minority Christian view - also doesn't believe in that kind of god either.

However, it is (to me) fascinating that the oldest surviving religious philosophy - Advaita - is a panentheist system which entails "God in everything" and "everything in God". Or, to sum it up in a modern, vaguely New Age, way, "All is One". In that system, God is our own Self, our own consciousness. Therefore when a human being goes in search of God, looking for evidence, that is - in effect - God looking "out there" for God, a search doomed to failure!

Now I have no idea whether Advaita is any more true than Christianity, but it brings a whole set of new factors to the "God of the gaps" discussion, and has to be borne in mind in any debate about religion and the nature of God.

323Booksloth
Out 26, 2012, 5:19am

#320 I only find it surprising when believers claim themselves to be a homogeneous group. Time and time again here we read claims that the members of a particular faith are the 'majority' and yet, when questioned, it turns out that the only belief they share in common is a general belief in the supernatural. You simply can't have it both ways: either you all believe in the same god or you just have a wishy washy belief in something 'other' and that doesn't make you a majority.

324Tid
Editado: Out 26, 2012, 5:36am

323

"God made Man in His image". Though when you look at religions, it's quite clear that what's actually happened is that "Man made God in his image", time after time. That leads to various possible conclusions:

1. There's no such thing as God, which is why so many gods seem to be not only different, but completely anthropomorphic

2. There is a God, but of a character so ineffable that any attempt to protray him/her/it is doomed to be either a complete failure, or at best an incomplete anthropomorphism

3. Religion ultimately isn't about God, but about how we as a species interact with each other, communally, ethically, socially, etc. Which of course permits non-theist religions like humanitarianism, Buddhism, shamanism, Wikka, Confucianism, and Taoism, to exist

But you're right, there's no homogeneity. Did anyone claim there is?

325Booksloth
Out 26, 2012, 6:42am

#324 Did anyone claim there is? (See 323) Only when it suits them to gain acceptance as a 'majority' group.

326John5918
Out 26, 2012, 10:34am

>324 Tid: Tid, it's probably a blend of 2 and 3. Not "a complete failure", perhaps, but often "an incomplete anthropomorphism". And religion is a human institution in response to the divine, so it will consist of the things you mention.

327Tid
Out 26, 2012, 1:53pm

325

That's what I was asking - that claim you made in 323 is based on ... what exactly? (My memory is not very good these days, so there may be posts in this topic you can point to).

326

But do bear in mind that #2 also sweeps up the Vedic "God is your own Self" philosophy, i.e. equating the ineffable to our own consciousness, not a supernatural or external being.

328Booksloth
Out 27, 2012, 6:09am

#327 You only have to read the posts here on LT (not necessarily this thread). I don't really have the time or the inclination to go back through every religion-connected thread to cite examples but they're easily found. Time and time again it is claimed that believers are a 'majority group' and that non-believers are the minority (with the implication that they are thus somehow inferior) and that simply isn't the case except in the flimsiest possible sense. It's almost like me claiming that cats are a majority group because lots of animals aren't dogs.

329Tid
Out 27, 2012, 8:56am

328

Oh, I see. It may be rather like here in Britain - the majority on the census form claim to be Christian, but the number of people attending church on any day other than Xmas, births/marriages/deaths, is very low. In other words, the reality is not the same as the claim.

What I thought you were saying was that people come on here falsely asserting that they represent the moderate majority of their particular religion, rather than the extreme minorities. I would have disagreed with you on that - most people here don't seem extreme.

As to the proportion of the worldwide population who are believers or non-believers, I'm not sure that's measurable? Personally, I think the number of believers committed to a particular religion is declining. But I wouldn't like to say of the remainder, how many are atheist, agnostic, or following their own (or a small group's) spirituality.

330lawecon
Out 27, 2012, 10:37am

~328

Oh my goodness, the minority is now inferior. Those with IQs over 130, for instance. Inferior. Who knew?

331Tid
Out 27, 2012, 10:54am

330

And don't forget Olympic gold medallists!

332lawecon
Out 27, 2012, 1:03pm

~331

Yept, obviously inferior in comparison with the millions of couch potatoes and geeks with the empty pizza boxes piled up around them...........

333John5918
Out 27, 2012, 1:39pm

>328 Booksloth: believers are a 'majority group' and that non-believers are the minority (with the implication that they are thus somehow inferior)

I don't think that speaking of a majority implies that a minority is inferior. Is that how you feel when religious people mention that they are probably a majority? It seems to me that on these threads it is usually mentioned as a response to attempts by atheists to imply that religious people are inferior, irrational, ignorant, not following an arbitrary "default" position, etc. If that is the case, there are rather a lot of us in the world doing so.

334Booksloth
Out 28, 2012, 6:27am

#329 In my case not only like here in Britain, but actually here in Britain (waves!) Though, in general here I'm talking about the messages I see on LT which remains at heart a very American site - certainly while we're talking about majorities ;-)

#333 I don't think that speaking of a majority implies that a minority is inferior.

In your case, John, it almost always doesn't. You are one of the very few here who can argue your point without sounding 'holier than thou' but it's all in the way it's done (incidentally, I've yet to see any of these people claim they are probably a majority; they're usually pretty damn sure of it). I'm sure you don't see it that way but then you're not the target of these remarks. Likewise, I can't say I've noticed much of this attempts by atheists to imply that religious people are inferior . . . ignorant, not following an arbitrary "default" position, etc. ('Irrational', I'll allow - to non-believers, belief is utterly irrational) - but then I'm not the target of that. However, you did just rather prove my point by saying that you don't follow an arbitrary 'default' position (ie. you are not a homogeneuous group) and yet that there are a lot of you in that position (now you are).

335Tid
Out 28, 2012, 7:09am

334

"LT which remains at heart a very American site - certainly while we're talking about majorities" (Waves back)

Damn right! And immediate apologies to those Americans who seem to think that "damn" is a swearword, rather than the old-fashioned but inoffensive exclamation it is here in Britain. (I can never get used to the way that the "MF" word is less offensive to Americans than "damn" :D )

336lawecon
Editado: Out 28, 2012, 7:46am

~334

"n your case, John, it almost always doesn't. You are one of the very few here who can argue your point without sounding 'holier than thou' but it's all in the way it's done (incidentally, I've yet to see any of these people claim they are probably a majority; they're usually pretty damn sure of it). I'm sure you don't see it that way but then you're not the target of these remarks. Likewise, I can't say I've noticed much of this attempts by atheists to imply that religious people are inferior . . . ignorant, not following an arbitrary "default" position, etc. ('Irrational', I'll allow - to non-believers, belief is utterly irrational) - but then I'm not the target of that. However, you did just rather prove my point by saying that you don't follow an arbitrary 'default' position (ie. you are not a homogeneuous group) and yet that there are a lot of you in that position (now you are)."

Translated into American, for those without such great insight: "If the other side doesn't actually make an argument, make it for them and then object to it. If your side does routinely make an argument, claim that they 'don't much' make it."

337John5918
Out 28, 2012, 11:22am

>334 Booksloth: Thanks, Booksloth.

>335 Tid: Although in HMS Pinafore the captain has to resign when he uses the terrible term "Damme"! But overall I agree with you, Tid. In many cultures, a swear word invoking one's mother is considered the worst possible insult, but it seems it is used relatively freely in the USA.

338Arten60
Out 29, 2012, 8:20am

"For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."
Robert Jastrow Astrophysicist

339nathanielcampbell
Out 29, 2012, 1:23pm

>335 Tid: and 337: For what it's worth, this American often uses "damn" (I try to avoid it in front of my students, but it occasionally leaks out, usually when I'm frustrated that they can't answer very simple questions on the readings they were supposed to have done), but can never recall using the "MF" word, which he finds horribly offensive.

340southernbooklady
Out 29, 2012, 2:45pm

Is it silly to seek purpose in the natural world?

(Dawkins conceded: "It may well be part of the human condition to ask silly questions.")

341Tid
Out 29, 2012, 2:52pm

340

Not sure why that's a silly question? Particularly if you've eliminated "God" as the source of any purpose - then what you're left with is a philosophical question. (Mind you, Dawkins probably finds philosophy silly too).

342southernbooklady
Out 29, 2012, 3:43pm

I believe he does.

343lawecon
Out 29, 2012, 9:32pm

Is that his philosophic position?

344LolaWalser
Out 29, 2012, 11:07pm

#338

Next time he goes mountaineering at such altitudes, I recommend packing oxygen. Prevents brain damage and hallucinations of the sort.

345marq
Nov 2, 2012, 2:33am

I still see most of the science vs. religion debate as being paradoxical, if not schitzoid.

If we consider Advaita Vedanta (mentioned above), it is a monist substance ontology. The only reality is Brahman. This is not some kind of Platonism and it is wrong to translate this as "God". In Advaita, Brahman is not an ultimate reality, it is the only reality. All separate phenomena of the universe are some kind of illusion, psychological phenomena which can be dispelled by the practice and realisation of union i.e. Yoga. A psychotherapy for a psychopathology (the universe).

Similarly with Buddhism but which denies even the substantiality of Brahman. There is nothing substantial at all. Pratityasamutpada or the process of becoming, or Sunyata, emptiness.

What do these approaches mean for science? It becomes inward looking. It is phenomenological. It becomes the science of Yoga and meditation. Not "how and why is the universe like this?" but "how and why is experience ~of the universe~ like this?".

When we read the science leaning side of the debate above, would they classify Yoga and meditation as science?

Is Tid's expression of a comprehensible and predictable universe consistent with Advaita or Buddhism? What about StormRaven's (64) or Booksoth's (310) "explanations" which are somehow "found"? Found where? Modalursine (119) "nobody knows what that theory, if it exists at all, could be".

Surely comprehension, prediction and explanation are purely psychological (cognitive) phenomena? Explanations occur in only one place in the universe, individual minds. Where do theories exist? What technology can we use to capture these explanations and theories floating around in space?

I will be called a "fundamentalist atheist" again if I say that this language is theistic so let me say more gently that they are not inconsistent with a monotheistic ontological preference. They are at least - religious.

Part of the problem is that when we use the word "God" or "Religion" there is usually a very narrow understanding of what they mean. I use the phrase "ontological preference", the kinds of objects that we (think and) speak of as being real, but part of what I mean is Religion. I say "preference" instead of "choice" because although we can choose (or reject), we also inherit from our culture and especially our language.

Do we not at least observe a correlation between the cultures with monotheistic religious traditions and the advances of those cultures in science? Why might this be so? I think it has got something to do with an ontological preference that projects intellectual constructions (theories, explanations, predictions, processes, laws, beliefs) "outwards" into the universe.

When people say they believe in God, necessarily, they choose to. The question is, why do people choose that reality? Arguments of pink unicorns and dancing badgers miss the point. Do they reject the reality of everything else for which there is no "objective" evidence? When you love someone or you prefer some kind of music, is it a second rate reality? An illusion?

There isn't much difference between saying that the universe obeys laws of physics or that explanations can be found and saying that meaning and purpose of our lives really exists. Indeed, it is only being consistent to do so. When people choose science over religion, what exactly are they choosing?

346StormRaven
Nov 2, 2012, 8:16am

345: What a long-winded way of saying almost nothing, and what little there was in your twaddle was almost entirely wrong. Congratulations. You've just posted a whole pile of worthless bullshit dressed up in pretty language.

347southernbooklady
Nov 2, 2012, 9:06am

>345 marq:: Not "how and why is the universe like this?" but "how and why is experience ~of the universe~ like this?".

In other words, it is irrelevant to ask if a tree falling in a forest makes a sound if no one is around to hear it.

Science disagrees. The tree makes a noise.

348timspalding
Nov 2, 2012, 9:12am

>347 southernbooklady:

Not necessarily. Sufficiently isolated, it both falls and doesn't fall, makes a noise and doesn't. Not only does nobody know if it made a noise or not, the question has no answer at all until an observer is in the vicinity.

349lawecon
Nov 2, 2012, 9:38am

~345 and 347

Interesting posts, but, I think, ultimately just philosophically confused.

Insofar as "science" is "merely" a body of "conjectures and refutations" developed systematically over time it is "like" religion. If one truly maintains that religion and science deal with "different realities" then try getting your consciousness in the "right place" and then taking a stroll off a skyscraper. I think that the contradiction will soon resolve itself, at least so far as your consciousness is concerned.

OTOH a tree falling in the forest does not make a noise. There may be a vibration of air molecules, but there is no noise, since "noise" is a term used in the vocabulary of human perceptions not in the vocabulary of physics.

350reading_fox
Nov 2, 2012, 10:05am

#349 - wrong - by definition the tree is in a forest and so the other trees (at the very least plus all the other creatures present) will experience that which we call noise. I will grant you though that they wouldn't call it noise. But that's semantics of the very highest order.

351nathanielcampbell
Editado: Nov 2, 2012, 10:19am

>345 marq:: This is the reason why, from a Christian perspective, Christianity and such "reality-denying" Eastern religions/philosophies/ontological perspectives are incompatible. Christianity affirms that physical reality is, in fact, real, and quite independent of human observation.

(In other words, by your version of these "ontological perspectives", at least, Christianity is in fact more compatible with science than are Advaita and Buddhism, because Christianity at least affirms that reality is real.)

352John5918
Nov 2, 2012, 10:49am

>346 StormRaven: What would it cost you to disagree politely with someone who doesn't post very often?

353StormRaven
Nov 2, 2012, 11:02am

352: Twaddle deserves to be called twaddle. And silly twaddle even more so.

354timspalding
Editado: Nov 2, 2012, 11:28am

>351 nathanielcampbell:

Does Christianity necessarily assert that physical reality is fully real, independent of observation and like that observation? Obviously a Christian must believe that reality exists. But does Christianity absolutely require that we aren't brains in a vat—God's vat, perhaps, or not?

355nathanielcampbell
Editado: Nov 2, 2012, 11:45am

>354 timspalding:: The "brains in a vat" idea would, I believe, verge in the direction of "gnostic" tendencies to see material reality is unreal / evil.

The problem with the "brains in a vat" is that the Incarnation itself cannot be dependent on our observation of it -- the Incarnation is an act of God, not of man. God really did become a human being and really did have a physical body -- the body of Christ was not an immaterial illusion, but a definite reality.

356StormRaven
Nov 2, 2012, 12:03pm

God really did become a human being and really did have a physical body -- the body of Christ was not an immaterial illusion, but a definite reality.

If you were a brain in a vat, how would you know?

357Tid
Nov 2, 2012, 5:04pm

350

lawecon is right. This is the Oxford definition of "sound" : vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when they reach a person’s or animal’s ear. The physics of what happens when a tree falls is not dependent on whether or not there is a listener; but to be translated into 'sound' it requires a brain with an auditory cortex and an auditory nerve along which the vibrations travel having been picked up by a membrane in an ear. Until they are heard, they remain vibrations in the air. It's not mere semantics, it's a scientific definition.

However, I suspect that the Zen Buddhist koan which this is, is probably hinting at something deeper? Something to do with experienced knowledge rather than "mere semantics".

358lawecon
Nov 2, 2012, 5:14pm

~350

"I will grant you though that they wouldn't call it noise. But that's semantics of the very highest order."

In other words "technically" you're wrong, but you would like to be deemed correct? Incidentally, the other living things wouldn't "call it" anything, since they don't have a language - the correct use of language being the issue at hand.

359timspalding
Nov 2, 2012, 5:22pm

>355 nathanielcampbell:

I think we're required to understand that, in the incarnation, God became fully man—alike us, as the formulation goes, in every way, except sin. I'm not convinced that means that this requires (1) physical reality exists as we think it does, (2) we're totally in this physical reality. Picture if you will "The Devil's Matrix"—we are all real, but extensively bamboozled by the physical world. Heaven, as C. S. Lewis would probably put it—and indeed wrote about it in a number of fictions—is MORE real than our present situation.

360LolaWalser
Nov 2, 2012, 5:35pm

#357

How sound waves are processed has nothing to do with their existence. A deaf person standing next to me watching a tree fall may not hear what I'm hearing, but their deafness doesn't impinge on the sounds I'm hearing. In my work I routinely use sounds I cannot hear. It is trivial, because given initial conditions sounds can be predicted and described mathematically.

There's only one thing worse than word games, and it's idiotic word games, like this one.

361LolaWalser
Nov 2, 2012, 5:36pm

God really did become a human being and really did have a physical body -- the body of Christ was not an immaterial illusion, but a definite reality.

Ha! REALLY.

362Tid
Nov 2, 2012, 5:38pm

345

"Religion" vs "science" is beyond paradox - it's a debate which tries to compare - e.g. - apples and ethics. They don't inhabit the same sphere of debate, but only do so when risible events occur such as the Christian Church's efforts to belittle Galileo and Darwin's discoveries.

I have great sympathies with Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism, in that they posit that discoveries about "reality" can be made by going within (the inward looking approach). However, I do not believe that either philosophy attempts to deny the outward looking discoveries made by scientists - it's just that they would say there is a different kind of knowledge that can only be uncovered empirically by the inward journey - a practical mysticism, if you like. But like you, I would say that these philosophies are not theistic.

You seem to think that I suggested that explanations are "out there" and can be found. No, I agree with you that "explanations" are synaptic activity within human brains, not lurking somewhere for us to "trip over". But this is where consistency and predictability come in; scientists trust only results that can be repeated over and over again. If an experiment is written up, and then repeated by a different person who understands the criteria and elements involved, and they get the same results, then the theory being tested by the repeated experiments is no longer random. That's the consistency element, and constants provide the predictability.

This isn't theism. Or it isn't unless you regard science as a kind of God. You use a long phrase: theories, explanations, predictions, processes, laws, beliefs. But again, it's apples and ethics. All those things are different and have different aspects to their existence.
- theory : begins in the human mind and may or may not eventually be demonstrated to have an independent 'reality' by the repeatability of experiment and the gathering of evidence
- explanation : a vague term which usually indicates an answer to a question, but not all questions can be answered, or at least not with explanations
- prediction : another vague term which can be nonsensical (e.g. astrology), or 100% scientific, e.g. that all light will fall within a measurable spectrum
- processes : an abstract term that simply describes a series of steps within one larger event or experiment or activity or suchlike
- laws : can be used for anything from local byelaw regulations, to a term conveniently applied to a scientific constant, e.g. something which provides the consistency and predictability of the light spectrum, for example
- belief : often this IS religious, but it can be applied to anything which an individual has not directly experienced; applies to science only for individual scientists who have not yet demonstrated repeatability or shown the evidence for the concept in which - for now - they believe.

Apart from 'belief', none of this is theism. We all agree in common about aspects of life and the universe (on the basis of what has been "found out" by others), or we would all have to be practising scientists conducting experiments before we even leave the house and walk down the street. Why is this so difficult for you to accept?

363rrp
Editado: Nov 2, 2012, 6:38pm

#360 There's only one thing worse than word games

There are only word games; science is a word game.

For example, your deaf person standing next to you will definitely impinge on the sounds your are hearing, any physical body in a sound field affects that sound field (see, I am using words in a game to talk about science). Blind people use that very fact to detect people around them. Science talks of ultrasound and infrasound, sounds that, by definition, human ears cannot directly process. Yet their presence can be detected by other instruments, even heard if suitably processed.

The question of the sound made by a tree falling in the forest is not a scientific question but a philosophical question. Science likes to claim that only those things that can be measured exist. Can one can measure the sound of a tree that has already fallen in a forest where no one could hear it? Sure, if you believe in Laplace's demon. If you don't, you can't. If you do believe in Laplace's demon and you believe it is true that only things that can be measured exist, you can know it made a sound. If you don't believe in Laplace's demon and you believe it is true that only things which can be measured exist, you can't. Can you practically measure the sound of a tree that has already fallen in a forest where no one could hear it? No. And eventually, if you believe in reductionism, it all comes down to which interpretation of quantum physics you believe. Sound is motion of air particles. The motion of particles cannot be known unless you measure them; until you measure them, they could be there, they could be here. Unless you are willing to admit that unobservable things exist, you don't know. If you are willing to admit that unobservable things exist, then we have a whole new topic ready to roll.

364LolaWalser
Editado: Nov 2, 2012, 7:05pm

If science were a word game I wouldn't be cutting up rats and rabbits.

The deaf person won't impinge on my perception that a sound is being made.

A tree falling in a forest can be looked at/posed as any sort of question we like--poetic, philosophical, aesthetic, scientific etc.

A human observer isn't necessary, I can record the tree falling.

You're as futile as ever.

365Tid
Nov 2, 2012, 7:05pm

364

"A human observer isn't necessary, I can record the tree falling."

You can indeed. But that simply relocates the situation. Until your recording is actually heard by a creature with an ear and a brain, there's no sound to discuss.

366LolaWalser
Nov 2, 2012, 7:06pm

#364

There are sound waves to discuss, and all their pertaining attributes.

367Tid
Nov 2, 2012, 7:11pm

366

Yes, the physics of a tree falling doesn't depend on a listener, or change if one is present. But air vibrations don't equal sound until a brain has processed them.

368LolaWalser
Nov 2, 2012, 7:23pm

To you. And, frankly, I don't give a damn about whether YOU think "air vibrations equal" a sound or not. But the original question was whether the tree makes a sound, falling unobserved, and it damn well does--a sound that can be predicted, described, recorded, and later analysed.

369Tid
Nov 2, 2012, 7:33pm

368

Disregarding your gratuitous rudeness, I will simply reply "No, it doesn't". And that is purely because we are using the word "sound" in different ways. You are defining sound as simply the vibrations in the air. I am using the dictionary definition that says the vibrations have to be picked up by an ear and "heard" in the brain.

It's just a question of semantics, as usual. Anyway, it's past my bedtime - goodnight!

370lawecon
Nov 2, 2012, 10:49pm

~368

Actually the original question was about "noise," not "sound." "Noise" is not a term in physics.

371southernbooklady
Nov 2, 2012, 10:55pm

>370 lawecon: I used "noise" for literary impact, not scientific precision. Actually, what I should have said was that if a tree falls in a forest, science says it makes an almightly loud thump when it hits the ground.

372lawecon
Nov 2, 2012, 11:10pm

And as I said, terms like "noise" and "thump" are terms about human perception. Without a perceiver, there is no perception. Without a language there is no report of a perception. The language of physics is not the language of human perception. They are two different things.

You know, it is really amazing that you educated people apparently have never had any training in science or analytic philosophy.

373rrp
Nov 2, 2012, 11:18pm

#364

The deaf person won't impinge on my perception that a sound is being made.

That all depends. Are we talking science here or just mindless spouting of opinion? Tid is perfectly correct by trying to specify the exact scientific situation here. And we are, of course, talking real science here, not mere butchery. In real science, one has to carefully define the terms. You make an assertion like "A tree falling makes a sound" we have to define what we mean by "sound" (and "tree" and "falling"). I can think of many situations where a falling tree makes no sound. Tid, carefully defines sound as "vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when they reach a person’s or animal’s ear" so by this definition a vibration that travels but does not reach a person or animal's ear is not sound. You may prefer to define sound as simply "a vibration that travels though air or another medium", but then you would need to define "vibration" and "air". At what level is a vibration "sound", for what range of frequencies. How dense does the air need to be to support sound? Then you would need to tie all the concepts together with your theory. Does every falling object make sound? Under which specific conditions is sound generated? Is sound generated by a purely laminar flow over a bluff body? How does the Reynolds number effect our conclusion? Oh, and never forget the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics.

A tree falling in a forest can be looked at/posed as any sort of question we like--poetic, philosophical, aesthetic, scientific etc.

Now this is profound. Spot on. How could anyone be so naive, in the first place, as to try to answer the question as if it were a scientific question, when it is clearly nothing of the kind?

374rrp
Editado: Nov 2, 2012, 11:24pm

#370

Beg to differ here, "Noise" is a term that is widely used in physics. Given, it doesn't always mean sound. By sound, physicists typically mean vibrations traveling in air or another medium (not necessarily heard), which falling trees often, but not always make. Noise is the stuff that messes up your nice clean measurement of whatever it is you are trying to measure. And if a tree falls on you while you are making a measurement, then it indeed will make noise.

375AsYouKnow_Bob
Nov 3, 2012, 12:18am

"Noise" is not a term in physics.

Except when it is:
- "background noise";
- "signal-to-noise ratio";
- "noise floor", etc. etc.
- "noise": unwanted electromagnetic energy that degrades the quality of signals and data.

376Tid
Nov 3, 2012, 6:07am

371

With respect, science says nothing of the sort (see rrp's post in 373). The tree certainly hits the ground. That impact certainly sets up one almighty series of vibrations that travel through the air. So far so objective. But let's hypothesise a set of creatures present to witness the tree fall :

1. a normal human being
2. a deaf human being
3. a cat
4. a fish
5. a fly
6. a hypothetical alien that processes vibrations in the air using its visual cortex and therefore "sees" them - it has no auditory cortex in its brain

Now, do these all "hear" sound the same way? No, absolutely they don't. #6 even has an experience we would call sight, not sound. This simply demonstrates that "sound" is not something "out there" : it's the subjective end stage of a series of processes that causally begins as a movement creating vibrations of air, and ends in those vibrations being received by a membrane that vibrates sympathetically, causing a nerve impulse along the auditory nerve that is received by the auditory cortex of the creature's brain. That's the dictionary definition of sound.

What you can infer is this : if there is a listener of some kind present, will a falling tree always make a sound? You bet your bippy it will! But you would need to have a listener present every time you want to check this out; you would therefore get into a vicious circle with yourself, as you would never be able to confirm the absence of sound, as that would require "hearing with no listener", which is a physical impossibility.

It's the same problem as checking if the fridge light goes out every time you close the door.

377Arten60
Nov 3, 2012, 6:16am

No in answer to the original question posed in fact the opposite is happening:

"For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."
Robert Jastrow Astrophysicist

If any reader has lost a loved one, or is afraid of death, modern physics says: “Be comforted, you and they shall live again.”
Frank Tippler The Physics of Immortality

If you want to hear closed minded Atheist being taken apart then visit this show its absolutely brilliant:

http://www.skeptiko.com/

378nathanielcampbell
Nov 3, 2012, 10:04am

>359 timspalding:: "I think we're required to understand that, in the incarnation, God became fully man—alike us, as the formulation goes, in every way, except sin. I'm not convinced that means that this requires (1) physical reality exists as we think it does, (2) we're totally in this physical reality. Picture if you will "The Devil's Matrix"—we are all real, but extensively bamboozled by the physical world. Heaven, as C. S. Lewis would probably put it—and indeed wrote about it in a number of fictions—is MORE real than our present situation."

And I wouldn't dispute that in the slightest (I'm a neo-platonist at heart) -- Heaven is more real than the current earth; and the New Heaven and the New Earth will be more real, as well. But to deny the objective reality (by which I mean independent of human consciousness, though still of course dependent as being on God ipsum esse) of the physical world--and by extension, the objective reality of Christ's physical body--veers dangerously close to Docetism.

(And the atheists in the thread who like to mock such statements can just move on, as this post isn't directed at them but relates to a specific matter of Christian theology -- unless, to use their parlance, they take a particular concern in the ontological properties of imaginary unicorns.)

379lawecon
Editado: Nov 3, 2012, 10:14am

~374 & 375

Thanks for the correction. But we aren't talking about anything other than what happens when a tree falls in the forest when no person is around. A "noise to signal" usage of "noise" is not relevant to the discussion, any more than a physics use of "force" would be relevant to a discussion of prize fighting. You guys also appear to be confused about the language of perception and the language of physics.

380AsYouKnow_Bob
Nov 3, 2012, 10:59am

No, actually - you're the one who made the flat assertion that was both false and ignorant.

381lawecon
Nov 3, 2012, 12:23pm

~380

Well, as has been observed, it is just a chat room. So you shouldn't be so demanding of pedantic accuracy or otherwise engage in hypocritical behavior.

382rrp
Nov 3, 2012, 1:53pm

#379 lawecon

Well not so much confused as seeking clarification. southernbooklady brought up the question does "a tree falling in a forest makes a sound if no one is around to hear it" in #347 and clearly thought that the language of science was relevant in answering the question. She said "Science disagrees. The tree makes a noise."

Now, everyone else knows that particular question has a long history and cultural significance and that it wasn't originally posed as a scientific question but as a philosophical one. It's purpose is to question the connection between observations and reality or perhaps, as a practice of religion, to induce a state of great doubt as part of a journey towards enlightenment.

But if we do want to treat the question scientifically, as southernbooklady intended, then science requires we define our terms precisely, and science typically means different things by "sound" and "noise". And, of course, science has interesting things to say about falling trees, sound and noise. I recently had a chance to observe a falling tree (thank you Sandy) and can assure you that I did not hear this 50 foot tree falling less than 50 feet from me. I did not hear it falling above the sound of the storm, but did feel it when it hit the ground.

383lawecon
Nov 3, 2012, 2:41pm

~382

First of all, the term that was used was "noise" not "sound." It makes a difference because physics does use the term "sound" so that it can refer to a phenomenon without an observer. As has been pointed out, physics also uses the term "noise" but not in a way relevant to trees falling in a forest.

All of that is important because philosophy, believe it or not, has advanced somewhat since George Berkeley first raised this issue in the early 18th Century. The advance I have been referring to occurred in the mid/late 20th century when philosophers began to pay more attention to the context in which terms originated and were used to communicate certain sorts of meaning. The general conclusion of these inquiries were that many philosophic connodrums were merely confusions where terms that made perfect sense in one context were transplanted to a context where they made no sense - thus generating a false "philosophic problem."

What we have been discussing is a prime example of this problem creation where there is no problem. Yes, a tree falling in a forest with no one around does create a "sound" (a vibration of air and ground molecules) it does not, however, create a "noise" (a perception by an observer who knows how to use the term "noise" as a term of human perception).

384Tid
Nov 3, 2012, 3:19pm

383

I disagree with you only on a single point of semantics - I would say that "sound" also requires a listener (as per the Oxford Dictionary definition, above). Otherwise, I think that what is produced are vibrations or frequencies, capable of being heard as long as there is someone (or something) to listen.

But there is clearly a difference between people in this topic - some who maintain that "sound" merely equals vibrations, others who say that it must involve the phenomenon of "hearing".

This is one of the great problems you are highlighting - meanings change over time. Sometimes due to common misuse, ignorance, or laziness, like the current use of 'electrocution' to mean 'getting an electric shock' instead of 'death by electric shock'. Or misunderstandings of the basics of grammar, adherence to which would mean that pathetic neologisms like 'attendee' would be 'attender'. Or simply through language evolution - which has seen one meaning of 'comprehend' ('to cover') completely vanish.

I really think that in forums like these, we ought to define our use of terms when disagreement arises, ask each other precisely what we mean.

385lawecon
Nov 3, 2012, 4:21pm

"I really think that in forums like these, we ought to define our use of terms when disagreement arises, ask each other precisely what we mean."

Some of us have tried that numerous times, starting with some pretty basic terms like "G-d" and "capitalism" and have gotten exactly no where. It would appear that most of the regulars in these forums are more interested in labeling and controversy than they are in getting nearer to understanding or truth. Some clearly just enjoy being assholes. See, e.g. http://www.librarything.com/topic/102330

386rrp
Nov 3, 2012, 6:35pm

Oh I do enjoy a good nitpick.

First of all, the term that was used was "noise" not "sound."

The term used, first of all, was "sound".

As has been pointed out, physics also uses the term "noise" but not in a way relevant to trees falling in a forest.

Noise is indeed relevant if the sound of the tree falling disrupts my measurement of the sound of wind passing through the trees.

a perception by an observer who knows how to use the term "noise"

This one's interesting. An observer who knows how to use the term "noise". I presume you forgot -- "in the given context". I refer you to ANSI S1.1-1994 (ASA 111-1994) subparagraph 3.25 on how to use the term "noise" in the context of physics.

387StormRaven
Nov 3, 2012, 9:18pm

Some clearly just enjoy being assholes.

So that explains your posting style.

388timspalding
Editado: Nov 3, 2012, 10:59pm

>378 nathanielcampbell:

I certainly agree it could go in a docetic way. But I feel you're somehow unfairly using Jesus here—as the trump card in an entirely different game. Yes, Christians assert Jesus was fully God and fully man. But that doesn't absolutely require us to believe that "fully man" involves a whole slew of secondary truths about reality.

As a starter, would you agree that the reality of the incarnation does not prevent me from going over to your house tomorrow and putting your brain in a vat and thereby inducing you into an alternate reality?

>384 Tid: etc.

I find the semantic point not worth arguing, but I'd like to circle. Southernbooklady's post was

"In other words, it is irrelevant to ask if a tree falling in a forest makes a sound if no one is around to hear it. Science disagrees. The tree makes a noise."

The point is surely that, in science, reality is independent of the observer. This strikes a blow, I gather, against some peculiar epistemologies. However, it's simply wrong. So far as we can tell reality is in fact—ultimately anyhow—dependent upon the existence of an observer. While trees may fall and make a noise, whether an electron behaves as a particle or a wave can depend on whether the light is observed. Even weirder, you can delay the determining observation until after the tree has fallen, so to speak. (See the double-slit experiments and its weirder extensions.)

389lawecon
Nov 3, 2012, 11:11pm

~386

This is so incoherent that I don't even know how to respond. But I suggest you star t by going back to posts 347 and 348 above.

390lawecon
Nov 3, 2012, 11:12pm

~387

Watch for the absence of flags.

391rrp
Editado: Nov 4, 2012, 12:15am

#389 I don't even know how to respond

I am sorry to hear that. Might I suggest an approach. You could take your own advice, go back to 347 and tell us which term, "sound" or "noise" was used first.

392Tid
Nov 4, 2012, 2:26pm

388

"The point is surely that, in science, reality is independent of the observer."

We're getting into the area of particle physics here. Actually the original "tree falling" conundrum was a philosophical one, that required addressing the very nature of reality (as you say).

However, the level of discussion here has been on the more superficial level of defining what "sound" is. If, like me, you understand it as something that is heard and which therefore requires a membrane (e.g. ear) and a brain, then there has to be a listener present. Which does not, of course, affect the physics of what happens when a tree falls.

393southernbooklady
Editado: Nov 4, 2012, 5:18pm

>388 timspalding: Southernbooklady's post was

"In other words, it is irrelevant to ask if a tree falling in a forest makes a sound if no one is around to hear it. Science disagrees. The tree makes a noise."

The point is surely that, in science, reality is independent of the observer.


Thanks, Tim. That was my point. And while I'll concede that science, especially in the rarefied realm of particle physics and multi-dimensional theory, can indeed prove that the tree both does and does not fall thus producing sound waves either after the fact or even in exceptionally weird cases before it falls (if it indeed did fall), in my own not-rarified realm of existence, science is about making predictions, and a scientific theory is understood to apply everywhere -- gravitational force exerts itself in predictable ways both here and on the moon and on alpha centauri.

And thus, when someone said What do these approaches mean for science? It becomes inward looking. It is phenomenological. It becomes the science of Yoga and meditation. Not "how and why is the universe like this?" but "how and why is experience ~of the universe~ like this?" I felt a strong inclination to snort. Because if someone had a gun to my kid's head and said "convince me the tree you didn't see fall in the forest made a sound when it hit the ground" I wouldn't give him a lecture on Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principal. I'd say, something like, "Given the fact that the last tree that fell in my back yard made an almighty crash, I'm going to assume the one that fell in the forest down the road did too."

394Tid
Nov 4, 2012, 5:30pm

393

It's not about particle physics. You clearly either haven't read the preceding post, or you've decided to ignore it.

395timspalding
Editado: Nov 4, 2012, 5:35pm

>392 Tid:

I don't think the two—physics and philosophy—can be entirely separated. Quantum mechanics raises and/or answers interesting philosophical questions that hardly go away because, when things are larger, they still mostly behave like we thought they did before. Before quantum mechanics the universe seemed to scientists to be simple, rule-bound, determined and entirely independent of the observer. After quantum mechanics, serious questions are opened up about randomness, determinacy and free will, about observers, and bizarre new possibilities—like continually branching universes—open up. And that leaves aside things like the fact that, at the present moment, 5 quintillion neutrinos are passing through my body (at 86 billion per cubic centimeter) yet, during my whole life, I'll probably only be body-checked by a neutrino once. Crazypants.

396Tid
Nov 4, 2012, 5:51pm

395

Yes, I think so too. Science and philosophy are more closely related (IMO) than to religion. Science deals with the nature of reality and the evidence for it, while many of its more revolutionary theories that were later proved from experimental evidence, started as philosophical questions.

Indeed, in Ancient Greece, philosophy and science were virtually inseparable, Aristotle being the prime example.

397LolaWalser
Editado: Nov 4, 2012, 9:10pm

Mensagem removida pelo autor.

398StormRaven
Nov 4, 2012, 6:02pm

377: No one answered possibly because they know that Jastrow's quote is taken wildly out of context and doesn't mean what many religious individuals take it to mean.

The quote comes at the end of the long discussion of the unknowables of the Big Bang, the lack of information that such an event engenders. At the end of the climb, having slogged through the work of figuring out as much of how the universe works as they can, physicists are still confronted with attempting to figure out something that may be unknowable.

And once they get to the point where they are working beyond the limits of science and engaging in little more than a guessing game, that's where they find theologians.

It is not a comparison that is kind to theologians.

399timspalding
Nov 4, 2012, 7:02pm

Do we need to continue belaboring whether "sound" implies an observer as a question of vocabulary? Surely there's not much to say there.

400LolaWalser
Nov 4, 2012, 7:20pm

Apparently some people think that sort of thing is "philosophy".

One could be charitable and consider it an expression of a larger problem with sensory perception of the world, a radical scepticism.

Is the sky blue if I'm not looking at it? Do Australians exist? Does my butt? How could I prove it long distance to an Australian under stormy skies?

*yawn*

Me, I'm going back to Husserl and "back to things themselves".

401lawecon
Nov 4, 2012, 9:03pm

~400

"Apparently some people think that sort of thing is "philosophy"."

Yes, some people do. All historians of philosophy, for instance.

402JGL53
Editado: Nov 4, 2012, 11:52pm

> 1

The scientific method used by scientists will never prove anything absolutely - either that something is, or that something is not. It just gives us the best theory. E.g., a spherical earth seems the best theory, as opposed to the flat earth.

In terms of evidence to build a testable theory, no evidence has been found to date of any god by scientists. Thus the god theory is dismissed until some evidence shows up.

If there is a god then he or she is certainly shy to an absolute degree. LOL.

So-called supernatural beings are obviously mythic, i.e., made up or imaginary.

Prove otherwise, theists, or STFU and quit bothering the humans.

403pre20cenbooks
Nov 5, 2012, 12:35am

Q. & A.

Q. ...someday rule out God?

Long Answer: ...I thought this has been answered now that science has reached such elevated levels of discovery, progressively over centuries. Then again, prophecy conclusion/final fulfillment will answer this question decisively.

Short Answer: No.

404lawecon
Nov 5, 2012, 7:50am

~402

A couple of things before you launch off again on one of your vulgar rants:

(1) You have never revealed what would count as definitive evidence in your world. A view that is unfalsifiable due to deliberate vagueness is just the sort of "religious mindset" that you otherwise find to be intolerable. Or is it that you are still simply advocating one religious view against another?

(2) You seem to be confusing existence claims and science. Science is about testable hypotheses. Existence claims come into play only in the antecedents to these hypotheses. Hypotheses are not "facts" or "fact claims" they are causation claims.

So, believe it or not, all knowledge does not magically and intuitively accrue to one who chants the words "I AM AN ATHEIST.' Some atheists are just as ignorant as atheists as they were as fundamentalist Christians, albeit they may have changed the label of their Church.

405nathanielcampbell
Nov 5, 2012, 9:49am

>388 timspalding:: "Yes, Christians assert Jesus was fully God and fully man. But that doesn't absolutely require us to believe that "fully man" involves a whole slew of secondary truths about reality.

As a starter, would you agree that the reality of the incarnation does not prevent me from going over to your house tomorrow and putting your brain in a vat and thereby inducing you into an alternate reality?"


I see what you're trying to say, and you are absolutely correct. The problem, I think, is that the battles of early Christianity over the reality (by which they really meant "goodness", because they were all operating under a fundamental ontology that being=good and false/illusory/non-being {privation}=bad) of Christ's body were conducted under a completely different philosophical frame-of-reference from "brains in a vat".

The tension for Christianity has long been to figure how to balance, on the one hand, the fundamental and independent reality of the Incarnation--verus homo--with the perception that spiritual (and/or redeemed/resurrected/recreated) reality is somehow "more" real than the physical world available to the five senses. (The conception of a "spiritual sense" was one of many attempts at that balance.) To a certain brand of Neoplatonist, "brains in a vat" wouldn't be that far off from nous as a higher level of emanated/emanating being.

On the other hand, the same Neoplatonist would certainly disagree with any post-Cartesian epistemological ontology that precludes any knowable reality independent of the human observer. God exists whether we know him or not; and he can impart knowledge of reality to us that would otherwise be beyond our observational and epistemological capacities (both revelation and the aforementioned "spiritual senses").

I'm not sure whether I've said anything of substance in this post, but for the moment, I don't have time to rethink it; I'll return to it later if I get the chance.

406timspalding
Editado: Nov 7, 2012, 10:28pm

under a completely different philosophical frame-of-reference from "brains in a vat".

Right. My point too. We can't export from one frame and import into the other uncritically.

The tension for Christianity has long been to figure how to balance, on the one hand, the fundamental and independent reality of the Incarnation--verus homo--with the perception that spiritual (and/or redeemed/resurrected/recreated) reality is somehow "more" real than the physical world available to the five senses

Very nicely put. I have nothing to add.

So, the tangent off this is simple: It's universally admitted that early Christian thought is an encounter between something—primitive Christian notions, Jewish messianism, etc.—and of Greek philosophy. We wouldn't be calling Jesus homoousios with God if there hadn't been a technical language including ousia. The tangent is this: How much of this is culture we can abstract away, or at least set up as just one approach to the topic, and how much must remain at the core of Christian theology?

Excuse me if I put that naively, but you surely know what I mean.

I'm not sure whether I've said anything of substance in this post

Nor I, but you contextualized it rather nicely. I suspect I'll end up repeating some of your phrasing some day.

407lawecon
Nov 8, 2012, 7:55am

"The tension for Christianity has long been to figure how to balance, on the one hand, the fundamental and independent reality of the Incarnation--verus homo--with the perception that spiritual (and/or redeemed/resurrected/recreated) reality is somehow "more" real than the physical world available to the five senses

Very nicely put. I have nothing to add."

The only problem being, of course, that if you said that to every Christian on Earth 99% would respond "huh?".

408timspalding
Nov 8, 2012, 9:56am

>407 lawecon:

Analysis of the intellectual "moves" of what are already abstruse questions of theology today is never going to have wide appeal. Although I suspect you could say the same thing in simpler words and many more would see how it connects to what they believe and pray. Put simpler, and widening it a bit: Christianity has a vexed, or perhaps fruitfully tense, relationship to the "world."

409lawecon
Nov 8, 2012, 12:07pm

~408

Yes, that is true of most nonfunctional mythic systems.

410nathanielcampbell
Nov 8, 2012, 2:46pm

>406 timspalding:: "How much of this is culture we can abstract away, or at least set up as just one approach to the topic, and how much must remain at the core of Christian theology? "

The earliest Fathers like Irenaeus and (especially) Origen already dealt with this question, in a sense. The "core of Christian theology" is what they usually called "the rule of faith", drawn from Scripture and handed down in tradition from the apostles themselves. You can find pericopes of it scattered throughout Irenaeus, and Origen offers them point-by-point, as it were, at the opening of On First Principles. They are essentially what come to be enshrined in the Nicene Creed, without perhaps the niceties of language (homoousion, etc.)

Origen insists time after time that all of his speculations must still be judged against that rule. At the same time, there's a real sense that for Origen, the (Neo)Platonic conceptual framework is itself a grace that offers the language in which to systematize that which Scripture implies by faith. To quote from Rowan Greer's "Introduction" to the Classics of Western Spirituality volume of Origen:
If Origen is committed both to Platonism and to the Christian Church, we must ask how that double commitment is managed. It would be possible to argue that one commitment governs the other. That is, one might say that Origen is a philosopher at the expense of his Christianity, or, on the contrary, a churchman despite his philosophical interest. ... The trouble with both these approaches is that they fail to see that Origen would have refused to accept the dilemma from which they proceed. In principle, he argue, the truth discovered by Plato and the other philosophers is the same truth revealed in Scriptures. To be sure, the philosophers have made mistakes, and the truth of the Scriptures is the treasure hidden in the field. But if one searches wisely and carefully, one begins to find the place where contradictions are resolved and obscurities disappear. Origen is a Christian Platonist not because he has turned Christianity into Platonism or vice versa, but because he has found the Platonic idiom of his day capable of expressing the truth of the Gospel. It is inevitable that tensions appear in his double commitment, but the same verdict may be given of any Christian thinker who takes seriously both the perennial meaning of the Gospel and the thought forms of his own time.
(I wonder whether Greer was thinking of somebody like Teilhard de Chardin with that last sentence.)

411marq
Nov 11, 2012, 10:25pm

The question of Christianity in practice versus Christianity theology (as well as the question of function) seems to raise similar questions in the science / religion debate.

We can think that the role of science is to create useful intellectual models (theories). If we function, treat, think, act, predict etc. based on these theories, we are more successful than if we don't. The theories are not final discoveries of truth.

If we think in this way, we would have to ignore most of how science is popularly communicated as well as the language of much of the pro-science, anti-religion argument.

"Exciting discovery of the Higgs Boson", is really "confirmation that a theory which includes the concept of the Higgs Boson is consistent with experimental results within a high degree of statistical certainty but does not exclude the possibility of a better theory which does not include the concept of a Higgs Boson". Not very exciting and not even a discovery.

As well, the "pickle" in post 119 above. Why should a unified theory be possible? Might we not first reach the limit of our comprehension of the universe?

A science that makes assertions of truth and a science that presumes that the universe is ultimately comprehensible is a religious science.

But I am hesitant to make a clear distinction between science and religion on this basis, i.e. that religion makes assertions of truth where science constructs useful explanations. Firstly, because if we are thinking of Buddhism as a religion, it does not really make truth assertions. Buddhist doctrines are called "ehipassiko" experimentally valid or "upaya" expedient. Doctrines are accepted not because they are true but because it is psychologically useful to do so.

But secondly, is Christianity very different? I am no theologian and leaving aside the question of what might be accepted as evidence of God, but at some point, evidence or proof of God has to be unconvincing or irrelevant to Christians. It would rob them of the free choice to believe. I am probably showing up as an ex-Catholic here, but without the free choice to believe, is there any hope of redemption? You can't freely choose to believe that Obama won the election. So how much is a belief in God an assertion that God is real and how much is it a choice to function (think, act, pray etc.) as if God were real? Surely most Christians simply presume that God is real and then get on with the psychological functioning of that presumption (perhaps in more acceptable terms) ?

412Tid
Nov 12, 2012, 7:06am

411

"A science that makes assertions of truth and a science that presumes that the universe is ultimately comprehensible is a religious science."

I agree with the first half - "truth" for science will always be relative, though there is still the matter of unvarying constants (the atomic elements, speed of light, pi, etc etc). And if you include in "comprehensible" the origin of the universe (or - if it turns out to be the case - multiverse), then I would also tend to agree. However, science daily makes the universe more, not less, comprehensible, so that part I stick on.

"the pro-science, anti-religion argument."

This is an artificial argument, participated in by relgious fundamentalists on the one hand, and new atheists on the other. Most religions and their believers accept the findings of science, without it damaging or contradicting their faith. Apples and ethics.

"evidence or proof of God has to be unconvincing or irrelevant to Christians."

This is probably true for most Christians. Jesus is their touchstone for God, and most of them (apart from the mystics, who 'experienced' God and wrote of their experiences) ignore one of Jesus's key sayings, i.e. "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you", which surely points toward experiencing God the only way we can? However, I don't believe "freedom to believe" is key - free will seems to me to be more about knowing the difference between "right" and "wrong" and still having the freedom to choose the wrong. After all, for Christians, the original free will story (Adam and Eve in the Garden) could not include "freedom to believe" as A&E "knew" God and "met" him while living in Eden.

413marq
Nov 15, 2012, 3:05am

I would be surprised if many people (Christians, Moslems, Jews) think of Adam and Eve literally but rather as a metaphor for humanity; “the fall" being symbolic of a psychological discomfort innate to humanity. We can speculate that this has something to do with the evolution of consciousness. I might say that religion is the therapy that humanity has created to try to treat this innate pathology but I would not say that this is in any way a better way of saying this than "fall, original sin, redemption", "dukkha and bodhi" or any of the other ways this is expressed in religion. I think religion is a model of something inexpressible, even incomprehensible but all to do with mind. Mystics try to express their experience through the language of their traditional model.

As in science, the objects in the model do not have to be real for the model to be functional and useful. We don't even have to be clear about what we mean by "real".

One (probably bad) example is in the psychology of Freud or Jung. "Ego", "ID", "anima", "archetype" etc. are objects in the model. Do they actually exist in anyone's brain? Probably not (we might argue about archetype if we could be clear about what Jung meant by it) but that doesn't mean that they are not useful models.

Perhaps better is in engineering mathematics where real world systems are modelled by representing interactions using complex numbers, a number with a "real" and "imaginary" component to model two interactors in the same variable. An imaginary number is the square root of a negative number. "Imaginary" because no number multiplied by itself can ever be negative.

I don't believe in God but I think the statement "there is not a scrap of evidence that God exists" is not only absurd for the usual reasons (e.g. the implied ontology and what exactly would constitute evidence of God), it also misses that functional point. There is not a scrap of evidence that imaginary numbers exist either. That doesn't mean that they are not extremely useful. They may even be the only way to get the job done.

The whole debate seems hijacked by this bias towards "is it real?" instead of "does it work?" and I agree it is a kind of fundamentalism - in both science and religion.

414lawecon
Nov 15, 2012, 5:17am

That is nice, but I don't believe that either Jews or Muslims believe in "the Fall."

415Tid
Nov 15, 2012, 7:19am

413

I think you speak a lot of sense here (though with due respect to lawecon and his quite natural protest that Jews and Muslims don't have the concept of "The Fall = Original Sin" as Christians do). I was using Adam and Eve metaphorically too - which is why I said story, and put quotes around "knew" and "met". I was just trying to make the point that freedom to believe is part of free will, but there's more to free will than that. For example mystics may have had an experience of what they choose to term the "Real", and therefore have no more concern about "belief in God", but they still have free will.

Would we still have free will if we "met God" or someone proved God's existence? It's an interesting speculation. My own opinion would be "Yes, we would, as that's how the universe functions". However, someone else might speculate that "the experiment of the universe would cease to function if components within the experiment became aware of the existence of both the experiment and the experimenter." (Ok, that's a bit sci-fi, I agree, but it begs the question - "Can the existence or otherwise of God ever be proved?").

Your last two paragraphs resonate with me. "Does it work?" is perhaps the only useful criterion, after all. Though it is endless fun to speculate also, even if it turns out to be no more than mental gymnastics.

416lawecon
Editado: Nov 15, 2012, 8:59am

~413
and 415

Here we go again. Look guys, to me at least this is a prime example of what is meant by "philosophic confusion." You start to use terms that make perfect sense in a particular context in a totally different context and, presto, total nonsense.

Will we have free will if someone can prove the existence of G-d? Well, will we have free will if someone can prove the existence of a unicorn? (Which you usually do by producing a unicorn or at least snapping a picture of a unicorn - hint: you don't "prove existences" as you would prove a proposition in logic or math.) Are we less free because we KNOW that there are unicorns? Why would we be less free if we knew there was a G-d (unless, of course, you're taking the twiddle in hundreds of years of a particular theological tradition as a given as to "what God must be like").

If someone can discover the mailing address of
G_d then some might well feel compelled to send him "thank you" notes, but other than that......., I can't imagine what this would have to do with free will.

This reminds me of the babble about G_d's attributes: "God is SO VERY GREAT that no one can conceive of his nature." Well, ah, if no one can conceive of his nature, how do we know he is all that great?

417nathanielcampbell
Nov 15, 2012, 9:38am

>414 lawecon:: "but I don't believe that either Jews or Muslims believe in "the Fall.""

Surely you are correct about mainstream and (especially) modern adherents of these religions. But what do you suppose the first-century BCE Jewish author of Wisdom of Solomon meant by the following verses, if not some type of "Fall", albeit something quite different from the irrevocable Fall that demanded God's own sacrifice for redemption?

Wisdom of Solomon 2:23-24: "For God created us for incorruption, and made us in the image of his own eternity; but through the devil's envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it."

(I'm not trying to suggest that the Christian concept of original sin was inherited from mainstream Jewish ideas. But there certainly seem to have been at least some Jews in the generations before the birth of Christ that understood death as punishment for sin and immortality as God's gracious reward for the righteous.)

418lawecon
Nov 15, 2012, 10:55am

I think your term "mainstream" pretty much sums it up. There were a lot for Greek influenced Jews in the diaspora pretty much from the time of Alexander's conquests forward. As I've said about a dozen times in various threads, Judaism is not and was never homogeneous. Part of that, certainly by the time you reach the middle ages, and probably for many hundreds of years before that time, was belief in metaphysical entities such as "the devil" among those Jews who were influenced by various sorts of paganism.

Beyond that, however, if you mean by "the Fall" some sort of doctrine of "Original Sin" that was inherited by all mankind, there is no such doctrine in "mainstream" Judaism, or, so far as I know, in Islam. People in general are not born cursed with indelible sin. (Now in some interpretations of Islam, of course, SOME PEOPLE may be born predestined to hell fire, but that is just them, not everyone.)

419marq
Editado: Nov 15, 2012, 3:38pm

414: yes, I suppose that should just apply to Christianity. I wonder then, do Jews see the practice or observance of Judaism as having a function?

I am thinking of the metaphorical "the fall". The thing fundamentally wrong that the religion is meant to fix.

420lawecon
Editado: Nov 15, 2012, 10:24pm

~419

Yes, Judaism has exactly "a function." The function is to define and effect what is sometimes called "justice." "Justice" is a set of rules that orders a society so that "everyone" agrees that things are as they should be. Think of Judaism as rule utilitarianism. You might want to read Kant on this matter. He quite correctly believed that Judaism was not a religion IN THE SENSE THAT CHRISTIANITY IS A RELIGION.

"Kant believes that Christianity, because of its idealized, spiritualized ethical teachings based on pure love, approaches this ideal of ethical religion more than any other historical religion. In contrast, following *Spinoza, he views Judaism as a mere national-political entity, contending that it fails to satisfy the essential criteria of religion in that it fails to inculcate the inner appropriation of morals, demanding only external obedience to statutes and laws. Interpreting Jewish messianism as nothing more than a national-political experience, Kant maintains that Judaism is concerned only with things of this world, and lacks any formulation of the concept of immortality."

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0011_0_10705.html

421nathanielcampbell
Editado: Nov 16, 2012, 10:00am

>420 lawecon:: Do you think that "lack of an interior life", as it were, might have spurred the development of marginal Jewish groups in the century before and after the birth of Jesus, e.g. Jesus and his followers, the Essenes, Alexandrian Jews like Philo and the writer of the Wisdom of Solomon, etc.?

(I apologize if "lack of an interior life" sounds as pejorative as it does. If there is a less problematic way to summarize this Kantian view, please suggest it and I'll adopt it.)

422BooksCatsEtc
Dez 8, 2012, 1:00pm

I think science and god are apples and oranges -- science is a way of observing and understanding the natural world, while god is a supernatural, philosophical concept. They don't compare with each other and aren't in conflict (except of the manufactured kind) anyway.

423Tid
Dez 8, 2012, 3:29pm

422

Or even apples and ethics! Not related in even the remotest way (unless of course you believe that "God" created all the laws of science).

424vy0123
Editado: Dez 9, 2012, 10:45pm

For me, the specials are
  1. philosophy for theory
  2. science for testing
  3. engineering for afterthoughts
Politics and religion (PR) are susceptible to beguiling dissemblers
feasting on the blood, sweat and tears of others for nothing or
mischief making make-beliefs.

425K.J.
Dez 10, 2012, 9:40pm

1> For many scientists, Brian Cox included, the continuing growth of understanding the universe does not preclude the concept of a higher being, although the concept as put forth by religion might not be the best illustration of such an entity. Perhaps what will happen is that mankind will come to understand that everything in the universe is linked and how we touch any part of it is important. There are no complex rituals for this.

426Tid
Dez 11, 2012, 6:29am

425

Or not even "a higher being" - after all, the Eastern philosophies all encompass a reality where there is no God but there is a Unity (or, for Buddhists, a Void, and for Taoists, an undefinable Way) in which everything is held and which we can realise as part of ourselves too. And/or that we are part of It. This is, to me, much more attractive a proposition than some kind of supernatural being.

427JGL53
Dez 11, 2012, 10:32am

> 426

Uh, two thumbs up. You, sir, are a modern day Alan Watts.

428Tid
Dez 11, 2012, 1:13pm

427

Despite demoting me to male status, you pay me a great compliment!

429JGL53
Dez 11, 2012, 2:01pm

> 428

Surely a case of give with one hand, take with the other. LOL.

I apologize for the inadvertent insult. I always try to keep my insults advertent.

430Tid
Dez 11, 2012, 3:35pm

429

LOL

431K.J.
Dez 11, 2012, 9:01pm

426> That is exactly the philosophy I was gently presenting in my comment. 'For many scientists, Brian Cox included, the continuing growth of understanding the universe does not preclude the concept of a higher being, although the concept as put forth by religion might not be the best illustration of such an entity. Perhaps what will happen is that mankind will come to understand that everything in the universe is linked and how we touch any part of it is important. '

432lawecon
Editado: Dez 11, 2012, 9:53pm

~429

"I apologize for the inadvertent insult. I always try to keep my insults advertent."

You left out "crude and stupid."

433JGL53
Dez 11, 2012, 10:12pm

> 432

Well, yes I did. But, then, you are not always on my mind. Sometimes I (mercifully) utterly forget you exist.

Then here you go reminding me again.

Shit.

434lawecon
Dez 11, 2012, 10:13pm

Indeed you are.

435skoobdo
Dez 11, 2012, 10:17pm

Science is God's creation.

436JGL53
Dez 11, 2012, 10:21pm

> 434

Yes, indeed you are, but what am I?

> 435

That's just a theory.

437skoobdo
Dez 11, 2012, 11:04pm

The Book of Genesis is the footprint of God's creation.

438JGL53
Dez 11, 2012, 11:52pm

> 437

The book of genesis is one creation myth out of many. Nothing special.

Religious sectarianism/god talk is a crap hobby. Expand your horizons.

439skoobdo
Dez 12, 2012, 6:01am

JGL53: Everyone has its own opinion. Don't Be RUDE. Not Nice.

440southernbooklady
Dez 12, 2012, 7:32am

>439 skoobdo: Your statements were not expressed as opinions, they were expressed as facts. You did not say "I think the Book of Genesis is the footprint of God's creation." You said "The Book of Genesis is the footprint of God's creation." So you can't complain if someone else says "no it isn't."

441jbbarret
Editado: Dez 12, 2012, 11:41am

Any ideas who it was first said, "everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts"?

442StormRaven
Dez 12, 2012, 11:47am

441: I think it was former Senator Moynihan.

443JGL53
Editado: Dez 12, 2012, 2:01pm

I didn't mean to imply that the creation story in the book of Genesis is not interesting, entertaining and even educational - IF one sanely views it as a myth (which should go without saying, but sadly it DOES need be said).

There are professional mythologists who's job it is to explain the metaphorical meanings of the various cultures' mythic stories, fables, fairy tales, etc. - Joseph Campbell and Heinrich Zimmer both come to mind. Alan Watts did a lot of work in this area. And of course there is the great Mircea Eliade. Even Isaac Asimov wrote an annotated bible book. Karen Armstrong? - well, not my favorite.

444JaCo0108
Dez 12, 2012, 2:37pm

Has anyone read The Hole in our Gospel? Richard Stearns "What does God Expect of us? Is our faith just about going to church, studying the bible and avoiding the most serious sins--or does God expect more? Have we embraced the whole gospel or a gospel with a hole in it?" by Richard Stearns

445JGL53
Dez 12, 2012, 3:08pm

> 444

This book was reviewed by 488 readers at Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Hole-Our-Gospel-Changed/product-reviews/0849947006/ref...

It got pretty good reviews - 439 of the 488 reviewers gave it either a 4 or a 5 out of a possible 5.

However I found several of the 1 out of 5 views somewhat disturbing. After reading those I'm not sure this would be a good book for me.

But most seem to like it, so there is that.

446Tid
Dez 12, 2012, 4:03pm

437

How so? Especially since St. Augustine instructed contemporary Christians not to take that particular (Jewish) story literally. But I suppose it depends exactly what you mean by 'footprint' - would you enlarge?

447skoobdo
Dez 14, 2012, 8:27am

The word "footprint", I meant that "The Book of Genesis" have documented the creation of universe by God. It is an individual's choice to believe or treat as "heresay". The Holy Bible is the recorded material a Christian based to believe that God exists.

448StormRaven
Dez 14, 2012, 8:30am

I meant that "The Book of Genesis" have documented the creation of universe by God.

Well, except for the fact that it is laughably wrong.

449skoobdo
Dez 14, 2012, 8:37am

Any qualified thelogians or preachers among the members have some views to bring up? Make this thread , one of the subjects about God for discussion.
Atheists are welcome to discuss.

450lawecon
Dez 14, 2012, 11:07am

~449

How about qualified Jews - you know, those whose co-religionists wrote the Bible, as opposed to preachers?

451Tid
Dez 14, 2012, 1:21pm

447

May I recommend a book to you, by John Shelby Spong called Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism? It describes in great detail HOW the (OT) Bible was written, by WHOM, in which different eras, for what purposes, and its slow evolution as a quasi-historic, quasi-genealogical, part-poetic, part-spiritual, part-legal, part-mythological, cultural work, encompassing many different periods, many different writers, many different external pressures.

450

Quite.

452JGL53
Dez 14, 2012, 1:27pm

> 451

Does Spong address the question of whether Adam and Eve had navels? That's the stumper for creationists like skoobdo.

453lawecon
Editado: Dez 14, 2012, 3:15pm

~451

Thanks for the book recommendation. This author/title is not something I am not more than very vaguely familiar with, probably because most of his writing was before I became interested in this sort of thing. But it looks interesting (and it doesn't hurt that this title and others are available in a Kindle format - less chance of being severely beaten by wife for bringing yet another book into the house).

454Tid
Dez 14, 2012, 5:42pm

452

I don't think Spong does! Doesn't waste his time on such trivia.

453

You're welcome - I have a copy on my shelves somewhere, and I must read it again (long time since I did).

455nathanielcampbell
Editado: Dez 15, 2012, 3:09pm

>449 skoobdo:: Since you asked for the theologians to chime to in...

For a good introduction to traditional Christian approaches to reading the Bible, and Genesis in particular, from a multitude of perspectives, I would recommend reading Book 4 of Origen's "On First Principles" (easily accessible in Origen: An Exortation to Martyrdom, Prayer, and Selected Works). I've detailed part of Origen's arguments and how they apply to Genesis in this LibraryThing post from June.

Then I would recommend reading perhaps Books XI-XIII of Augustine's Confessions, in which he discusses the first chapter of Genesis: Books XI and XII can be read online here, and Book XIII can be found online here.

Finally, I would recommend reading Augustine's The Literal Meaning of Genesis, from which I have quoted before the following passage, from chs. 18 and 19:
In matters that are obscure and far beyond our vision, even in such as we may find treated in Holy Scripture, different interpretations are sometimes possible without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such a case, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search for truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it. That would be to battle not for the teaching of Holy Scripture but for our own, wishing its teaching to conform to ours, whereas we ought to wish ours to conform to that of Sacred Scripture.
(...)
Non-Christians know something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge they hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for a nonbeliever to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehood on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion (I Timothy 1:7).

456skoobdo
Dez 15, 2012, 9:21pm

Message- above

Thank you for your contributed forum on the thread's subject.

457Arten60
Dez 16, 2012, 9:55am

You cut up animals because you are cut off from the Source. You are effectively dead from the neck up and I hope Karma one day bites you on the arse it will wake you up and you will see the Light, the error of your materialistic ways.

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in
him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of
it.
John 8:44 King James Version (KJV)
Christ telling the Jews that their god is Satan.

458lawecon
Editado: Dez 16, 2012, 10:36am

~457

Ironically, in the related thread this was just posted yesterday "Christians, of course, don't practice animal sacrifice. Well, in fact, some do http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matagh ." And as the Christians in these forums will tell you, they have no reason to believe that those Christians aren't truly Christians.

459Idrisguitar
Dez 16, 2012, 10:42am

I have been thinking over this very much recently.

I believe that science is an explanation of what we can grasp, and religion an explanation of what we cannot grasp.

we are so limited in what we can ever know about the universe, that there will ALWAYS be a need to have some kind of grasp of the unknown. fiction or not, believnig in something extreme and unprovable doesn't mean you are ignorant, it just means you are trying to fill a gap that nothing else can.

460southernbooklady
Dez 16, 2012, 11:29am

>459 Idrisguitar: I believe that science is an explanation of what we can grasp, and religion an explanation of what we cannot grasp.

So then the question becomes, is there anything we truly cannot grasp? Or is existence "knowable."?

it just means you are trying to fill a gap that nothing else can

As I understand it, this is a "god of the gaps" concept, which does not describe the believer's understanding of, or experience of the divine. It essentially means the more we know, the less we need god, whereas a person of faith would say--I think--that the more we know, the more we need and see god in front of us.

And I should add that since I am a materialist, an empiricist, and an atheist of the uncompromising Richard Dawkins/Christopher Hitchens variety, I don't have any inclination to see god or to doubt the knowability of the universe. Certainly no inclination to ascribe that which I do not know to god or anything supernatural. But if an atheist and a believer are to have a reasonable conversation about these things, they have to each do their best to comprehend the other's point of view without dismissing the person, even if they might dismiss their belief or assumptions. So it's in that spirit that I offer my comments.

461JGL53
Editado: Dez 16, 2012, 2:15pm

> 460

Yes, Indeed. High five.

Some additional points - I think most self-acknowledged atheists are for the most part "live and let live" types - if the religious would just do their part and allow them to be - which most don't, so there you are.

As I see it, the problem is not spiritual beliefs in the generic, it is organized religion, which is political by nature and attempts to control, or actually controlls, the minds of many, many people who would otherwise be decent human beings who otherwise could have a commitment to critical thinking, like your run-of-the-mill atheist.

Yes, atheists are being "rude" these days, coming out of the closet and challenging religion on all levels, pointing out that morality and religion have no more necessarily in common than Poinsettias in your garden have to do with craters on the back side of the moon. Less, actually.

Religious belief per se is not the problem. E.g., I am a monist. That is SORT of a religion, in the final analysis, since it is a non-falsifiable belief (most likely it seems, but perhaps not). In any case I have no political ambitions regarding monism. The problem in religion is clericalism, or ecclesiasticism. I.e., organized religion. Group belief. (I hesitate to call it group think, since it is anti-think, anti-logic, and ad hoc).

Here's the horror of it all for the religionists, from one end of the sane/insane sliding scale to the other: Atheists - we are HERE, we are QUEER (in the old sense of the word) and we are NOT going away. And it is onward and upward now. Superstition is on the run - at least in first world countries.

Sure, our world society could instead devolve into a Republic of Gilead type of situation. Most religionists would pray to their imaginary friend that that particular "solution" to the atheist "problem" can be avoided.

I will point out - for the umpteenth time - that MOST atheists are not psychopaths, sociopaths, severe cynics, pessimists, or nihilists, severely depressed or mental in some noteworthy way, to any verifiable degree than are religionists on average - including the most liberal types. IOW, you are not going to be able to pick them out of a crowd as THE nuts we all need to watch. Those would generally be religionists - the absolutist type. The point here is that stereotyping atheists makes no more sense than stereotyping blacks, Asians, women, old people, homosexuals, blue-eyed people, or extremely short, tall, fat or skinny people.

And it is no excuse for a religionist to say “Well, atheists, or most or many of the ones I’ve encountered are X (deficient in behavior in some way) so therefore it is pot kettle black to say many religionists are X.”

Well, Hell’s Bells, if religionists in the main can’t be morally better than hated atheists, in the main, then what is the function of religion, morally speaking? Pointing out the exception to the rule, e.g. Albert Schweitzer, Florence Nightingale, etc. doesn’t do the trick. Thomas Edison and Andrew Carnegie had more of an impact on helping more people have a chance at a decent life than did the former. So I call a wash regarding that contest, at least.

Closing challenge: based on the evidence, what do religionists have, on average, that atheists, on average, need, or could use to have a better, more rewarding life?

There is no evidence of such that I know of. It seems to me that religion piety is just an unnecessary collar of iron worn around the neck as one attempts to swim through life. IOW, I don’t see the upside. LOL.

462StormRaven
Dez 16, 2012, 2:57pm

and religion an explanation of what we cannot grasp.

If you cannot grasp it, how do you explain it? At that point you're just "making stuff up".

463Tid
Dez 16, 2012, 6:00pm

462

Indeed. A Zen abbott will belabour his students with a stick for as long as they claim or pretend to any kind of 'enlightenment' they actually don't have (yet).

464lawecon
Dez 16, 2012, 8:36pm

~463

How does he know when they have it?

465lawecon
Dez 16, 2012, 8:41pm

~460
"But if an atheist and a believer are to have a reasonable conversation about these things, they have to each do their best to comprehend the other's point of view without dismissing the person, even if they might dismiss their belief or assumptions. So it's in that spirit that I offer my comments."

That is nice, but why is it that I get the impression that you think that The Atheist can comprehend what The Believer believes? As an atheist I'm sure that you understand very well that there are different sorts of atheists, who are atheists about different sorts of things - they often have quite different "pet peeves." Similarly, there are quite different sorts of believers. (And I don't just mean that there are Quakers and Roman Catholics.) Here is a very good, if somewhat elementary, book on that topic God Is Not One.

466southernbooklady
Dez 16, 2012, 9:04pm

>465 lawecon: That is nice, but why is it that I get the impression that you think that The Atheist can comprehend what The Believer believes?

Because you are quick to jump to conclusions?

The reason I've been participating in the Let's Talk Religion group is because I don't think I know what believers believe, which is why I was careful to qualify my statements with phrases like "As I understand it." I'm interested in finding common ground for conversation, not in nitpicking people over labels.

As it happens, my personal religious background is somewhat varied, but has included periods of at least trying to be a believer, although it never settled deep. Or even shallow. But I count among my friends many different kinds of believers, and no, I'm not just talking about Quakers vs. Roman Catholics. Or even Christians vs. Muslims. But thank you for the reading recommendation.

467lawecon
Editado: Dez 16, 2012, 9:24pm

You are welcome, and I appreciate your ability to "come back" (first line of your response). It is amazing to me how few people in these forums have that ability.

The book is available in a variety of formats, and, from what I can tell, is remarkably accurate. It is, of course, a broad overview, as the author himself stresses.

468JGL53
Dez 16, 2012, 10:10pm

God by John Lennon

God is a concept
By which we measure
Our pain
I'll say it again
God is a concept
By which we measure
Our pain

I don't believe in magic
I don't believe in I-Ching
I don't believe in Bible
I don't believe in tarot
I don't believe in Hitler
I don't believe in Jesus
I don't believe in Kennedy
I don't believe in Buddha
I don't believe in mantra
I don't believe in Gita
I don't believe in yoga
I don't believe in kings
I don't believe in Elvis
I don't believe in Zimmerman
I don't believe in Beatles
I just believe in me
Yoko and me
And that's reality

The dream is over
What can I say?
The dream is over
Yesterday
I was the dream weaver
But now I'm reborn
I was the Walrus
But now I'm John
And so dear friends
You just have to carry on
The dream is over

470Tid
Dez 17, 2012, 8:43am

464

The Zen abbott - assuming he/she is considerably more enlightened than the novice monks/nuns - would (should?) know whether what has been said is genuine enlightenment or not. I'm not enlightened! so I have no idea how they know this. I imagine it consists of a form of "seeing" (cf Carlos Castaneda / Don Juan Matus), probably combined with being able to interpret body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, etc.

Zen abbotts would have their own teachers, of course, who I assume are at a greater level of enlightenment themselves.

471skoobdo
Editado: Dez 17, 2012, 9:50pm

The account of creation(primarily Genesis 1:1-2:3, but further information gathered from Genesis 2:4-25) not only forms the theologoical starting point of the book,Genesis but also provides a vivid portrayal of the word of Gpd in transforming chaos into a creation that is complete,fully blessed,and at rest.Creation is a correction of chaos. Emptiness,formlessness,darkness,the deep are altered with a creation that is pronounced good and is blessed by God.
Genesis do not account for the cause of the chaos, but we can clearly understand that it was a judgment on rebellion,Satan's involvement, and that evil existed instead of the fullness of life.Is creation, a remedy for chaos, then I believe that God's work through the six days shows his work in bringing about blessing after the fall of Adam and Eve, our ancestors(???).
Do we views much of Genesis as myth, the ancient mythical stories or tales have been retold to provide illustration for truth. Do you agree?

472lawecon
Editado: Dez 17, 2012, 9:51pm

~470

In other words, if I accept your authority as a Zen Abbott, then I should accept that you can judge whether or not I have achieved Enlightenment? OK, I guess, but seems rather circular, doesn't it? But I guess that there are all sorts of people who defer to Presidents or movie actors, simply because they are Presidents or movie actors, and therefore somehow greater authorities about the world, or right actions or right reason, or, whatever, so why not abbots?

473Tid
Dez 18, 2012, 12:25pm

472

I wouldn't equate Zen Abbotts with presidents or movie actors, at least not on the level of discussion we're having here. Zen monks/nuns have to undergo rigorous training and discipline learning to be "mindful", precise in attention and mental focus, of "quiet mind", not to mention compassionate towards living creatures, so I imagine that no-one is appointed an Abbott who hasn't reached quite a high level of enlightenment (judged by those who themselves are enlightened). So yes, those who sign on for Zen would take the enlightened qualities of their Abbott on trust, but also as part of their discipline?

I've been to a Buddhist monastery (as a lay visitor). The monks and nuns were oh-so-serious, of grave demeanour. However, the Abbott, when he came to talk to us all, was quite the opposite - light, humorous, and attentive in a very relaxed way. So even I, as a lay person, could see his qualities.

471

A creation "at rest"? Nature is red in tooth and claw. The events in Connecticut show tragically how far from rest we are. And even at the atomic level, everything is in perpetual motion, with electrons orbiting neutrons ceaselessly.

As for Satan, doesn't he enter affairs as 'God's Tempter' according to the Jewish Bible, a mischief maker rather than a force of evil?

I'm not entirely sure what point you're making here?

474JGL53
Editado: Dez 29, 2012, 12:39pm

> 473

Not even interested enough to look it up but somewhere in the bible, I think OT, it says something like "I am the lord thy god, I create both good and evil".

So the story is that god created Satan so he could have an adversary - creating Satan as good initially (Lucifer) but knowing he would use his free will to rebel and then the drama could start. (God knows everything, so how could he not know that?)

And god created humans as the pawns. Every good game must have pawns, or something equivalent. And god (remember - he knows everything) knew from the beginning which pawns would wind up in hell and which would make it to heaven - but the pawns were created with free will, so it's really their choice and their fault. So god is thus guilt free. Even though he created it ALL and thus would seem to be ultimately responsible for all. Confusing when you think about it, but god has his or her mysterious ways and his or her logic flys over mere human heads at the speed of light. Apparently.

Anyway, it's like god was bored, lying around heaven all day with nothing much to do, so he wrote a play (i.e., creation). And he of course stars in it, because he wrote it for his amusement. It would seem.

But no one died and made christianity god. LOL. Every religion has its drama or story or play - its myth. The christian myth is modeled on earlier ones. That is why many people think it was created by humans. I think those many people are right.

475pre20cenbooks
Abr 16, 2013, 5:34pm

God's creation stimulates scientist, how bout that?

476nathanielcampbell
Editado: Abr 16, 2013, 6:05pm

If we're going to resurrect this thread (no pun intended), might I offer the following excerpt from Neil Ormerod's 2012 Lonergan Lecture (PDF), which discusses the "existential incompleteness" of the scientific enterprise, because its continual recourse to empirical verification makes its knowledge inherently contingent:
In metaphysical terms both the theory of a multiverse and the “theory of everything” are seeking to move beyond contingency to necessity, to formulate what would in traditional terms be called “necessary” being, or being whose existence requires no further explanation. These approaches are an attempt to bypass the more traditional metaphysical one which would identify such a necessary being with God. But the simple fact is that no mathematical formula creates anything. In itself it is the creation of the mind that conceives it. It may help explain what exists, but it does not create the thing it explains. The anxiety over contingency is nonetheless a valid anxiety because without some necessary being, such as God, the drive towards the intelligibility of the universe, which is the foundational drive of science, hits a brick wall with existence itself, which remains radically unintelligible unless it is related in some way to necessary being. If anything these two failed attempts to bypass the issue of contingency simply reinforce the realization that science is existentially incomplete. Royal astronomer and atheist Martin Rees captures this as follows: “Theorists may, some day, be able to write down fundamental equations governing physical reality. But physics can never explain what “breathes fire‟ into the equations, and actualizes them in a real cosmos”. Whatever it is that “breathes fire” can only be a necessary being, an existence that needs no further explanation. And as Aquinas would say, this all people call God.

This of course is not a proof that such a being exists, but it does indicate why the notion of a divine being arises in relation to the problem of contingency; it also indicates the vacuous nature of the question, “Who made God?” Necessary being is self-explanatory; it needs no further explanation, no “maker” to explain it. It also shows why God‟s existence or non-existence can never be a scientific question. Scientific method is predicated on the need for empirical verification which means it can only deal with contingent being, not necessary being. We can never get to God as the conclusion of a scientific argument.

477PedrBran
Abr 16, 2013, 6:32pm

>476 nathanielcampbell:
There are so many things wrong with that quote I don't know where to start:

All the facts aren't in yet, so it's ok( rational ) to hold that there's a necessary being, little fairies exist, etc - wrong.

Asserting that the answer to 'why is there something rather than nothing' is because a necessary being created us is just as arbitrary as the negation.

From a scientific perspective, the 'why' is in the 'how'. Desiring a 'why' is the result of animism and how the mind naturally attempts to explain the world. For there to be an answer to a why, then of course a necessary being must exist. It has to 'mean' the world. Then we can assert that a why question has an answer even though it is undiscoverable ( if you follow Kant's line of reasoning ).

Of course the world, science, everything is contingent - radically so. So are our thoughts. This does not entail a necessary being. This is the fallacy behind Spinoza's principle of sufficient reason. ( Since you are a medievalist, you do of course understand that god's freedom entails radical contingency...hence so much emphasis on trust...except the O.T. doesn't offer much succor there ).

You are free to assert answers to 'why' questions till the cows come home, but it is all rhetoric in the end.

> "Whatever it is that “breathes fire” can only be a necessary being, an existence that needs no further explanation. And as Aquinas would say, this all people call God."

Well Martin Rees said it so that settles the issue...no more reason for me to weigh in on this...but I suppose one needs an archimedian point, a coat hook to hang all one's arm chair ruminations on and make one feel all warm and fuzzy about how god's going to have a big arm chair in the sky just for me when I die...or my life has meaning, by golly jee, because a necessary being exists...except that he's focusing all his wrath on me...except that I've created a belief system that says he loves me...so now I feel all warm and fuzzy again.

My ultimate questions is: so what if god or gods exist? Why do I care?

478aleng
Abr 16, 2013, 7:26pm

>477 PedrBran: Good point-if there is no reason to believe that a god or gods exist, why should we?

479nathanielcampbell
Abr 16, 2013, 10:13pm

>477 PedrBran:: "Asserting that the answer to 'why is there something rather than nothing' is because a necessary being created us is just as arbitrary as the negation."

But that's not what Ormerod said. Notice: "This of course is not a proof that such a being exists, but it does indicate why the notion of a divine being arises in relation to the problem of contingency."

What he's saying is this: by its very own epistemological definition, science will always remain contingent. Yet, its methodology presupposes that the material world is intelligible -- otherwise, it would be illogical to go from data to model, as there would be no reason to presume that the data is modelable (and at a further level, the terms "logical" and "illogical" would themselves be meaningless). That presupposition cannot itself be proven by a wholly contingent epistemology.

Furthermore, what Ormerod recognizes is that we have a fundamental urge to want to leave that contingency behind. That, in fact, is what motivates attempts (like those of Lawrence Krauss) to posit multiverses or "theories of everything". The very idea of the multiverse does two things: (1) it removes the contingent nature of our universe by making its existence necessary, precisely because it is simply one permutation of the multiverse; and (2) it leaves behind the contingent nature of the scientific method by making theoretical predictions that define themselves as being beyond empirical verification (in Krauss' version of the multiverse, each universe is "causally disconnected" from every other).

In other words: the multiverse fills the same exact metaphysical role that philosophers had formerly called, "God": a necessary being beyond empirical validation.

Krauss doesn't get rid of God -- he just renames God "the multiverse".

"Since you are a medievalist, you do of course understand that god's freedom entails radical contingency"

Only if I were an Ockhamist. (You might want to try reading some Denys Turner before making any more futiley reductive statements about philosophical necessity, contingency, and convenience. Oh, you haven't heard of philosophical convenience? Pity that modern philosophy is so impoverished.)

480JGL53
Abr 16, 2013, 10:21pm

> 477 "...My ultimate questions is: so what if god or gods exist? Why do I care?"

Good question. Do theists - any theists - have a good answer?

I'm guessing not.

481nathanielcampbell
Abr 16, 2013, 10:35pm

>477 PedrBran: and 480: "...My ultimate questions is: so what if god or gods exist? Why do I care?"

Well, for one thing, you're in a group called, "Let's Talk Religion", so obviously you do care. Perhaps, then, you could tell us?

Furthermore, some significant majority of the world's population does care. If you'd like to pretend that they don't exist, there's not much I can do to stop you, but it does take the punch out of any attacks you may offer against theists and their imaginary friends.

482JGL53
Abr 16, 2013, 10:53pm

> 481

All of that does not address the question.

To repeat, if there is a god then why should I care? That is, hypothetically a god might exist. If so - then why should I care?

If you have no answer to this rather simple question then just say so and we'll let the next theist in line take a shot.

483nathanielcampbell
Editado: Abr 16, 2013, 10:55pm

>482 JGL53:: But your very presence in this discussion tells us that you already do care. Since I'm not a mind-reader, then, it's up to you to tell us why you already care!

Quick, JGL, tell me: what did I have for dinner?

484southernbooklady
Abr 17, 2013, 8:06am

>483 nathanielcampbell: But your very presence in this discussion tells us that you already do care.

But this presupposes that participation in the group is de facto evidence that one cares about the topic itself, instead of, say, the people who are in the discussion. I don't care that the universe as I understand it does not include a supernatural entity called "God." I do care about getting along with my fellow human beings, many of whom are quite passionate about the existence of God. So I've got to find some kind of common ground with them just to be able to talk to them.

>481 nathanielcampbell:Furthermore, some significant majority of the world's population does care. If you'd like to pretend that they don't exist, there's not much I can do to stop you

Of all the arguments in favor of the existence of God, I find the "well most people believe it" argument the least convincing. If you can't be convinced within yourself, then it just doesn't matter what anyone else or even everyone else believes.

485vy0123
Abr 17, 2013, 9:45am

477 in 480 "...My ultimate questions is: so what if god or gods exist? Why do I care?"

The social good from the activities of benevolent theistic institutions matter, just need to cut off the authoritarian godhead/s where in lies ridiculous claims of writing inventions.

486aleng
Abr 17, 2013, 10:02am

>485 vy0123: Yes, but how do we know when a theistic institution crosses the line between "good" and "bad".

487nathanielcampbell
Abr 17, 2013, 10:12am

>484 southernbooklady:: "Of all the arguments in favor of the existence of God, I find the "well most people believe it" argument the least convincing."

But I wasn't using it as an argument in favor of the existence of God. Rather, I was using it as evidence that belief in God is an important issue in human society, i.e. something that should be cared about.

488southernbooklady
Abr 17, 2013, 11:14am

But my point still stands, Nathan. The fact that millions of people find religion important doesn't mean much if you can't find it to be important yourself. Millions of people think making money is important. Does this mean I should? Millions of people think celebrity is important. Does this mean I am misguided because I don't?

All that really means is that we have to find a way to live among such people. We are not required to respect or honor their choices and priorities. We each of us have to walk to our own inner beat.

489nathanielcampbell
Editado: Abr 17, 2013, 11:31am

>488 southernbooklady:: "We are not required to respect or honor their choices and priorities."

I'm a little confused by this, as I was under the impression that you supported the idea of respecting other people's choices and priorities. Could you clarify?

490aleng
Editado: Abr 17, 2013, 11:53am

489: I believe what she is trying to say is that no matter how many people find something important, the people who do not agree are not necessarily misguided. You are not required to agree with what other people think. Then again, I think you figured that out yourself.

491nathanielcampbell
Abr 17, 2013, 12:11pm

>490 aleng:: "I believe what she is trying to say is that no matter how many people find something important, the people who do not agree are not necessarily misguided."

I'd point out that the opposite conclusion is just as illogical, i.e. just because you disagree with the majority does not necessarily mean that you are right.

492aleng
Abr 17, 2013, 12:42pm

491: Just as illogical?

493southernbooklady
Abr 17, 2013, 12:55pm

>489 nathanielcampbell: respecting other people's choices and priorities.

The real trick is to respect the people, even when you don't respect their choices or priorities.

>491 nathanielcampbell: I'd point out that the opposite conclusion is just as illogical, i.e. just because you disagree with the majority does not necessarily mean that you are right.

The only way anyone can be "right" is by intense self-examination, and even then the best you can say is that you are "right" for you. "Rightness" is not a thing conferred upon you by external sources.

But here I fear I am in danger once again of getting into an argument over absolute vs. relative good.

494Arctic-Stranger
Abr 17, 2013, 1:42pm

The only way anyone can be "right" is by intense self-examination, and even then the best you can say is that you are "right" for you. "Rightness" is not a thing conferred upon you by external sources.


So, given that the last seven years I have been moving around on this area, and finally came to the conclusion that I do believe in God, and want to serve God means that I am right to do so and were you to disagree with my decision, you would violating my rights?

495nathanielcampbell
Editado: Abr 17, 2013, 1:56pm

>493 southernbooklady:: ""Rightness" is not a thing conferred upon you by external sources. "

Thus runs the argument from my student who insists that his answer to the exam question was right, because after intense self-examination, he is absolutely sure that Catholics are not Christians, and so it is incorrect to refer to the medieval Church as "western Christianity".

Of course, the grade is still an F either way...

(And before anyone objects: I am fully aware that both I and A-S are playing slightly fast and loose with overlapping meanings of the term, "right".)

496southernbooklady
Abr 17, 2013, 4:06pm

>495 nathanielcampbell: (And before anyone objects: I am fully aware that both I and A-S are playing slightly fast and loose with overlapping meanings of the term, "right".)

Yes you are.

497Tid
Abr 17, 2013, 5:00pm

496

How do you know? The assertion of full awareness does not necessarily confer that state on its asserter.

498Arctic-Stranger
Abr 17, 2013, 5:13pm

Although it raises questions. Let's say that what SBL (I hope you do not mind the abbreviation) is really saying is that certain things are "fitting" for some individuals, and not for others. 1+1=2 is right, my faith is fitting.

However that said, are there things that a certain person may find fitting for them, but which are not really acceptable? For instance, a lot of the kids in our program self-report that they are racists. As one kid said, "It was the way I was brought up." We work on erasing that trait from their personalities, but making sure we treat all people equally, AND by placing them in very close contact with people of other races.

It is one thing to say in a room full of mostly "normal" people, "The only way anyone can be "right" is by intense self-examination, and even then the best you can say is that you are "right" for you. "Rightness" is not a thing conferred upon you by external sources. " But we do a lot of work in our program to let the kids know that what they may consider to be right (drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, poor hygiene, thinking errors--the technical sensed of that term, not a general sense, and other dysfunctions) are totally unacceptable.

I am curious. How would you deal with a kid who assumes domestic violence is right and fitting for him? (He can easily find a partner who will participate in that with him.)

499southernbooklady
Abr 17, 2013, 8:42pm

>498 Arctic-Stranger: I am curious. How would you deal with a kid who assumes domestic violence is right and fitting for him? (He can easily find a partner who will participate in that with him.)

I'm sure this seems self-evident to you, but your scenario raises all sorts of questions to me. You seem to be asking what happens when one person's happiness requires the denial of or destruction of another person's happiness. So the question really depends on that other person--if the relationship is non-consensual, then there is a real conflict between moral systems. We have legal systems that address the problems that come from such a scenario.

If the relationship is consensual, but the other person is still unhappy, then that person is not living a self-examined life. In which case, the best you can do is help them to do so.

If the relationship is consensual, and both parties are content -- say in a Master/Slave BDSM scenario, then there isn't a problem.

If you are focused on changing the behavior of the abuser or sociopath or whatever you want to call him/her, then the only thing you can do is attempt to make them reconsider their own conclusions. You can, perhaps, get them to question their assumptions. But that deep behavior change still has to happen internally.

is really saying is that certain things are "fitting" for some individuals, and not for others.

All I can say is that I have been on the wrong side of too many supposedly self-evident moral systems to trust any of them with complete, unquestioning confidence. History reeks with the damage caused by people attempting to impose their notion of a moral way of life upon others who disagreed with them. Which gets me back to my original point: that you can respect a person, and not respect their beliefs. Belief systems, of any kind, are not entitled to an automatic respect.

500aleng
Abr 17, 2013, 8:56pm

498: Actually, 1+1=2 is not faith, it is mathematical fact, proven in Bertrand Russell and Alfred Whitehead's book, their Principia Mathematica.In general, for the cases you've listed, the problem is that their beliefs conflict with the society they live in, and if they live in that society, they are required to conform, at least somewhat, with the laws.

501vy0123
Abr 19, 2013, 6:59am

485 Yes, but how do we know when a theistic institution crosses the line between "good" and "bad".

All that is required is funding to answer that research question, and it should be done annually by athiests.

502nathanielcampbell
Editado: Abr 19, 2013, 10:54am

>501 vy0123:: Let's take the Roman Catholic Church as an example:

(1) I has been plagued for decades by a small number of clergy (somewhere between 4% and 10%, depending on time period and location) who have sexually abused minors, and whose abuse was often, until the last decade, systematically covered up. I'm pretty sure that puts them in the "bad" category.

(2) In those same decades, the Roman Catholic Church has invested hundreds of billions of dollars in charitable and aid organizations that range from soup kitchens to homeless shelters to education to healthcare to poverty reduction to hunger relief to disaster relief, to...to...to... A single order of nuns founded in 1950 by Mother Theresa (the Missionaries of Charity) has over 4,500 sisters active in 133 countries, ministering to the poor, refugees, ex-prostitutes, orphans, lepers, AIDS victims, and the mentally ill. I'm pretty sure that puts them in the "good" category.

How do you propose to weight those two competing indicators?

503StormRaven
Abr 19, 2013, 11:45am

502: Citing Mother Theresa on the "good" side of your ledger does you no favors.

504nathanielcampbell
Abr 19, 2013, 11:54am

>503 StormRaven:: "Citing Mother Theresa on the "good" side of your ledger does you no favors."

Please enlighten us, SR, as to why Mother Theresa was not a good person. (And remember: even the Nobel Prize Committee thought she was worthy of their attention.)

505southernbooklady
Abr 19, 2013, 11:59am

How do you propose to weight those two competing indicators?

Your scenario seems to assume that the end result will be one or the other. That the church will be judged either to be "good" -- in which case the suffering of sexually abused minors is an acceptable price to pay for the great relief it provides in so many other situations. Or, the church is "bad" -- in which case no amount of chartible work and relief done by the church can justify, alliviate, or rationalize the suffering caused by its policy of ignoring or covering up the sexual abuse of minors.

It's a simplistic way to look at the Church, but then you asked the question in a simplistic way. The truth is, everyone has a different notion of when enough is enough, and how much is too much. And they all have different ideas of when the line has been crossed, depending on the issues.

Consider Penn State. Discovery of a policy of covering up sexual abuse wiped its sports accomplishments completely off the board. Hundreds of perfectly innocent and well-meaning people, thousands, perhaps, who had up to then looked at their participation in the program as one of the great highlights of their lives--a good thing, a triumph--are now bereft, their ties to Penn State forever tainted by this one very very bad thing Penn State did.

There's always a fair mix of "good" and "bad" in any organization. When the bad outweighs the good depends on many things, but I think you could say it is not surprising to discover that for many people the Catholic Church tipped over the line ages ago.

The truth is, the Church failed all those charities it runs by allowing its mission to be endangered by a policy of covering up known sexual abuse.

506nathanielcampbell
Editado: Abr 19, 2013, 12:13pm

>505 southernbooklady:: "It's a simplistic way to look at the Church, but then you asked the question in a simplistic way."

I was not the one who introduced the "simplistic" calculus: it was vy0123 in post 501. The *point* of my "simplistic" question was to underscore how ludicrous such a reductive calculus is.

507StormRaven
Editado: Abr 19, 2013, 12:40pm

Please enlighten us, SR, as to why Mother Theresa was not a good person.

She was a fraud and in love with suffering and misery to the detriment of the poor she was supposedly helping. But don't take my word for it, read here and here.

Of course, where she is concerned, the Catholic Church is more than willing to participate in fraud.

As I said before, setting Mother Teresa on the 'good" side of your ledger does the Catholic Church no favors.

508aleng
Abr 19, 2013, 12:37pm

507: Could you get an alternative link for your second one? ForeignPolicy.com has a pay-wall, so I refuse to go there. Oh, and you probably want to have at least a bit more than 3 sources, especially when one is from secularhumanism.org.

509StormRaven
Editado: Abr 19, 2013, 12:40pm

508: I don't find a pay wall when I go to Foreign Policy.com.

If you want the comprehensive version, why don't you read Hitchen's book The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice?

510nathanielcampbell
Abr 19, 2013, 12:49pm

>509 StormRaven:: Because Christopher Hitchens is well-known as a reasonable and unbiased source when it comes to religion!

And you're going to have to come up with a better critique of asceticism than, "I don't like it."

511nathanielcampbell
Abr 19, 2013, 12:51pm

>508 aleng:: "ForeignPolicy.com has a pay-wall, so I refuse to go there."

It's not a pay-wall, but you do have to sign up for a free account in order to read their stuff (I hit the same thing earlier today trying to read a paper someone posted on Facebook about Chechnia). I'm guessing SR already has an account that keeps him signed in, so he doesn't hit the same shadow box.

512aleng
Abr 19, 2013, 4:52pm

511: Okay, thank you.

513JGL53
Abr 19, 2013, 4:56pm

Christopher Hitchens did not lie in his book about M. Teresa. If someone says he did then point out the lies.

Compared to the catholic church Christopher Hitchens was the reincarnation of jesus christ.

Metaphorically-speaking.

514aleng
Abr 19, 2013, 4:57pm

509: If I'm going to read that, you also need to give me a book supporting Mother Teresa-I don't read biased books unless I read another book with the opposite bias.

515aleng
Editado: Abr 19, 2013, 4:59pm

513: Compared to the catholic church Christopher Hitchens was the reincarnation of jesus christ.

Sure. And Dawkins is obviously comparable to the Pope. You do know that the current pope actually (somewhat) supports science, while Dawkins is to busy hating on religion.

516Tid
Abr 19, 2013, 5:12pm

502

I'm not sure you can "weight" the good someone does, against the bad. Unless you believe the old joke:

A Manchester United fan dies and goes to heaven. At the Pearly Gates, St Peter looks at him with distaste and says "Sorry, your sort isn't welcome here".

The Man.Utd. fan splutters. "But I've done good deeds! Last week I gave £10 to Oxfam, the week before I put £10 in a beggar's bowl, and the week before that I donated £10 to the Red Cross."

St Peter shakes his head, then says, "Oh very well then. Wait here while I have a word with God".

After about 5 minutes, St Peter reappears. "I've talked to God and we're both in agreement." He holds out his hand. "Here's your £30 back. Now f*** off."

517JGL53
Abr 19, 2013, 5:20pm

> 515

Get back to us when you find evidence that the new pope has done as much or more for science than Richard Dawkins has done in his lifetime of teaching and writing (e.g., The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution) and I will then be suitably impressed by you. In the meantime - not so much.

518southernbooklady
Abr 19, 2013, 6:16pm

>515 aleng: You do know that the current pope actually (somewhat) supports science, while Dawkins is to busy hating on religion.

Part of the problem with science-vs-religion scenarios is that the two are fighting it out in different rings. Atheists live in a world where religion has to acknowledge the truth and reality of science, but not one where religion needs be regarded as anything but superstition. Religion is just unnecessary

Meanwhile, over in the other ring, the believers live in a world where poor science is woefully inadequate to the realities of spiritual truth. Its supposed answers don't answer anything truly important.

It's no wonder they can't land a punch, they can't even agree where the fight is supposed to be.

519aleng
Abr 19, 2013, 6:25pm

517: If anyone is able to do in a few months, what Dawkins has been able to do in his life, then I will be very surprised.

520jburlinson
Abr 19, 2013, 8:16pm

> 518. fighting it out in different rings

I like your metaphor, but it seems to me that the not only are the rings different, but the fight is different, too. Science is kickboxing, with the intention of ultimately knocking out the opponent and triumphantly seeing him carried out of the ring totally insensate.

Religion is wrestling, close grappling until somebody goes down for the count of three (three-in-one? three days?), only to rise again, good as new. Sadly, religions has become professionalized and now resembles nothing more than a cheap theatrical spectacle of good vs. evil.

Whereas science is fixed and, nowadays, is all about the money.

521southernbooklady
Editado: Abr 19, 2013, 8:26pm

>520 jburlinson: Religion is wrestling, close grappling until somebody goes down for the count of three (three-in-one? three days?), only to rise again, good as new.

Unless, of course, your fight happens to take place in a theocratic state. ;-)

Whereas science is fixed and, nowadays, is all about the money.

Well you're kidding yourself if you think religion isn't. Money is a contaminant (or lubricant) for all kinds of systems.

But science does not strike me as "fixed" -- the only fixed thing about it is the guideline of following the scientific method. Now religion? some of those rituals seem pretty damn fixed! Fixed for a thousand-plus years fixed.

522Arctic-Stranger
Abr 19, 2013, 8:42pm

the only fixed thing about it is the guideline of following the scientific method.

Among the things are fixed; getting your professor and committee's approval for your Ph.D. Being on the right side of an academic dispute. Pleasing your funding source. Doing the kinds of research and publishing that gets you tenured. Making a paper acceptable for publishing.

Last Sunday I heard two Post docs talking about how a third person's life was destroyed because they hitched their wagon to the wrong star. (It was a theory of forest management.) The person did their Ph.D. under the wrong person, a person who's theories were not accepted, and who never got a decent job in academia. As it turned out, the outcast's professor was right and her theories are now widely accepted, but even now the person cannot get on at a decent school because of the time lag between graduation and the ability to get published.

I am not saying this does not happen in religion, but anyone spends serious time in academia knows it is more about money than science, at least some of the time.

523StormRaven
Abr 19, 2013, 8:54pm

If I'm going to read that, you also need to give me a book supporting Mother Teresa-I don't read biased books unless I read another book with the opposite bias.

I'm sure you think you are being reasonable and balanced by taking this stance. You aren't. You're being silly. You don't need to read a book of pseudoscience to balance out a book that is biased in favor of science. You don't need to read a book by a Holocaust denier to balance out a book written about the Holocaust. You don't need to read a book about what a great guy Peter Popoff is to balance out the books by Shermer and Randi showing him to be a charlatan.

Hitchens was a journalist. He researched Teresa and put together a book. He included evidence backing up his conclusions, and showed his sources. His book stands on its own. No matter how much nathanielcambell whines about it, the evidence shows that Teresa was not an admirable person.

524StormRaven
Abr 19, 2013, 8:55pm

522: In science the personalities don't matter so much in the end, as your anecdote illustrates. The answer that lines up with the evidence wins, even if the individuals involved do not.

525jburlinson
Abr 19, 2013, 9:03pm

> 521. science does not strike me as "fixed"

Here's an interesting article on how fixing works.
As drug industry’s influence over research grows, so does the potential for bias


If we looked, we might find other examples. Weapons research, maybe?

526jburlinson
Abr 19, 2013, 9:16pm

> 523. the evidence shows that Teresa was not an admirable person.

Hitchens was a professional controversialist who was willing to say anything to promote himself and make a buck. Any "evidence" he might offer should be examined with a Geiger counter.

527southernbooklady
Abr 19, 2013, 9:42pm

>525 jburlinson: Here's an interesting article on how fixing works.
As drug industry’s influence over research grows, so does the potential for bias


A researcher who suppresses evidence in order to achieve a preferred result is doing the exact opposite of science. Evidence always wins out. As Feynman says, nature is the ultimate authority.

528jburlinson
Abr 19, 2013, 9:47pm

> 527. Evidence always wins out. As Feynman says, nature is the ultimate authority.

I guess we'll have to take that on faith.

529aleng
Editado: Abr 20, 2013, 8:01am

528: The reason there is faith is that science can not currently, and probably will never, be able to completely rule out every scientific religion there is (by scientific religion, I mean those religions that have adapted to align with science).

530JGL53
Editado: Abr 20, 2013, 9:02am

> 526 >529 aleng:

Since silence may be misinterpreted as acquiescence let me just point out the obvious. These posts are pure unadulterated bull shit dipped in bull shit and then coated with extra smelly bull shit.

Of course I have no doubt that the two authors of these two posts are really nice guys in real life. I am just talking here about their expressed opinions - which are crap-coated crap balls super-infused with crap.

The facts are in. Re knowledge religion is a placeholder for ignorance. Science is an actual way of knowing, flawed as humans are in their use of the scientific method.

Plus, water is wet, and the earth is spherical. And M. Teresa was not an admirable person - as the facts available to any fair-mined person clearly reveal.

531aleng
Abr 20, 2013, 2:00pm

530: the earth is spherical

Not completely...
Anyways, you cannot eliminate all religion because there will always be religious people that are *gasp* actually sensible! They will be able to find a way to interpret their holy book or whatnot so that their beliefs align with science, without leaving religion. If you really wanted, you could set God equal to nature, and form a scientific version of Christianity out of that-you could call it a religion, it would be a religion, but it would abide by science. I think the problem is you're thinking of the ignorant, science ignoring, irritatingly confident religious people, not the few sensible ones.

532JGL53
Abr 20, 2013, 4:20pm

> 531

I agree.

Except that the earth IS spherical - basically - as opposed to flat, cubical or any other shape. I am well aware that it is an imperfect oblate sphere flattened at the poles. I am not a Platonist. I don't think there exist any perfect things.

I suppose I should have said the earth is sphericalesque to avoid someone misinterpreting me - once again - as some crazed absolutist.

I apologize for the inconvenience.

533aleng
Abr 20, 2013, 9:49pm

>532 JGL53: I meant it as something of a joke, by mimicking "crazed absolutists".

534JGL53
Editado: Abr 22, 2013, 11:45pm

Back to the OP.

I don't think any claim can ever be ruled out in some absolutist way - but that is not necessary, so that becomes moot.

I think modern physics - scientists like Hawking and Lawrence Krauss - have demonstrated all that can be demonstrated - and all that need be demonstrated - that the universe can take care of itself, including its very existence - so that god is not a necessary being, i.e., is irrelevant as a "creator" of the universe.

god is now an "explanation" looking for a question. lol.

535Tid
Abr 23, 2013, 6:19am

518

Yet, as atheists conveniently ignore, most religious believers (except the loud minorities) DO accept science. And would also accept that the "blah versus blah" thing isn't a real argument anyway.

520

Well said

536aleng
Abr 23, 2013, 6:47am

>534 JGL53: "demonstrated all that can be demonstrated?" Seriously? There is no way that's absolutely true-otherwise you wouldn't have M-theory!

537Tid
Abr 23, 2013, 7:36am

534

I tend to agree. "God" as "necessary being" is increasingly redundant. But it opens up further questions. It is already theorised that the universe has properties that are 'encouraging' towards the emergence of life. So it opens up the question of consciousness - is it also a property of the universe that there should be some awareness of its existence? How meaningful (an anthropomorphical question, I realise) would a universe be where there was nothing to see it or know it existed?

538southernbooklady
Abr 23, 2013, 8:30am

>537 Tid: It is already theorised that the universe has properties that are 'encouraging' towards the emergence of life.

Really? According to who?

539nathanielcampbell
Editado: Abr 23, 2013, 10:46am

>534 JGL53:: "I think modern physics - scientists like Hawking and Lawrence Krauss - have demonstrated all that can be demonstrated - and all that need be demonstrated - that the universe can take care of itself, including its very existence - so that god is not a necessary being, i.e., is irrelevant as a "creator" of the universe."

But, as I've pointed out both above and in another thread, their proposed solution--the multiverse--has the same exact philosophical properties as God: (1) a necessary rather than contigent cause for all existence and (2) that necessary cause is beyond empirical verification.

You can't say that the multiverse makes God irrelevant, since all the multiverse is, philosophically speaking, is God by another name!

540nathanielcampbell
Editado: Abr 23, 2013, 11:07am

>537 Tid: and 538: "It is already theorised that the universe has properties that are 'encouraging' towards the emergence of life."

If I understand Lawrence Krauss, Brian Greene, and others correctly--and it's possible that I do not, so I submit this to anyone for correction--there are a variety of "settings" for the various basic physical properties of our universe--the value of dark matter, the rate of initial expansion, the precise interaction between gravity and quantum voids, etc.--that make our universe work. Change any one of those many different variables, and our existence today simply would never have been possible.

What the multiverse theory does is it posits that ours is, in fact, just one of a practically infinite number of universes, each of which has a particular "setting" for each of those variables. That means that, for every possible permutation of physical variables, there is a corresponding universe somewhere. Thus, our universe, in which that particular permutation is necessary for the emergence of, well, us, is simply a product of that practically infinite number of permutations within the multiverse.

From the perspective of theoretical physics, the multiverse is an elegant solution to the difficult question, "Why are the various physical properties of our universe just so and not otherwise?" For example, calculations show that the value of dark energy that causes accelerated expansion in our universe is 10^-104, which is a very small, very odd value, just big enough to keep the universe expanding rather than contracting, but not so big as to prevent the coagulation of matter into stars, planets, and carbon compounds.

That value would seem quite arbitrary, if our universe were the only one. If, however, ours is but amongst billions, each with a different value for the dark energy expansion, then ours appears no longer arbitrary nor odd, but simply one datum within a continuum.

But this is also the point at which multiverse theory leaves the realm of science and enters that of philosophy (despite Krauss' anemic protestations): in order for the multiverse to solve the problem of our universe being arbitrarily just so and not otherwise, it has to posit that each universe within the multiverse is causally disconnected from each of the others: our universe is as it is because it is not in any way connected to another universe in which the dark energy value, for example, is different.

But that means that there is no way to empirically validate the multiverse theory. Its proposals are necessarily beyond the scientific method. The greatest value of the scientific method is that its hypotheses are testable -- but this hypothesis defines itself as untestable.

Now, the philosophers (whom Krauss is loathe to listen to) have known this for a very long time, in fact, far longer than modern theoretical physics has been around. In philosophical terms, the elegance of the multiverse theory is that it takes contingent causes--e.g. the value of dark energy expansion, or the instability of a quantum vacuum under the influence of gravity--and provides for them a necessary cause, i.e. a self-sufficient, self-explanatory cause. But, as any student of philosophy can tell you, an inherent property of a necessary cause is that it is self-sufficient and self-explanatory. Like an axiom in mathematics, it cannot itself be proven by the theorems that arise from it.

Historically, that self-sufficient, self-explanatory, and thus not empirically provable necessary cause was given by (western) philosophy the default name, "God". But, since Hawking and Krauss and others do not like the word, "God", they insist that their own self-sufficient, self-explanatory, and thus not empirically provable necessary cause (the multiverse) disproves God, when in fact it simply renames God.

-------------------
ETA: I want to make it explicitly and abundantly clear that I do not for a minute reject the findings of modern physics or even the wonderful possibilities offered by the multiverse theory for understanding how the universe works. I embrace all information that the scientific method can give us about the properties of the universe and its inhabitants. I have a great respect for the work of men like Lawrence Krauss and Stephen Hawking and yes, even Richard Dawkins, when that work is within their scientific specialities. I know a lot more about theoretical physics and evolutionary biology because of their work, for which I am thankful to them.

My objection here is, rather, to when they claim an expertise in philosophical matters which their arguments plainly reveal to be amateur, at best. I object to the claim that those theories can "disprove" God, for such a claim makes the simple mistake of thinking that God is something that empirical science can, in fact, disprove. Furthermore, it makes the arrogant assumption that its unprovable claims "disprove" God, when in fact they simply rename the God-principle as the multiverse, or something similar.

541southernbooklady
Abr 23, 2013, 12:36pm

>540 nathanielcampbell: That value would seem quite arbitrary, if our universe were the only one. If, however, ours is but amongst billions, each with a different value for the dark energy expansion, then ours appears no longer arbitrary nor odd, but simply one datum within a continuum.

I think what stuck me on the original phrase was the word "encourage" which implies a kind of intention, purpose or goal. It is hard to talk about what is without falling into language that suggests all is meant to be

Historically, that self-sufficient, self-explanatory, and thus not empirically provable necessary cause was given by (western) philosophy the default name, "God"

Well I can see why a scientist might not like the term "god" as the whatever that got the universe moving in the first place. It's a term with a couple millenia's worth of confusing and often contradictory associations.

542nathanielcampbell
Abr 23, 2013, 12:57pm

>541 southernbooklady:: "Well I can see why a scientist might not like the term "god" as the whatever that got the universe moving in the first place. It's a term with a couple millenia's worth of confusing and often contradictory associations."

And that's fine, as far is it goes. The problem here is that certain scientists (like Krauss) insist that they are somehow "disproving" God, when in point of philosophical fact, all they are doing is recycling the properties of God but without the name. It's a disingenuous and even dishonest trick.

543Arctic-Stranger
Abr 23, 2013, 1:57pm

Hitchens was a journalist. He researched Teresa and put together a book. He included evidence backing up his conclusions, and showed his sources. His book stands on its own. No matter how much nathanielcambell whines about it, the evidence shows that Teresa was not an admirable person.

If Hitchens is your infallible guide, then do you also agree with the Iraq war and the impeachment of Bill Clinton? Was Hitchens just as right about that as he was about Mother Teresa?

544nathanielcampbell
Abr 23, 2013, 2:09pm

>523 StormRaven:: "Hitchens was a journalist. He researched Teresa and put together a book. He included evidence backing up his conclusions, and showed his sources. His book stands on its own. No matter how much nathanielcambell whines about it, the evidence shows that Teresa was not an admirable person."

Percy Ernst Schramm was a highly-respected academic and scholar of medieval theories of kingship and government (in fact, I've referenced his book, Kaiser, Rom, und Renovatio in my own research). He also served as Hitler's war diarist, from which experiences he wrote Hitler: the man and the military leader. Are we supposed to take away from that fact that Hitler was, in fact, admirable?

545southernbooklady
Abr 23, 2013, 2:11pm

>542 nathanielcampbell: The problem here is that certain scientists (like Krauss) insist that they are somehow "disproving" God, when in point of philosophical fact, all they are doing is recycling the properties of God but without the name.

Possibly some of the properties of God? "God" the entity that people pray to, that cares about and loves them, intercedes on their behalf, that directs the universe according to his--her--its will and intention? The supernatural but for all intents and purposes anthropomorphic entity?

546JGL53
Editado: Abr 23, 2013, 2:55pm

The problem is that we have a traditional definition of god. Many people these days think the traditional idea of a god is sheer myth and imagination - not to be taken as anything but myth and imagination. Yet many of them perversely (IMO) don't want to give up the word "god". They redefine it as something rather sensible and then continue to use it.

The same thing is going on with the word "religion" - though that is less so as time goes on - the new word that all the kids now prefer is "spiritual" - which can be defined to be totally non-offensive and non-meaningful.

If we are going to define god as all there is, all there ever has been and all they ever will be, sort of like the Hindu concept of Brahman, then count me in. I'm a fire-breathing believer in god.

But under the traditional western monotheistic definition of "god" I am back to the word pointing to myth and imagination. Because god in the west has traditionally meant a person or mind (or both) who created the observable and experiential universe out of nothing as an intentional act. I.e., god takes an intentional stance. The universe is thus an artifact. As humans discovered the inherent use of the wheel and thus intentionally create them for an obvious purpose and reason thus so does god create the universe for a purpose and reason - thus the universe is bottom line imbued with meaning by god by his intentional act of creating it.

That is what god has always been, traditionally, in our western folk religions.

Science operates on the assumption that this god is imaginary. Otherwise, how could science even be done? If a theistic god exists who could trump any natural law so-called, then game over. Time to sacrifice a goat or a small child, or believe in a man/god who saves us from sin, or whatever - pick some crazed ritual and dogma and creed to get you through the day.

The multi-universe idea is just a logical extension of what we observe within our perceived universe.

I.e., there is not just one quark, there are many. Ditto electrons, photons, elements, chemical compounds, species of life, planets, moons, space dust, stars, galaxies, galactic clusters. Thus, why should there be just one universe - i.e., only the one view of reality we humans can see?

It is a natural extension of the naturalistic assumption based on no scientifically-verifiable observance or detection of free-floating supernatural supreme minds, invisible immaterial persons and all the rest of the imagined beings, essences, forces, spirits, souls, ghosts, etc. that make up the fairy tale we call religious belief.

Science marches on. It may seem inconceivable to some or many that evidence for the multi-universe can ever be had, but the incredulity of the most credulous type of people (religionists) does not define the extent of what science can one day achieve. There are tons of examples of this throughout history.

547JGL53
Editado: Abr 23, 2013, 2:55pm

> 544

Hitler was a psychopath who was responsible for the murder and violent death of tens of millions. I think it reasonable to see him as a bad man. I don't think that is controversial. Some racists and skin-heads admire him. Well, what do you expect from such nuts?

M.T. never ordered anyone killed (as far as we know) but she had an undeserved benevolent reputation due to her incredible PR machine - the press and various sycophants and the r.c.c.

She was a horrible religious fanatic and a utter hypocrite of worldwide proportions. She taught that suffering was a gift from god and that those who died in agony from fatal chronic disease were god's favorites. Under her orders no real effort was ever made to ease any sufferer's pain, e.g., those with cancer were give Tylenol or aspirin for pain. Her organization was given tens upon tens of millions of dollars by the devout and others she fooled and where is that money?

A few nuns who worked in her organization have come forward to tell what a louse she was but most keep silent to avoid people knowing the truth and spoiling her carefully crafted reputation.

We have zero evidence that Obama ever "hung out with terrorists". I.e., sarah palin et. al. were god damn fools. But we have plenty of evidence that M.Teresa did - she sucked up to murderous dictators, took money from them and never criticized them but praised them.

When SHE got deathly ill no expense was too much for HER - the finest hospitals, the best doctors , the grandest medical facilities were all sought out by her.

Her fanatical opposition to birth control and abortion no doubt contributed to the unnecessary pain and suffering, and death, of untold numbers of poor uneducated people around the world who were brainwashed from birth to bend the knee to the church.

Again, I offer this challenge. Find a lie by Christopher Hitchens in his expose book on M. Teresa. Go ahead. I am saying no one can.

If Hitchens was right or wrong on Bill Clinton or the Iraq war, well so what and why are you changing the subject? Hitchens has the FACTS on M. Teresa - facts that no spin doctor can just spin away.

548Arctic-Stranger
Abr 23, 2013, 3:04pm

This is from Amit Chaudhuri's favorable review of Hitchen's book in the London Review of Books. Apparently Hitchens is just doing the polar opposite of what Mother Teresa's adorers do. The full review can be found at: http://www.webcitation.org/66BDy0ZpZ

In the climate of tremendous political and popular support for Mother Teresa, especially in the West, it is obvious that Hitchens’s investigations have been a solitary and courageous endeavour. The book is extremely well-written, with a sanity and sympathy that tempers its irony. In spite of this, Mother Teresa remains an enigma even after we have finished reading it. According to Hitchens, she is ‘a religious fundamentalist, a political operative, a primitive sermoniser and an accomplice of worldly, secular powers’. She might be all these, and yet one feels that there is more to the complex personality of the Albanian Agnes Bojaxhiu, who arrived in Calcutta from Yugoslavia one day in 1928. Hitchens’s Mother Teresa, at times, is in danger of assuming the one-dimensionality of the Mother Teresa of her admirers. As drawn by him, she becomes something of a wizened but powerful machine of single-minded intentionality. Hitchens quotes Freud towards the beginning of the book, and as a reader of Freud he would know that the genesis of, and reasons for, actions are never clearly revealed to the protagonists themselves, let alone to others.

I know that Hitchens is like a saint for some people, but he is is FAR from infallible.

549nathanielcampbell
Editado: Abr 23, 2013, 3:21pm

>546 JGL53:: "If a theistic god exists who could trump any natural law so-called, then game over. ... The multi-universe idea is just a logical extension of what we observe within our perceived universe. ... It is a natural extension of the naturalistic assumption based on no scientifically-verifiable observance or detection of free-floating supernatural supreme minds ... It may seem inconceivable to some or many that evidence for the multi-universe can ever be had..."

I think you are missing two crucial aspects of the multiverse theory:

(1) It posits that each universe has its own unique combination of the many permutations of the various basic physical properties. Thus, each other universe besides our own does, according to the theory, operate under different laws of physics than does ours. Thus, the multiverse theory "can trump any natural law" by allowing for an infinite set of permutations thereof.

(2) It is amusing that you trumpet the multiverse as in direct opposition to "no scientifically-verifiable observance or detection" of God, as a fundamental property of the multiverse is that it is NOT scientifically verifiable by observance or detection, precisely because all the other universes are defined to be causally disconnected from our own. It's not that "it may seem inconceivable to some that evidence for the multiverse can ever be had"--it's that the multiverse theory itself proposes that the nature of the multiverse precludes us from ever having evidence for it.*

Which makes it sound a lot like religious belief, if you ask me.

---------------------
*I believe that Brian Greene has suggested that there is one possible way for us to observe evidence of the multiverse, namely, if another universe actually did collide and interact with our own. However, if such a thing were to happen, the odds are that the permutation of physical principles governing that universe would be in at least some respects significantly different from our own. Thus, our observations would be of something trumping any known natural laws so-called, which, as JGL suggests, is "game over".

In fact, "game over" quite literally, as the interaction of different laws of physics with those that obtain in our own universe would likely obliterate the rather fragile conditions that have allowed the human species to evolve to the point where we can observe laws of physics.

Of course, Christianity posited precisely such a scenario a long time ago: it's called the "New Heaven and the New Earth" at the end of time.

550JGL53
Abr 23, 2013, 3:21pm

> 548

Yes, we can agree that M. Teresa's intentions behind all her actions can never be known for sure. Only M.T. knew what her real intentions were, obviously.

But her actions, or should I say "sins", of both commission and omission, are on the record. They are facts that exist in the observable universe we all share. Those facts are what they are. Ignoring them will not work. Spinning them into something good is a hard row to hoe.

Yes, we can agree that C. Hitchens was a human and was thus fallible.

Yes, we can agree that M.T. was not totally evil. No human is ever totally everything.

Yes, we can agree that Hitchens focused almost exclusively, if not exclusively, on the bad side of M. T. Surely, as a human being, she had some good traits and did some good in her life.

That pretty much cover all the debatable points?

The last point is that I don't think Hitchens gave M.T. some raw deal in his expose of her. He dealt with the facts that were the most relevant to her false image of "saint".

If someone disagrees, then why?

552nathanielcampbell
Editado: Abr 23, 2013, 3:47pm

>551 JGL53:: Edited

You added the links while I was originally composing this post, so I have changed what I originally wrote. I was not aware of the "bumps and bruises" work (as described in the NatGeo link) currently being examined, and it will require me to reexamine some of my conclusions.

Though I would point out that, if such interactions with other universes did take place, it would be precisely the random intervention into the known laws of physics that you say is so ridiculous about the idea of God. That is, if the "bumps and bruises" idea pans out, it would indicate precisely that forces outside the known universe can break into it and change the natural course of events.

In fact, as a theologian, the idea of another universe with completely different properties from our own bumping into ours and leaving a radical change in its wake sounds not that far off from the idea of the Incarnation, of God breaking into our physical world and leaving a radical change in his wake.

553JGL53
Editado: Abr 23, 2013, 3:57pm

^

What was that famous quote from that U.S. general in WWII?

Oh, yeah.

NUTS!

554southernbooklady
Abr 23, 2013, 4:21pm

>554 southernbooklady: In fact, as a theologian, the idea of another universe with completely different properties from our own bumping into ours and leaving a radical change in its wake sounds not that far off from the idea of the Incarnation, of God breaking into our physical world and leaving a radical change in his wake.

Sounds more like Dr. Who than God.

555Arctic-Stranger
Abr 23, 2013, 4:23pm

Dr. Who who may be god. Or a god.

556southernbooklady
Abr 23, 2013, 4:25pm

Ah, but not one who could be said to be eternal and divine love...

....although, there is that "oncoming storm" thing...that's a bit godlike.

557Tid
Abr 23, 2013, 5:53pm

541

"I think what stuck me on the original phrase was the word "encourage" which implies a kind of intention, purpose or goal. It is hard to talk about what is without falling into language that suggests all is meant to be"

One of the difficulties with MS is that my former natural gift for language and vocabulary is suffering quite badly, and I often cannot think of the best word, or at least, not at the right time.

What I meant to say is that the universe has many properties, which we know as the laws of nature (in the widest sense of 'nature'). One of those may be that there is better than random chance that life will emerge. And if you look at the several occasions when life has been all but extinguished on our own planet, its survival - faced with such astronomical odds against - may not be as accidental as some believe. In other words, somewhere between a creator God with purpose and blueprints and all those things I simply don't believe, and the random materialist mechanical meaningless accident theories which I equally don't believe, there must be some intermediate ground. Those two are, after all, the two extremes that have emerged to date. What the intermediate ground is, is by no means fixed and in that fluidity lie many of the metaphysical questions and speculations that make modern science and philosophy so exciting.

558StormRaven
Abr 23, 2013, 10:02pm

543: I didn't say Hitchens was an infallible guide. But then again, you usually don't bother to read what you respond to.

559Arctic-Stranger
Abr 24, 2013, 1:55am

Hitchens is a hack, and did a hack job on everything from Mother Teresa to his views on the war and the impeachment of Bill Clinton, and he is admired for pretty much the same reasons Mother Teresa is...he stands for a few things that some people admire.

560aleng
Abr 24, 2013, 6:40am

"HACK: 1) something done without constructive end; 2) a project under-
taken on bad self-advice; 3) an entropy booster; 4) to produce,
or attempt to produce, a hack3.
I saw this as a term for an unconventional or unorthodox application of technology, typically deprecated for engineering reasons. There was no specific suggestion of malicious intent (or of benevolence, either). Indeed, the era of this dictionary saw some "good hacks:" using a room-sized computer to play music, for instance; or, some would say, writing the dictionary itself.

HACKER: one who hacks, or makes them.
A hacker avoids the standard solution. The hack is the basic concept; the hacker is defined in terms of it."
~AN ABRIDGED DICTIONARY of the TMRC LANGUAGE, Peter Samson

This is the definition of hack. How does Hitchens fit in? ;)

561southernbooklady
Abr 24, 2013, 7:55am

>560 aleng: You are missing a definition. A hack writer is someone who churns out (usually) poor quality work quickly and on order, primarily for the money and with little to no ambition for originality or any kind of greater artistic purpose.

It particularly applies to journalists who measure output in terms of column space and to the kind of novelists that produce a new book every couple months.

562StormRaven
Abr 24, 2013, 8:33am

559: As usual, when bereft of actual arguments, you resort to floundering ineffectually. Hitchens may have been wrong on some things. As a matter of fact, I am sure he was. However, with respect to his assertions about Teresa, he backed them with evidence, which seems to be a concept you are unfamiliar with.

As Hitchens himself noted, in many cases it doesn't matter who is saying something. It matters what is being said and whether it is backed with evidence. Thus far, all you've done is whine about how you don't like Hitchens, but you've carefully avoided actually saying anything about the evidence he provided to support his contentions. I suspect that is because other than ad hominems about Hitchens, you've got nothing.

563aleng
Abr 24, 2013, 9:20am

561: I know-I meant it as a joke- that's why I included the ";)".

564Arctic-Stranger
Abr 24, 2013, 1:52pm

I do not question that he went and found all the dirt on Mother Teresa. And not being a Catholic, I have no need for her to be a saint. (Her posthumous autobiography does take away some of his critique, especially the self-righteousness. She apparently was racked with great doubts about the existence of God.)

I also have no question that the same hack job could be done on Gandhi, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Karl Barth, Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Hawking, myself, and you, Storm Raven. If you go looking for dirt on any human being, you will find. Instead of a balanced view of Mother Teresa, Hitchens gives us what he is best at--controversial half truths, as evidenced by the positive review I reprinted above.

That someone chooses to do just a hack job tells us more about the person than the subject they are covering.

565JGL53
Editado: Abr 24, 2013, 3:44pm

> 564

I'm sure SR will wrap up this latest ridiculous post of yours, tie the package with a nice bow and drop kick it into the next county with the very least of effort expended - as he always does - in the meantime:

I think the problem is the PR machine presented M.T. as a paragon of virtue with hardly any more sins to her credit than jesus the christ. That is hardly a true picture. And even her doubts about god's existence were spun by her admirers (worshipers rather) as some great admirable spiritual achievement since she eventually pulled herself up and out from the dark night of the soul thing and came into the light of the glory of god, blah, blah, blah.

If anything Hitchens book offers a much needed balance that shows M.T. was not the next thing to a female christ, a grotesque idea incessantly pushed by so many of her sycophantic admirers over the years, in countless speeches, newspaper columns, books and magazine articles, etc.

The question we might want to know the answer to is whether her actions as a celebrity left the world a better place or a worse place after she assumed room temperature.

I think with all the books on her, including the one by Hitchens, the facts of the matter are in. She was no Hitler or Stalin, she was just a raging hypocrite and a fanatical self-admiring ideologue and fake holy person who did more harm with her moribund religious philosophy than she ever did any good.

For just one thing to consider - she took pleasure in pain - mainly in other people's pain.

Look it up - that's SICK.

566Arctic-Stranger
Abr 24, 2013, 3:55pm

If anything Hitchens book offers a much needed balance....

Since when was "balance" defined as "digging up as much dirt as you can find?"

I do not think Malcolm Muggeridge did her justice either, for the record. Hagiography is no better than the hack job Hitchens did.

And for the record she did not take pleasure in pain. She was able to experience fulfillment by understanding suffering, and even that statement is a far cry from what was going on, but I, nor few other people born of privilege and living the good life in our consumer society can really know what that is like. The closest I ever came was living in a orphanage in Haiti, and working in a slum of Peru, but to be honest, I can only say it affected me, but I cannot say much more than that.

And I am pretty sure this WAY above your pay grade.

567StormRaven
Abr 24, 2013, 4:00pm

And for the record she did not take pleasure in pain.

The evidence shows that she did. She considered suffering a blessing from God, and that it shouldn't be alleviated, but rather endured. At least when it wasn't her doing the suffering.

She was able to experience fulfillment by understanding suffering, and even that statement is a far cry from what was going on, but I, nor few other people born of privilege and living the good life in our consumer society can really know what that is like.

The evidence shows that she used the money she raised not to try to ameliorate pain, but rather to simply house those who were in pain so they could die while being prayed over. She reveled in pain and suffering.

And I am pretty sure this WAY above your pay grade.

The only people here who are working above their pay grade would be you and nathaniel, as you are clearly out of your depth.

568StormRaven
Editado: Abr 24, 2013, 4:05pm

I do not question that he went and found all the dirt on Mother Teresa.

And there was a lot of dirt. And that when looking at evidence and judging her by her actions, she was not an admirable person. I know you have spent a lot of time studying religion, and as a result may be unfamiliar with evidence. The evidence still remains, and it still shows Teresa to have been a pretty lousy person despite your difficulty in understanding it.

And not being a Catholic, I have no need for her to be a saint. (Her posthumous autobiography does take away some of his critique, especially the self-righteousness. She apparently was racked with great doubts about the existence of God.)

Yes, it makes her self-righteousness and glee in the pain and suffering of other all the worse.

Here's something to think about: Teresa is not popular in India, and she is especially not popular in Calcutta. She isn't disliked by the government. She is disliked by the poor. Think about the significance of that.

569Arctic-Stranger
Abr 24, 2013, 4:05pm

There is a HUGE difference between believing that suffering is a blessing from God, and taking pleasure in pain.

And yes, when it comes to theology, you and JGL clearly have the edge. We only studied it. You have opinions.

570aleng
Abr 24, 2013, 4:10pm

569: Stop arguing about Mother Teresa-you can't beat a stubborn opinion.

571nathanielcampbell
Editado: Abr 24, 2013, 4:18pm

>568 StormRaven:: I presume you show a similar disapproval of those who practice the "M" in BDSM?

Edited to clarify, as per aleng's question in post 572.

572aleng
Abr 24, 2013, 4:15pm

571: I presume you mean masochists-by definition, a masochist is someone who finds enjoyment in pain.

573StormRaven
Editado: Abr 24, 2013, 4:16pm

Let's see what the British Medical Journal and The Lancet, both peer-reviewed medical journals, had to say about Teresa's work when they investigated her "care centers".

The Lancet and the British Medical Journal both reported the reuse of hypodermic needles, poor living conditions, including the use of cold baths for all patients, and an approach to illness and suffering that precluded the use of many elements of modern medical care, such as systematic diagnosis. Members of her order were discouraged from receiving medical training on the grounds that God 'favors the ignorant".

As a result The Lancet noted that medical care provided was "haphazard", as volunteers without medical knowledge had to make decisions about patient care, because of the lack of doctors. Her order did not distinguish between curable and incurable patients, so that people who could otherwise survive would be at risk of dying from infections and lack of treatment. Her approach to care probably killed several people that could have lived had they been given proper care using the resources her order had available.

Teresa felt that suffering would bring people closer to Jesus. On principle her order would refuse to give painkillers, and commenters who visited her 'Homes for the Dying stated that one could "hear the screams of people having maggots tweezered from their open wounds without pain relief". Because of her belief that pain was good for people, her order refused to administer painkillers even in severe cases.

In these cases Teresa could have done something, and yet refused to do so because she loved suffering more than those who suffered. She is worse than a torturer, because she would smile and pretend to love you while you writhed in agony.

574StormRaven
Editado: Abr 24, 2013, 4:19pm

And yes, when it comes to theology, you and JGL clearly have the edge. We only studied it. You have opinions.

The question of whether Teresa was an admirable person or not is not a theological question. It is a question rooted in evidence, and the evidence is that she was in fact a fairly horrible person who managed to increase the total amount of suffering of those she came into contact with, and probably killed a number of people with her slip-shod approach to medical care.

But since you have a hard time dealing with evidence, I can see why you'd think this was a "theological question".

575aleng
Abr 24, 2013, 4:18pm

>573 StormRaven: she loved suffering more than those who suffered. She is worse than a torturer, because she would smile and pretend to love you while you writhed in agony.

I presume you have experienced this, considering how you quote it as fact without providing a source.

576StormRaven
Abr 24, 2013, 4:19pm

574: I presume you can read. Perhaps you should read all of what you respond to before you make an uninformed uneducated quip.

577aleng
Abr 24, 2013, 4:22pm

>574 StormRaven: I'd say she's probably not quite a saint, but I don't see enough evidence to be able to discern whether the claims you make are true. Even in science, when there is a claim that attacks strong-held beliefs, there is skepticism. This usually calls for enough evidence to truly prove the claim. You have provided evidence that her care centers were not very good, but you have not proven that she was sick-minded, rather than confused, ignorant, stubborn, simply with a twisted belief, or some other reason.

578aleng
Abr 24, 2013, 4:24pm

576: No where do you show that "she loved suffering more than those who suffered". Maybe she had an unscientific belief about medical practice, and believed that pain was good, but claiming that she made them suffer for her own enjoyment is taking it a step further, where you no longer have evidence.

579StormRaven
Abr 24, 2013, 4:24pm

There is a HUGE difference between believing that suffering is a blessing from God, and taking pleasure in pain.

Explain why her order refused to administer analgesics to those in pain. They certainly had enough funding to afford them, and could have done so easily. Explain why her order instructed its members not to receive proper medical training, and as a result had people without basic medical knowledge providing what little care they did deliver. Explain why her order didn't bother to separate terminal cases from nonterminal cases, and as a result allowed infections and other maladies to kill people who could potentially have been cured instead.

Of course, given your track record, instead of doing these things, you'll attack The Lancet and the British Medical Journal as being biased and unreliable.

580StormRaven
Abr 24, 2013, 4:26pm

578: No where do you show that "she loved suffering more than those who suffered".

Refusing to administer proper medical care to those in pain is loving suffering more than those who are suffering. Her actions are what is important here.

581nathanielcampbell
Abr 24, 2013, 4:28pm

>580 StormRaven:: And again I ask you, are you equally vocal in your opposition to the sexual practices of sado-masochism?

582JGL53
Editado: Abr 24, 2013, 4:31pm

BTW, many people (suckers) donated tens upon tens of millions of dollars over the years to M.T. enterprises. So it wasn't that she could not afford to hire competent medical help - physicians, surgeons, nurses, etc. - to treat both the terminally ill and those who could have been cured. Perhaps there were many trained medical persons who would have volunteered to treat the many sick and dying in her holding tanks. Where were they? One supposes M.T. did not want them.

The woman was a Sicko. That is what the facts reveal. The actual documented evidence. No assumptions or beliefs or opinions needed.

But keep spinning, AS. Maybe there will be a miracle and we will all be convinced by you to be inadvertant apologists for S and M like you are turning out to be.

583StormRaven
Editado: Abr 24, 2013, 4:47pm

581: Ah, I see. A sexual situation in which consent is given is the same as providing medical care. I begin to see where you have problems dealing with reality.

Given that the poor she served had limited other choices, what evidence do you have that they preferred to go without painkillers for their surgeries, and preferred to have substandard care that would potentially kill them unnecessarily?

In fact, the evidence shows that the desires of those who were cared for were not particularly important to her. Writing for The Lancet, Dr. Robin Fox made it a point to contrast the term "hospice", on the one hand, with what he called "Mother Teresa's Care for the Dying" on the other hand. He noted that while hospice emphasizes minimizing suffering with professional medical care and attention to expressed needs and wishes of the patient, her approach does not.

She didn't care what they wanted. What they got was a healthy dose of unmitigated suffering.

What about the patients who could have been treated and cured, but were not? If you consented, should I be able to kill you for fun?

584aleng
Abr 24, 2013, 4:37pm

>579 StormRaven: If she did it for religious reasons, then that leads to her believing it was actually the right thing, no matter how flawed it is. She could also have been ignorant in medicine, leading to flawed medical practice, all without taking pleasure in others pain.
>580 StormRaven: Really? Let me use a bit of math here (please bear with me)

If we set not administering proper medical care to be p
and loving suffering more that those who are suffering to be q
does p logically entail q?
I.e. is the statement p=>q true?
(~q is not q, and q|~q means "q or not q")
We know that p=>q|~q
because if p is false, the statement is true, and q doesn't matter, but if p is true, then q|~q must be true. If q is not true, then ~q must be true, so the statement is true, and is p is true, then the statement is true. However, I say that you can't eliminate the ~q in any logical way. If this is false, please explain, but I see not flaw.

585aleng
Abr 24, 2013, 4:38pm

582: Please show me the facts-I have not seen anything that would convict her of being a "sicko".

586StormRaven
Abr 24, 2013, 4:39pm

583: If she did it for religious reasons, then that leads to her believing it was actually the right thing, no matter how flawed it is.

That begs the question. nathanielcampbell cited her as being on the "plus" side for religion. You can't bootstrap the "good" of religion by citing a religious practice to justify it. That would be circular reasoning at best.

She could also have been ignorant in medicine, leading to flawed medical practice, all without taking pleasure in others pain.

The evidence shows that she was well-aware of how modern medicine worked. She simply refused to provide it. On the other hand, we she herself was sick, she immediately ran to the best hospitals she could find and got the best medical care that could be provided, including plenty of painkillers for her heart surgery.

587southernbooklady
Abr 24, 2013, 4:41pm

>584 aleng: If she did it for religious reasons, then that leads to her believing it was actually the right thing, no matter how flawed it is. She could also have been ignorant in medicine, leading to flawed medical practice, all without taking pleasure in others pain.

In that case, Mother Theresa would be on a par with this couple:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/23/herbert-catherine-schaible_n_3138001.ht...

588aleng
Abr 24, 2013, 4:42pm

>583 StormRaven: On the other hand, we she herself was sick, she immediately ran to the best hospitals she could find and got the best medical care that could be provided, including plenty of painkillers for her heart surgery.

If you can get a citation, then I will agree that she was not a good person. By now, we know she's not really "on the "plus" side for religion", so all we're arguing over is if she was a bad person or not.

589aleng
Abr 24, 2013, 4:45pm

>587 southernbooklady:: Pretty much-the couple are idiots, and Mother Teresa would also be an idiot if it was true.

590JGL53
Editado: Abr 24, 2013, 4:48pm

> 585

I doubt you would want to put in the time to read Hitchens's book on M.T. but here is a short article that covers some relevant points. Read it and then tell me what seems like lies to you:

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/fighting_words/2003/10/mommie_de...

> 589

I would not use the label "idiot", but yes.

591StormRaven
Abr 24, 2013, 4:52pm

587: If you can get a citation, then I will agree that she was not a good person.

How do you think she got a pacemaker installed? She preferred California clinics for her own care, at least that's where she went when she needed heart treatment.

On the other hand, when she was talking about other people's suffering she said:

"There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion. The world gains much from their suffering."

592southernbooklady
Abr 24, 2013, 4:52pm

>589 aleng: Pretty much-the couple are idiots

"Idiots" seems like a mild word for people who brought about the death of two children. At some point a person's actions must be counted against their real results. If a couple refuses to give their children medical attention and allows them to die in agony...isn't it perverse say, "well, they meant well."?

And didn't, if the researchers published in the Lancet are to be believed, Mother Theresa do on a large scale what this couple has done on a small one? If so, do her intentions really matter in the face of the prolonged suffering and even the deaths of people under her "care"?

593JGL53
Abr 24, 2013, 4:54pm

595JGL53
Editado: Abr 24, 2013, 5:01pm

There is even a Wiki page:

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

quote: "A report in German magazine Stern, revealed that in 1991 only seven percent of the donations received at Missionaries of Charity were used for charity.4"

quote: "The Showtime program Penn & Teller: Bullshit! has an episode titled "Holier than Thou" that criticizes Mother Teresa, as well as Mahatma Gandhi and the 14th Dalai Lama. The show criticizes Mother Teresa's controversial relationships with Charles Keating and the Duvalier family, as well as the poor medical care in her home for the dying."

596aleng
Abr 24, 2013, 5:27pm

593-595 was unnecessary- you have already given enough evidence for me to reasonable conclude that Mother Teresa was a fairly hypocritical, not really good person. Can we get back to the original topic now? I see no point to continue this discussion.

597StormRaven
Abr 24, 2013, 5:37pm

596: Sure, science will never rule out God because the concept of "God" is so amorphous and meaningless that there is no possible way to "rule it out".

598JGL53
Editado: Abr 24, 2013, 5:55pm

One cannot prove a universal negative. I thought that was an excepted given among those not highly confused.

Thus this thread's OP posits a question similar to "have you stopped beating your wife." IOW, it's based on a false premise.

But it has gone 598 posts now, and counting, so I suppose that is a success, as Americans generally judge success.

599aleng
Abr 24, 2013, 7:20pm

598: It is obvious that one can't prove a false statement, but can you disprove a false fact?

600nathanielcampbell
Abr 24, 2013, 7:30pm

>586 StormRaven:: "On the other hand, we she herself was sick, she immediately ran to the best hospitals she could find and got the best medical care that could be provided, "

That seems to be a very different characterization of the situation from that offered by one of the doctors who treated her. Dr. Lombardi told his story a few months ago on The Moth Radio Hour: http://themoth.org/posts/episodes/episode-1302

601aleng
Abr 24, 2013, 7:33pm

Let me restate 596 now: You need more evidence, since 600 is a primary source, as opposed to your secondary sources, so it is more valid.

602StormRaven
Abr 24, 2013, 8:03pm

599: Define God. Then one can discuss whether it can be ruled out or not.

603StormRaven
Editado: Abr 24, 2013, 8:14pm

600: Then explain why she received (for example) a pacemaker, visited the California Scripps Clinic for her ailments, and when in Calcutta she went to the exclusive Woodlands Clinic and Birla Heart Institute, and otherwise received first world medical care while some of those in her care who escaped it begged their friends never to send them back to the horrific conditions to be found inside her houses for dying.

Did she go to her own hospices for care when she was sick? No. Of course not. That was for suffering and fumbling care given by untrained and unqualified nuns and volunteers. For treatment she went to where the doctors and other medical professionals were.

604timspalding
Abr 24, 2013, 8:17pm

We really ought to continue this topic. Six-hundred messages? It's time to have some answers!

605nathanielcampbell
Editado: Abr 24, 2013, 8:49pm

>603 StormRaven:: I honestly don't know enough about Mother Teresa's life (and death) to answer your questions with any type of certainty. Rather, what I can say is that, at least as Dr. Lombardi described it on The Moth Radio Hour we listened to a few months back and to which I linked in 600, her medical care was essentially pressed upon her by those around her, while she herself resisted whenever she could.

Frankly, I was not aware how stringent the criticism of her was in some corners, though for reasons already listed, I hardly count Hitchens as an unbiased source, and others of the criticism seem to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of Christ's witness to the power of suffering love. On the other hand, and on reflection, it does not surprise me that she had significant failings, since most humans do. It's a part of the human condition to be fallen and fallible and sinful. I don't see why Mother Teresa would be any exception, even as a saint. (The lives of saints are filled to overflowing with tales of their failings.)

What I find strange, however, is your absolutist insistence that she was totally depraved and evil. I understand that to secular eyes, Christian holiness can at times seems bizarre or perverse (Paul described it nearly 2000 years ago as "the folly of the Cross"). But even the secular world managed to recognize the good that Mother Theresa did on behalf of the poor and oppressed around the world.

Are you insistent that the perfect be the enemy of the good, and that any good she might have done be denied because she wasn't perfect?

Human beings are complex creatures, our lives themselves a complex of failure and success, of sin and grace, and most of the time, a muddled middle in between of fumbling around half-blind and limping.

But then, you seem to have a very absolutist, black-and-white way of looking at the world. Take, for instance, your frequent assertion that, when I make an error, I have in fact willfully lied. There is no room in your worldview for a genuinely innocent mistake, so all mistakes must also be moral errors of the worst kind. The concept of "good faith" is completely unknown to you.

The odd thing is that such black-and-white worldviews are frequently thought to be the reserve of religious fundamentalists, who separate the world into absolute good (usually themselves) and absolute evil (usually everybody else), with no space in between.

Yet here we have an atheist who claims, at least, to base his worldview on evidence. Yet, the evidence of complexity he denies, or at least forces into neat, diametric, and reductive boxes of Us vs. Them.

606JGL53
Abr 24, 2013, 9:55pm

> 599

If something is a fact, then I think by definition it is not false.

I.e., a "false fact" is an oxymoron.

Am I not correct?

607southernbooklady
Abr 24, 2013, 10:05pm

>605 nathanielcampbell: But even the secular world managed to recognize the good that Mother Theresa did on behalf of the poor and oppressed around the world.

They had, perhaps, as simplistic an idea of her goodness as Hitchens presents of her badness. Given that her name is a euphamism for saintly and self sacrificing behavior (how often have you heard someone protest, "I'm not Mother Theresa!"), one could say that Mother Theresa, the woman, the complex human being, has long since been lost to Mother Theresa, the symbol of all that is good and holy. In which case one of Hitchens' purposes is surely to unmask the symbol. You can fault him for his single-minded approach, but he was given a single-minded target.

608JGL53
Abr 24, 2013, 10:09pm

> 607

Exactly.

609aleng
Abr 25, 2013, 6:59am

606: OH MY GOD YOU... YOU IDIOT!!! WHAT IS ALL THIS BS ABOUT "YOU CAN'T DISPROVE A UNIVERSAL NEGATIVE"!!! IN EVERY SINGLE DEFINITION OF UNIVERSAL NEGATIVE I'VE SEEN, YOU CAN DISPROVE IT!!! YOU STATE THAT "one can't prove a universal negative, as any intelligent person should know", BUT YOU NEVER PROVIDE ANY PROOF!!!!!!!!! YOU SAID "I was using the word "negative" to mean "not existing", as in a person, place or material thing not existing. I thought that was obvious to the meanest intelligence but I was obviously wrong.", LEADING TO THE CONCLUSION THAT A UNIVERSAL NEGATIVE IS SOMETHING THAT DOESN'T EXIST IN THE UNIVERSE!!! THUS, SINCE IT IS GIVEN THAT IT IS NON-EXISTENT, YOU KNOW THAT THE UNIVERSAL NEGATIVE DOES NOT EXIST BY YOUR RATHER STRANGE DEFINITION!!! IF YOU CAN'T PROVE A UNIVERSAL NEGATIVE, SHOW US WHY!!!

610aleng
Abr 25, 2013, 7:16am

In essence, can you actually prove your claim that "one can't prove a universal negative, as any intelligent person should know", give that "I was using the word "negative" to mean "not existing", as in a person, place or material thing not existing. I thought that was obvious to the meanest intelligence but I was obviously wrong?"

611JGL53
Abr 25, 2013, 7:43am

> 609, 610

Interesting pair of posts - the first with caffeine OD, the latter after you came down. And it only took 17 minutes. Now THAT'S a miracle.

I don't know how the redundancy occurred of arguing the same proposition on two different threads but we can just go to posts # 116 and #117 on this thread to end this insanity (Ha ha, yeah, right.):

http://www.librarything.com/topic/153293#4062197

612aleng
Abr 25, 2013, 7:47am

Yes-We should reserve the debate over your logical fallacy to a single topic.

613JGL53
Editado: Abr 25, 2013, 8:32am

> 612

You left out the word "alleged" but, yes, we will continue only on the other thread.

But back to the specific question in the OP.

If no one can give an example of how science could one day rule out god (I assume absolutely) then the question causes no problem. We can (pragmatically) assume science will never rule out god (absolutely) until such an example is produced.

I surely cannot think of any way in which science can rule out a god (absolutely). Would anyone else like to try?

I do think a god as usually defined by western theology can be ruled out by science in a "beyond a reasonable doubt" way, i.e., demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that god is an unnecessary being, i.e., a god does not serve as a needed answer to any question X. In fact, science pretty much already has. E.g., the god of the gaps has now been squeezed into the original Planck time and the Planck length. That's a pretty darn small gap, i.e., we're getting close to having only the smile of the Cheshire cat left - or even less. lol.

614aleng
Abr 25, 2013, 8:55am

>613 JGL53: Yes- science probably can't rule out god, but it can show that god is not necessary.

615JGL53
Abr 25, 2013, 8:06pm

> 614

Agreed.

616aleng
Editado: Abr 25, 2013, 8:14pm

>615 JGL53: The question is, if god does not necessarily exist, does that prove he doesn't exist?

617JGL53
Abr 25, 2013, 8:29pm

> 616

No it does not, so we agree again.

But you can plug-in any number of things in place of "god" in your sentence and the logic still holds.

The old saw about absence of evidence etc. holds for innumerable conjectures, including your 100 light year wide planet of plutonium and my one trillion mile wide planet of uranium that is fully conscious.

- All of which leaves us at the start line - where we started.

618aleng
Abr 25, 2013, 8:31pm

>617 JGL53: However, S5 states that if something is necessarily true, that implies that it is true-that axiom is used as a logical basis for ontological arguments.

619JGL53
Abr 25, 2013, 8:36pm

> 618

To me such language as "necessarily true" really isn't helpful in discussions of ontology. But maybe it is to someone else.

620aleng
Abr 25, 2013, 8:38pm

>619 JGL53: Well, if you use S5 model logic to build your ontological argument, so that your argument is "logical", then it is helpful.

621mikevail
Abr 26, 2013, 10:19am

618
If your definition of God includes "He created everything" aren't you stuck with his being "necessarily true"? Because any alternative explanation for existence you might come up with is going to look like a disguised version of your god, re: nathanielcambpell's argument about a multiverse

622quicksiva
Abr 26, 2013, 10:35am

God is NTR.
Nature created everything.
What's the problem?

623mikevail
Abr 26, 2013, 11:00am

622
Shouldn't it be NTJR?

624quicksiva
Abr 26, 2013, 11:23am

>623 mikevail:

Not according to the Memphite theologians.

625JGL53
Abr 26, 2013, 12:48pm

> 622 - 624

Eff the ancient Egyptians. Hell, why not go back to the cradle of civilization - which would be....?

http://www.city-data.com/forum/history/554353-what-came-before-ancient-egypt-bab...

Or why not go back to the ancient worshipers of the cave bear circa 50,000 B.P.E.? We can envision "god" as a giant effing bear.

I prefer the Hindu's Brahman but the choices are endless.

How about Alan Watts's "the Which of which there is no whicher"?

626StormRaven
Abr 26, 2013, 1:46pm

622: What do you gain by calling nature "God"? We already have a perfectly good word that means "nature".

What you have when you break down your statement is "nature created nature". That's not particularly illuminating.

627quicksiva
Abr 26, 2013, 2:09pm

The symbol for nature has long been a mirror. Man looks into this mirror and calls what he sees "God."

628StormRaven
Abr 26, 2013, 2:13pm

627: And? Other than obfuscation what is gained by calling nature "God"?

Other than obfuscation what is gained when nathanielcampbell calls the multiverse hypothesis "God"?

As far as I can tell, nothing.

629quicksiva
Abr 26, 2013, 2:50pm

Professional theologans have always earned a good living. In some areas of the USA, churches outnumber schools, but God doesn't seem to notice.

630StormRaven
Abr 26, 2013, 2:52pm

629: But what you're talking about isn't even theology. It is just making a tautology.

631quicksiva
Abr 26, 2013, 3:13pm

>630 StormRaven:
You know that, and I know that. So why get bent out of shape when talking to someone who doesn't.

632JGL53
Editado: Abr 26, 2013, 3:55pm

When all the crap gets worked through in the religious tradition of the Hindu what it all amounts to is that each person is "god" and everything is "god". The Braham IS everything.

I'd like to see someone argue against that.

(- while keeping in mind that a traditional western definition of god includes omnipresence. lol.)

633quicksiva
Abr 26, 2013, 3:58pm

>625 JGL53:
JGL53
=======

Thanks for the tip. Your source tells us that:

"There has been a great debate of Sumer coming before Egypt. I have done some meticulous studying and thus found out that first King of Egypt was Menes he united the Lower and Upper Kingdom in 3100 BC. Menes Was preceded by the Thinite Kings which was 10 generations before him,secondly Egypt was always an advanced culture from the beginning which means it had to get its Mathematics,Architecture,Astronomy,Religion,and Agriculture from somewhere and sometime before,this would be apparent because that culture would show signs of progression in advancement leaving behind remnants of trial and error of your advancements in technology. Although scholars say Menes was the first the Dynastic king some people say its Narmer who actually unified it but there is not enough evidence to support this claim. The other wonder is that they have other evidence of a people who lived in Naquada around 4000 BC.

What you have to remember is that Egypt has monuments such as the Sphinx that are 30, 000 years old, noted by people like John West. Also we have to define what we mean by advance the people of Sumeria were labeled the most ancient civilization because of the Necropolis and tombs had a lot of ornaments and silver jewelry that dated back 5000 to 7000 years. There is pottery found in South of Egypt that dates back to the Nilo Saharan period about 9000 years ago.

Now I have to disagree about Sumer(Old Babylon) being the cradle of Civilization because even the people that made Babylon progress due to the tribute of the Akkadians ,Assyrians,& Amorites all migrated from Southern Arabia. Linguistic analysis and Geneology will show that the Amorites were western Saudi Arabia and The Akkadians Eastern Saudi Arabia. So that means the left the region of Somalia and Ethiopia which was also predecessor of Egypt. The aboriginal people of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers did not prosper until their arrival .So these nomadic tribes would of have to bring some knowledge to start their civilization in Mesopotamia.

One Important fact is that Nubia was a civilization before Egypt,and Punt was Egypt’s Grandfather. The indigenous people of Punt were called “Agu”. They yielded and bred the people of “Barbara”,then came the Retu which were primarily concentrated in ancient Egypt. All Egyptian Gods were Nubian and even some of the greatest Pharaohs such as Amenhotep and Thutmoses consecrated their Gods in Nubia . Meru, Napata,and Jebel Barkal were significant ancient sites in Egypt.

Osiris' symbol was a crescent moon and was Good of Moon. The Babylonians worshiped the moon God Sin and seemed to derive it from Osiris. An ancient Egyptian Mythology the Sun god Ra was Greater then the moon god but not with Babylonians. The troubling factor is that people claim that the Babylonian King Nimrod was the creator of Masonry but we have no evidence. We just know that we base our modern astrology on their system of astrology."

There is little that charges an old Afro-centric like getting a new supply of this sort of information.

Power to the people!

634JGL53
Editado: Abr 26, 2013, 4:33pm

> 633

Yes. Well, my attitude is that we should avoid Eurocentric bigotry at the expense of every one else on earth, past and present.

A huge amount of credit for civilization must be given not only to Africa but to the Arabic world in general, plus the Persians, India, China, etc. The idea that all civilization came from Icelandicesque blue-eyed blonde-haired mutants is crap - believed by more white Americans than you could imagine.